Meet Sam Knight, the Washington-based journalist and acerbic tweeter who, before he turned to freelancing, spent a summer working for the English-language outlet for RT. The network, formerly known as Russia Today, has been the toast of the media this week as events in Ukraine continue to unfold.
First it was lampooned for going soft on Putin, as when it called Russia a “stabilizing force in Ukraine.” Later its D.C.-based host, Abby Martin, was praised for denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on air and proclaiming her editorial independence from the network (later still, and this is not totally related, it was revealed that she’s an avid 9/11 truther!).
As someone who worked for RT, Knight couldn’t read with a straight face RT’s statement about letting its journalists freely express themselves. In a conversation with National Journal, he discussed his personal experiences with the network.
So what was it like?
I remember being told that certain topics were out of bounds. Russia wasn’t making headlines in the summer of 2012 (when I was there) like it is today. But when we wanted to cover China, for example, we were warned against critical coverage of foreign countries — an affront to journalism for domestic consumption, if you think about it, when Beijing suppressing independent labor unions and gutting environmental regulations has a direct effect on American workers. Yet there was a lot of coverage of the Quebec student protests and anti-austerity protests in Spain and Greece and such. And they were important stories and well worth covering, to be fair, but the implicit message was clear: Foreign affairs from an American perspective were acceptable as long as they weren’t offensive to Moscow.
So why did you work for them?
I knew what show I was working for: Alyona Minkovski is honest and was a great boss and host. She had a great team, and when the Huffington Post snapped her up I felt vindicated. All of the stories we did about targeting killing, surveillance, the Trans Pacific Partnership, the crackdown on the Occupy movement, the prison industrial complex, etc. were all well ahead of the curve, if you look at some of the headlines today. I did feel a little weird working for a network with ties to the Kremlin, sure, but the journalism job market is tough these days — particularly if you’re an American seeking to cover your own government in a non-superficial manner.
Would you warn people away from working there?
There’s going to continue to be a steady supply of people ready to both work for and watch RT. The corporate media is staffed with fleshy bags of walking sycophancy — pathetic excuses for journalists, really — and a lot of these stories about RT reek of projection and insecurity. These “Neo-nazis in Kiev are overstated,” or “Putin is just doing this because he can” stories are childish and absurd, boiling the entire conflict down to black and white “democracy vs. authoritarianism” or a cartoonish pantomime portrait of a guy, who, in reality, has support that can’t be easily dismissed — both at home and in Crimea. This doesn’t excuse RT’s coverage of the conflict. But it’s state-owned. What are these jingoistic American hacks’ excuses?
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”