A pro-Trump, pro-Russia television network in America

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Donald Trump cannot take criticism, especially from his own state-run propaganda network, Fox News aka Trump TV. Several times this year he has gone on a Twitter tirade about the reporters in the “news” division of Fox News for reporting the news fairly accurately — respect Shep Smith! — and complaining that they should be more like his “kitchen cabinet” advisors in the “opinion” division of Fox News in the evening, i.e., his Minister of Propaganda Sean Hannity. Trump Rages At Fox News, Says It’s Now Worse Than ‘Fake News CNN’.

Trump also enjoys Sinclair Broadcasting, the pro-Trump, conservative company taking over local news stations around the country.

But increasingly Trump has a new favorite propaganda network, One America News Network (OANN), an American right-wing pay television news channel launched on July 4, 2013, owned by Herring Networks, Inc., available on Direct TV. It is a pro-Trump conspiracy theory loving network. As Media Matters pointed out:

OANN has a history of shilling for Trump, even hyping the president’s lies about the crowd size at his inauguration. The network, additionally, hired Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski as a political commentator (he was reportedly later fired for appearing “too much” on OANN’s competitors). OANN has a penchant for pushing racist commentary and debunked conspiracy theories — including about the death of former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich — and has repeatedly hosted Jack Posobiec, a far-right troll who heavily pushed the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

OANN is also now a pro-Russia network, coordinating with Russian state media Sputnik. The Daily Beast reports, Trump’s New Favorite Channel Employs Kremlin-Paid Journalist:

If the stories broadcast by the Trump-endorsed One America News Network sometimes look like outtakes from a Kremlin trolling operation, there may be a reason. One of the on-air reporters at the 24-hour network is a Russian national on the payroll of the Kremlin’s official propaganda outlet, Sputnik.

Kristian Brunovich Rouz, originally from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been living in San Diego, where OAN is based, since August 2017, reporting on U.S. politics for the 24-hour news channel. For all of that time, he’s been simultaneously writing for Sputnik, a Kremlin-owned news wire that played a role in Russia’s 2016 election-interference operation, according to an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community.

Rouz’s on-air reports for OAN include a wholly fabricated 2017 segment claiming Hillary Clinton is secretly bankrolling antifa through her political action committee. Clinton, Rouz claimed falsely, gave antifa protesters $800,000 that “went toward things like bricks, hammers, bats, and chains.”

Other smears target billionaire financier George Soros, a longtime Kremlin bête noire. In one segment, Rouz amplified a thoroughly debunked claim that Soros collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, when the Jewish philanthropist was 14 years old. Another Rouz story accused Soros of secretly funding migrant caravans.

Kremlin propaganda sometimes sneaks into Rouz’s segments on unrelated matters, dropped in as offhand background information. A segment on the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets references “allegations of the White Helmets’ involvement in military activities, executions, and numerous war atrocities,” but doesn’t disclose that those “allegations” were hoaxes that originated with Vladimir Putin and his proxies.

In another report, Rouz cast Clinton’s criticism of Brexit as an extension of her “grievous insults and fake narratives against Russia”—an assertion that makes sense only in the context of Rouz’s multiple reports claiming Russia was framed for hacking Democrats.

In all of Rouz’s OAN segments reviewed by The Daily Beast, he is introduced as a “One America correspondent,” with no disclosure of his work for Russia’s state-owned media, where he continues to file stories daily, primarily on economic news.

This completes the merger between Russian state-sponsored propaganda and American conservative media,” said former FBI agent Clint Watts, a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “We used to think of it as ‘They just have the same views’ or ‘They use the same story leads.’ But now they have the same personnel.”

As I have previously explained, The conservative media entertainment complex is an ancillary to Russian ‘active measures’ propaganda. This is simply further evidence.

Rouz didn’t respond to email and telephone inquiries for this story. Reached by email, OAN President Charles Herring invited The Daily Beast to submit written questions about the network’s arrangement with Rouz. But after receiving the questions, Herring cut off contact.

Online records show Rouz graduated from Novosibirsk State University in 2010 and went on to earn a master’s degree in international relations at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. His byline first appears on Sputnik in December 2014.

A few months later, he emigrated to the U.S., settling in Los Angeles in the spring of 2015, where he played guitar for an indie rock band called White Tar.

