State-Sponsored Intimidation, Or When FARA Goes Too Far

Authored by Andrew Korybko via,

The US government is blatantly violating the most basic tenets of its purportedly “sacred” ideology of “human rights” and “free speech” by egregiously overstepping the bounds of FARA to engage in the same type of state-sponsored intimidation that it regularly accuses its geopolitical opponents of for far less.

Yahoo broke the story earlier on Monday that the FBI questioned former Sputnik employee Andrew Feinburg following his public complaints to the media about how the company is supposedly being run, and this reportedly came after another former employee, Joseph John Fionda, allegedly contacted the FBI on his own initiative to share “a big packet” of information accusing Sputnik of breaking the law. The legislation at the center of this scandal is the “Foreign Agents Registration Act” (FARA), a 1938 law originally passed to expose Nazi influence operations inside of the US. It’s since been used for registering anyone who works as a “foreign agent”, which stereotypically refers to Congressional lobbyists hired by foreign governments but is nowadays being proposed by some US voices to apply to Sputnik and RT as well.

The basis for this move is that both companies are publicly funded by the Russian government, and that this therefore supposedly makes them “propaganda” because it’s assumed by the American authorities that all of their employees lack “editorial independence” from the Kremlin. As could have been expected, the same forces pushing for Sputnik and RT to register as “foreign agents” under FARA aren’t interested in equally applying these expanded “standards” to other publicly financed international media outlets such as Al Jazeera and the BBC.

Using the same criteria as is being applied against these two companies, one could rhetorically question the “independence” of US Congressmen and American government-connected “think tanks” to the “deep state”, which is another word for its permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies that hold disproportionate influence over policymaking decisions.

In any case, what’s important to focus on is the difference between publicly financed institutions and those which are “government-run”. The first one simply means that taxpayers are paying the bills, whereas the second refers to government employees being the final decision makers on all matters. All government employees work for publicly financed institutions, but not all employees at publicly financed institutions are government employees. Sputnik, for example, is a publicly financed media platform where the editors always have the final say as decision makers in what is a globally recognized industry-wide hierarchical standard. This doesn’t indicate “censorship” or a “cover-up” – it’s just plain journalism.

If Washington-funded media platforms happen to accuse Sputnik and RT of being “government-run”, then it might possibly be that they’re falsely projecting their own unstated but widely assumed internal arrangements onto their Russian counterparts.

Moreover, just because two disgruntled employees seem to have experienced communication issues with their superiors and failed to resolve – or in some cases, even address – them prior to continuing with their given assignments doesn’t mean that there’s a “Kremlin conspiracy” because their bosses were displeased with their overall work at the company as a result. Outcomes like that happen in those situations. It’s life – nothing more, nothing less – and should be used as a personal learning experience, not as someone’s “15 minutes of fame” driven by their desire to more easily land a new job elsewhere, whether in the same industry or the “think tank” one. It’s natural for people to have divergent views on any given subject, especially when it’s related to politics, but editors always have the final say when it comes to the journalism industry, and employees are supposed to respect that.

One of the more popular fake news claims going around about Sputnik and RT is that the two outlets were heavily biased in favor of Trump during the 2016 election, but that’s frankly not true, as anyone would know by listening to Sputnik’s radio programs from that time, watching RT’s shows, or reading both of their websites’ archives. Both platforms lean closer to the liberal-progressive side of things as opposed to the conservative one. Simply reporting on the many unfavorable stories surrounding Hillary Clinton and not blindly fawning over her candidacy doesn’t qualify as “institutional bias”, though in largely controlled systems such as the American one where most of the media openly back the Democrats, then the Overton window concept would suggest that Sputnik and RT’s balanced reporting and analyses would understandably stand out as attention-grabbing and exemplary.

