On Media Mischaracterisation
‘At normal times it is deeply dishonest. All papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over the news.’ George Orwell, England, your England.
Once again I am struck by the hypocrisy of the mainstream press, and it seems Orwell’s words constantly manifest themselves in the media’s day-to-day coverage of world affairs.
Since Russia Today’s employee Abbey Martin’s announcement against Russian military intervention on her show Breaking the Set a this week, it seems her words were seized by various anti-Russian, pro-Western media outlets and then purposely mischaracterised as the speaking out of a brave RT employee against big bad Russia and in doing so, using it to cast a halo of heavenly light on the White House.
However, mischaracterisation is the corporate media’s middle name (if not only name) and some light needs to be shed on the full context of her rather brave remarks.
Contrary to the way it has been displayed in the mainstream, Abbey Martin criticised Russia’s recent military activities in the Crimea because, in her words on the following episode of Breaking the Set yesterday:
‘After witnessing the military build up by Russian forces in Crimea, I decided to give a heartfelt statement on Monday about how strongly I oppose military aggression in another sovereign nation.’
In the original hyped about broadcast last Monday, she said;
‘Just because I work here for RT doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong. I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologise and defend military aggression.’
Note, she says “any state-intervention”- those under any delusions-and most of these people are those who are not familiar with Martin’s work or views-that she will be supportive of so-called world policeman USA’s future military or political intervention are quite off the mark. She is what some may sneeringly call a ‘9/11 truther’ (those who believe that the American state was complicit in the 2001 attacks), a strong opponent of the Iraq war and the disinformation spouted to the public by the mainstream press in its lead up, and a critic of Western foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as of the corporate media.
Martin herself reiterates this on the latest episode of BTS:
“This stance is completely in line with everything I’ve said on this show about US military build up around the world. The second I saw it happening in Ukraine, I felt morally obligated to speak out, even if it goes against the editorial line of my employer.”
Anyone who knows Abbey Martin’s work knows she is one of those rare journalists who won’t compromise her principles to sell a story or, as demonstrated rather well in this particular incident, keep her job. All journalists, especially those riding on the mainstream, should be striving to do as Martin did.
According to Glenn Greenwald for his piece on the story for The Intercept, “American media elites awash in an orgy of feel-good condemnation in particular love to mock Russian media, especially the government-funded English-language outlet RT, as being a source of shameless pro-Putin propaganda, where free expression is strictly barred (in contrast to the Free American Media). That that network has a strong pro-Russian bias is unquestionably true. But one of its leading hosts, Abby Martin, remarkably demonstrated last night what “journalistic independence” means by ending her Breaking the Set program with a clear and unapologetic denunciation of the Russian action in Ukraine.”
He goes on to ask, “For all the self-celebrating American journalists and political commentators: was there even a single U.S. television host who said anything comparable to this in the lead-up to, or the early stages of, the U.S. invasion of Iraq?”
Indeed, was there?
Abbey Martin said on the Monday broadcast: ‘Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing, from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation.’
Yes, she was talking to you too, Fox News, CNN, BBC, Sky News, France24, and all your less flashy counterparts. And I’m sure she is voicing what many of us have been feeling for the past few weeks over the media coverage of the region. If you want to know what I mean, the introduction to this very story by a CNN host read like this, “An interesting Media story in all this. One anchor on state-sponsored Russian TV appears to be mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. Abbey Martin had a Howard Beale moment on her show Breaking the Set on RT Russia Today, slamming Russia’s actions in Crimea.”
I rest my case. It’s as yellow as you can get. All I can say is that at least CNN included the whole clip of her monologue.
Abbey Martin is all that embodies a journalist-one who stands for the masses against the abuses of the powers-that-be:
“Above all my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are now wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They’re the real losers here. All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full-blown cold war between multiple superpowers. Until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it. Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you back on Breaking the Set tomorrow.”
Despite her remarks, Abbey Martin has been able to keep her job and has refused the offer of an assignment in the Crimea extended to her by RT.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a Fox (or other corporate media host) criticise the US government’s various military ‘interventions’ in other nations and accuse it of war crimes, live on air, and then walk away with their job intact.
