RT Anchor Breaks The Rules

Friday, March 07, 2014


Abby Martin, an anchor for the Kremlin-funded news channel Russia Today, launched herself into the headlines this week by sternly denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. On her show Breaking The Setshe said: “Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any state intervention in sovereign nations' affairs. What Russia did is wrong.” Given that RT is widely regarded as a 24-hour propaganda machine engineered to polish Russia’s image abroad, Martin shocked many with her outburst. Bob talks with Martin about why she wasn't afraid to speak out. 


Abby Martin

Hosted by:

Bob Garfield

Comments [30]

round lake, il from round lake, il

Kathleen, I don't watch RT (actually TV at all) so it would be good if you provide some links with your argument before calling people names and putting labels on them. You really sound much more stupid than you probably are.

Mar. 17 2014 11:12 PM
Kathleen from Athens, GA

Tom = 250 words to say nothing. You need an editor, dude.
Reporter from round lake = Tom is so smart. Plus the extra fun reference to Norman Finkelstien citation. Are you a college freshman?

I think you know what I mean when I say a 9/11 Truther, dude. It's not an ad hominen argument, it's a shorthand way to point out that she's a terrible excuse for a journalist. Conspiracy theorists don't look for the truth, because they think they already know the truth. They just look for evidence to support their worldview.

Do you also argue on creationist boards, telling real scientists that evolution is just a theory?

Mar. 16 2014 05:27 PM

Guest: "C'mon, man! You do the same thing…working for NPR!"

Blech! 3rd World moral defense against the US is about as refreshing as a hot Pepsi.

Mar. 15 2014 09:24 PM
reporter from round lake, il

Hi Tom,
Thanks again for encyclopedic knowledge of the issues. Of course there will be a lot of people attacking journalists who try to tell the truth and if there will be no merit to allegations then the attacks will get personal. This tactic is well practiced in our new media age (just look at the case of Norm Finkelstein and his trajectory after his book "Holocaust Industry" came out.) The bottom line, Tom is this: In this country the propaganda really works and people do believe it. Anyway I think it would be a great idea if for once OTM turned over a mike to the people on this end of the spectrum so it could look at the mirror. It would be a hell of a program.

Mar. 14 2014 03:06 PM
Tom Roche from Carrboro, NC

@Kathleen: "Abby Martin is a 9/11 Truther. That's all I need to know."

The NPR demographic speaks! and says, "never address an argument when ad-hominem[1] will do" :-)

@Kathleen: "She's a conspiracy theorist, the worst kind of anti-journalism disease."

What's truly pathological is the "conspiracy theory" discourse.

Take the dominant position on 9/11: that the attacks of 11 Sep 2001 "were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks launched by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda upon the United States"[2] planned and executed secretly. I agree, since IMHO the evidence for that claim dominates evidence against. But I also note that the dominant position holds (to the extent that it's rarely made explicit) that the 9/11 attacks were planned and executed secretly--i.e., they were the result of a conspiracy[3]. And, as at least a scientist manqué, I note that a "theory" is composed of a hypothesis and supporting evidence.[4]

So the dominant position on 9/11 *is* a "conspiracy theory," by definition! It hypotheses that a group of conspirators was responsible for the attacks, and presents a body of evidence supporting that claim. And there's nothing wrong with that--if the evidence is true (at least, if one can reasonably justify belief[5] in it), and the reasoning connecting it to the hypothesis is valid.

In practice, use of the term "conspiracy theory," like use of ad-hominem arguments, is merely emotivist[6] flabbiness--condemnation posing as engagement. As such, it's use is perfectly suited to today's US corporate funded media, the dominant mode of which--"access journalism"[7]--substitutes stenography of "responsible opinion" for analysis of truth value (which it relegates to "fact checkers" and "investigative journalism").

