The closure of RT’s operations in the U.S. might be an opportunity to build the global alternative media structures that are so desperately needed, writes Sam Husseini.
By Sam Husseini
The closure of RT America follows effective censorship of the channel. The ultimate decision to close was made following a cut off of service by DirecTV and Roku. Big Tech firms were also increasingly targeting RT. Reuters reported: “Tech companies in recent days have moved to restrict Russian state-controlled media including RT and Sputnik in response to requests from governments and calls to prevent the spread of Russia propaganda.”
Many will try to argue that the developments in the U.S. are completely different from the European Commission recently banned RT and Sputnik.
But it more clearly highlights the congruence of government and major corporate agendas. And indeed, as with Big Tech censorship generally, sometimes the collusion is outright, see my interview last year with Nadine Strossen, former head of the ACLU. Contrary to the common mantra that Big Tech platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter get to decide what content they want, Strossen argues “Private sector actors are directly bound by constitutional norms, including the First Amendment” if they are being coerced by or colluding with the government.
And direct censorship has been done by the U.S. government. For example, in 2020, the Trump administration seized the internet domain for the American Herald Tribune, claiming it was controlled by Iran. The following year, the Biden administration seized the domains for Press TV and over 30 others on similar grounds. The mechanism for this was sanctions that were placed on Iran — thus, sweeping sanctions can be used effectively as an instrument against the First Amendment.
Such compulsions go back. In 2008, a New York man who was trying to make Al-Manar, a TV station backed by Hezbollah in Lebanon, available to people in the U.S. was sentenced to at least five years in prison. There were at best minimal efforts to oppose this on First Amendment grounds.
RT America Was Different
But RT America was different from many of these in that RT America reached a lot of people. I remember chatting with an elderly man several years ago in rural Maryland who I happened to strike up a conversation with in a store. After our talk turned to politics, he excitedly told me about this great outlet he was watching for news — RT.
In all honesty, I was surprised at first when I saw RT’s substantial operations in D.C. The U.S. government had shut down Press TV’s offices in D.C. But there RT’s offices were — rows and rows of producers and other workers.
I began to suspect that RT and RT America were allowed to blossom in part because a pretext could always be found to pull the plug on them.
I worked for a time in 2007 with The Real News, then based in Toronto, which aimed to be a genuinely independent media outlet. The Real News had relatively modest funding but a lot of promise.
I thought The Real News at that point was a terribly important project — what could challenge the power of the U.S. Establishment more than an independent, vibrant 24/7 media outlet?
But part of a strategy of preventing the emergence of a global independent media outlet might have included allowing the emergence of national outlets which tapped into dissent and discontent in the U.S., but which could easily have the rug pulled out from under them at any time chosen by the U.S. Establishment. So, did RT end up effectively syphoning off the viewers that could have helped build up The Real News?
In January of 2021, in explaining the lack of a vibrant independent media outlet in the U.S., I wrote:
“The possibility of something emerging was ironically hindered by other nationalist outlets. After Al Jazeera dudded out, instead of people in the U.S. and elsewhere trying to build something, people turned to RT etc with obvious problems, I *suspect that RT was allowed to become entrenched by the U.S. establishment for exactly this reason — its rise and funding helped preclude people from building a grassroots network and RT could obviously be dismissed when the establishment chose to do so.”
Given the secretive nature of U.S. government institutions, it’s virtually impossible to show that that’s what happened, but regardless, clearly the U.S. Establishment is now gunning for RT.
To be clear, beyond the obvious limitations, I have thought that RT, perhaps because of its governmental backing, was at times quite limited in its critique of U.S. government policy, see my piece “Stated Goals vs Actual Goals: ‘CrossTalk’ Lives Up to Its Name” from 2015. I end that piece:
“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-Jazeerafor Qatar, Al-Arabia for Saudi Arabia, CCTV for China, etc.
“They all foster shallowness and ultimately prize hacks over real journalists.
