Sunday 10 August 2008

Self-torture: Watching "Russia Today" (updated)

I have been forcing myself watching the Russian English language news channel "Russia Today" today and yesterday for much longer than it needs to understand the Russian position.

It is self torture, although I excuse for all victims of torture using the term in this context. I really want to hear all sides of the story, no matter how awkward the sides present themselves. Yet, the (not unexpected) one-sidedness of the channel is really hard to stand.

I appreciate to get some more insights, details and footage that Western media do not show, i.e. more pictures from affected people in the region and interviews with officials of the breakaway regions.

But I don't appreciate the presentation of the story, actually not so much for the positions taken (because I watch this to get exactly these positions) but for the journalistic inaccurateness of the presentation:

Serious accusations towards Western media are made but proven only by interviews with some anonymous citizens. The constant subtitle of the news, "GENOCIDE", is used as a political statement, not as a journalistic descriptive category. No remarks are made about Russian raids over genuine Georgian territory. The other side of the conflict is not at all heard, except for the broadcasting of the speeches of Georgian president Saakashvili, which are immediately "counter-proven" by "experts" or Russian/South Ossetian officials.

And it is in fact this obvious inaccurateness that makes the Russian side of the story so noncredible. It is very easy not to believe Russia, because most of the "evidence" presented can be dismantled as rhetoric, as biased statements, and dialectic distortion of arguments. In some ways, I am even surprised, that the disguise is not more professional. It seems to be enough to repeat the same things over and over again, no matter how absurd they sound.

I am not naïve, please do not get this wrong. It is not that I expected it to be so much different. But being used to a presentation of news that at least pretends to present all sides of a story, that demonstrates that there are actually different (legitimate) views on the same events, it really hurts watching the news on "Russia Today".

So even if you are willing to engage with non-Western positions in this conflict, it is really impossible to do this without serious "cognitive dissonances". Russia is complaining about being "misunderstood". But actually, this is not because there wouldn't be the will to understand Russia, it is because Russia does not much to construct a story that is credible at any place where multiple sources of information are used to form an opinion about this conflict.


From the German newspaper Sueddeutsche I have just learnt that 25-years old Russia Today correspondent William Dunbars had to leave the TV station after reporting live via satellite that Russian airplanes had bombed the Georgian town of Gori. Obviously, and according to Dunbars, this truth did not fit into the story Russia Today wanted to tell...

Read also:

The Duck of Minerva, including a clip from "Russia Today".


Anonymous said...

I want you to know that I posted a comment on La Russophobe, alerting everyone to your post, complete with the link to it. They have posted with the link to the German article. Your observations are noteworthy - and, indeed, a sacrifice for the benefit of all of us!