[1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem
[2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks
[3]: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/conspiracy
[4]: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/theory#Noun
[5]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_justification
[6]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotivism
[7]: Discussed directly by Dave Winer here[8], and indirectly a topic (I suspect, the main) of Stephen Colbert's famous address to the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner[9]
[8]: http://threads2.scripting.com/2012/december/cynicismAmongReporters
[9]: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2006/04/30/206303/-Re-Improved-Colbert-transcript-now-with-complete-text-of-Colbert-Thomas-video

Mar. 14 2014 02:47 PM
Kathleen from Athens, GA

Abby Martin is a 9/11 Truther. That's all I need to know. She's a conspiracy theorist, the worst kind of anti-journalism disease. These comments about how Abby Martin really socked it to Bob Garfield are chilling to read.

Mar. 13 2014 03:56 PM
reporter from round lake,il

Unfortunately to your question I have to pose a standard Washington DC cop-out: Neither confirm or deny.

Mar. 12 2014 09:11 PM
kaori from boston, ma

What a great exchange. I like reporter and Tom Roth thinking but all of you people are brilliant!!!! To be honest it is amazing but reading you all OTM staff looks and sounds really stupid compared to all of you. I have read some comments and I think I saw the reporter's interview out of London on RT. Are you a bold guy in a suit with a London Eye in the background?

Mar. 10 2014 06:36 PM
Richard Steinman from Yonkers, NY

The very premise of this segment -- Russia bad, US good -- epitomizes the state of NPR and the wider corporate press: they offer the illusion of uncensored press freedom when, in fact, they function as a government/corporate mouthpiece. In this case, NPR/OTM acted as a stenographer for the US State Department and it's latest official bogeyman, Russia. This is especially sad in the case of OTM, which used to be a bracing antidote to the uncritical pablum served up elsewhere by NPR news. Even sadder, the formerly incisive and perceptive Bob Garfield sounded like a fish in water, completely unaware of its environment.

Mar. 10 2014 02:15 PM
Jen from Amerika

I have followed Abby's career for over 2 years constantly fact checking her. I can honestly say her facts are on point and she doesn't cherry pick facts to push a political agenda.

The establishment and corporate run MSM should fear her because they can't discredit, or control her.

What Russia has done with RT America is nothing less than brilliant! Think about it; whats worst possible thing can you do to a corrupt criminal empire that has lied and hid the truth from their society for generations? Simple, open and fund a media organisation that airs all of Americas dirty laundry,and exposes the true corruption. The truth alone will bring down an empire built on lies.

Mar. 10 2014 10:08 AM
Matt Love from Ypsilanti, MI

Bob Garfield says what he likes because they like what he says. He works for a network that puts a shiny gloss on the US empire's illegal acts all over the world, and he doesn't really know it. Now that's real indoctrination!

Mar. 10 2014 08:09 AM

The smug attitude of this guy from National Petroleum Radio is really sickening.

Mar. 10 2014 07:26 AM

The smug attitude of this guy from National Petroleum Radio is really sickening.

Mar. 10 2014 07:26 AM
Tom Roche from Carrboro, NC

Tom Roche: "OTM does some good work! as does RT. The Friday (7 Mar 2014) pieces [...] do not obliterate the real services OTM has provided"

reporter: "Sometimes the manipulation comes in form of omission rather than outright lies."

I agree! but also assert that OTM has done some good work, e.g., on {net neutrality, common carrier} and on DHS secrecy. Do you disagree?

Your position and mine are only *incompatible* if you believe (which I don't) that, whenever some source--call it "X"--distorts (through commission or omission), every future statement X may make and every past statement X has made is thereby *totally* impeached. Your position and mine *are compatible* if you believe (as I do) that binary truth values are applicable to (most, if not all) *statements*, but very rarely to *persons*. To make another empirical assertion that you will need to evaluate over your personal experience: there are very few persons who always utter truths and never utter lies over their entire lifetime, and similarly few of their opposites. The *vast* majority of people sometimes omit truth-telling and sometimes commit lying, and others rank us on the frequency and value of our in- and fidelities to the best of their abilities. (Unfortunately there is no God to evaluate sources for us--much less to grant Palestine to His Chosen People, but that's another discussion.)

Suppose one accepts (IMHO reasonably, given the evidence) that OTM and RT distort the current Ukrainian situation. I assert that does *not* reasonably imply that either OTM or RT

- cannot (or will not) commit good journalism, or omit bad journalism, in the future.