A former bandmate, whose stage name is Jov Paradice, told The Daily Beast that Rouz was secretive about his day job, except to say that he wrote articles about economics for a Russian company. In August 2016, Rouz worked for the Los Angeles PR firm the Hoyt Organization, according to a since-deleted tweet by the firm announcing his hire. He appears in an October 2016 photo on Hoyt’s Instagram feed, but isn’t readily apparent in subsequent photos. Hoyt didn’t respond to repeated email and telephone inquiries from The Daily Beast.

Paradice said he and Rouz frequently clashed over their differing world views.

“We kind of had a thing musically, but we were total opposites,” said Paradice. “When Trump was getting elected, he went into full sports coat mode. He had an indie style before—the whole blurred-line-of-sexuality thing—then he was wearing red ties and a suit. I said, ‘I’m not getting on the stage with Trump.’”

In August 2017, Rouz said he was leaving the band to accept a job offer in San Diego, Paradice recalls. It was only recently that Paradice discovered what that job was, when a Facebook friend posted a One America video purporting to document a link between antifa and ISIS terrorists.

“I’m thinking, there’s something familiar here, and then I go, ‘Oh shit, it’s fucking Kristian!’” said Paradice. “That’s my ex-guitarist… His bullshit propaganda is good enough now that they gave him a tiny bit of a platform.”

Rouz joined OAN at a time when his Russian employer was coming under heightened scrutiny over its role in Putin’s election interference, and its efforts to expand its American influence.

In July 2017, Sputnik contracted with a struggling Washington, D.C.-area radio station to begin broadcasting Sputnik content 24 hours a day. Until then, the station played bluegrass music.

The move came just months after a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment named Sputnik, and its sister television outlet RT America, as players in Putin’s election-interference campaign. By September, the FBI was investigating Sputnik for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The next month, Twitter announced it would no longer accept ads from Sputnik or RT.

The FARA issue was resolved in November 2017, when Sputnik formally registered with the Justice Department as an agent of a foreign power.

One America pushes some of the same false stories as Sputnik and RT, but with none of the legal entanglements. 

Founded and helmed by 77-year-old circuit-board millionaire Robert Herring Sr., OAN launched in 2013 as an answer to the chatty, opinionated content of mainstream cable-news channels—and a place for viewers too conservative for Fox News. Under Herring’s direction, the network embraced Trumpism enthusiastically, starting in 2016.

Over time, the network became increasingly dedicated to conspiracy theories and fake news, and became overtly supportive of Russia’s global agenda. When Rouz joined, the network had recently shed a number of anchors and other staffers who’d bristled at the change.

Though it’s available in only a handful of cable markets, OAN’s viewership includes some influential figures, including the president of the United States. According to Media Matters, Trump has fallen for at least two fake stories after seeing them on OAN.

The synthesis between pro-Putin Russian propaganda and the conservative media entertainment complex’s GOPropaganda becomes more apparent every day.

Russian dezinformatsiya is how Russia intends to weaken the U.S. using the The Gerasimov Doctrine:

In February 2013, General Valery Gerasimov—Russia’s chief of the General Staff, comparable to the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—published a 2,000-word article, “The Value of Science Is in the Foresight,” in the weekly Russian trade paper Military-Industrial Kurier. Gerasimov took tactics developed by the Soviets, blended them with strategic military thinking about total war, and laid out a new theory of modern warfare—one that looks more like hacking an enemy’s society than attacking it head-on. He wrote: “The very ‘rules of war’ have changed. The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness. … All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character.”

The article is considered by many to be the most useful articulation of Russia’s modern strategy, a vision of total warfare that places politics and war within the same spectrum of activities—philosophically, but also logistically. The approach is guerrilla, and waged on all fronts with a range of actors and tools—for example, hackers, media, businessmen, leaks and, yes, fake news, as well as conventional and asymmetric military means. Thanks to the internet and social media, the kinds of operations Soviet psy-ops teams once could only fantasize about—upending the domestic affairs of nations with information alone—are now plausible. The Gerasimov Doctrine builds a framework for these new tools, and declares that non-military tactics are not auxiliary to the use of force but the preferred way to win. That they are, in fact, the actual war. Chaos is the strategy the Kremlin pursues: Gerasimov specifies that the objective is to achieve an environment of permanent unrest and conflict within an enemy state.

America’s right-wing media is complicit in this Russian strategy. Americans should be demanding answers.




1 COMMENT

  1. I used to be a fan of Thom Hartman, but I stopped watching after he stayed on RT after the connections between RT and Putin became known.

    I don’t think Hartman works for Putin, I still think he’s a smart, well meaning guy, but he’s enabling this crap.

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