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RT Jumps Into Growing Fray Over “Critical Race Theory” In The US

June 28th, 2021 15:26

The Russ­ian TV chan­nel known as RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) has jumped into the grow­ing con­tro­ver­sy in the US over so-called “Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry” or CRT. The RT arti­cle defends Christo­pher Rufo, an Amer­i­can con­ser­v­a­tive activist known for his attacks on what RT describes as “neo-Marx­ist crit­i­cal race theory”:

June 21, 2021 Christo­pher Rufo appar­ent­ly made him­self prey by becom­ing a top crit­ic of neo-Marx­ist crit­i­cal race the­o­ry (CRT), but he’s fir­ing back at the Wash­ing­ton Post over an arti­cle that sought to pick apart and dis­cred­it his argu­ments. “The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Lau­ra Meck­ler spent three weeks prepar­ing a hit piece against me,” Ruf­fo said Sun­day on Twit­ter, adding that the news­pa­per used five “flat-out lies” to smear him. “This is how the media lies.” The WaPo arti­cle, which was pub­lished on Sat­ur­day, placed Rufo at the cen­ter of a Repub­li­can push to attack CRT and use it as a polit­i­cal weapon to por­tray Demo­c­rat poli­cies as extreme, scary and anti-Amer­i­can. Meck­ler attempt­ed to show that Rufo has mis­led the pub­lic about the nature of CRT and has made claims about train­ing mate­ri­als that go fur­ther than the doc­u­ments that he cites. But Rufo coun­tered that the arti­cle was inten­tion­al­ly mis­lead­ing and he demand­ed that the news­pa­per’s edi­tors issue an imme­di­ate cor­rec­tion and retract all false state­ments. “Democ­ra­cy dies when the media lies,” he said, allud­ing to WaPo’s slo­gan of “Democ­ra­cy dies in dark­ness.” The doc­u­men­tar­i­an, who has exposed the teach­ing of CRT in schools, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and cor­po­ra­tions, said the Post first lied by pre­sent­ing the the­o­ry as a “benign aca­d­e­m­ic con­cept” that mere­ly claims racism in Amer­i­ca is sys­temic. The descrip­tion obscures the extreme con­cepts of CRT, he said, such as “all white peo­ple are racist,” “abol­ish the white race” and “anti-cap­i­tal­ism.”

Read the rest here.

A US edu­ca­tion­al pub­li­ca­tions defines CRT as follows:

Crit­i­cal race the­o­ry is an aca­d­e­m­ic con­cept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that racism is a social con­struct, and that it is not mere­ly the prod­uct of indi­vid­ual bias or prej­u­dice, but also some­thing embed­ded in legal sys­tems and poli­cies. The basic tenets of crit­i­cal race the­o­ry, or CRT, emerged out of a frame­work for legal analy­sis in the late 1970s and ear­ly 1980s cre­at­ed by legal schol­ars Der­rick Bell, Kim­ber­lé Cren­shaw, and Richard Del­ga­do, among oth­ers. A good exam­ple is when, in the 1930s, gov­ern­ment offi­cials lit­er­al­ly drew lines around areas deemed poor finan­cial risks, often explic­it­ly due to the racial com­po­si­tion of inhab­i­tants. Banks sub­se­quent­ly refused to offer mort­gages to Black peo­ple in those areas.

How­ev­er, as the Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle in ques­tion points out, in March of this year, Rufo appears to have tweet­ed that his goal was to use CRT as a catchall con­cept “to annex the entire range of cul­tur­al con­struc­tions that are unpop­u­lar with Americans.

We have suc­cess­ful­ly frozen their brand—“critical race theory”—into the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion and are steadi­ly dri­ving up neg­a­tive per­cep­tions. We will even­tu­al­ly turn it tox­ic, as we put all of the var­i­ous cul­tur­al insan­i­ties under that brand category.

The goal is to have the pub­lic read some­thing crazy in the news­pa­per and imme­di­ate­ly think “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry.” We have decod­i­fied the term and will recod­i­fy it to annex the entire range of cul­tur­al con­struc­tions that are unpop­u­lar with Americans.

The appar­ent dis­in­for­ma­tion effort appears to have wild­ly suc­ceed­ed. As NBC News has observed:

Con­flicts like this are play­ing out in cities and towns across the coun­try, amid the rise of at least 165 local and nation­al groups that aim to dis­rupt lessons on race and gen­der, accord­ing to an NBC News analy­sis of media reports and orga­ni­za­tions’ pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als. Rein­forced by con­ser­v­a­tive think tanks, law firms and activist par­ents, these groups have found allies in fam­i­lies frus­trat­ed over Covid-19 restric­tions in schools and have weaponized the right’s oppo­si­tion to crit­i­cal race the­o­ry, turn­ing it into a polit­i­cal ral­ly­ing point. While the efforts vary, they share strate­gies of dis­rup­tion, pub­lic­i­ty and mobi­liza­tion. The groups swarm school board meet­ings, inun­date dis­tricts with time-con­sum­ing pub­lic records requests and file law­suits and fed­er­al com­plaints alleg­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion against white stu­dents. They have become media dar­lings in con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles and made the debate over crit­i­cal race the­o­ry a nation­al issue.

In 2017, the NYT char­ac­ter­ized RT 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.

The con­tro­ver­sy in the US over CRT would seem to be ide­al­ly suit­ed to “feed” the far right in both the US and Europe as well.

Past Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ing on RT has included:

  • A March 2021 report on a grow­ing dis­pute between Ger­many and Rus­sia over the estab­lish­ment of an  RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) TV chan­nel in Germany.
  • A Jan­u­ary report on a new Wash­ing­ton, DC pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny incor­po­rat­ed by an indi­vid­ual who has held var­i­ous posi­tions at RT
  • A Novem­ber 2020 report on Russ­ian dis­in­for­ma­tion efforts tar­get­ing the EU and with a par­tic­u­lar empha­sis on Russ­ian-backed media oper­a­tions such as RT (for­mer­ly Rus­sia Today) and Sputnik.
  • A Novem­ber 2020 report on an RT OpEd sug­gest­ing that “US democ­ra­cy real­ly is in its death throes.”