"Ignorance is Slavery"
One reason we have so much junk news these days is junk reporters on junk news networks. Case in point: Abby Martin. You may not have heard of Ms. Martin, as I hadn't until a few days ago. She used to have a show on the RT America network called "Breaking the Set", and one episode included a segment celebrating George Orwell's birthday and discussing his book 1984.1 As a big fan of Orwell, I was interested. However, as I watched the video, I could barely believe what I was seeing:
- Describing George Orwell at the beginning of the video, Martin says something along the following lines: "Under the Soviet Union, he [Orwell] was forced to flee under communism's suppression of socialist dissidents." What does that mean? Is Martin suggesting that Orwell was a citizen of the Soviet Union? He was not. As far as I know, Orwell never even visited it. Perhaps Martin was alluding to the fact that Orwell and his wife had to flee Spain during the civil war there in order to avoid being arrested by the communists.2 Even so, the comment is worded in such a way as to mislead those who are ignorant about Orwell's life.
- Martin claims that 1984 was published in 1947. It was published two years later.3
- And last―but certainly not least!―the famous three party slogans were: "War is peace", "freedom is slavery", and "ignorance is strength"4. The show manages to get the last two mixed up as: "Freedom is strength", and "ignorance is slavery". Those are two good slogans for a democracy but not for a totalitarian state.5
A high school book report on 1984 with these mistakes would get an F6. Introducing the book, Martin comments: "Let me just say that if you have not read this book, you must." She should have taken her own advice. However, the video looks professionally produced, and not like it was shot in her bedroom using a webcam. If it were an amateur production, I'd be more forgiving of its amateurish errors. All of which raises the questions:
- What is RT America?
First of all, "RT" is short for "Russia Today". The full name was reduced to initials in order to conceal the network's connection to Russia. According to the recently released intelligence community assessment (ICA) of Russian efforts to influence the U.S. presidential election:
[RT Editor in Chief Margarita] Simonyan observed that RT's original Russia-centric news reporting did not generate sufficient audience, so RT switched to covering international and US domestic affairs and removed the words "Russia Today" from the logo "to stop scaring away the audience"….7
RT America is the English-language version of RT, aimed at English-speaking people especially in North America. RT was created by, and is funded by, the Russian government; so, it's a state propaganda network. This means that Martin was not a "journalist" while employed by RT America, but a Russian propagandist.8
- Who is Abby Martin?
Like another junk journalist for a state propaganda channel9, Martin is a conspiracy theorist10. Specifically, before being hired by RT America, Martin was involved with the conspiracy theory movement that claimed the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government. According to the ICA:
RT hires or makes contractual agreements with Westerners with views that fit its agenda and airs them on RT. Simonyan said…that RT has enough audience and money to be able to choose its hosts, and it chooses the hosts that "think like us," "are interested in working in the anti-mainstream," and defend RT's beliefs on social media.….7
To her credit, Martin did on one occasion use her RT America show to criticize the Russian government, specifically, Russia's invasion of the Ukraine11. So, the show wasn't 100% Russian propaganda, but maybe only 99%.
Now, you may think I'm being a bit hard on Martin and RT; perhaps RT is like PBS or the BBC, which are at least partially funded by their respective governments, but are not propaganda outfits. However, the day after Martin's on-air criticism, another RT anchor, Liz Wahl, said the following, also live on-air:
Last night, RT made international headlines when one of our anchors went on the record and said Russian intervention in Crimea is wrong. And, indeed, as a reporter on this network I faced many ethical and moral challenges…. …Personally, I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I am resigning.12
No doubt both Martin and Wahl may have been naive in joining RT in the first place but Wahl, at least, eventually caught on to the fact that she was being used as a propagandist13. There's no sign that Martin has ever figured this out or cares. Since leaving RT America a few years ago, Martin has gone on to another state propaganda job, this time for TeleSUR, which is financed by Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, and some other Latin American countries14.
At the beginning of the first episode of Breaking the Set, Martin was shown smashing a television set with a sledgehammer15, hence the title. I do sympathize.
- "1984: Blueprint for US Authoritarianism | Happy Birthday George Orwell", Breaking the Set, 6/27/2013.
- George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938).
- Richard Cavendish, "Publication of 1984", History Today, 6/6/1999.
- George Orwell, 1984 (1949) in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: Text, Sources, Criticism, edited by Irving Howe (1963), p. 3.
- The video as it currently can be seen on RT America's YouTube channel―see Note 1, above―has a correction of the slogans overlaying the original versions, though you can still see, and Martin speaks, the incorrect ones.
