This one-sided hatchet-job was recently shared to Facebook by an acquaintance of mine — his political allegiances align with the pro-Scottish Independence movement and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party — they’re a left-of-centre, faux-progressive, delusional bunch of Brit-bashing political misfits.
So, it’s hardly shocking that one of their disciples would share such a video — but the brazenness with which the video’s host has constructed his historical argument is.
William Whiteman — the dopey, smug-faced, on-camera hipster — fails to contextualize his polemic. There’s no mention of the Rape of Nanjing in December 1937; no mention of Imperial Japan’s “Three-all” policy — “Loot all, kill all, burn all” (Chang, 1997) — in northern China that followed in 1941; he neglects to address the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler’s extermination of up to 6 million Jews; he fails to make any reference to the Soviet Gulags of the post-war period. I could go on, and on, and on…
And that’s before we even attempt to debate the intricacies of his points!
But why does any of this matter? Whiteman isn’t an historian — he picked an easy target. The British Empire governed territories home to one fifth of the world’s population at its height — admittedly, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, despite the Empire’s many roaring successes.
Well, it matters because the media arm of the Kremlin is disseminating pro-Russian propaganda under the guise of ‘alternative media’.
Exploiting our inherent distrust of the media, and by applying “Western notions of the nature and importance of truth”, Putin wants us to hate ourselves.
And his strategy is working.
Whiteman’s video has amassed 1.5 million views on Facebook, as well as thousands of comments reinforcing his agenda.
But he works for a media company called In The Now — and, whilst it’s not immediately clear to viewers, they’re owned by… RT (Russia Today), which, as the Russian state broadcaster, received 19 billion rubles, or just over US$300 million, in the Russian Federation’s 2016 budget.
Whiteman, his English accent aside, is based in Moscow.
It’s Russian propaganda, plain and simple — served ‘hot with a side of smile’.
This slickly-produced quirky viral venture started life as a regular show on the RT news channel before it transitioned to a standalone entity in the spring of 2016, according to an RT spokesperson in an email to BuzzFeed News:
“The project, though originated as part of RT’s television platform […] eventually spun off as a separate brand because its creator [a host on RT’s cable news channel] wanted to explore a less formal, digital format.”
The email continued with an attempt to stress In The Now’s editorial independence:
“Although RT doesn’t support all of the views expressed by the platform we always appreciate Anissa’s contribution to the discussion at large.”
But if you’re now convinced that In The Now’s hosts will ever drift from the official Kremlin line, you’re almost surely mistaken.
The following anecdote from an RT reporter, published in the Columbia Journalism Review, illustrates just how far Putin's media subordinates are willing to go to preserve the staunchly pro-Russian editorial culture at In The Now's parent company:
“Another correspondent, whose reporting departed from the Kremlin line […] was summoned to the office of the deputy editor in chief in Moscow, where they went over the segment’s script line by line. “He had a gun on his desk,” the correspondent says.”
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