This week the Winter Olympic Games commence in Sochi Russia, and the Kremlin’s propaganda vortex known as Russia Beyond the Headlines is going into overdrive pumping out propaganda designed to twist and pervert the facts about the games in the Kremlin’s favor, hoping to paper over the long list of hideous and embarrassing defects inherent in Russia’s effort as host. Over on the powerful and influential American Thinker blog, LR publisher and founder Kim Zigfeld has all the details.
It’s happened slowly and surreptitiously, but the Public Editor of the New York Times has undergone a metamorphosis. Today, she spends more time singing the paper’s praises than calling it to task. Call her the Public Cheerleader.
In May of 2011, the Russian government began inserting a color supplement known as “Russia Beyond the Headlines” into the pages of the Times. Masquerading as news, RBTH has weekly regaled Times readers ever since with all manner of Kremlin propaganda. Only if you were a seasoned Russia watcher or read the fine print and then started Googling would you have any idea about the true origins of the supplement.
Yet three years later, the Times’ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan claimed to be blithely unaware that the supplement even existed, much less had she or anyone else in the Public Editor’s office investigated the propriety of the Gray Lady’s conduct in regard to it.
In a January 2014 column, Sullivan wrote: “Just last week, The Times began a careful foray into native advertising — paid content that looks something like news.” Her statement was simply false: The “foray” began three years ago, when RBTH first appeared. Indeed, Sullivan had “reported” in December of 2013 that native advertising was “about to arrive” at the Times “after months of preparation and scrutiny.” In fact, it had already been in place for quite some time. What is Ms. Sullivan reading, if it’s not the New York Times?
In typically dishonest and deeply misleading fashion, the Kremlin’s propaganda mouthpiece Russia Beyond the Headlines recently touted Russia as being ranked by the UN as a top-ten tourism destination. As usual, if you look critically at the actual facts, something RBTH almost never does, you find quite a different story than the one RBTH is telling.
RBTH quotes Taleb Rifai, the Secretary-General of the World Tourist Organisation (UNWTO), as follows: “Last year 26 million foreign tourists visited Russia. It is now the world’s number 9 most popular tourist destination. It is a result of hard work, including work on a political level.”
This uncritical, breathless quotation is wildly, hysterically, recklessly misleading.
It’s true that Russia ranks #9 in tourist arrivals for 2012 as measured by UNWTO. But Russia doesn’t rank in the top ten in the criteria that actually matters, receipts from tourists. Not even close. In 2012, Russia netted less than $12 billion from incoming tourists, while Australia, which ranks #10 on the receipts list, netted $30 billion, three times more than Russia. The USA, which leads all countries in tourism receipts, netted over $125 billion from tourism, ten times more than Russia, although it has only three times more arrivals. (The revenues generated by the USA from tourism alone are slightly more than Vietnam’s entire GDP.)
Russia’s tourism receipts are so puny because Russia does not have true international visitors the way Australia and the USA do. Instead, the people who enter Russia are mostly the impoverished people of former Soviet space and Africa, people who have very little to spend. For this reason, when evaluated for tourism competitiveness across the worldwide tourism market by the World Economic Forum, Russia places an appalling #63 out of 140 countries under review.
To ignore these facts precludes RBTH from being taken seriously. But that’s only the start of the problems with RBTH’s propaganda.
Amazingly, RBTH also totally ignores the issue of Russian and racism and homophobia. Recent footage of Russian skinheads torturing a young black student in the city of Belgorod, including forcing him to kiss a watermelon, gives vivid insight into the way Russians view those who are different from themselves. How is it possible that RBTH could fail to explore how racism and homophobia impair Russia’s tourism revenues? In fact, RBTH does not address any of the numerous extremely negative features of life in Russia, from corruption to violence to smoking and drinking to rudeness, which would cause Russia to be very unattractive to people from civilized countries.
RBTH does at least touch superficially upon one hot-button issue where tourism and Russia is concerned, namely xenophobia. RBTH admits that Russia has erected a horrific web of visa-related hurdles which actively prevent many tourists from even considering a trip to Russia, hurdles which are holdovers from the old Soviet era when xenophobia was official state policy and every foreign guest was considered a dangerous spy. It’s hardly a surprise, however, that RBTH doesn’t pause even for a second to ask whether having a proud KGB spy as president might be playing a negative role in promotion of tourism, much less to ask whether that spy, Vladimir Putin, even wants foreigners present in Russia. The recent announcement that Russia would ban the use of cell phone video and photography and would only permit recording by licensed journalists using professional equipment is a clear indication that Putin is a big part of the problem. To publish an article that doesn’t even try to explore this topic moves RBTH from the arena of journalism to the pit of state-sponsored propaganda.