In addition, it should never be forgotten that it was the on-the-fence population of the Rust Belt who surprisingly turned the election in Trump’s favor. One would presume that the liberal-progressive masses in the solidly Democratic states on each coast would be Sputnik and RT’s core audiences given how these two outlets’ more leftist-leaning stance on many matters overlap with the prevailing preferences there, so it’s ridiculous to believe that these Russian companies somehow convinced voters to want to “Make America Great Again” in the more stereotypically nationalistic heartland with their liberal-progressive messaging. In fact, it’s uncertain how many people in that part of the US listen to, watch, or read Sputnik and RT in the first place when Fox News, CNN, and Rush Limbaugh dominate those media markets, and whether these Russian companies are even capable of making any difference at all in those swing states.

Another point that’s often brought up in the course of this conversation is that individual writers, analysts, and presenters might be “biased”, but human beings are unique and have their own way of understanding and relaying information, which in the media field leads to them expressing their individual viewpoints and perspectives in their work. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it should be celebrated that people feel comfortable enough in their professional environment to express themselves as they see fit, though provided that they’re not obnoxiously – and perhaps even deliberately – doing something to cross the line of the editorial standards which vary according to the media outlet. The Sputnik and RT employees that are in the public limelight sometimes have opinions that are just as passionate as their counterparts in The Washington Post and The New York Times, though the latter two are rarely – if ever – condemned for their zeal by the US government.

The double standard that’s being applied when it comes to Sputnik and RT should be clear for all to see, and it’s that the American “deep state” doesn’t tolerate foreigners having an opinion about the US unless they present it on a US-based media platform or on one of Washington’s allies’. Otherwise, as the witch-hunting “logic” now goes, they’re “foreign agents” possibly “spreading propaganda”, and their outlets need to be registered as such with the intimidating “scarlet letter(s)” of FARA if they’re foreign-funded. Even worse, the hysterical zeitgeist has now peaked at such a point that Americans are unable to talk about American-related issues (whether domestic or foreign) on non-American international media outlets publicly funded by a foreign government without potentially having to register as a “foreign agent” in their homelands, whether they still live there or emigrated already.

This is nothing less than state-sponsored intimidation, since Washington is implying that the Americans who work for and comment on these platforms might be “national security threats” because of their supposedly undeclared “foreign agent” status.

If Russia implemented the same media version of FARA that the US is seriously considering and decided to decree that its citizens working for publicly funded American information outlets both in the country and abroad are “foreign agents” that are forced to register with the Kremlin, then the US government would instantly condemn it as state-sponsored intimidation and political oppression, possibly even extending political asylum and an expedited path to citizenship for those said nationals who might be working in the US and are too afraid to ever go home again. Frighteningly, however, it’s not Russians who have to fear the long arm of their government in this respect, but Americans, though it’s “politically incorrect” for anyone to say so.

In the Twilight Zone of the New Cold War, Russia could plausibly – and with full ethical and legal backing behind it –contemplate granting its Russian-based American employees political asylum and potential citizenship because of the state-sponsored intimidation that they might become reasonably subjected to back home just because they decided to “Tell The Untold” and “Question More”. If the US government demands that Sputnik and RT employees register as “foreign agents” under FARA but selectively ignores enforcing this new “standard” against other publicly financed international media companies and their employees, then it’s not unrealistic to imagine that Edward Snowden might end up sharing a toast with some fellow American political refugees in Moscow before too long.


Ignatius Fri, 09/15/2017 - 02:10 Permalink

It's not lies, it's called "winning."Seriously, this is why a society drowns in a world of moral relativism.It ends in Satan's victory, i.e., no victory at all.

The Alarmist Ignatius Fri, 09/15/2017 - 04:14 Permalink

One of the funnier television moments in my life was a news opinion round table featuring two guys from the BBC and RT, where, after listening to Mr. BBC blather for a minute or so about how RT was a propaganda outlet because it was state sponsored media, the RT guy sent BBC guy literally into a sputtering meltdown simply by pointing out that the BBC was also state sponsored media.

