Politics & Policy

Tyranny with a Smile

How Russia, Hezbollah, and Iran sell their message to the world

George Galloway, the far-left British parliamentarian, is an expert politician. When one district gets sick of him, he simply stirs up hatred and runs again someplace else.

But Galloway isn’t just a politician. He’s a Western puppet for tyranny’s propagandists.

Today, Galloway has three TV news shows: Comment on Press TV (the Western propaganda arm of the Iranian government), Sputnik on RT (the Western propaganda arm of the Russian government), and A Free Word on Al Mayadeen (a propaganda arm of Hezbollah and Iran).

These shows claim to provide original, objective explorations (hence the name “Sputnik”) of important issues. The reality is a little different.

Consider Galloway’s standard fare.

For RT, Galloway portrays Putin’s invasions as self-defense. For Press TV, he offers ludicrous anti-Israeli theories about Ukraine. For Al Mayadeen, Galloway hosts fanatics who take cheer from U.S. hesitancy and assert Putin’s conquests as acts of moral generosity. Regardless of the rank hypocrisy — Al Mayadeen’s sponsor, Hezbollah, self-identifies as a resistance against foreign occupations — these channels must not be underestimated.

These are powerful agents of anti-Americanism.

As the Global Post has noted, RT uses populist narratives to build its audience. In turn, it has a base of viewers whose opinions are shaped by the Kremlin’s propaganda. And in true KGB “active measures” form, RT is skilled at keeping up a pretense of objectivity. Take RT host Abby Martin’s recent critique of Russian policy in Ukraine. Instead of repudiating Martin, RT used her comments to its own advantage. Her denouncement, the organization asserted, proved RT’s tolerance for independent thought. Again, this strategy is straight out of the Russian intelligence playbook. In a brutal 2006 incident, after fostering the impression that they tolerated defector Alexander Litvinenko, Russian intelligence officers went to London and irradiated him. Moreover, consider the Russian government’s enduring record of lying. From the KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin we know that in the 1980s, Russian intelligence manipulated global media outlets into reporting fictitious anti-American allegations. These included suggestions that Americans were responsible for creating the AIDS virus and were killing Third World babies for their organs. In short, Putin’s cronies are longtime experts at tugging Western heartstrings. As I’ve argued before, the Soviets are gone, but their intelligence methodology sustains.

Sure, the 1980s conspiracies might seem absurd today. But back then, many believed them. And today, served by eloquent speakers like Galloway and Martin, global tyrants are finding their new angles of approach.

Of course, for the most part, the new-media revolution is a good thing. The Internet enables almost instantaneous transfers of information, and in turn the unparalleled ability to mobilize. It is a force for liberation. Yet this rapid multiplication of voices has also granted credibility to charismatic delusions. Alongside negative media reporting (sometimes exceptionalsometimes disingenuous) on Iraq and the Snowden leaks, for example, skepticism of America has grown. And the Iranians, Russians, and company sense their opportunity. They know that global audiences are increasingly averse to the reporting from “mainstream media” outlets (aka just about any outlet with a wide audience in the Western world). And they take advantage of this doubt.

Tyranny’s propagandists find fertile ground for another reason as well.

Wearied by war and hesitant about Western involvement in seemingly intractable conflicts — Syria immediately comes to mind — moderate U.S. and European voters have become more isolationist. Rand Paul’s seemingly inexorable rise provides a good case in point. Correspondingly, when RT claims that the entire world’s problems flow from Western interventionism, that argument finds a receptive audience.

Ultimately, however, those who watch these shows are deluding themselves.

George Galloway, Abby Martin, and their media masters are nothing more than puppets for extremism and tyranny. And whether it’s the robbery of a nation (see Russia) or sectarian terrorism (Hezbollah and Iran), there’s a distinct immorality to what these “news” outlets do.

Whatever they might claim, their smiling reportage is scripted propaganda in service of deeply unpleasant agendas.

— Tom Rogan is a blogger and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He’s based in Washington, D.C.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at TRogan@McLaughlin.com


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