The simple truth is this: RBTH knows it can’t report facts where Russia is concerned, because facts make Russia look horrible. It can only spin, distort, lie and mislead, because that’s the only hope Russia has.
In the very same week that the Kremlin declared all-out war on Levada, the last remaining pollster operating in Russia with an independent voice, the Kremlin’s own publication, Russia Beyond the Headlines, featured Levada data prominently in its color insert distributed with the New York Times. It was yet another bizarre act in the tragicomedy known as Russia.
The May 22nd issue of RBTH had its entire second page plastered with information obtained from Levada regarding Vladimir Putin’s latest purported initiative against corruption. First a news story by Olga Doronina entitled “Russians see Official’s Money as the Root of All Evil” featured a huge color graphic reporting Levada’s poll results concerning the question of whether Putin’s measure to ban foreign ownership of assets by government officials was serious or a sham (the data favored the Kremlin, indicating 58% of Russians thought it was serious, although nearly half that group saw it as merely a way to gain control over wayward officials as opposed to actually purifying them). Then an op-ed from Georgy Bovt made repeated reference to Levada polling concerning Russian support for the measure.
How is it possible that at one and the same time the Kremlin can be attacking Levada as an unreliable “foreign agent” with the clear possibility that its operations would be shut down and also quoting from Levada as if it were the most reliable source of public opinion information in the country?
Because we’re talking about Russia, that’s why. Obviously, RBTH was slightly behind the curve and didn’t get wind of the Kremlin’s plans for Levada until its issue had already gone to print.
Oops. Good luck finding the news story from the NYT insert on the RBTH website. Now that Levada is under attack it seems to have been purged. Good luck, for that matter, finding reports by RBTH about Putin’s crackdown on Levada. None of it is anywhere to be found, the whole thing seems to have been swept under the carpet by this neo-Soviet publication. Weirdly, the Bovt piece was more than a month old, having been sitting on the RBTH website all that time and been published long before RBTH learned Levada was persona no grata, and that’s why it can still be found on the website, apparently.
But surely, RBTH must have known that Levada was a foreign agent all along, didn’t it? Apparently not, because RBTH found lots and lots of data published by Levada to be helpful to the Kremlin’s cause. Seven RBTH items in May alone quote Levada.
It’s so typical of Russia for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing. RBTH thinks it’s free to use helpful data it finds in Levada reports, hardly suspecting that the data was being produced by a “foreign agent” committed to Russia’s overthrow. Then it finds itself with egg on its face as the news is suddenly announced.
Kim Zigfeld has penned a second installment in her ongoing series over at the powerful and influential American Thinker blog exposing the outrageously dishonest propaganda being churned out by the Kremlin bought-and-paid-for website known as Russia Beyond the Headlines.
This time, Kim shows how RBTH is grossly distorting the terrifying rise in military spending in Putin’s Russia.
Last time, Kim demonstrated how RBTH hideously misreported the kidnapping and torture of Leonid Razvozzhayev by the Kremlin’s operatives.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!
In a January 10, 2013 piece for Russia Beyond the Headlines, the Kremlin’s wholly-owned propaganda mouthpiece in English, Alexey Dolinskiy wrote: “A February 2012 U.S. Gallup poll showed that only 2 percent of Americans see Russia as an enemy.”
It was an absurd lie. The Gallup poll in question did not ask Americans whether Russia was “an” enemy, it asked whether Russia was America’s “greatest” enemy. Another Gallup poll that same month showed that negative attitudes on the part of Americans towards Russia had nearly doubled over the prior four years, while positive attitudes had fallen by by 15%. There is a consistent trend of increasing hostility towards Russia by Americans as Russia becomes ever less democratic. RBTH headlines ignores that, of course, because it is not consistent with its propaganda efforts to undermine American opposition to the Kremlin. And this consistent trend is all the more impressive because throughout this period the Obama administration has been engaged in relentless pro-Kremlin appeasement.
During the last U.S. presidential election, Republican challenger Mitt Romney called Russia America’s “greatest geopolitical foe” because it is “the nation which lines up with the world’s worst actors” against the United States. And there’s no disputing this contention. Russia has sided strongly against democracy with murderous regimes all across the world, from Cuba and Venezuela to Egypt, Libya and Syria. More than 60 million Americans voted for Romney to become president.
Then there’s Obama’s own Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who recently gave a speech which was closely similar to the “Iron Curtain” speech delivered at the outset of the Cold War by Winston Churchill. She warned that Putin is now working feverishly to bring back the dark days of the USSR and Russian domination of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Russia Beyond the Headlines, of course, like its Kremlin masters themselves, simply doesn’t care about the facts. Instead, all it wants to do is churn out propaganda that will undermine American resolve to confront neo-Soviet crackdowns and aggression.