I was recently surprised to find RT as one of the channel choices at a major posh hotel chain in Texas, which was good because I got to catch the Keiser Report that day instead of waiting a day to see it online.

In reply to by Ignatius

wisehiney Fri, 09/15/2017 - 02:21 Permalink

The hordes of "citizens" that interact with these petty tyrants.And make it so clear to them.That the molesters have nothing to fear.Make it nearly impossible for the truly brave to stand up to tyranny.If you recognize this, you will likely never get another chance.You could be there when they that they have crossed a heroic line.When it is all over, do not regret not teaching those who would never learn.Your life means more than what hollywood say it does.Follow your heart.

SoDamnMad Shemp 4 Victory Fri, 09/15/2017 - 03:11 Permalink

I don't see a story today on Russia's imminent attack on all of western Europe from Belarus.  Today is the start of their "war games" and there isn't a single picture of Russian tanks rolling through Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga or Kiev.  What's up with that.  Some sort of press blackout or is the Indian's winmuch more important  than Serena Williams first baby pictures (cute little girl, I might add).

In reply to by Shemp 4 Victory

HowdyDoody roddy6667 Fri, 09/15/2017 - 03:56 Permalink

Of course not. US laws always have exemptions. The current US laws defining sanctions against Russia have exemptions so they can buy the Russian rocket motors they need. Similarly Israelis have exemption from everything that would adversely affect them. Why would they write the law otherwise? 

In reply to by roddy6667

Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Fri, 09/15/2017 - 03:24 Permalink

Excellent ad! Which is the more powerful weapon?! The truth, and the ability to communicate a cohesive non circular line of logic, with evidence to back it up!

Rebelrebel7 (not verified) Fri, 09/15/2017 - 13:43 Permalink

Unfortunately, the US Navy and other spy whores are wasting tax payer money terrorizing average Americans like me! I am a law abiding citizen, I confess that I go over the speed limit sometimes,  but I hardly think that requires the Navy to surround me and terrorize me and whatever other psycho spy whore companies are  involved!If it is your job to be an asshole, the world is better off without you! Are you that stupid, evil,  and corrupt that you will do anything for money?! I'm defending the constitution! You are defending the ones who have destroyed It! You are pure evil!You deserve no respect, and your children will know just how evil and stupid you are and how you have  destroyed America and the world, if you think that they will continue to respect you, you will be in for a rude awakening! Do the world and your children a favor and kill America's enemy by blowing your fucking head off because you are only a hero to Satan! 

gregga777 Fri, 09/15/2017 - 02:48 Permalink

"If Washington-funded media platforms happen to accuse Sputnik and RT of being “government-run”, then it might possibly be that they’re falsely projecting their own unstated but widely assumed internal arrangements onto their Russian counterparts."

The Anglo-Zionist FAKE NEWS Media is run by the United States of America's Feral Gangster Government. The Oxford English Dictionary' standard definition for hypocrisy is the United States of America's Feral Gangster Government.

scatha Fri, 09/15/2017 - 03:28 Permalink

FYI: Almost all NATO, EU countries have publicly founded and/or straight government run media outlets that produce in multiple languages. Almost all of the rest of the Europe and World have publicly/government funded and/or run TV/Print/Internet media.All are now available on cable/Satellite or direct streaming everywhere.BBC, RT, RAI (Italy) ,FRANCE24, TVP (Poland) ,ZDF (Germany) ,CCTV (China), NHK (Japan) , DW(Germany), Al-Jazeera [Qatar] as well as many Israeli media outlets, like newly formed Multilanguage KAN 11 and KAN 33, and more and more etc.,The US is one of those countries which government runs/funds media openly [as we know also funds private media clandestinely) running PBS (for 50 years funded by US government only, now also take global corporate money with their own foreign political interests pushed), cold war dinosaurs like VOA (in dozens of languages), RL, RFE ( in dozens of languages), Radio/TV/media “Marti” [aimed at Cuba] all directed explicitly to politically influence “foreign nationals”.In fact such a objective is not unique since all of those state run/funded media in the world have explicit policy to further ideas and policies in the interests of the state and nation in economic, political, social and cultural dimensions as well, as provide forum and information platform aimed in understanding of national policies within the country and abroad. It is an absurd, call them all foreign agents or call none of them.

