An employee of Moscow-funded Russia Today and a camera crew from the channel were part of an effort last Saturday that closed down the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. in the name of free speech. One can guess at the reaction by Moscow authorities if employees of the Voice of America had disrupted access to Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square.
The incident demonstrates that the Cold War is back, and that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has become increasingly aggressive in using a state-funded TV channel as a weapon of the information war. What is unique is Russia Today television’s brazen use of a disgruntled U.S. Marine veteran, Adam Kokesh, as a front man in this assault on America’s history and founding fathers. Caught on camera, Kokesh candidly admitted that he indeed is a Russian agent of influence and a member of the Moscow-funded “resistance” to the U.S. Government on American soil. A camera crew from Russia Today or “RT,” as it now likes to call itself, was there to record his anticipated confrontation with the police.
While Kokesh was fairly open about his intentions, he was adamant in refusing to say how much he is being paid by the channel for his program, “Adam Vs. the Man.” Although he insists Moscow gives him editorial independence, he could not cite one program he has done on human rights problems in Russia, where journalists deemed too critical of the government are sometimes assassinated. One of the victims was U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov, then editor of Forbes Russia.
The idea that the protest was in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, as they were loudly insisting, was incredible to anyone knowing anything about Kokesh and his collaborator, Medea Benjamin of the Code Pink group. A close friend of former Weather Underground terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, Benjamin is a big backer of such “democrats” as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. Lately, she has been organizing protests against aid to Israel. She has traveled to meet with leaders of the terrorist group Hamas, only to come back with a “peace” message for President Obama personally. Benjamin’s other close friend, Jodie Evans, raised money for Obama’s 2008 campaign for president.
In the end, the police backed down, making no arrests. They simply escorted the demonstrators out. A previous use of force against such demonstrators—and five arrests—had resulted in complaints about “police brutality.” One can only surmise that the Park Police were told by higher authorities to go easy on the demonstrators.
A report by ABC 7 in Washington was fair and balanced, in that it had the point of view of the protesters as well as the comments of ordinary people unfairly kept from the memorial because of the circus atmosphere. As I told the reporter, the demonstrators were interfering with the rights of those people who wanted access to the monument.
The media claimed, almost without exception, that the “dancing” protest led by Kokesh was somehow designed to highlight freedom of expression. But members of the public, including tourists from other countries, were the only ones who were denied their freedom. They were denied entrance into the rotunda of the memorial while the Park Police had to move the demonstrators out. This went on for almost an hour, as Kokesh and his groupies yelled and screamed inside the monument while engaging in various gyrations they described as dancing. It was an ugly affair that was clothed in the rhetoric of free expression.
Keep in mind that demonstrations are allowed on most of the grounds of the monument. The only area that is off-limits is the rotunda, where the19-foot-tall Jefferson statue and his writings are displayed on the walls. The sign says, “Please respect the Memorial and help preserve the atmosphere of calm, tranquility and reverence. Consequently, no demonstrations allowed.” The warning reflects a law, upheld by the courts, prohibiting demonstrations in the rotunda.
In another indication of Moscow’s hand in the affair, Kokesh was followed around by lawyers for the National Lawyers Guild, the old Communist Party front organization. They were on the lookout for any perceived infractions by police of the “freedom of expression” by the demonstrators. You can bet they would have sued the U.S. Government if Kokesh had been taken to the ground and arrested, as happened during his first confrontation with police on May 28. He portrayed that as police brutality when a close viewing of the video tape shows that he was told to get to his knees to be arrested and he refused. It was a confrontation he wanted and had planned.
Although Code Pink had promised thousands of “dancing” demonstrators and only about 50 showed up, another disturbing aspect of the affair was the significant number of “libertarian” or even anarchist-oriented young people following Kokesh around as if he was some sort of person they should look up to. Followers of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, the pro-pot former New Mexico governor, and advocates of the “inside job” theory of 9/11, were also in evidence. On a sunny Saturday as the temperature climbed, one participant was walking around in a black trench coat. “They’ve left us no choice but to start a revolution,” one T-shirt said. These people are convinced not only that the U.S. Government carried out 9/11 and blamed it on the Muslims, but is responsible for most of the evil in the world today.
Even more disturbing, as they engaged in discussions among themselves, one could overhear an incendiary mix of anti-government paranoia. Some had really convinced themselves that lawful restrictions on their ability to disrupt the Thomas Jefferson Memorial were a gross injustice and example of modern tyranny. My mind was drawn to the case of the Pentagon shooter, John Patrick Bedell, a libertarian who hated a government that he believed was standing in the way of his desire to use, grow and glorify marijuana. He came from California with a “medical marijuana” card and opened fire on the Pentagon before being killed by security guards.
No violence occurred at the memorial, but my videos of the events showed that several of the Kokesh groupies got extremely overheated and anxious when they realized that their hero was on the defensive over his relationship with his Russian paymasters. Their next stop, according to a flyer distributed at the memorial, is an event called “Porc Fest,” where the agenda includes topics such as a “stateless society,” transhumanism, “anarchist organization,” and the screening of a film called “Guns and Weed.” These dangerous oddballs are trying to infiltrate the Tea Party movement. Ron Paul should disavow them. These are alienated youth who need to start working for a living—if only the jobs were available.
Another TV crew also showed up—this one associated with Reason, the magazine and foundation—and a cameraman offered up the bizarre observation that Kokesh was using Russian money to spread the idea of liberty in the U.S. Like many libertarians, Reason is also an advocate of the marijuana culture, which helps explain a lot.
Those of us who had hoped that Fox News would provide a dose of sanity to a discussion of Kokesh and his agenda were sadly disappointed when Kokesh appeared on the “Freedom Watch” program on the Fox Business Network hosted by Andrew Napolitano, who described the Russian TV star as just a “TV anchor” and “libertarian activist.” Napolitano was aware of Kokesh’s work for the Russian channel but chose to conceal this information from his viewers. Fox News can and should cover this Russian excursion into American political life in a more serious manner that alerts viewers to the real danger of this new movement being launched with the help of the Russians.
The use of young people as cannon fodder for a “revolution” in the U.S. is reminiscent of what the SDS spawned in the 1960s. Bernardine Dohrn said, “We fight in many ways. Dope is one of our weapons. The laws against marijuana mean that millions of us are outlaws long before we actually split. Guns and grass are united in the youth underground.”
The “guns and grass” mantra is now “guns and weed” in the new film that Kokesh and his followers are promoting. What a coincidence.
Usually described as an “anti-war” veteran of the Iraq War, Kokesh was caught smuggling an illegal weapon back to the states, an incident that led to his discharge. This was another thing he just didn’t want to talk about when I interviewed him at the memorial.
It is tragic to see a young man such as this turning against his country and embracing Putin’s Russia in the process. Once he left the service he tried to run for Congress as a Ron Paul Republican. Tea Party members rejected him, after learning about his background and “anti-imperialist” views. Now he’s ensconced at Russian television.
When you watch him talk and act, you understand why he has been working regularly with the likes of Medea Benjamin and their comrades on the “left” side of the spectrum. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions and their views. But when they work hand-in-glove with a Russian government-funded TV entity known to be a cover for the activities of the Russian intelligence services, national security concerns have to take center stage.
Blogger Trevor Loudon notes, “Russia Today is a virulently anti-American propaganda channel, every bit as dangerous as Pravda or the Tass News Agency were during the Cold War. Russia Today and its American shills are effectively agents of a hostile power and should be treated as such.”