Ronnie, Talk to Russia

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 28 2011 8:13 AM

Ronnie, Talk to Russia

I took a bit of a departure this week and spent some time with the new, leading, prime time personalities of Russia Today (RT), the proudly Kremlin-funded network. To watch RT is to see an America brought low by triviality, ever-teetering on the edge of collapse. There is an audience for this.

When RT first drew attention here, it was for its coverage of the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, which portrayed the small republic of 4.6 million people as the aggressor. (One fairly typical segment featured an interview with an American in South Ossetia who blamed America for the violence.) Its coverage of American politics was heavy on interviews with fringe experts and third party candidates; frequent on-air experts included radio host Alex Jones and newsletter reporter Wayne Madsen, who'd discuss too-good-to-check stories about the origins of the swine flu and why WTC Building 7 fell on 9/11.

A couple of years later, the network has a bureau of 70 people in downtown Washington, including veterans of CNN and NBC News; it gets credible guests from places like Talking Points Memo, Reason , the Cato Institute, and the Washington Examiner . Before he got his own show on MSNBC, Cenk Uygur would go on these shows to riff on the news. Talking out of turn, and not for attribution, these guests have no idea what to make of RT's regular content ("it's always some truther crap"). But the network's most visible, popular presence in Washington is that evening line-up. A watcher of RT always got the impression that America was irrational, oppressive, frivolous and in trouble; a watcher of the prime-time line-up gets the same impression, but it's different somehow. It's somewhere between Jon Stewart's monologue and the world that Rowdy Roddy Piper sees when he puts on those special sunglasses in They Live .

Advertisement

In Soviet Russia, article keeps reading you!


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.