“We desperately need a global, real network dedicated to real facts and meaningful dialogue between various viewpoints.”
So, ironically, there may be a silver lining: The demise of RT America might in fact be an opportunity to build the global media structures we so desperately need.
Such an attempt, if it were even mildly successful, will likely face brutal attack.
In 2010, following pressure from then Sen. Joe Lieberman, VISA, Mastercard and Amazon pulled the plug on WikiLeaks, which had become a major sensation based on the “Collateral Murder” video.
When “Collateral Murder” came out, one could see the promise of WikiLeaks, getting direct support from millions around the world and developing a new type of journalism that could powerfully hold governments and corporations to account. But of course, WikiLeaks has been savagely attacked, such that most of their resources had to be directed at defending their founder. Still, the assaults on WikiLeaks have come at a cost for the U.S. government, exposing their tortured onslaughts on the group.
Given the seemingly ever more demented state of affairs, the lack of focus on the facts that people need to know, the manipulation of information by Big Tech, the lack of meaningful dialogue or debate on large media outlets and so many other obstacles, the need for an independent, global media outlet is more urgent than ever.
Sam Husseini is an independent writer and artist. You can follow him on Substack.
This article is from the author’s Substack.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
Audiatur et altera pars!
Sb. considers us unable to judge and therefore muzzles. Who believes everything of RT is similarly beside himself as those who believe Western media are always right.
WMD, little green men …DOCEnT!
La patte griffée NAZI de la BÊTE IMPÉRIALISTE OCCIDENTALE WASHINGTONIENNE ET DE SES VASSAUX DE L’OTAN EN Ukraine.
Le gouvernement fantoche golem de la Bête: le Parti National-Socialisme de Zelensky, soit le Parti NAZI en Ukraine.
But how do you imagine such an independent global media organ would be distributed, Mr. Hesseini? The blocking of unwanted media sites, now in Europe as well, demonstrates that you cannot rely on the Internet for this. (Apart from the fact that many millions of people do not have access to this.) The only possibility, when push comes to shove, that I see is a non-Internet-based peer-to-peer network, like FidoNet originally was.
You know it is incredibly amazing. Our disingenuous political leaders never fail to patronize the American public. “Americans are smart enough to figure this out!” “Americans this and Americans that.” Until something comes along that endangers their lock on information, which is mostly in the form of American propaganda.
Enter RT. A stroke of marketing genius in my opinion. I had specific programs I liked and learned through vetting stories could be trusted to a point to provide bonafide information hard to find at other venues.
Now for some reason the program must be banned. A pettiness that drives me crazy – crazier maybe?.
JFK once stated words to this affect, ‘A nation that refused to debates it’s issues in a public forum is a nation that is afraid of it’s people!’
The banning of RT is the perfect example of the US government claiming to know whats best for it’s population.
Exhibiting no faith that there are among the population individuals who can grasp real information and identify it separately from the faux imposter. Or maybe the government fears what the populace might actually learn something. It’s pissy pettiness either way.
These people, many of whom present a clear and present danger to the masses have sent us a fresh message of their actual intentions, don’t miss it. This is more big brother doing our thinking for us bull shit.
Where is the Queen of Hearts when you need her?
I can get the RT website using Firefox but it’s blocked when using the Avast browser.
I can get the Sputniknews website using both Firefox and Avast.
So, I guess the “RT/Sputniknews ban” is not a total ban in the US.
RT and Sputnik also work with Brave but not with Tor.
Hopefully the engineers at Unit 8200 are not working on a database of all the computers who should not see Russia content. We are known not just by our IP, but also by our window size, pixel density, installed fonts and many other factors.
The shuttering of RT by the American government, following years of harassment, is just one more reason to believe that America is not an example of a “free country” with ‘democratic’ values. Sorry, but it has proven repeatedly that it is just a fake facsimile of such a thing. It’s really an oligarchy or plutocracy ruled by the very rich whose policies are decided solely by money.
