Every now and then, a journalist takes a real risk, whether it be to their lives in order to get a story, or to their careers by ignoring conflicts of interests regarding their employer. Yesterday, RT Network presenter Abby Martin did just that by openly defying the owners of her network (the Russian government) and condemning their aggression in Ukraine.
Check out the segment here:
I’m often invited onto the RT network – I’m frequently a guest on Thom Hartmann’s show ‘The Big Picture Rumble’ and have made a couple of appearances on Abby Martin’s ‘Breaking the Set’. I’m not entirely sure what the direction of the network is (when you have Larry King and Abby Martin doing promos together, it gets a little confusing), but it’s safe to say it is very critical of the US, particularly when it comes to foreign policy. The network hires almost exclusively anti-establishment progressives and libertarians that spend much of their time criticizing America and very little time criticizing Russia. Vladimir Putin himself has stated that the network essentially tows the Kremlin line, telling an RT journalist that:
Certainly the channel is funded by the government, so it cannot help but reflect the Russian government’s official position on the events in our country and in the rest of the world one way or another.
I’m invited on as a progressive of sorts, mostly because I’m critical of the right in America and have spent a good amount of time criticizing US foreign policy. I’m sure if I spent a lot of time criticizing Russia, I wouldn’t be on their radar. But that’s the way it goes in the current global media environment – as a working journalist you’re either beholden to corporate interests, a nation’s interests, or you don’t actually have a paid job.
Understanding how it all works gives you a bit more sympathy when it comes to journalists self-censoring.
I understand why reporters didn’t line up against the invasion of Iraq in the run up to war. I didn’t agree with it (and spent a lot of time attacking journalists who did nothing), but then my job wasn’t on the line and I didn’t have a family to feed. Genuinely, I understand Glenn Greenwald not going after his financial backer Pierre Omidyar for his highly dubious business activities (and also, as it turns out, co-sponsorship of revolutionary Ukraine groups alongside the US government). I understand why journalists belittle themselves on a daily basis for shitty media companies that make their money hawking lifestyle products. It’s a tough gig keeping the masses entertained and interested in the world around them, particularly when there isn’t really all that much money on the table.
Abby Martin’s refusal to be co-opted by her employer’s interests is genuinely a big deal, and regardless of her own politics, her act of defiance makes her a real example of journalistic integrity. She took a genuine risk in criticizing Russia so openly, a risk most journalists would never dream of taking regardless of how highly they regarded themselves.
The situation in Ukraine is, as Abby alludes to, being used by people on all sides to further their own agendas. I was on Thom Hartmann’s show last week discussing Russia’s act of aggression in Ukraine, trying to explain to the conservative guests that US military aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq was no different. The other guests could not comprehend the very obvious fact that the US is also an aggressive super power with imperial ambitions. Amazingly, one of the guests suggested America only wanted to liberate Iraq and not take any of its oil (the no bid contracts to US companies for Iraq’s vast oil resources was obviously for the benefit of Iraqis..). The level of cognitive dissonance when it comes to the behavior of one’s country is mind-boggling to say the least. I’ve met countless British people unable to comprehend the horrors of the British empire and the mass killings committed in order to further its imperial ambitions, and Chinese people unwilling to acknowledge crimes committed against Tibet, or even acknowledge it as a sovereign nation.
Nations, particularly the biggest ones, use violence and coercion to extend and maintain their power. The US is no different to Russia, and vice versa – a fact most people seem to forget when debating issues like Ukraine. Props to Abby for reminding everyone of that fact, and taking considerable risks to do so.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.