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Source: The Hill

Oct 13, 2023

Why are US-funded journalists defending Russia, Iran over the Hamas massacre?


Hamas’s terrorist attacks against Israel are a handy gift to Russia’s autocrat Vladimir Putin. They distract the free world’s attention from his own atrocities in Ukraine. They may lead to higher energy prices that will benefit his regime. They also contribute to the Kremlin’s propaganda, which is influencing public opinion on the radical wings of both the Republican and Democratic parties. 

Left-leaning American journalists and their media outlets have already started drawing an equivalence between Israeli retaliation attacks against Hamas targets and Hamas’s calculated massacres of civilians. And neo-isolationist Republicans and right-leaning media are just as easily deceived by propaganda. 

Putin’s spokespeople have convinced people on both fringes that World War III is just around the corner, and that stopping American support for Ukraine is the only way to avoid it. This is nonsense, of course. Putin knows that if he acts to provoke an American attack, it will lead to his ouster (most likely by his current internal allies) long before it leads to a global nuclear conflict. Still, his warnings of nuclear war over Ukraine help him bully the West, especially because they find resonance among both right-leaning and left-leaning U.S. media.

Without question, a major conflict in the Middle East would make Putin’s regime safer while creating a new problem for the U.S. So it is significant that although the evidence of his involvement is circumstantial, it is there.

Yet strangely, some Americans find it necessary to absolve Russia preemptively and without evidence. Even stranger is that this should happen at the international broadcasters run and funded by the U.S. government.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty seems to have taken up the task of absolving Putin, quoting experts denying Russian support for Hamas’s new attacks on Israel. The Voice of America (VOA), meanwhile, is promoting Putin’s nuclear doom and gloom narrative, helping him erode Western support for Ukraine with what is essentially a bluff.  

The intended audience of these English-language, taxpayer-funded programs will arrive at two conclusions: first, that Russia has done nothing to support Hamas’s attacks on Israel; and second, that helping Ukraine repulse Russian aggression risks a nuclear war. 

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is investigating allegations of corruption at USAGM, including charges of bias in favor of Iran’s regime in VOA programs, VOA’s alleged hiring of former Putin propagandists and dismally low employee morale. While interviewing McCaul this week, the VOA Persian Service questioned his conclusion that Iran is behind the Hamas attacks — a conclusion established convincingly by multiple, credible news organizations, that “Iran is behind this. Iran funds it. Iran gives the weapons.”

The VOA interviewer shot back with, “This is a very complicated, very vast operation. It comes to mind that Iran may not have been able to be behind it.” 

If VOA has evidence for its editorial claim of Iran’s innocence, then it should immediately publish it. Otherwise, as former VOA director David Jackson remarked on Facebook, it is “Disinformation 101.

“This is what a government leak looks like,” Jackson remarked. “Its goal: To downplay Iran’s complicity in Hamas’s attacks and, thus, the Biden’s administration’s appeasement of Iran.”

While still busy targeting left-leaning journalists as during the Cold War, Russian propagandists are now working much harder to influence right-wing pundits like Tucker Carlson. Although they remain pro-Israel, some conservatives have even bought into the monumental lie that Putin is a defender of Christian values.

It isn’t so. Russia’s rate of church attendance is one of the lowest on earth, and its abortion rate one of the highest. Putin is an ex-communist and former operative of the KGB, which infiltrated and controlled the Russian Orthodox Church after communists, acting on orders from Lenin and Stalin, had killed most of its clergy. The fact that Putin’s church now supports his war in Ukraine is merely a reflection of his own control, not of his righteousness.

Much of today’s antisemitic and anti-Israel Western propaganda is being produced by left-leaning journalists born after the end of the Cold War. They follow in a long line of comrades going all the way back to the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty. Duranty deliberately lied in his reporting about Stalin’s purges and the forced starvation of Ukrainians in the 1930s. The New York Times and the Pulitzer Foundation remain in denial about his deceptions nearly a century later, in spite of abundant evidence.

And even in those times, the Russians were getting an assist from American taxpayer-funded journalists. In December 1944, Owen Lattimore, then in charge of Voice of America broadcasts to China and other Asian countries, published a lengthy article in National Geographic magazine, telling millions of American readers that mineworkers in the Soviet Gulag‘s Kolyma gold mines were all volunteers, being fed a vitamin-rich diet with vegetables grown for them in hothouses. 

The reality was quite different. In one of his “Kolyma Tales,” Russian writer Varlam Shalamov (a Gulag survivor like his friend Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn) described the slave labor camps there as “Auschwitz without the ovens.” He described how starving prisoners would steal and eat engine grease supplied by the U.S. Lend-Lease program, while American-built bulldozers were being used to bury bodies of the dead workers in mass graves.

Today, assuming that their motives are not even worse, some taxpayer-funded journalists seem determined to be duped once again on Russia, as well as on Hamas and Iran. A major part of the problem seems to be that Soviet communist atrocities, unlike those of the Nazis in Germany, were never put on trial or punished. This allows Hamas extremists and their patrons today, ideological descendants of the Cold War, to explain away their own contempt for human life and falsely claim a benign mantle of human rights and dignity.

As for the conservatives who think that Putin is right about Ukraine, they ought to ask how a leader like Ronald Reagan, who called the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire,” would have reacted to Russia’s current attempt to restore it.

Ted Lipien was Voice of America’s Polish service chief during Poland’s struggle for democracy and VOA’s acting associate director. He served briefly in 2020-2021 as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president.

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