Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RT's "Assange Diplomacy"

Yes. Just in case you didn't already know. Two days ago, on January 23, Assange announced that he will be starting a new TV show; today, Russia Today announced that it will be hosting the show. There you go.

Nice move. Really. After all that been said here and elsewhere regarding RT's approach and coverage, they probably couldn't have made a better choice. Currently, he is probably the most prominent critic of the U.S. (and the policies of the West, in general), and since RT is officially in the business of criticizing the West (for better or worse), this was an opportunity not to be missed.

RT's director Margarita Simonyan tweeted her excitement
[translated from Russian]:

"Drum roll. Solemn face... WE will be airing Julian Assanges first TV show!!! That's who I went to see in London. Press release coming soon." [sic]

The Monday statement from Wikileaks reads:

"Both a pioneer for a more just world and a victim of political repression, [Assange] is uniquely placed to catalyse a global discussion on how to go forward.
In recognition of this, Assange will draw together controversial voices from across the political spectrum - iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders - each to offer a window on the world tomorrow and their ideas on how to secure a brighter future.
Julian Assange says: 'Through this series I will explore the possibilities for our future in conversations with those who are shaping it. Are we heading towards utopia, or dystopia and how we can set our paths? This is an exciting opportunity to discuss the vision of my guests in a new style of show that examines their philosophies and struggles in a deeper and clearer way than has been done before.'"

The series will begin in mid-March and Assange will host them at his home in London, where he is currently under house arrest. There is no further information on the content or guests that the show will feature, and yet, we can now be sure that none of them will be critical of the Kremlin. So much for Assange's fight for freedom of information and expression...

(And just by the way, I was half expecting Al Jazeera to be "the one". Seems there's been a fallout there, too...)

As for RT itself, we should take it as another chance to poke the U.S. (even more). But what use of it for public diplomacy? Many Americans already take RT for a joke, that is, if they know about or watch it (which many don't). Is it how Russia is trying to get its message out to the English-speaking world?

And yes, although there are also many with whom Wikileaks and Assange's message might have resonated, I doubt they will be happy to see him on RT (out of all places). His credibility is now in shatters, while RT is jubilant to be getting some more bad press. Seems like their "measurement" of success is limited to quantity (i.e. the amount of attention they get), while completely forgetting about the quality of it: the type of coverage and its effects on foreign attitudes towards Russia.

After all, bad press canNOT be good press in public diplomacy: therein lies its core difference from PR.

Yet, make sure to tune in. Promises to be hilarious!


  1. "There is no further information on the content or guests that the show will feature, and yet, we can now be sure that none of them will be critical of the Kremlin. So much for Assange's fight for freedom of information and expression..."

    How come? Why don't we give him the benefit of the doubt, at least? And what about the presumption of innocence?
    And, finally, if one is not a "critic of the Kremlin" (especially during a talk show that deals with other topics) it does not necessarily mean that they cannot fight for freedom of speech and expression...
    And what if the show proves you wrong?
    Why don't we wait and see...

  2. Well, of course, we cannot yet know what he will be talking about and who with, but you cannot disagree on that he will NOT touch upon Russian politics in any way. And of course, he might have not done that anyway - even if he were to appear on a different channel - but this only accentuates his already evident bias. The thing is, given Wikileak's past on exposing Russian issues, just by choosing sides at this point he is giving up his independence. As a friend put it -- it's like him signing up to work for Voice of America after all this, with the tiny difference of course that Russia doesn't want him dead (yet).

    I know he was just looking for a suitable platform. But he also wanted money and, as Ms Simonyan revealed on her Twitter today (see my retweet above), RT seems to have been the highest bidder.
    So much for integrity and true dedication to a cause.

    OF course, the first episode will attract a lot of attention and viewers. But it will NOT be seen in a positive light in the US, especially in the greater scheme of things (that's where my PD concerns come in).

    I would love to see myself proven wrong. Yet, I don't think that will happen...

  3. The interesting thing is that Wikileaks had been threatening for some time to have a load of Kremlin secrets to drop, but it never does. One can't help but wonder if some deal was worked out for Wikileaks to keep quiet about what it has in exchange for the RT contract.