Assange to host talk show on Russia Today

Have you heard the one about the world’s most famous advocate of transparency working for a TV channel backed by one of the world’s least transparent countries?

The stage is set; will the Kremlin feel your force, Mr Assange?
Ghaffar Hussain
On 30 January 2012 10:20

Have you heard the one about the world’s most famous advocate of transparency working for a TV channel backed by one of the world’s least transparent countries? Or the one about the anti-imperialist war-critic working for the mouth piece of the world’s leading supporter of terrorism and state repression?

Certain so-called ‘left wing icons’ never cease to fascinate me; just when you think they can’t possibly do anything more bizarre and self-contradictory, they go ahead and do just that. This doesn’t seem to be a recent phenomenon either, in fact many on the Left have been slowly but surely drifting into a moral abyss for a number of years. After all, trying to remain relevant whilst having to contort complex reality to fit a narrow political framework is not easy.

The Left today can be broadly split between the anti-totalitarian and the anti-imperialist. The former, in theory, seek to oppose all forms of totalitarianism in the world whilst the latter, in most cases, merely confines themselves to discussing Western imperialism, often ‘seeing’ western imperialism even when it is not there. Such a narrow and unbalanced focus completely blinds them to political reality, resulting in the formation of alliances which completely undermine their own credibility and message.

The most recent example of this, as alluded to in my opening remark is Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange hosting a talk show on Russia Today (RT). RT is an English language TV channel that is funded by the Russian state and, unsurprisingly, has been accused of having a pro-Kremlin bias and producing nothing more than cheap anti-US propaganda. It also has a history of giving airtime to wacky conspiracy theorists and other fringe dwelling experts. In short, it is the Russian version of Press TV.

News of Assange’s upcoming talk show has already angered many observers with the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, Miriam Elder saying “So, how exactly will Assange reconcile his belief in transparency/freedom with selling a show to the Kremlin?" I actually don’t think he feels the need to. It’s not what he is about. There is a huge difference between being motivated by a set of principles that are applied universally and being driven by a singled minded grudge against that which you have defined as the enemy.  

What has also become clear about Assange, and Galloway before him, is that he is far more interested in self-publicity than principles. Causes are only used as vehicles to carve out a niche and create a cult of personality.

What matters most to these types of activists is being seen, heard and adulated, hence offers from TV stations run by authoritarian governments are simply too hard to resist. Especially if they also share your worldview and believe that all the worlds problems are attributable to US policy.

Assange, of course, could redeem himself by using the opportunity to speak about Sergei Magnitsky, Russia’s very own whistleblower who died mysteriously in a Russian jail after being arrested and tortured by the Russian authorities. Or he could interview Alexei Navalny, Russia’s very own Assange like figure. Then there is the corruption, targeted killings of government critics, and other unsavoury practices covertly endorsed by the Russian state that he could discuss.

That would be worth tuning in for but I won’t be holding my breath.

Ghaffar Hussain is a leading independent counter-extremism expert

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