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Crosstalk, State Media and the Irrational

Last week, I was on RT’s show “CrossTalk” about Syria and ended up spending most of the show trying to make a point I didn’t think I’d have to on that media outlet.

Here’s the video.

RT of course used to be know as Russia Today and is often regarded as extremely critical of U.S. government policy. But, I found out, not really that critical.

As the show got going, the thrust of the conversation was that U.S. policy in the Mideast was “irrational”. So, I made the point that one shouldn’t exclude the possibility that U.S. government policy wasn’t actually irrational, but rather that its stated goals — democracy, stability, fighting terrorism — were actually different from its actual goals. It might therefore appear to be irrational because its actions wouldn’t “make sense” if you took it at its word, but they would have a Machiavellian logic to them.

I thought it a fairly obvious point, but the other folks kept going back to either standard pro-Putin talking points or to their “irrational” depiction of U.S. policy, so I’d make that point again. The host, Peter Lavelle, at one point seemed — there was a lot of CrossTalk, so can’t be sure — to say I didn’t have a basic understand of foreign policy, which was actually the charge I was leveling at him. “Governments lie” as I.F. Stone was fond of reminding students.

At first I thought that they were just being foolish by not seeing the point I was making — they’re supposed to be critics of U.S. government policy. Then I wondered if the notion of parsing through a government’s stated goals vs its actual goals might be threatening to folks who take their queues from the establishment of any country.

Meanwhile, the U.S. establishment is rather nimble at questioning the motives of official enemies, so contrast how Putin is written about in the U.S.: “Putin’s goals in Syria clear to all but Obama,” “Moscow’s many stated reasons for fighting in Ukraine are either false or incoherent. Its actual goals, unfortunately, preclude a tidy and quick resolution ever taking hold,” “Russia’s real Syria goal explained by top experts“. In this environment, when Putin’s goals are regularly scrutinized — sometimes in contorted manner — and U.S. establishment goals are barely scrutinized at all, many end up drawing conclusions like “Putin outwits the United States, again” — a questionable conclusion that perhaps some at RT have a stake in promulgating as well.

The deeper issue is that we have these media outlets of various nationalities — RT for Russia, France 24 for France, CNN for the U.S. establishment, Fox for the U.S. establishment rightwing, MSNBC for U.S. establishment corporate liberals, Al-Jazeera for Qatar, Al-Arabia for Saudi Arabia, CCTV for China, etc.

They all foster shallowness and a ultimately prize hacks over real journalists.

We desperately need a global, real network dedicated to real facts and meaningful dialogue between various viewpoints.

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Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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