Accuracy in Media

Have you ever heard of Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation? If you were a faithful viewer of Russia Today, an English-language TV propaganda channel for the Russian government, you would learn that she is running for president of the U.S. and is an expert on the crisis in Georgia who believes that the U.S. is involved in the region only because of oil.

“’The media in the U.S. reflects the interests of the U.S. government, of the U.S. imperialists,” La Riva told Russia Today.” And therefore, they naturally portray Russia as the aggressor, but we know that’s not the case.” 

Denunciations of U.S. ‘imperialism,” which were a regular staple of Soviet TV, are back on the Russian version.

Those who have an understanding of old Soviet propaganda techniques know why La Riva was plucked out of obscurity. It is preferable, for Russian propaganda purposes, to use foreigners, especially Americans, to make your propaganda points. That makes it looks like Moscow is enjoying international support for its aggressive position. 

Not surprisingly, La Riva’s website highlighted her appearance. “Gloria featured on Russia Today television regarding Russia-Georgia war,” it announced, complete with video. “Moscow deals a setback to Washington’s geostrategic goals,” is the headline over an article about the invasion of Georgia. 

Other recent guests on Russia Today have included Alexander Cockburn, “an American political journalist,” and Justin Raimondo, said to be “a top U.S. author.” Cockburn denounced John McCain as a warmonger, while Raimondo warned the Russians to investigate what’s on those humanitarian flights to Georgia. “I would check that out, if I were you,” he was quoted by Russia Today as saying. 

The Russian channel declared, “‘Say No to War’ has been Justin Raimondo’s slogan for over a decade―from the U.S. intervention in Bosnia to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he has denounced U.S. support for Georgia.”

In reality, Cockburn is a leftist who writes for The Nation and other publications. Raimondo was described by Russia Today as “a top U.S. author,” in order to give him a measure of credibility, but his main claim to fame is running a website,, that describes itself as opposed to imperialism.

This apparently doesn’t mean opposition to Russian imperialism.

The Russian invasion of Georgia has made it clear beyond doubt that the old Soviet KGB disinformation operations have been revived, using Americans as puppets to make Russian points. But the propaganda is being distributed on a worldwide basis, even on U.S. cable networks.

“Nearly 90 million pay TV viewers in Europe, North America and South Africa regularly watch Russia Today,” the channel’s website proclaims. It says it is also available on the main satellite platforms in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, South Africa, “as well as on cable networks in practically every country of Europe.”

A May 8 New York Times article on Russia Today and its increasing availability in U.S. media markets noted that “The station is part of the state-owned news conglomerate RIA Novosti, and news organizations routinely refer to it as ‘state-run,’ including The New York Times, which has said it was created to promote ‘pro-Kremlin views.’”

But while La Riva’s Party for Socialism and Liberation seems to be one of the Kremlin’s U.S. favorites at the current time, a close look at the channel’s coverage of the Russian invasion of Georgia suggests that Moscow may be hoping for an Obama win.

Interestingly, one Russia Today story faulted McCain for “largely blaming Russia for the situation” while Barack Obama was said to have “offered what many people called a more balanced approach.”

Obama’s initial statement, which seemed to meet with Russian approval, declared, “I think it is important at this point for all sides to show restraint and to stop this armed conflict. I think it is very important for the United States to work with the UN Security Council and others in the international community to make sure that we are beginning to bring this conflict to a close.”

Of course, Obama was playing into Russian hands with that statement, since Russia has a veto over anything done at the U.N. Security Council. 

Russia Today noted, without comment, that a McCain aide called Obama “bizarrely in sync with Moscow.”

While Russia Today reports that it may seem like Russia has been “losing the information war” over its invasion of Georgia, it also claims that “some major newspapers are beginning to tone down their initial anti-Russian stance.” It cites articles in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, the British Independent and the French Le Figaro that have been critical of the U.S. and Georgia.

Russia Today also interviewed someone named Matthew Maly, identified as “an American sociologist,” as saying that he is “surprised by the media bias over events in South Ossetia” and believes that “a deliberate misinformation campaign was carried out by the United States…” 

It turns out that Maly was born in Moscow and now lives and works there. His own bio says he has worked for the Russian government and on Russian political campaigns.

Maly told Russia Today that “a big international misinformation operation” over events in Georgia was conducted “from the top” in the U.S. and was “a dress rehearsal for influencing western opinion.”

He explained that “it is possible that in late October it will scare Americans into voting for McCain and abandoning Obama.”

If the Russians are as good as their Soviet predecessors, this propaganda theme will increasingly appear in the articles and blogs on liberal and “progressive” websites in the U.S.  Perhaps we will even see the mainstream media pick it up.

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