Russias RT pushing Putins agenda on the streets of Seattle.
Russia's RT is pushing Putin's agenda on the streets of Seattle. These posters were seen on Capitol Hill. Charles Mudede


RT (formerly Russia Today) is a state-funded news network established by Vladimir Putin in 2005, and is based in Moscow with 21 bureaus in 16 countries. According to Time, it is the fourth most watched 24-hour news channel in the UK and has considerably more YouTube subscribers than CNN and ABC News. RT claims to have a much more realistic view of the world than Western news sources.

Though the state that funds RT is fully capitalist, the network has habits that date back to the Communist period, such as seeing Western conspirators behind any event that's unfavorable to Russia and its allies. RT, however, is not as crazy as Fox News, a media network whose commitment to the GOP program is so pronounced that it can't even properly vet its experts and analysts.

For example, Wayne Simmons, a regular Fox News commentator on matters concerning security and terrorism, was arrested and charged yesterday by the US Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia for, among other things, allegedly making false claims of having "worked as an 'Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer' for the Central Intelligence Agency." Fox News' ideological focus is so extreme that it's incapable of seeing mountain-sized lies.

On the other hand, it is easy to see how those on the US left might see RT as refreshing and eye-opening at times. How can any of us disagree with the points made in its current anti-Bush/Iraq War poster campaign, which recently hit the streets of progressive Seattle? A good citizen of a functioning democracy always must "question more" and have access to a second opinion about important matters and events of the day.

But RT's coverage of Russia's current military operations in Syria is not any better than the way Fox News covered the United States' war in Iraq. According to RT, the Russians know what they are doing, they have the smartest weapons, their intelligence about enemy targets is impeccable, civilians in Syria have nothing to fear, the terrorists are on the run, and so on. This picture is, of course, far too rosy. No wars are that clean and no bombs are that precise.

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In fact, the best thing RT is providing US viewers with is a taste of how the military operation is being presented to audiences in Russia. According to The Economist, the news coverage there is so pro-Putin that one TV station even reports on Syrian weather:

October in Syria is a great month for flying: the average wind speed is 2.4 meters per second.

This kind of thing is not that far from what we see and hear on RT:

A lot has been done on [on this Russian fighter jet] for pilot comfort. There is apparently even a small toilet for [the pilots].

It's good that RT has a presence in the United States, but it has to be seen for it is: the Russian version of the US's Voice of America.