This post is a continuation of the last, and can otherwise be called “Konstantin von Eggert: A Case Study In Democratic Journalism (part 2).” Alternatively, one might view it as a refutation of claims that the Kremlin controls or censors the Russian media (Eggert’s own protestations, hilarious and Orwellian in the context of what follows, to the contrary). In this fascinating piece for Kommersant (a moderately liberal Russian newspaper, believe it or not) Eggert takes out his frustrations on Assange for the unpardonable offense of humiliating his journalistic profession – Wikileaks produced more big news stories in a year than dozens of journalists do in their entire careers – and even worse, presenting in a bad light the West that he worships.
“Russia Today Hired You To Talk About the Cynicism and Wickedness of the West”
Konstantin von Eggert, writing for Kommersant (January 26, 2012).
Julian Assange will soon be a columnist for Russian state TV channel Russia Today. Kommersant FM’s columnist Konstantin von Eggert decided to write a letter to his new colleague.
Dear Julian! I would like to extent a warm welcome to our club of Russian journalists. Perhaps after you present us with your ten interviews with the politicians and even “revolutionaries” that RT promise, you will finally understand what is journalism. You see, it is not a waste basket, even a flash card-sized miniature one; it is a laborious process of fact checking and protection of sources. I myself, Julian, could have told you this in a private meeting – for my own name figures a few times in Wikileaks publications.
By all means, thanks for the publicity. But I suspect it would be better if the basics of the profession were to be explained to you by the families of those Afghans, Iranians, and Arabs who had the misfortune to have confidential conversations with American diplomats. Their relatives died when you released details of these conversations on the Web. They died because of your irrepressible vanity and your no less irrepressible hatred for the United States, and the West in general.
By the way, Julian, you’re a grown man and should understand this: Russia Today took you on as one of their staff precisely because of this – to tell the international audience about the cynicism and wickedness of the West, CIA plots, and the lack of democracy in countries like the United Kingdom. Because that is where you, Julian, heroically fought extradition to Sweden (on that small and insignificant matter of rape) in the face of absolutely brutal pressure from the Washington Obkom and the counterintelligence of Her Majesty’s Courts. But now you’ll get even with them all!
I think I can guess at least a few of the guests on your mobile studio: For instance, Bashar Assad (hurry up, you might be late!) and the builder of “Bolivarian socialism” and darling of leftists all around the world, Hugo Chavez (here, I think, you still have time). I am confident, that you will not forget about that other idol of the refined global left, the scholar and writer Noam Chomsky. He hates rotten American pseudo-democracy so much that he’s lived and worked there successfully his entire life.
Don’t forget Thierry Meyssan. This brave Frenchman wrote a book. In it, he revealed that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 weren’t actually organized by Islamists, but by George Bush. But I’m afraid that Raul and Fidel Castro are best left alone. In the light of recent reforms in Cuba, they have now presumably become too spinelessly bourgeois for your broadcasts. Although who knows, maybe the old “Comandante” will loosen up and reminisce with you on the good old days of the anti-imperialist struggle on Soviet – that is to say, my – money.
By the way, speaking of money… Don’t be shy, ask for more! First, everyone has already began to forget about you, so this might be your last chance to hit the jackpot. Second, that is what real fighters for truth do anyway. They go to work for a state propaganda channel – be it Russian, Iranian, or even Georgian or Chinese – and uncompromisingly reveal the whole truth in the eyes of the public. All this will be especially pleasing to your young and sincere fans, Julian, who’d once seen you as a beacon of free speech. I’m afraid many of them will become disillusioned with you. But this is a mere trifle in comparison with the joy of continuing your great struggle – of course, all strictly within the framework of Russia Today’s editorial objectives.
I have no desire to systemically identify all the smears and fisk the lies and aspersions cast about by this democratic journalist. I believe the article speaks for itself and shows up its author in a worse light than I could possibly manage myself.
Still, there are a few points that absolutely have to be made:
(1) Needless to say, the “sheer snobbery and pretentiousness” and “unpleasantly sarcastic, sanctimonious, hypocritical” tone (in Mercouris’ words) is on full display. Note the false and overly polite nature of this “letter”, accompanied by repeated kicks straight in the nuts. He waxes poetic on journalism’s preoccupation with “fact checking”, but his own spiel consists almost entirely of rumors, smears, and innuendo. He slams Chomsky for writing critically about America and living there, in the “love it or leave it!” vein of argumentation, while doing the exact same in Russia (with the important difference that Chomsky criticizes all sorts of countries, while Eggert concentrates his venom on his own homeland and other countries that aren’t very friendly with the US). His assessment of his ideological opponents consists of pure caricature, and he absolutely refuses to engage with the substance of their arguments; while this might be acceptable on a personal blog, what exactly such pieces are doing in a major newspaper I do not know.
(2) No, absolutely no, deaths among Arabs, Afghans, etc. have been connected to Wikileaks (despite very great efforts to identify such). However, we do know that there have been dozens of collateral deaths from US drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, etc. for every terrorist killed. Somehow, I don’t imagine Eggert ever writing anything critical about that.
(3) The flippant and dismissive attitude to the numerous signs of political motivations behind the Assange rape accusations. These include, but are most certainly NOT limited to:
- One of the “victims” tweeting about what a great guy Assange was the day after the supposed “rape” (since deleted from Twitter, of course, but fortunately you can’t really delete things from the Internet).
- The condom used as evidence against Assange not containing his DNA, or any DNA/semen for that matter.
- Why did Anna Ardin not warn Sofia Wilen that Assange was a rapist?
- The remarkable intensity with which Britain is willing to pursue Assange for a crime that is not even a crime on its own soil (up to and including threatening to storm a sovereign embassy)
- The tons of circumstantial evidence that the US is indeed seeking to charge and prosecute Assange.
(4) His assumptions about RT setting editorial policy on Assange’s interview were quite simply wrong. For instance, Assange openly criticized Hezbollah chief Nasrallah’s support for Assad in the first interview, in direct contravention of official Russian policy. Not that Eggert ever picked up on that; his response to that was predictable as clockwork: “It is shameful that the Russian taxpayer funds anti-Semitic propaganda.”
I for one was very glad and interested to hear Nasrallah’s perspective on the Middle East and Israel. I did not notice anti-Semitic statements (unless one considers statements like “Palestine belongs to the Palestinian people” to be anti-Semitic, which is admittedly quite possible in Eggert’s case). I am also glad that Russian taxpayers helped Assange reach a far broader audience than what was possible in the “free” West.
Finally, I am also glad that Russia does not suppress voices like Eggert’s, who wants to ban free speech to defend free speech (that is, “free speech” within the narrow confines of his little Orwellian world). After all, I am not a democratic journalist. I think the Russian people should know their “democratic” heroes.