The mass psychosis & brainwashing by the Western Govts & Media has reached unprecedented hysterical levels. RT America was my favourite Media Channel. I can still get the International version but the American channel had my favourite shows like On Contact with Chris Hedges, the Keiser Report with Max Keiser & Stacey herbert, Boom Bust & Going Underground & many others. The News Channels were always fair & balanced unlike the propaganda driven MSM which I detest & stopped watching once I discovered RT? Alternative sites like Consortium News & Zerohedge filled the other blanks! What are the Censors so afraid off? Perhaps they’re afraid that people are discovering the truth of what’s really going on in the World? People should be given the opportunity to make up their own minds by viewing whatever Channels such as RT; not have their favourites cancelled, deplatformed or censored by Govts & Media organisations with ulterior motives.
Orwell’s timing was out but his prescience was spot on.
We are entering uncharted territory and there are cannibals under every rock.
A few years ago I was part of a secret society on Facebook where we shared translations of foreign movies and series. Although none of the films were in the Greek language, there was a Greek company who put out their own translations and always got our pages shut down because they believed amateur translators cut into their profits. Thanks to Russia we found ways of going underground and getting one step ahead of them. I had a page on VK where I posted movies “bigmac” “ham&cheese” etc. and some members also posted to Odnoklassniki and shared the links with the group. We worked together toward our common goal of quality entertainment, and we had the satisfaction of knowing we outsmarted censorship.
There are 330M Americans and only a few thousand seek out independent news sites. Our network thrived because there was demand. We would stay up until 3 o’clock in the morning helping make the timestamps for subtitles. How are there enough devoted writers and readers to sustain a global alternative media structure? Which should be born first, the chicken or the egg?
If Russia is so bad,why are we buying their oil?
As a Direct TV subscriber,RT was closed down..I miss it because It was very interesting and people oriented.
It told the truth about events and no hearsay,rumors,speculation.
So now only 1 side can be heard…..
What a loss to all.
A country can be judged by its people,not its government.
let us hear from all countries- stories about their citizens and natives.
There are 2 sides to a pancake…you need both sides cooked Evenly for a
RT needs to be reinstated.
Iranian media banned in the UK, ditto Chinese media, ditto Russian media, and no doubt Assange will be languishing in one of our deepest dungeons for the next 175 years.
Not that this will stop us climbing on our high horse and giving unsolicited pious lectures and lofty sermons to the lesser breeds over failing to meet our exalted standards of press freedom.
Very interesting; I watched The Real News Network with Paul Jay for several years before it was taken over by????I never knew. It had interviews about Israel, economic talks by Yves Smith (now running the site Naked Capitalism)ex-prisoners peace advocates.
I am in France, where RT and sputnik cannot even be glimpsed now, while France 24 has interviews with Russian oligarch criminal Khodorkhovsky, with gushing commentaries , and the usual pieces on “Putin’s mental state”. Every “newspaper” on the stalls had items on heroic Ukraine, Ze the hero for his people, evil Putin. I spoke to one man who said he did not hate Russia, just Putin! I have lived through the Cold War in Australia and Europe and have never seen such vitriol before.
I watched The Real News until something had obviously changed with its narrative. I, too, don’t know what made them change, but I was gone not long after.
If you search for “paul jay analysis news” you will find his latest venture. Many good interviews
RT , although valuable as an alternative to mind numbing soap opera level American news , has always been rather milque toast to fit in and not upset the proles too much. The idea I think was to slowly educate people out of a brain washed stupor. Sadly it did’nt/won’t work. How long before CN is banned? And then we crash into a Dark Age to the shouts of USA USA USA YSA!,
Perhaps RT could be resuscitated soon via a media federation of nations aligned to East Asia, BRICS, Global South and African countries, under a code of journalism ethics agreed upon by participants. Western media is crap, anyway.
