RT Hosts Tea Partying Blogger
Russia Today, a 24/7 news network and website inspired by Al-Jazeera that was launched in 2005 to tell Russia's story to the world in the English language, has recently remodeled its main web page. In addition to the complete change of website layout, RT added several bloggers to its stable of writers, including an American from Virginia named Doug Wead. This is an interesting development, because Mr. Wead brings a "compassionate conservative" Republican voice to an otherwise apolitical or left-leaning collection of bloggers.
In the past, Russia Today has been criticized in the Western media for allegedly being too pro-Kremlin in its reporting and commentary. Russia Today features a commentary show and blog by Peter Lavelle, an American who has lived in Russia since the early Nineties who also contributes his commentary to Radio Free Europe/Liberty. Mr. Lavelle has been harshly critical of U.S. foreign and economic policies, which he blames for triggering the current global financial meltdown and the Georgia War that left hundreds of civilians dead last August.
U.S. blogger, Presidential historian and motivational speaker Doug Wead (left)
Who Is John Galt? Who Is Doug Wead?
According to his website, Mr. Wead is a presidential historian who served in the Reagan White House and later ran for Congress as a Republican in Arizonia and lost in 1992. Wead became an informal advisor to Texas Governor and future President George W. Bush during the 1990s. Over at Russia Today, Wead blogs about multilevel marketing and motivational speaking, in addition to politics. But when Wead talks politics, he makes it clear that he is a strong supporter of Texas Congressman Ron Paul (R-Surfside), who ran for president last year and garnered more votes and money in the GOP primaries than any other candidate save for the eventual nominee, John McCain.
When Editorials and Reporting Seem More Like Propaganda -- On Both Sides
Why does any of this matter? Because in some bizarre way, the U.S. and Russian medias have started to mirror each other in their tendency to promote marginal views in their respective countries, so long as they are critical of the Kremlin or White House, respectively. And -- dare I say it? -- this has the hallmarks less of reporting and commentary running their course about any country and more of a propaganda war.
Twenty years after the Cold War supposedly ended, certain Washington insider think tanks and editorial boards carry on as if that conflict never ended, and as if the world has not changed radically since 1991. As we have been pointing out for the past year here at Russia Blog, it is bizarre to push for a New Cold War with America's fourth largest creditor and until recently, one of the largest holders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paper and other U.S. government agency debt.
Battle of the Creditors -- Coverage of Russia Versus China in the U.S.
When it comes to the U.S. media, fact checking concerning Russia remains far more spotty, and the editorials remain far more kneejerk in their condemnation, than even for still officially-Communist China. The People's Republic of China of course, has no contested elections, noisy opposition press, or uncensored access to the Internet -- all of which can be found in Russia, if you take time to look for them. Most Russians, like most Americans, are apolitical or have very little time for politics. (As an aside, I had no trouble accessing pro-Kasparov and Chechen independence websites when I visited Moscow in 2007, and paperback books accusing the Federal Security Service of planting bombs in apartment blocks to set off the second Chechen War back in 1999-2000 and other nefarious crimes were on sale a stone's throw from FSB headquarters in Lubyanka).
What the PRC does have is $2 trillion in U.S. debt and a huge amount of "soft power" due to being America's no. 1 trading partner and an economic powerhouse. The Chinese people also don't look Caucasian and hence are not expected to conform to European norms like Russians -- a subtle but important factor in the double standards that prevail in American reporting and commentary concerning the two former Communist giants.
Who Won More Votes, Ron Paul or Garry Kasparov?
While The Wall Street Journal promotes former world champion chessmaster Garry Kasparov as a credible politician in Russia -- even though his opposition coalition musters less than 2% of the vote and regularly engages in traffic blocking street theater to gain attention -- Russia Today regularly interviews Ron Paul, a Republican who is in fact a libertarian and whose following can best be described as quixotic. RT gave far more attention to Congressman Paul's critiques of the Georgia War and excessive U.S. spending and borrowing than the American mainstream media ever has -- or likely ever will.
The Glenn Beck Convergence
Back in January 2009, Russia Blog noticed that conservative commentator Glenn Beck was quoting Russian Prime Minister Putin on his Fox News TV program with incredulity. Mr. Beck could not believe that an ex-KGB man raised in the Soviet Union, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, could possibly be warning the U.S. government against excessive state interference in the global economy, and cite the painful failure of Soviet central planning as an example. But it actually happened, regardless of how few wanted take note of it.
Want to Hear a Libertarian? Go to Moscow or Beijing
U.S. and U.K. conservatives and libertarians now find themselves arguing that the U.S. cannot sustain its current levels of spending and borrowing or government because an officially Communist country, China, won't lend America the money to make it happen. This may seem like a bizarre ideological and political convergence. The argument that the U.S. cannot sustain its present spending and foreign policy course because foreigners will not lend the money for it may even strike some Washington establishment Democrats and Republicans as unpatriotic. But it's a necessary discussion and part of a debate that desperately needs to happen.