Assange’s The World Tomorrow has created a storm in the media that has taken no time at all to accuse the Kremlin of pulling strings. But in their anti-propaganda crusade some media are blind to their own practices, notes journalist Glen Greenwald.
The founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website had no illusions how his talk show would be perceived, especially with RT as the initial broadcaster. “A traitor” and “a Kremlin patsy” is what Julian Assange knew he would hear from his opponents.
This did not take too long to crystallize in a review by The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley, who lashed out at Assange and his choice of broadcaster.
“The show is unlikely to win high ratings or change many minds, but it may serve Mr. Assange’s other agenda: damage control,” writes Stanley, adding that there was something almost “atavistic” about the outlet the whistleblower picked.
“Russia Today is an English-language news network created by the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin in 2005 to promote the Kremlin line abroad… Basically, it’s an improbable platform for a man who poses as a radical left-wing whistleblower and free-speech frondeur battling the superpowers that be,” reads the NYT article.
Glen Greenwald, a prominent US journalist and contributor to the online magazine Salon, challenged this in an interview with RT.
Greenwald to RT: American media have long loathed Julian Assange since he first came on the scene. What he did – bringing about transparency – is supposed to be what they do and the way in which he did it made more scoops about the US government than all the American media outlets combined. And yet they showed their true colors leading the attack against Julian Assange for exposing the US government.
“[Assange’s] reputation has taken a deep plunge since he shook the world in 2010… To some he was a hero, to others a spy, but nowadays he is most often portrayed as a nut job,” writes the New York Times.
“It would be fatal to hold your breath waiting for the NYT to ever use "nut job" to describe anyone w/actual power in DC. Attacks on Assange and RT reveal much more about the critics than their targets,” remarks Greenwald to his Twitter followers.
Greenwald to RT: The fact that Assange is on RT drives American media additionally crazy. It makes them feel good to be able to point to other media outlets and say “Oh, look over there those are tools and instruments for state propaganda!” Because when they do that, they get to forget about and obscure their own role in disseminating state propaganda. Most notoriously, The New York Times did more than everybody to convince Americans of the need to attack Iraq. But even since then the model of the US media is very much to show faith and loyalty to the US government. So there is really a lot of irony and hypocrisy in this criticism.
The whistleblower’s first guest was Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who had not given a television interview since 2006. Despite angry criticism of the show, many agreed it was a coup.
“The NYT mocks Assange's new show, then adds as an afterthought that he did what US TV wouldn't do: asks his first guest adversarial questions,” wonders Greenwald in his Twitter account.
Greenwald to RT: The interview was pretty remarkable. Here’s Nasrallah, who agreed to give Assange a really big scoop. But instead of treating him with great appreciation and friendliness (the way virtually every US television personality would have done) Assange was very adversarial and aggressive in his questioning. He asked him about corruption and deceit at the highest levels of Hezbollah. He challenged him on why he wasn’t supporting the citizens in Syria who are fighting against the Assad government. It was a really adversarial and journalistically impressive interview, especially given that it was his first guest.
“Of course, practically speaking, Mr. Assange is in bed with the Kremlin, but on Tuesday’s show he didn’t put out,” reads the NYT article.
As RT comes with the obligatory prefix “Kremlin propaganda” at some outlets, the hot issue for many was how much of “The World Tomorrow” was written by FSB bosses and agreed with the Russian president-elect. This is the way the channel is pictured to work.
“About to go on RT to talk about media reaction to Assange's show – just got my script from Putin by email,” mocks Greenwald at Twitter.
Greenwald to RT: Assange criticized Nasrallah for failing to support the citizens of Syria fighting against the Assad government. The Russian government has been an ally of the Assad government. So the position Assange took in his very first interview was directly contrary to the policy of the Russian government. I’d say it gives great credence to Assange’s claim of his editorial independence. It makes those claiming otherwise look like deceivers and liars.
“The rule is clear: it's OK for a journalist to work for a weapons manufacturer, the US or British govts, & Rupert Murdoch, but not RT? Assange should be judged by what he does and the journalism he produces – not where it's broadcast,” tweeted the journalist.
“The US is trying to prosecute & destroy Assange – Russia gave him a show. Think about why & what that reflects,” he added.