RT may bill itself as a news channel, but it stretches the definition of that term in several readily apparent ways. It blurs the line between entertainment, advertising and news, with many producers and on-air personalities coming from backgrounds in advertising or entertainment rather than journalism. It tends to portray the US and EU in hyperbolic, dystopian terms. Much of its reporting is based on the word of purported experts whose credentials are, to be frank, fishy. And, as readers of this column already know, many of its stories promote weird conspiracy theories about economics and world affairs.
The latter point even applies to RT’s interviews with entertainers and celebrities. Rather than offering viewers a respite from the relentless stream of propaganda, these interviews instead give celebrities an opportunity to join the freaky chorus of fringe political punditry. These celebrity pundit wanabees may not share a set of coherent political beliefs, but all seem to relish being treated as authorities on the important issues that concern them.
One RT favorite is Roseanne Barr, who was once one of the world’s most successful entertainers, but has turned in recent years to reality TV and extremist politics with a focus on chemtrails (a belief that commercial airlines are secretly spraying mind-altering chemicals), 9/11 truth, and opposition to banks and US imperialism. Marijuana legalization is one of her other key issues. Barr hosts a daily radio program/podcast, has an active Twitter presence and has run for US president twice. In fact, Roseanne announced her 2012 candidacy for president on RT’s Max Keiser Report. (Video here.) In that interview, Roseanne went on to attempt with some difficulty to do what no one else has done: to spell out the demands of Occupy Wall Street. She also joked at length with her host about executing bankers by beheading them, a common Max Keiser Report theme.
On March 28, 2013, having failed to be elected president, Barr was back on RT to argue that the US media maintains a profit-based, “hierarchal” (sic), “rape culture” based on keeping women as “slave labor.” She went on to discuss one of her favorite conspiracy theories: “MK Ultra mind control rules in Hollywood. If you don’t know what that is, google it.” (The “MK Ultra” program, in which the CIA tested mind-altering drugs on unwilling participants, was uncovered by New York Times reporter John Marks in 1973 and became the subject of hearings by the Church Committee in 1974. After its existence was revealed, it was ended in disgrace. Today, forty years later, it lives on only in the minds of those for whom Illuminati and reptilian shape-shifters don’t suffice as subjects of paranoid delusions. Whatever Roseanne Barr imagines is happening in Hollywood with respect to mind-control, MK Ultra has nothing to do with it.) Getting to the heart of the matter, Roseanne concludes her discussion of MK Ultra by claiming that she is the victim of blacklisting based on her revelations of these secrets; the people behind the CIA’s secret mind-control program have stopped her from getting acting roles.
In December, 2013, Roseanne again appeared on RT, this time to push for further investigation of conspiracies surrounding 9/11, which, she predictably connects to “MK Ultra mind-control.” Going on at length about this novel form of 9/11 trutherism, Barr implicates in the web of MK Ultra evil the Saudi royal family, the Bush family, the Rothschild family, the British royal family and the Vatican. (You can cut to that here.) She then answers those who’ve called her beliefs about this crazy by saying “intelligence looks like insanity to an imbecile.” She concludes the interview, after again complaining about being blacklisted from acting roles, by declaring her candidacy for US president in the 2016 election.
With respect to 9/11, to mark the twelfth anniversary of that terrible day, RT conducted an extensive interview with actor Ed Asner about his theories concerning what really happened. The “official story,” Asner claims, “is filled with holes. It’s filled with holes about Building 7. It’s filled with holes about the hot steel. It’s filled with holes about thermite. It’s filled with holes about… ah… the, uhhh… the confusion about the terrorists themselves. It goes on and on and on…” In response to a question about whether those who believe in conspiracy theories such as this are silenced by the “corporate media” calling such beliefs – well — conspiracy theories, Asner answers in the affirmative. Calling people like him conspiracy theorists is meant “to diminish us.” Citing a 9/11 Truth organization he calls “2000 Architects and Engineers on 9/11,” Asner says that there has been “no rational, objective discussion going on anywhere in the country” to refute their claims that the US government was behind 9/11. “People don’t want to challenge the myth of America, that America could do this, or allow this to be done to itself, or they’re too afraid to challenge authority.”
In response to a question about the relative silence of Hollywood’s peace movement during Obama’s presidency, Asner blames this in part on the fact that leftists in Hollywood believe untruths about “the evils of Assad.” (The interview took place in September, 2013, during the height of the debate about the US role in Syria.)
It’s not only 9/11 Truth that brings celebrities to RT. On April 9, 2014, hip-hop performer Chuck D of Public Enemy appeared on RT to make the case that corporations literally enslave their workers. Chuck’s interview went off topic when he was asked an odd question about his “notions of internationalism.” In response, Chuck complains about having to get a passport to travel overseas for concert tours. “Getting a passport is like begging for a slave paper. So what difference is that from South Africa where you had to have your freedom papers or you showed somebody in America that you gotta get permission to go from one plantation to another plantation because the masters told you so? Well, I just think it’s derogatory for human beings – especially in the millennium – to get permission to visit planet Earth.” Chuck goes on to clarify that he “likes the world, and likes to visit the world, (but doesn’t) like having to ask governments permission to visit the Earth.”