NuYawkFrankie Fri, 09/15/2017 - 04:07 Permalink


Paging ZH Contributors & Posters.... Paging ZH Contributors & Posters...

Report Immediately to your Local FEMA Processing Center for your "Foreign Agent" FARA Chip-Implant...

Failure to comply will result in immediate incarceration or (your choice!) a forced purchase of Hillary's "WTF Happened???"

GreatUncle Fri, 09/15/2017 - 06:40 Permalink

In a fraudulent slave society (that is what it is) with economics the chains on people the elite running the show will use any and all means to intimidate the population through THEIR privately run and owned governments (that is what they are).In the last 500 years the biggest factor making slavery of nations and the world possible by the 0.01% was the removal of asset backed currencies because without an asset no population (we are past individuals now) has any skin in the game.They will intimidate until they no longer exist to maintain their economic mechanism that is so good for them and enslaves us all.Trickle down economics my ass, trickle up is always what it was to feed them and you must not complain.i feel like a Suffragette a century ago but it is not about gender this time, it is economics.

doctor10 GreatUncle Fri, 09/15/2017 - 07:10 Permalink

Traditional currencies really aren't worth all that much in a surveillance society -which essentially all big governments are today. All opportunity for arbitrage is stolen by the sociopsyopaths pre-occupied with going through everybodies bank accounts, real estate holdings, telephone and email records, tax returns and health records seeking "opportunity".

Not much business can be done profitably. At the end of the day its why interest rates -at least in 100% traceable accountable taxable regulatable and ultimately takable currencies are basically 0% give or take a few fractions of a percent-worldwide.

FWIW if you want to borrow BTC now interest rates can be 12-13%!!

"value" is anonymity and privacy in conduct, thought and action-one of the consequences of which is enhanced ability to keep the fruits of your own labor. It also is the ONLY means through which individual productivity can increase-and thus increase productivity across an entire nation.

Electronic/digital currencies actually fulfilling those needs will be the most valuable-there is yet to emerge one that clearly does so.

Ask East Germany and the Soviet Union exactly how well a surveillance society worked out during the 20th century. The 21st is no different in that regard-except that surveillance is cheaper and more intrusive and consequently more deleterious.

In reply to by GreatUncle

redmudhooch Fri, 09/15/2017 - 09:02 Permalink

Is anybody not concerned with illegals being allowed into our military. I haven't researched it much, but we've been hearing a lot about it the past few days.Think about that, we hate mass immigration, we get out protesting, military of illegals shows up, what do you think will happen?Why isn't there anyone asking this question, seems like a recipe for disaster, as usual.

LightBulb18 Fri, 09/15/2017 - 10:47 Permalink

Ridiculous to even imagine that people living in the middle east under dictatorships, africa and parts of asia have any human rights whatsoever. The warlord in charge can insult you, seize your property, doesn't bother with elections, rape you, assault you, you wouldn’t dream of taking them to court, and murder you without A trial while the american and european media censor it all in order to promote the idea of equality, and protect the belief of peaceful coexistence with all people being possible after the president of the united states admitted that america and europe failed to install A single successful representative democracy in the middle east. Human rights are usally A weapon used for acts of aggression between powerful nations like America and weaker ones they wish to dominate, Libya, yemen, or A host of others including Israel who must be intimidated into accepting the narrative of peaceful coexistence and equality of all people or America and europe will collapse. The billionaires of the world have decided to keep the spotlight on Israel, and that’s why events and opinions their cant simply be censored like in the rest of the world.