Do Russians Love Their Children Too?

Mark Adomanis, the Russia Hand blogger at Forbes, spends quite a lot of time attacking my Russia Today story for a point I don’t think I made.

[I]f, like Weigel, you think RT is distasteful and off-putting just wait: over the coming years the Western, and especially American, media’s near monopoly on setting the agenda is going to evaporate and voices from China, India, Brazil, and other swiftly developing countries are going to be heard.

And that, I think, is what galls people so much about RT, they don’t play by the normal rules. As Josh Kucera, a journalist who has covered Russia and the former Soviet space, tweeted: “RT covers the US like US media covers Russia — emphasizing decline, interviewing marginal dissidents.” It turns out that it’s not very fun to be the target of over-hyped and sensationalized news coverage that obsessively details your country’s every real or perceived failure and which interviews an unrepresentative sampling of people who are deeply unsatisfied with the current state of things. There’s a deeper lesson in there somewhere, and it’s not simply “RT bad! Mainstream media good!”

Adomanis didn’t notice that my story was about an evolution. As I wrote, the first time a lot of people in D.C. noticed there was a Russian-funded TV cable network was when it started covering the South Ossetia conflict from the perspective that the U.S. and Georgia were in the wrong. This inspired the first long look at the Kremlin’s media spending, a very unflattering piece titled “Pravda on the Potomac,” by TNR’s Jamie Kirchick. Most coverage of RT has been of the “crazy Russians hate America!” variety. And what I noticed, starting in earnest last year, was that RT was building a new line-up of programs that aren’t so easily pigeonholed. The network is going after a certain type of viewer – the American who doesn’t trust his government or the media, and thinks the Tea Party isn’t making anything better. That’s my point.