- It may not be a mistake exactly, but the second photograph seemingly of Orwell shown in the video is not him, but a wax figure from Madame Tussaud's wax museum! Perhaps the producers knew this when selecting the picture, but their track record does not inspire confidence. There's also no notice in the video that this is not a photograph of Orwell. See here: "George Orwell―Political language", Mein Krampf, 8/28/2016.
- "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections", Intelligence Community Assessment, 1/6/2017, Annex A, p. 12 (PDF).
- See, also: Benjamin Bidder, "Putin's Weapon in the War of Images", Spiegel Online, 8/13/2013.
- "Fake News Headline", 12/19/2016.
- Robert Mackey, "Russia Today Host Has Roots in ‘9/11 Truth’ Movement", The Lede, 3/4/2014.
- James Kirchick, "RT Anchor’s Riff Not as ‘Rogue’ As It Seems", Tablet, 3/4/2014.
- Debbie Emery, "Russia Today Anchor Liz Wahl Quits Live On-Air (Video)", The Hollywood Reporter, 3/5/2014. The video of the resignation speech is available here: "RT America's Liz Wahl resigns live on air", RT, 3/5/2014.
- See, also: Elizabeth Wahl, "I Was Putin's Pawn", Politico, 3/21/2014.
- "teleSUR Launches New Investigative TV Show Hosted by Abby Martin", Market Watch, 9/3/2015. This reads like a press release.
- "Debut Show | Breaking The Set", Breaking the Set, 9/4/2012.
Correction (9/26/2017): I've corrected a grammatical error.
The following equation was found scratched into a section of the wall of an ancient Roman house excavated by archaeologists:
X + XI = XIX
Doing arithmetic with Roman numerals is notoriously difficult, and the equation is clearly incorrect. Is it possible that the Roman mathematician who wrote it simply made an error in addition? Or, can the equation be corrected without adding, removing, or altering any of the symbols?
Who is Adolph Hitler and why does he keep saying these terrible things?
I didn't mention it in my previous entry about an apocryphal quote1, but many of the sources that quote it without any mention of its dubious status attribute it to one "Adolph" Hitler. Here's another one:
This year will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!
If you do a websearch for this passage, you'll find plenty of occurrences and many of them attribute it to "Adolph" in 1935. Like the previous example1, this is not a quote of Nazi Fuehrer Adolf Hitler, and who actually wrote it is unknown2,3.
Exactly when this pseudo-quote was created is also unclear, though it's clear that it's not from 1935. The earliest reference to it that I've been able to find is almost sixty years later in a signature file to a Google Groups posting on injuries to the hands from playing conga drums4! The fake quote may have been floating around for awhile before then, though not long enough to have made it into print or pixels, so it appears likely that it was faked in the early '90s.
Moreover, '92 was a presidential election year, with soon-to-be president Bill Clinton running against incumbent George H. W. Bush and Ross Perot. Since Democrat Clinton supported both the Brady bill and assault weapon restrictions, I suspect that the false quote was hoaxed up during '92 as an attack on Clinton. However, unless the true author comes forward and 'fesses up, we'll probably never know.
In any case, I don't think you'll find this faux quote on any sites promoting gun control on the grounds that Hitler was all for it. Rather, those who use it are against regulation of guns, such as registration, and hope to discredit it by association with Nazism. In other words, they're playing the Hitler card, and even if the "quote" weren't fraudulent it would still be fallacious5.
As is true of the previous "quote" of "Adolph", a number of quotation websites include this bogus quote with no indication that it is suspect. For this reason, I suggest double-checking any quote you find on such a site with a reliable dictionary of quotations before using it yourself.
At the risk of committing a hasty generalization based on only two examples, I would also suggest that any quote attributed to Adolph Hitler be viewed with greater than usual suspicion. After all, if those who cite such a supposed quote can't even spell the alleged author's name….
- Passage of Propaganda, 7/28/2017. See the poster pictured for the odd spelling.
- "Bogus Gun Control Quotes", GunCite, 5/8/2002
- SD Staff DavidB, "Did Hitler ban gun ownership?", The Straight Dope, 6/16/2000
- "Conga drum ailment", 12/2/1992
- The Hitler Card
Solution to Puzzle I: Yes, it can. Simply turn it upside-down:
XIX = IX + X
The section of wall must have been oriented in this direction rather than the way the archaeologists first thought.
Source: Detective Shadow, Tricky Mindtrap Puzzles: Challenge the Way You Think and See (2000). The puzzle is adapted from one on page 37. In case it isn't obvious, the story about the Roman wall is fictitious.