Another member of Public Enemy, their former “Minister of Information” Professor Griff, has also been interviewed by RT about his politics. It may be wrong to identify Griff as an entertainer, considering that for the past 25 years, he has been better known for his angry, bizarre beliefs than for his music. In 1989, Griff gave a series of interviews in which he blamed Jews for “the majority of wickedness that goes on across the globe,” announced that he was boycotting gold jewelry in protest of “Jewish support for Apartheid,” and quoted from Henry Ford’s infamous The International Jew.
Public Enemy responded to the resulting furor by comparing those who criticized those beliefs to those responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. In recent years, Griff has turned his focus to fighting what he describes as an Illuminati campaign to control the world, which somehow involves a plan to indoctrinate black people to be gay. He gives lectures and interviews on the subject, and markets a line of books and videos elaborating on them at great length. This video, showing one of Griff’s obscenity-packed rants about this gay Illuminati conspiracy, gives only a taste of the man’s madness. Among the many bizarre conspiracy theories packed into that talk, Griff claims that the CIA used “remote control” to cause the plane crash that killed R&B singer Aliyah before she could reveal the truth about this Illuminati conspiracy. He also says that the Illuminati exploit a phenomenon with which you may be unfamiliar: that people of different races emit different “frequencies”, and that interracial marriage is part of an Illuminati plan to exploit and/or neutralize the special “frequency” emitted by black people. In another video about these beliefs, Griff describes how all federal agents are forced to have an Illuminati microchip implanted in their bodies. Elsewhere, Griff will inform you that the slogan of the 2008 Obama campaign, “Yes We Can,” when said backwards is “Thank you, Satan.”
In October, 2013, RT welcomed Professor Griff to their studios to discuss “the evolution of hip-hop and the true political power structure of this country.” In a rambling interview, a disoriented looking Griff fails to actually discuss either of those issues; in fact, one would be hard-pressed to summarize what he does discuss. Suffice it to say that he seems to have made an effort to tone down his rhetoric for RT audiences even as he failed to clarify it. At the conclusion of the interview, the RT host thanks him for “speaking truth to power.”
Not all entertainers who are interviewed on RT are identified as such. Sometimes, obscure actors or comedians are falsely identified as either experts on the field they’re interviewed about, or journalists reporting on the subject. For example, when Liam Scheff, a little-know artist, story-teller, and podcaster, was interviewed on RT concerning his theory that HIV does not cause AIDS, the RT host identified him only as “a journalist from Boston.” In that segment, entitled “The AIDS Myth Unraveled,” Scheff made the case that “the West is obsessed with the sexual aspect of AIDS,” and that this has caused people to falsely connect sexual behavior with AIDS transmission. He cryptically claims that the disease is caused, not by HIV, but by “toxicological” and “environmental” problems, as well as by “poverty.” He also states that these findings have been “censored” by governments in an effort to control their citizens’ sexual behavior.
Scheff’s evidence for this conspiracy theory amounts to his incorrectly citing the results of a study conducted by AIDS researcher Nancy Padian — results which are routinely distorted by AIDS denialists and truthers who claim it proved that the disease is either not sexually transmitted at all or not sexually transmitted among heterosexuals. (Read here.) Dr. Padian has unequivocally countered such dangerous distortions of her findings, declaring that HIV causes AIDS, that it can be transmitted by heterosexual sex, and that this accounts for 70-80% of all AIDS cases worldwide. But RT viewers, relying on the “reporting” of Scheff, would be informed that Dr. Padian’s study proved precisely the opposite.
With respect to his credentials, Scheff is the author of self-published book of conspiracy theories called “Official Stories”. His website’s “About” page, entitled “Sex, Drugs, Music, Permaculture, Hemp, CBD, Art for Art’s sake,” describes him as an “artist, writer, performer, videographer, host, and author.” It goes on to say that “Liam is pro-plant, anti-crazy ‘science,’ cuckoo-for-CBD oil, broken-hearted about Fukushima, and is preparing for the long and treacherous deflation of the 20th Century’s oil bubble. He has broken national stories of pharmaceutical badness, been published widely in print and on the web, and has worked on and been featured in films that have not yet been banned by the state censors. To his credit, he’s also been libeled on the front page of the New York Times.” His failure to mention his reporting on the biggest medical story of the century must be either an oversight or extreme modesty. (Read more about Schiff’s AIDS conspiracy theories here.)
Not all artist interviews on RT are as clumsy and unconvincing as these. For example, filmmaker Oliver Stone has appeared on the network several times to promote his Untold History of the United States TV series and book. In those appearances, Stone slickly makes the case that the United States was to blame for the Cold War and for most of the evils of the Cold War era. If Stone’s argument seems tailor-made for RT, it should. It’s the template on which much of their programming about the US is modeled. (Stone’s RT appearances will be discussed in this space in a future article on Cold War revisionism as a central theme of RT programming.)
In closing, here’s a link to RT’s hilarious coverage of a Kazakh-produced response to Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Inexplicably, RT describes the Kazakh movie as a sequel to Cohen’s movie. Even more inexplicably, the report uses translators who are not fully fluent in English, unintentionally sounding a bit like Borat himself. Money quotes: “Hiding behind their freedom of speech and democracy, westerners insulted our nation. They made us seem backward. It’s all lies. Now we are striking back.” and “we have such cars and such technologies in Astana — nothing like American film.”