For the last year or so I religiously watch a news channel called Russia Today (RT). It helps me comprehend the world better and keeps my unchecked anger in control. RT is Arnab Goswami on amphetamines. It is the Breaking Bad of television journalism.
Often blasphemous but seldom boring, RT is a never-ending, forever-repeating documentation of the American tragedy. As a news channel, it has the potency of a street drug and the clarity of a well meaning (but) ideologically-tainted high school teacher. I am hooked.
Last evening I saw an interview with Peter J Kuznick, an American historian who has worked with Oliver Stone on a pathbreaking documentary series: The Untold History of the United States. Not plugging the TV series, the historian, a guest on a show called Break the Set, painted an American landscape that is now, quite frankly, fading from the globalised public discourse.
Before I watched RT, I thought Al Jazeera was anti-West. After watching RT for 15 minutes Al Jazeera feels like an overtly cautious news channel anxious not to lose it’s tag of neutrality while the CNN, FOX News and the BBC sound like faithful mouthpieces of an empire that refuses to acknowledge its impending doom.
There are rumours that currently more people in the US watch RT than CNN. It is not hard to see why: the view of one’s own room is always better from the neighbour’s window. The view only gets better when David Letterman (the latest addition to the RT arsenal) shows you where to look. Then there is Max Keiser. If Max said that it would rain mackerel tomorrow between noon and 3pm in India, I will not only believe him, but will also be prepared to bet a sizeable portion of my lifetime savings on his words.
But Max won’t ever say a thing like that. He is not in the business of making predictions; he is in the business of breaking them. He hosts a daily show called the Keiser Report with his wife and fellow economic commentator Stacy Herbert.
For someone who doesn’t understand complex economics watching the show is like immersing oneself in a Thomas Pynchon novel. The world is not what it looks like. Ten minutes into the show and you wonder if any of it could be true. Then you check. Most of the information peddled on RT is as credible as any other media outlet. At first you laugh, then, suddenly, you are very angry.
RT sells moral indignation. The Americans I see on RT are poor, homeless, often hungry, having no hope for the future and waiting to die on the street. They have no health care to talk about, are constantly told lies by those in power, have no hope for a job, no family, and no television to resent the happiness of other well-off Americans. On RT the American dream is haunted by its own ambitions.
I see RT as a front in an ideological war, the war against the moral uprightness of the West led by the US. Any decision that the US takes is deconstructed and presented as yet another example of the moral hollowness of a global power.
The US shown on RT is the mirror image of the Russia beamed across the globe by CNN, the BBC and other mainstream media outlets: a nation whose affairs are conducted by a small rich minority comprising bankers, oil magnates and arms manufacturers, a nation that doesn’t deserve any moral authority. RT’s news fabric burns with self-righteousness, hitherto an unchallenged American territory.
Its anchors are angry, its reporters forever hungry for a slice of the American pie, its bosses political. No wonder its audience grows by the minute, fed on better facts and more believable and realistic fiction.
The author is a writer