- has never committed good journalism, or omitted bad journalism, in the past.

If you believe otherwise, please justify the implication.

That OTM and RT distort the current Ukrainian situation *does* impeach their credibility *somewhat* (e.g., by some function of the frequency and value of their distortion), and implies that only those with no concern for truth would rely *exclusively* on either for criticism concerning Ukrainian, Russian, or US media. Just as there are no omniscient observers, there are also no completely impartial/value-free ideal observers (i.e., presenting the Nagelian "view from nowhere" pretended to by most of the US corporate-funded media), so we must take care to evaluate the quality of our sources. As noted in the other thread[1], the good news is, the Web gives us easier access to more sources to aggregate, making it easier to "fill-in the blind spots" (or correct the distortions) of any given organization. (And by "easier," I don't mean "easier to evaluate," only that it's a helluva lot easier, and more reliable, to download an MP3 than it was to setup my Sangean cassette-recorder-and-shortwave-receiver to time-shift international broadcasts :-)

[1]: http://www.onthemedia.org/story/what-exactly-russia-today/#commentlist

Mar. 09 2014 09:01 PM
Matt Love from Ypsilanti, MI

Bob Garfield says what he likes because they like what he says. He works for a network that puts a shiny gloss on the US empire's illegal acts all over the world, and he doesn't really know it. Now that's real indoctrination

Mar. 09 2014 08:35 PM
reporter from round lake, il

Hi Tom,
I know for the fact that OTM deliberately misled and manipulated story on Kickstarter where Amazon controls funding. (It was about censorship that Kickstarter inflicts on journalism projects. OTM had evidence and disregarded it doing instead a fluff piece on "future of journalism"). In my book if organization does something like this it has no credibility. What makes you think then that whatever they say even know is correct and true? For example in the interview about invasion of Crimean investigative center their guest says that Russian troops invaded it while it shows camouflaged vigilantes that were most likely local self defense activists aka "goons." What it also doesn't report that the center received funding from variety of NGOs that have ties to US Govt for variety of different projects that have nothing to do with journalism. I hope you are right in your judgment but I think you are also very kind. Sometimes the manipulation comes in form of omission rather than outright lies.

Mar. 09 2014 03:55 PM
Todd Davison from Olympia

Its my opinion that the rulers of Russia and the Soviet Union including Stalin are another Western installed secretly controlled puppets. Note that as soon as Obama and his administration started talking about cutting back the military, Putin very nicely steps into the Ukrainian situation providing the fodder for a new US campaign to keep on throwing trillions at the military corporate complex.

NPR throws Noam Chomsky on once a year and a few others who end up sounding like nut cases to most people as NPR never does the real follow up on any of the real stuff.

Don't become RT's token free speaking reporter Abby! Keep it real till they fire you and move on.

Machiavelli's "The Prince" applies now to the aristocrats as it did in the 1500's except now the aristocrats hide behind legal fictions and have global secret services do the dirty work while we get to blame our elected officials for the shit going around. Those with power unfortunately will do what they can do purely because they can do it and can get away with it.

Mar. 09 2014 03:43 PM
Mike from Michigan

Abby is my hero and role model!

Mar. 09 2014 03:21 PM
Tom Roche from Carrboro, NC

reporter from round lake, il: "people like Gladstone and Garfield who are now rather norm than exception."

At NPR? Let's not go overboard!

I'm about to make an empirical claim for which I have no backing beyond regular (though decreasing) listening to NPR, a claim which really should be better formulated and then tested by media critics far more expert and well-funded than I, but here goes: the political norm at NPR is better represented by Adam Davidson and Cokie Roberts than by Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone. Were the latter *actually* the norm, NPR would much provide better journalism. Though until we break its corporate control, NPR will probably never stand (dividing total cost by total benefit) with the likes of Democracy Now!, the Guardian, the Intercept, and Pro Publica.

OTM does some good work! as does RT. The Friday (7 Mar 2014) pieces were stumbles, and perhaps falls, but they do not obliterate the real services OTM has provided, and hopefully will provide again. "Spread your outrage proportionally": whatever you may think of Garfield and Ioffe (or, for that matter, RT's management), think on Roger Ailes and the Kochs. *There's* an Axis of Evil ...

