Abby Martin works for RT, aka Russia Today, the English-language, Kremlin-managed cable news station that's been wackadoodle with its Ukraine coverage. On Monday, Martin blasted Russia's invasion as "wrong." But did she go off the reservation, or just add a layer to Putin's propaganda offensive?
Here's what she says in her closing monologue, shown above:
Before I wrap up the show, I wanted to say something from my heart about the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and Russia's military occupation of Crimea. Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs. What Russia did is wrong.
That's a pretty clear statement, certainly less bullfloppy than Vladimir Putin's hair-splitting: Russia is a military occupier, and it's "wrong." But note as well the hedging against any "military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs"—something the Russian government brought up when it opposed Western intervention, most recently, in Libya and Syria. It's a laudable standard, but... well, more on that later. More Martin:
I admittedly don't know as much as I should about Ukraine's history or the cultural dynamics of the region, but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer. And I will not sit here and apologize or defend military aggression.
On one hand, a refreshingly honest statement. On the other hand, Martin might always change her mind later, as her show's "experts" teach her more about the regional dynamics. She might decide, as the rest of RT's staff apparently has, that Russia's not intervening militarily! But simply supporting "local pro-Russian self-defence units" who've spontaneously risen up to protect Russians! No, really! Fer serious!
Furthermore, the coverage I've seen of Ukraine has been truly disappointing from all sides of the media spectrum, and ripe with disinformation. Above all my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, who are now wedged as pawns in the middle of a global power chess game. They're the real losers here.
Sure, there's been a lot of media derp. But there's a vast qualitative difference between arguing about the dynamics of Euromaidan and Russian intentions, on one hand, and playing stenographer for unnamed Russian and U.S. officials on the other.
And as for the chess match, that's tinfoil hat territory—similar to the babbling rhetoric from Putin today about "American political technologists" interfering in the Russian sphere. Not to get all George F. Kennan here, but one thing's clear: A lot of Ukrainians of various political persuasions don't seem to feel like pawns, but rather victims of Russian interference in the post-Soviet space. They haven't lost yet, but they will if Russia gets to dictate Ukraine's future political landscape.
All we can do now is hope for a peaceful outcome for a terrible situation and prevent another full-blown Cold War between multiple superpowers. Until then, I'll keep telling the truth as I see it.
We all hope. Much of the onus for a peaceful outcome is on Putin and the Russian government, since it controls whatever uniformed free-firing goons are currently occupying Crimea's airports. Ukrainians, who had no compunctions about taking to the streets of Kiev against a government they considered illegitimate, have shown pretty damned impressive restraint in not forcing a confrontation with those pro-Russian goons, who shoot over their heads and cajole them.
On face, Martin's rant seems eminently reasonable. Disarming, even. But it also seems calibrated to bring RT some shred of credibility as a journalistic outlet, and to reach consensus with viewers that military action is bad, mmkay? It certainly is. But then again, we're not Ukrainians in Ukraine at the moment, with some ski-mask-wearing gun-toting foreigners in control of part of our country. Were that America, we'd be going all Wolverines! already.
Update: Abby's going to the war zone!
RT sending off-message presenter to Crimea to give her opportunity to "make up her own mind from epicentre of story" http://t.co/FC7lY0rl6X
— Kevin Bishop (@bishopk) March 4, 2014
Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn't beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby's commentary on the Ukraine.
We respect her views, and the views of all our journalists, presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands made against Ms. Martin.
In her comment Ms. Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such we'll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story.
Update: Hmm, Abby Martin and her employer really aren't on the same page about some things:
Hi @Josiensor, thanks for your article. But I am not going to Crimea despite the statement RT has made. Please update accordingly.
— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) March 4, 2014