The publication that calls itself Politico has a strange habit of ignoring the foreign backing and ownership of channels like Russia Today and Al Jazeera, preferring to treat them as legitimate news organizations.
Its media reporter, Dylan Byers, is a virtual public relations agent for Al Jazeera America, which just hired Soledad O’Brien from CNN. He never mentions the channel’s backing from, and service to, the Muslim Brotherhood.
The latest example of this trend is a Politico puff piece about a left-wing American media figure that completely ignores his paid service on behalf of Moscow.
The article, “Thom Hartmann: View from the left,” is by Mackenzie Weinger, a “breaking news reporter” at the publication who makes a brief reference to Hartmann hosting a television show on “RT” without noting that RT stands for Russia Today, a Moscow-funded propaganda channel.
The title should have been, “Thom Hartmann: View from Moscow.”
The only oblique reference to his work for Moscow is the statement from the young reporter that his TV show, “The Big Picture,” airs live at 7 p.m. EST on RT and Free Speech TV.
RT is what Russia Today wants to be called, in order to mask its Russian connection.
“Hartmann’s biggest political concern today is ‘the corrupting influence of Big Money on politics,’” Politico reports.
But there was no mention of Russia giving an untold amount of Russian rubles to Hartmann to spout his anti-capitalist rhetoric on RT, which is carried across the U.S. on several major cable and satellite systems. This is apparently not a “corrupting influence.”
The piece in Politico makes Hartmann out to be an honest debater, willing to engage conservatives. “Hartmann has earned praise from across the aisle for his approach,” the story said. A conservative radio host even says he is a nice guy.
But his nice-guy demeanor took a nasty turn when I asked Hartmann about his backing from Moscow during an appearance he made at a liberal conference. After trying to doubletalk his way out of it, he grabbed my Flip camera and stomped away. He is embarrassed by his Russian connection, but not embarrassed enough to refuse the Russian cash.
This attempt at censorship was despicable behavior from someone whose TV program is also carried on “Free Speech TV.” (The head of Free Speech TV is Don Rojas, former press secretary to communist Maurice Bishop, the leader of the Caribbean island of Grenada before President Reagan ordered its liberation by American troops in 1983.)
RT calls Hartmann “a leading American intellectual,” and he regards himself as the nation’s number one progressive radio talk-show host. If this is true, it is a sad commentary on the state of liberal talk-radio.
Hartmann assured Politico that he is not a “Soviet-style” socialist, even though he takes Moscow’s money. He admits to the label of democratic socialist.
Here are some recent headlines from the Hartmann TV show:
- Koch brothers’ new pledge for planet destruction
- The Fossil Fuel Industry Must Pay for Its Sins
- Time to investigate Darrell Issa!
- Time to move away from the Reagan revolution
- Study: Republicans lie more than Democrats
Needless to say, it is fascinating and newsworthy that the modern-day progressive point of view is being openly broadcast by Moscow in the United States, and that Politico doesn’t find this worthy of mention in its profile.
But this is the story that should be told.
Because Politico ignored the Russian connection to Hartmann and the programs he airs, the most important point to be made about Hartmann’s “big picture” is missing.
Russia Today carried a talk show hosted by Julian Assange, before he sought sanctuary in the London embassy of Ecuador to escape sex-crime charges in Sweden.
Another notable story carried by RT was headlined “911 reasons why 9/11 was (probably) an inside job,” absolving Arab terrorists of the devastating terrorist attacks on America.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently pleased with all of this. He recently toured RT’s new media complex in Moscow (as seen in this video, with Margarita Simonyan, Editor-in-Chief of RT, hosting Putin.)
Putin said, “When we designed this project back in 2005 we intended introducing another strong player on the world’s scene, a player that wouldn’t just provide an unbiased coverage of the events in Russia, but also try, let me stress, I mean—try to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on the global information streams. And it seems to me that you’re succeeding in this job.”
Of course, the coverage of Russia is not “unbiased”; and Putin’s funding of the channel assures that. In Russia, journalists are murdered for challenging Putin’s regime.
Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky has described the channel, or Putin’s “project,” as a front for disinformation and propaganda from the Russian intelligence services.
In other words, Moscow now does openly what it used to do through the covert channels of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence service.
Asked by RT about NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Putin insisted, “He told us nothing we didn’t know before.” That is hardly credible, unless Russia has other spies in the NSA that already gave the Kremlin the same information.
In the RT appearance, Putin also criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans, describing it as “large-scale ethnic cleansing,” along with the treatment of blacks.
Putin also claimed that Soviet ruler Josef Stalin would not have dropped an atom bomb on Germany or Japan to end World War II. “We know a lot about Stalin now,” Putin said. “We know him as a dictator and a tyrant. But still, I don’t think that in the spring of 1945 Stalin would have used a nuclear bomb against Germany, if he had had one. He could have done it in 1941 or 1942 when it was a matter of life or death. But I really doubt that he would have done it in 1945 when the enemy had almost given up and had absolutely no chance to reverse the trend. I don’t think he would. Now look at the U.S. They dropped the bomb on Japan, a country that was a non-nuclear state and was very close to defeat. So there are big differences between us.”
Perhaps Stalin wouldn’t have dropped the bomb because he was in the process of stealing it from the U.S. Putin, a former Soviet KGB officer, knows this, having made headlines praising the Russian spies who stole U.S. atom bomb secrets.
“You know, when the States already had nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union was only building them, we got a significant amount of information through Soviet foreign intelligence channels,” Putin had said.
Yet on the 60th anniversary of the execution of Russian atom bomb spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, RT ran a story quoting Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition as saying, “the conviction had less to do with being guilty of spying and more to do with anti-communism hysteria.”
Becker is a hardline American communist, a fact RT forgot to mention.
Interestingly, the NSA’s Venona project helped identify the Rosenbergs and other Soviet agents during and after World War II.
Hartmann, of course, is entirely comfortable with getting paid by Putin and has done the bidding of Moscow by hyping the recent “NSA scandal” with programs such as “Rise of the security state” and “Time to repeal the PATRIOT Act!”
Putin’s espionage apparatus in Washington, D.C. would benefit enormously from the abolition of the NSA, as well as the FBI.
In the “Russian Politics” section of the RT website, we find such stories as:
- Total eavesdropping is essence of U.S. democracy—Russian MP
- Russia promises legal action over NSA surveillance scandal
Former CNN personality Larry King is now on Russia Today as well, hosting a show titled “Larry King Now.”
A recent show featured “a colorful discussion about UFOs, alien abductions, and whether the government is withholding information.” One of the guests, Tom DeLonge, is a guitarist described as “an avid fan of UFOs and conspiracy theories” who wrote the song “Aliens Exist.”
Despite such bizarre programs, RT is desperate for respectability—the kind that Politico showered on Hartmann.
This commentary originally appeared at AIM.org and is reprinted here with permission.