Mar. 09 2014 02:58 PM
reporter from round lake, il

Dear DMW, Please look at the revolving door at NPR (top management) and where the people are coming and going. Just like Kaori from Boston suggested (I am sorry but I have to agree with her) it is all fraud and manipulation. It is like McDonalds franchise where all the revenue/franchising fees are then shifted to member stations. So in the way it is a pyramid structure that is absolutely insulated from any accountability. What really stinks is there are still few real reporters out there that are not careerists and opportunists and are in it for a game. But everyone has to eat therefore you have people like Gladstone and Garfield who are now rather norm than exception. Support your real local independent and real PUBLIC radio: in Chicagoland it is WNUR and check out their program: thisishell.com for weekly news program.

Mar. 09 2014 02:21 PM
DMW from Westborough

RT may be just as dependent on fossil fuels however NPR is supposed to be public radio! That is the dissonance. I say NPR should have absolutely no private funders. All the other news services are private, the public should have at least one outlet that is not beholden to private interests. We get less and less for our taxes - public radio is either public or it isn't. And right now, it isn't. It's just another way for the Koch's to sneak about continuing with their manipulating and brainwashing. After all they need to be pervasive about it as fossil fuels are deadly and they are peddling hard to make the public think nothing of them.

Mar. 09 2014 02:11 PM
kaori from Boston, MA

I don't normally listen to this program but I can only say this: the presenter is such an idiot and hypocrite that I think you have to be really psychologically damaged and/or completely and cynically demented. I think this guy really lives in the house without mirrors.
Does NPR really think that listeners are really stupid? I travel internationally with my work and I listen to coverage of issues overseas so I can only say this to Americans: boy are are really kept stupid and in the dark. And then the so-called NPR asks you for money to pay for this "reporting"? Wow, if one can sell a Brooklyn Bridge one can really sell anything........Only in America!!!!!

Mar. 09 2014 02:01 PM
Tom Roche from Carrboro, NC

Hugo Lane: "RT is far more dependent on the fossil fuel industry than NPR."

That fact is notable, but your comment fails to rebut the points made in this thread:

* RT (a Russian state-funded broadcaster) is not doing anything significant that US corporate-funded media aren't doing: they are morally approximate.

* RT does some good, by providing a platform for legitimate voices (e.g., Abby Martin, Julian Assange) that are locked out of the US CFM.

* The anti-RT outrage on display (perhaps it is merely for display?) by Garfield, Ioffe, et al should be distributed more broadly, and closer to home.

No one here is arguing that RT is a paragon of journalistic integrity, nor that Putin is a great statesman, much less a fine human being. But one cannot also responsibly deny that nothing RT or Putin have done in Ukraine rivals, for scope and stench, what the US CFM, foreign policy elite, and government did in Iraq. Just to name one recent example: Obama fans should note that Bahrain and Honduras are also relevant. (I'm inclined to add, intensifying the Syrian civil war as a "consolation prize" to the Saudis and Israelis for not going to war with Iran, but that's just my speculation.)

Before hating on RT and Russia, conduct a thought experiment: suppose China offered Canada or Mexico an "Association Agreement" including a "Common Foreign and Security Policy" with provisions similar to those offered Ukraine (which borders Russia). What would the US CFM do? What would the US military do? If you can reasonably conclude their behavior would be significantly better, then hate away.

FWIW: what Putin is doing "at home" is *far* worse than what he's doing in Ukraine, but again, is much less worse than our "Global War on Terror." Spread your outrage proportionally.

Mar. 09 2014 12:24 PM
reporter from round lake, il

I think all the comments here are great and right on point. As someone that recently did an interview with RT in London I can say I had no pressure whatsoever what to say and how to frame my ideas. Frankly speaking I couldn't be on any mainstream media in the US presenting the view what I saw on the ground in Kiev. OTM is really part of the problem and it is utterly and completely corrupt as much as WNYC and NPR.

