The State Department tried to take Kremlin-backed television network to journalism school Tuesday — and they brought in a former major magazine editor to do it.
The media-centric melee began last week when Secretary of State John Kerry called Russia Today a “propaganda bullhorn” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia Today subsequently demanded an “official response” from the State Department.
That response came from Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel, the former managing editor of Time magazine, who wrote a blog post Tuesday accusing RT of a “disinformation campaign.” Stengel used his background in journalism to break down his definitions of the differences between news, opinion, and propaganda.
“Propaganda is the deliberate dissemination of information that you know to be false or misleading in order to influence an audience,” Stengel wrote.
Stengel pointed to a few specific examples in RT’s coverage of the Ukrainian crisis to further his point. The first was its controversial presentation of a leaked phone call by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Stengel said the network’s “selective editing” made it appear as though she advocated violence against Russians.
He also pointed to what he called RT’s “unquestioning repetition of the ludicrous assertion” the U.S. has invested billions into regime change in Ukraine. Russia’s envoy to the United Nations made that claim last week.
“These are not facts, and they are not opinions. They are false claims, and when propaganda poses as news it creates real dangers and gives a green light to violence,” Stengel wrote.
Kerry, for his part, sent out a “must read” tweet:
A Russia Today spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.