Michael Avenatti and the Russians

By Erick Erickson  |  The Resurgent

I want to call your attention to this story in the New York Times. I have some thoughts!

The premise of the story is that Sputnik Radio is broadcasting in Middle America. It is paying local radio stations for air time and broadcasting what, during the days of the USSR, was the Voice of Moscow. It is the Soviet propaganda network that rivals the Voice of America. The fundamental difference is the VOA broadcasts on shortwave internationally and the Voice of Moscow rebranded as Sputnik Radio is buying air time on local American stations.

The commentary is much like American talk radio, but at its root, it champions the crack up and dysfunction of the nation to Putin’s advantage. It is classic propaganda to advance Moscow’s agenda on American soil.

I have a few thoughts.

  1. China and Qatar have been doing this for some time and have been using mainstream outlets including the New York Times to advance their propaganda. The media has pretty regularly defended Osama Bin Laden’s favorite news network, Al Jazeera, claiming that anyone attacking the network is Islamophobic. China has paid for space in various newspapers and has plenty of China-friendly pundits on American news networks extolling the virtues of its authoritarian regime.
  2. Moscow can, through this service, only sow further discord and distrust because American news outlets are already doing that. Consider how little coverage the media has given to the van driving through the tent of Trump voter registration workers in Florida. Consider how the media is obsessed with the daily Trump soap opera at the expense of other news out there.
  3. The New York Times is right to raise a red flag on this story. We should all be concerned that the Russians are exploiting the First Amendment to stir up agitprop for Putin inside the United States. But the New York Times has been doing the same for the Democratic Party for years and, in fact, attacked Mitt Romney in 2012 for raising a red flag about Putin.

We need to understand that Russia Today on television and Sputnik News online and Sputnik Radio are all propaganda outlets for Putin. But Putin is smart and savvy and is exploiting American distrust of American media to provide an alternative.

Unfortunately, the American media response is to denounce the competition and attack Fox News instead of actually giving us the news. President Trump has broken the media or, more accurately, has fully exposed the media as being more interested in advancing narratives that benefit Democrats than reporting actual news.

Vladimir Putin could not successfully launch an American media empire just as Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdock could have never launched Fox News without the mainstream, traditional outlets first abandoning objectivity and losing the trust of the American people. The American people are seeking news. They are not seeking news that caters to their biases. They really do want the news. But the American press is giving them Democrat talking points, fake news, and narrative all of which is tied to a Trumpian soap opera.

Into that void, Vladimir Putin enters. Ironically, one can learn more about the world from Sputnik Radio and Russia Today than from CNN, which is fixated on Fox News bashing and everything Trump. Unless and until that changes, expect Sputnik’s ratings to skyrocket.

Now, directly related to all of this is the matter of Michael Avenatti.

Seriously. The American media, particularly CNN and MSNBC, spent months promoting Michael Avenatti as a battering ram against the President. Avenatti is now being carted off to jail, having been found guilty in a trial wherein he was accused of trying to shake down Nike.

You would never know from Brian Stelter of CNN that he was a chief promoter of Avenatti. He declared he was taking Avenatti seriously for the presidency because, in part, his star power. No, I’m not kidding.

Now the media is blaming Donald Trump for the rise of Avenatti. But for Trump, apparently, the media would not have slobbered all over Avenatti as a champion of women and a useful tool against the President.

This goes directly back to the rise of Russian propaganda in the United States. CNN, which for all its faults, used to be a fairly competent and fairly even-handed news network. But it has become a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party. It puts up Republicans who hate Trump on panels with Democrats who hate Trump overseen by anchors who hate Trump and calls it balanced.

In the past week, CNN has spent more time on the Trump soap opera than on other more significant news stories, including the coronavirus. Every story at CNN seemingly must have a Trump angle and the heroes are those like Avenatti.

When Avenatti turns out to be corrupt and crooked, the response is to make it about Fox News and Trump. In fact, Brian Stelter is in full damage control mode over Avenatti claiming only conservatives called Avenatti a “media darling” when CNN actually treated him as one. Don’t believe me? Behold:

Bringing this full circle, the Russians have an inroad into Middle America with a Soviet-era propaganda network because the American media failed to actually be what it claims — a place to go for fact and truth. The American media is now just a narrative machine that perpetuates leftwing mythology with a veneer of fact, leaving out relevant details that compete with its narrative.

The American media has become a place where Kermit Gosnell is a local crime story, James Hodgkinson is an anomaly, the van driver driving through a tent full of Trump supporters is no big deal, and Michael Avenatti is all Donald Trump’s fault.

Like Roger Ailes realizing the time was right for a competing news network, now Putin realizes all of the American media, from Fox News to CNN, can be taken by his own propaganda. That is not because Putin is an uber genius at programming news. It is that our American news outlets have stopped programming news.

%d bloggers like this: