Equivalent Retaliation – The Department of Justice Labels RT a Foreign Agent

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Equivalent Retaliation – The Department of Justice Labels RT a Foreign Agent

Steven Bishop (11th), Reporter

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The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was invoked on November 10th of 2017 to target the Russian owned media corporation, RT. The act was first passed in Congress in 1938 to combat against pro-Nazi propaganda that was beginning to surface and spread in the US during World War II. The act requires groups labeled as agents to make periodic public disclosures agreed upon by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the agent itself that includes identities of workers, how the company operates, the activities of the agency, receipts, and disbursements and payments.

There is close to zero doubt that RT is biased largely in favor of Russian government backed beliefs. The R in RT does stand for Russia and the corporation receives a major portion of its operating cost form the Russian government. RT, however, does not possess the kind of biases that Americans are used to in the forms of FOX News and CNN, two media giants who at times can reach the pinnacle of absurdity when they become a bit too preachy. RT ranges in its levels when it believes it is most imperative to change. At times it can pass off as an Associated Press article and then it can fall off to the wayside and join hands with Info Wars in the realm of unwatchable and unreadable garbage.

Being forced to register implies that the US government believes the agent to be working to advance the agenda of a foreign government. A sentiment that most investigative departments in the executive branch agree on in the case of RT.

The Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Security Agency all consider RT a weapon used by the Russian government to spread disinformation to the American public.

The response towards RT by the US government  is another effect of the growing social trend to not trust the media or to only believe a portion of what the outlet has to say.

RT is considered biased extremely on the side of the Russian government to the point that the DOJ, headed by Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, forced them to register as a foreign agent. Jefferson Sessions was one of the first major political figures to endorse then presidential candidate Donald J. Trump who is more than likely one of the last figures to go after a Russian backed agency considering the taboo surrounding his campaign with the foreign nation. This points to just how serious various intelligence agencies and the DOJ consider RT a threat to the US public’s ability to discern biased information. And once again, this is coming from the executive branch that is suspected to have benefited from the aid of the Russian government.

RT being labeled as a foreign agent in all probability based on the fact that they have ties to Russia. The reason other foreign media organizations have not yet been labeled, the likes of BBC News and France 24, is that they are more in favor of the Western style of democracy and Western ideology. They rarely used to criticize the US, they do now far more often for other reasons, and they normally back the US agenda in foreign matters and relations.

With this said, is it fair for RT to be labeled? Having a label placed under the FARA does not affect the business or organization in any matter except reputation. RT did not have a sizeable reputation to begin with before because they stayed on the fringe of the American media attentiveness. Now that RT is under the FARA it is not a desirable image to be had and they disapprove of the personna it gives them.

In an interview aired on January seventh of this year with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, lashed out against the DOJ and the US government as a whole, “not a lot of people would like to work being labeled a foreign agent. The same thing will happen to American media in Russia. Exactly the same. And we will see how many people will still work for American media in Russia–” She was then interrupted by Stahl.

And just as Margarita Simonyan assured, Russia’s Parliament passed legislation on November fifteenth of last year that would allow them to label international media outlets as foreign agents in reaction to the reality of RT being one in the US.

These kind of tit for tat exchanges were thought to have predominantly ended with the crumbling of the Soviet Union into its soverent divisions but as the landscape of foreign relations changes, residual feelings have not and are unlikely to change in the near future.

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