Mar. 09 2014 09:28 AM
hugolane from Woodside, NY

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the interview with Abby Martin. So far reading the comments it looks like I am alone in wondering if Abby Martin understands that her employer RT is far more dependent on the fossil fuel industry than NPR. Ever heard of Gazprom and Lukoil Abby? I can assure you without them, you would be out of a job. Oh yea, and they make ExxonMobil look like the Sierra Club.

Sincerely yours,
Hugo Lane
Woodside, NYC

Mar. 08 2014 03:43 PM
Benoit Balz from Nyc

Could this interview be a high point in American journalism? So much truth-telling was packed into this little segment I thought I was hallucinating. Whatever propaganda goes on at Russia Today doesn't obscure what Martin made explicit and Bob seemed to poo-poo: US media is mostly skewed toward a corporate and establishmentarian bent. NPR and CPB are some of the worst offenders. For Bob to deny the influence of money and power is laughable. This was truly a Wizard of Oz moment.

Mar. 08 2014 02:55 PM

Gotta say, after all Mark Ames's reporting on how compromised Planet Money is, it's kind of funny to hear NPR reading Abby Martin the riot act. Pot, meet kettle.

Mar. 08 2014 11:59 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

Bob. While I really enjoy your fresh insights into the media, and see them as essential to WNYC for conveying a balanced view of the world...

It's still also really disingenuous for you to claim NOT to be working within the framework of American corporate culture. You most definitely are. There are long lists of taboo questions I keep floating your way, that you keep pushing aside as if to avoid questioning that culture it seems.

So... you don't like my lists. Why would I suggest that exposes a serious media bias, coming from your accepting that the corporate culture you (and I) are part of are "normal"?

It depends on "what's on the lists"... of little discrepancies with big verifiable consequences. Take for example the remarkable disconnect between our having "healthy incomes" and having a "healthy planet". The "little discrepancy" readily visible in is with our standard use of wealth to obtain ever faster expanding wealth, and the "big verifiable consequence" of relentlessly multiplying the direct impacts on other people and the earth, by the simple mechanism of our paying for them.

The core problem for the media isn't ethics, though.

It's that it's hard to impossible to discuss how a system works from the outside, with people who have only seen it from the inside. You'd need a method of shifting viewpoint, from inside to outside and back again. You could use one like I use, or perhaps one of your own. But you really can't claim not to be working within a larger system you do work within,... about which lots of people have quite legitimate complaints.

Mar. 08 2014 07:47 AM
Brian from Vienna, Austria

Bob Garfield's interview with Abby Martin was unintentionally hilarious in regard to Bob's obvious bias and comical lack of self-awareness. I'm definitely no great fan of Russia Today, but they do often have insight, perspective and opinions lacking in US-based media. I mean Bob, you work directly for the organization that fired Caitlin Curran, and indirectly for the organization that fired Lisa Simeone - not for anything they did on air, but simply for participating in protests. I remember that you did reports on this, but you never made a statement like Ms. Martin's, and your reports were quite muted when compared to the "toughness" you displayed with RT. Bob, I suggest you leave the country for a while, see how America looks from the outside and clear your mind of some of the ingrained bias that is so obvious to anyone listening to you.

Mar. 08 2014 04:07 AM
Ilari Kaila from Queens, NY

Abby Martin was honest in acknowledging her employer's biases and the risk of losing her job for her dissent. At the same time, she made a crucial point: why is RT one of the only media outlets where many things about the American establishment can be discussed? Bob Garfield's genuinely naive response was that "there's no self-censorship at this end of the mic." Then, to educate us of this qualitative difference, you brought on Julia Yaffee to explain that RT is "not a news organization in the sense that CNN is, or even Fox."

How was the invasion or Iraq depicted in all American media, including NPR? The only prominent news host to denounce it (on MSNBC) was fired for the offense--unlike Martin. How about NPR's choice of words in describing torture done by the US? Or its PR for the drone program? Etc. Yes, much of RT is straight-out propaganda. At the same time, there are journalists there who do valuable work, of a kind that can't found elsewhere. Same goes for NPR. But Abby Martin is at least aware of the realities.

Mar. 07 2014 09:22 PM

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