Of course, now it may sound as if I’m pro-Russian and trying to big up its media by pointing out RT’s ostensible benevolence, (I’m not) I’m merely pointing out a curious comparison in the way Russia is characterized as a very authoritarian state and society by our media (note especially the cynical coverage during the Winter Olympics) but then has hosts that the mainstream western media considers as ‘dissidents’ in the world of journalism-people like Ry Dawson and Abbey Martin. I think that is something to think about, you know, objectively, while disregarding our political inclinations for a moment.
Interestingly, according to an update by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept, “In response to my question about whether any U.S. television hosts issued denunciations of the attack on Iraq similar to what Martin just did on RT, Washington lawyer Bradley Moss replied: “Phil Donahue (MSNBC) and Peter Arnett (NBC).” Leaving aside that Arnett wasn’t a host, this perfectly proves the point I made, since both Donahue and Arnett were fired because of their opposition to the U.S. war.”
Another update by Greenwald on the same article states:
“The official RT account on Twitter seems perfectly proud of Martin’s statements, as they re-tweeted my commentary about her monologue condemning Russia’s actions:”
Now all this sounds great, liberating, we may think we have finally found veracity in the work of non-mainstream journalists.
While this is true, it is to an extent. According to an article by Paul Craig Roberts for CounterPunch, even Greenwald and Martin, who are firm and vociferous critics of the mainstream’s propaganda are unable to escape its clutches, so pervasive and diverse is its hold on us:
“My criticism of Greenwald and Martin has nothing to do with their integrity or their character. I doubt the claims that Abby Martin grandstanded on “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” in order to boost her chances of moving into the more lucrative “mainstream media.” My point is quite different. Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.
For example, Martin’s denunciation of Russia for “invading” Ukraine is based on Western propaganda that Russia sent 16,000 troops to occupy Crimea. The fact of the matter is that those 16,000 Russian troops have been in Crimea since the 1990s. Under the Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia has the right to base 25,000 troops in Crimea.
Apparently, neither Abby Martin nor Glenn Greenwald, two intelligent and aware people, knew this fact. Washington’s propaganda is so pervasive that two of our best reporters were victimized by it.”
Interesting, eh? Just when you think you’ve found the closest thing you can get to the truth, and bam, it’s counter punched. Orwell’s words echo throughout the halls of even the dissenters and non-conformists.
Meanwhile, to reiterate what Martin said, as for the Ukrainian people, whether they are Pro-Russian or EU inclined, we can’t really do anything due to the half-truths and party lines being shoved down our throats from all mainstream outlets, except become aware of this misinformation and aware of the superpower’s dirty politics, while praying for a peaceful outcome for the masses.
You can find the latest episode of breaking the set where Martin examines the media attention around her remarks and the ensuing actions and manoeuvres of mainstream media outlets here.
Abbey Martin is also the founder of Media Roots, an online citizen journalism project which “reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and activists to unite” which you can find here.
Glenn Greenwald’s article on Russia, Ukraine, and Abbey Martin’s remarks here.
Piers Morgan’s interview with Abbey Martin on CNN here.
The full transcript of the original clip featuring Abbey Martin at the end of Breaking the Set on Monday March 3rd 2014:
Abbey Martin: Before I wrap up the show, I want to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia’s military occupation of Crimea. Just because I work here for RT doesn’t mean I don’t have editorial independence and I can’t stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in a sovereign nation’s affairs. What Russia did is wrong. I admittedly don’t know as much as I should about Ukraine’s history or the cultural dynamics of the region but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer, and I will not sit here and apologise and defend military aggression. Furthermore, the coverage I have seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing, from all sides of the media spectrum and rife with disinformation. Above all my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are now wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They’re the real losers here. All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full-blown cold war between multiple superpowers. Until then I’ll keep telling the truth as I see it. Have a good night everyone. I’ll see you back on Breaking the Set tomorrow.