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A nation must think before it acts.
September 9, 2020
Post by Thomas Russell
Amid the 2020 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Russian state-sponsored news outlets RT and Sputnik News published a number of stories and opinion pieces covering both conventions. Overall, RT published more sensationalist, colorful content than Sputnik, relying on common narratives aimed at portraying the Democrats and former Vice President Joe Biden as part of an untrustworthy establishment. Sputnik’s coverage of both conventions was mixed, criticizing both DNC and RNC members but with a more pointed negative portrayal of Biden.
RT’s coverage of the DNC portrayed Biden especially negatively. “One speech, well written and read well, does not a president make. At the end of the day, the Democrats are putting forward a wolf in sheep’s clothes, who is peddling the same worn-out lies disguised as new promises,” one RT op-ed begins. Another article paints Biden as hypocritical and unpatriotic, noting that “just minutes after declaring the American national character sullied by the ‘stain of racism,’ Biden said America was ‘a great nation.’”
Following another regularly observed theme, RT coverage also persistently criticized the American media as biased against the RNC. For example, in RT’s article “As Democrats deliver 4-point poll boost to TRUMP, media spin says convention bounce ‘not the point,’” the U.S. media is condemned for “downplaying” the success of the RNC, pointing to Trump’s rising poll numbers. “Polls showing President Donald Trump surging ahead, as the Democrats [who] held their virtual rally have…[been] stumped” writes RT, painting Trump as exiting the convention unabated while the Democrats fall in turmoil. In another article, RT pushes the claim that networks like CNN were reluctant to admit success at the RNC.
RT’s “‘He’s going full Putin’: Trump encourages ‘12 more years’ chant at RNC to make opponents go ‘crazy’…they respond by going crazy” makes comedic light of “liberal journalists and activists melting on command” over a joke between President Trump and his supporters at the convention. Biden, meanwhile, is criticized as an “empty vessel” to be impressed with radical liberal ideas. Biden is also denounced for his nomination acceptance speech, characterizing it as devoid of serious policy proposals and a recycle of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
And while some RT content does occasionally criticize elements of the RNC, such reporting is often undercut with supportive sentiment. For example, in “‘Hear me roar!’ Trump Jr’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle steals show at RNC with high-volume speech (VIDEO),” RT mocks Kimberly Guilfoyle’s bombastic RNC speech, only to go on to criticize the DNC, noting “last week’s Democratic convention didn’t have ‘a tenth of the energy’ Guilfoyle brought to the Republican event.”
RT and Sputnik News both operate as political extensions of the Kremlin and, as such, use themes and narratives to bolster strategic goals of the Russian government. RT, in taking a more aggressive approach to its coverage of the conventions, makes their election 2020 preference clear.