I’m afraid this complete stifling of media throughout the western world that even questions the US “narrative” is the final step of the West’s acceptance of US fascism.
agreed. but it is being done in an internet world when there is truth out there in a way it never was when the nyt, washpo, abc, cbs, nbc, and pbs went unchallenged, even if they seemed to have a bit more questioning of government, at times, than they do today. so there are also signs of hope.
trump’s election, mixed bag though it was, got criticism of the mockingbird state media front and center for years, and the exposure even if very limited punishment of fbi, doj, and cia corruption in crossfire hurricane and russiagate (and those newspapers’ laughable pulitzers) also gives hope.
the republican party needs to be profoundly reformed, a process trump barely began, though his prosecution/persecution by the rino decepticons (in sundance’s coinage) in league with the rest of the deep state clearly showed the need. as for the democratic party, it may be beyond saving, having become the home of the worst elements of the neocon/neolib war mongers, the mic, the most corrupt factions of the fbi, doj, cia, etc.
this continues to seem very like the fourth turning so many say it is, so things impossible before become possible even likely now as, say, inflation/hyperinflation, depression become realities.
Linda I 100 percent agree with you on that point that the USA has lost all of its credibility in hot air talking about its freedoms… FASCIIM now rules and as the saying goes it will come back and bite these monsters the nonentities of the American ESTABLISHMENT…For what we are about to receive will be unadulterated SHIT…
“The congruence of government and major corporate agendas” is fascism by definition. We simply need to consult Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini who founded and led the National Fascist Party. He defined the term.
Thank you Consortium News for publishing Mr. Sam Husseini’s poignant and timely article about censorship of, in my opinion, the invaluable RTAmerica, television station. Unfortunately for the common people in Europe, shame on the vassal heads of states in the EU for taking the RT stations off the air to keep the people in the dark with news coverage.
Ignorance is not bliss. It is sometimes unforgivable, because when the vast majority let a small minority control them, tyranny over the masses is instituted and the consequences are dire!
A truly democratic media , world wide , would be an ideal for the progress of humanity. Thank you Sam Husseini and CN .
“I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It”
“Truth does not mind being questioned , A lie does not like being challenged “
Independent media is an oxymoron, everyone has an agenda. The only difference being whether the agenda is worn on the sleeve or hidden away. I’m very wary of organisations that call themselves independent, like ‘Fact Checkers’ funded by the security sevices.
The only solution, IMO, is if you really support free speech then you have to let EVERYONE have a voice. Once you start limiting free speech and censoring various outlets, then the only conclusion is that those that remain are state approved.
You are confusing independent with bias/slant/preference. Independent simply means that it is not paid for by corporations, NGOs, etc. It is paid for by viewers and individual people who support that message. Everyone has a bias, but having news and information free of corporate influence is necessary for a country run by corporations where corporate agenda is the only thing allowed to be heard.
Independent media are essential to democracy. They should be distributed for security, rather than unified.
Unification raises the difficult problems of external attacks and corruption ny money or infiltration.
A distributed defender of independent media may help until government can isolate media from money power.
But that requires the restoration of the structures of democracy itself, long corrupted by money in the west.
Where the corruption of democracy must be exposed, dissenting media may have to be largely underground.
So very well said Sam .A thousand thumbs up !
I certainly agree we need such in independent, global network with journalists on the ground and not dispatching from their luxury hotels around the world (or regurgitating AP/Reuter news feeds), but alas, I see no road map to get us there. Even the best post on CN may get a few thousand views. (One never knows even of those few thousand how many read, learn and inwardly digest their content.) As I approach old age, I see an ever-increasing vitriol among the so called progressive voices as they consume each other for their own narrow viewpoint. We are simply poor at discernment and critical thinking. Across the political spectrum, we suffer from the disease of ‘I am right. You are wrong,’ as we tune out every nuance of every situation. These days I am astounded at how many know the lie and actually celebrate their hero selling it as they hope for their perception to become reality.
Well spoken, sir.