A former news anchor for a state-backed Russian TV channel has described Fox News host Tucker Carlson and other US right-wing media figures as “at times indistinguishable from the propaganda on my former network, RT.” According to a Daily Beast: interview with Liz Wahl:
February 27, 2022 Working in a Russian newsroom nearly a decade ago prepared me for modern day America. In both environments, conspiracy theories, false equivalencies, and half-truths infect the discourse and deform reality. In this current environment, truth and fact struggle to break through the paranoid and misinformed noise. One thing that is clear to me: Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson, along with other right-wing media figures, are at times indistinguishable from the propaganda on my former network, RT, a Kremlin-funded cable news channel that eagerly uses American voices to push a pro-Russia agenda. Among the Americans that currently host television shows on RT are a range of voices on the extreme ends of the left-right ideological spectrum. Scottie Nell Hughes, a former pro-Trump pundit on CNN and Fox News, hosts a show that claims to provide unbiased coverage, while Canadian actor William Shatner hosts a program where he uses his star power to interview other celebrities like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Far-left journalist Chris Hedges, meanwhile, hosts a show featuring “dissident voices,” ostensibly dedicated to the cause of anti-imperialism, yet has failed to even mention Russia’s actual attempted authoritarian land grab of a democracy. Other American voices frequently amplified on RT include former Democratic congresswoman-turned-CPAC speaker Tulsi Gabbard, libertarian politician Ron Paul, and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R‑KY)—all of whom share foreign policy positions that Russia now finds beneficial to amplify. What these figures don’t seem to understand or ignore is that RT uses their stateside fame and clout to drive eyeballs to its YouTube channel and legitimacy to its brand. During the Trump years, the channel routinely featured videos and friendly headlines of Trump himself and his radical supporters.
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The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported earlier this week on the role that Fox News star Tucker Carlson has been playing in Russian propaganda efforts during the invasion of Ukraine. Tucker Carlson also figures prominently in a new GIOR report on a developing alliance between US conservatives and European nationalists, a potential means for Russia to exert covert influence in Europe and the US.
In 2017, the NYT characterized RT (formerly Russia Today) as follows:
Analysts are sharply divided about the influence of RT. Pointing to its minuscule ratings numbers, many caution against overstating its impact. Yet focusing on ratings may miss the point, says Peter Pomerantsev, who wrote a book three years ago that described Russia’s use of television for propaganda. “Ratings aren’t the main thing for them,” he said. “These are campaigns for financial, political and media influence.” RT and Sputnik propel those campaigns by helping create the fodder for thousands of fake news propagators and providing another outlet for hacked material that can serve Russian interests, said Ben Nimmo, who studies RT for the Atlantic Council. Whatever its impact, RT is unquestionably a case study in the complexity of modern propaganda. It is both a slick modern television network, dressed up with great visuals and stylish presenters, and a content farm that helps feed the European far right. Viewers find it difficult to discern exactly what is journalism and what is propaganda, what may be “fake news” and what is real but presented with a strong slant.
Earlier this week, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that RT and other Russian media outlets would be banned in the EU although, at least for now, RT continues to broadcast from the US. However, at least one US distributor has dropped the channel, and other US TV distributors are facing increased pressure to remove Russian state media from their platforms.
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