In July 1941, the Nazi news agency Transocean, was convicted for failing to register as an agent of a foreign government. Recently, a member of Russia’s Duma suggested that a Kremlin organization operating in the United States be designated as a lobbyist under the same law. In response to Ponomarev’s allegations, Edward Delman looked at this idea in The Atlantic. Delman suggested that Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are some kind of analogues to RT.
In my latest article at War on the Rocks -- RT as a Foreign Agent: Political Propaganda in a Globalized World -- I examine the application of the Foreign Agent Registration Act of 1938, whether RT, formerly Russia Today, is a public diplomacy organization, and I consider whether we should label RT as a foreign agent.
For the most part, there is little real focus at RT on interpreting Russian policies or activities. RT is not about Russia as much as it is about everyone else. Their slogan “Question More” is not about finding answers, but fomenting confusion, chaos, and distrust. They spin up their audience to chase myths, believe in fantasies, and listening to faux — or manufactured when convenient — “experts” until the audience simply tunes out or buys whatever RT serves up. Media illiteracy is the fertile soil on which RT thrives and that it in turn enriches. The differences between the VOA and RFE/RL news organizations and the RT operation are stark.
Spoiler alert: RT is not a lobbyist, it is not a tool of public diplomacy, it is a foreign agent, and similarities between RT and BBG networks extend only to government funding and a focus on foreign audiences. The astute reader will also note that I never describe RT as a news or media organization. This is not an oversight and is wholly based on their content.
What I left out of the article because of space is how RT is an interesting unifier. They successfully bent the linear spectrum of ideology where the 'far right' and 'far left' are at opposite ends to a circular spectrum where 'far right' and 'far left' meet and share common ground.
I downloaded the image of the camera and AK-47 superimposed on each other from the RT website in January 2011. I shared this with War on the Rocks to use with the article. The image below, along with several others available below, were part of an advertising campaign by RT.
Go to War on the Rocks to read RT as a Foreign Agent: Political Propaganda in a Globalized World.