When it comes to politicians who behave in a rational manner at all times, even when under pressure or in the midst of internationally provocative events, there are more individuals who do not fit such a description than those who do. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov come to mind as two individuals who are able to remain uniquely calm in spite of incredibly difficult situations.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the great majority of western politicians, who in recent years have become ever more colloquial in their irrationality. While Donald Trump often gets singled out for departures from measure, diplomacy and an understanding of reality, there have been many occasions when his more mundane western colleagues have radically outdone his own provocative statements.
Of course, when Trump threatened to “destroy” North Korea at the UN, while peddling un-truth after un-truth about Iran, he does seem like a contender for most unhinged politician in all the west. But when it comes to the recent issue of the retired British spy of Russian origin Sergey Skripal, Trump has displayed a level of rationality that others in both the US and UK would be wise to learn from.
While Trump has not made an on-camera or Twitter statement about the Skripal incident, according to journalist Trey Yingst, Trump has stated that he will refrain from issuing any condemnation of anyone, until the relevant facts of the Skripal incident become known.
On the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, President Trump tells me that the US will "condemn Russia or whoever it may be," once the facts are straight on the incident
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) March 13, 2018
This contrasts sharply with statements from the British Premier who before any investigation has even taken place, the Russian state is “highly likely” a culprit, of an incident that has not yet been determined to be a crime or an unusual accident.
It has become de rigueur in western countries to target the international news broadcaster RT whenever an issue concerning Russia is in the news. While many in the US Congress have spoken out against RT and while Barack Obama’s final Secretary of State John Kerry called RT a “propaganda bullhorn”, Trump has shied away from making provocative remarks about the broadcaster which like the BBC, France 24 and Al Jazeera, has offices in the United States in order to better cover news stories.
Yet in the UK, following calls from members of parliament to “shut down RT”, the UK broadcasting regulator Off-com has written the following ominous message to RT,
“We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation. This letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK, we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper”.
This threatening letter appears to be the first stage of a calculated attempt to ban RT from the UK airwaves for admittedly political purposes. To his credit, Donald Trump has not only refrained from speaking out against RT, but during his campaign, he did a phone-in interview on US broadcasting legend Larry King’s RT show Politicking.
While Donald Trump often gets well deserved criticism for some very poor policies ranging from Palestine to Pakistan, Syria to Sudan, when it comes to free speech pertaining to anything remotely Russian, Trump is generally far fairer than many of his colleagues.
The current war against RT in the UK is both surreal and disturbing. In a free and fair open media marketplace which much of the world is in the 21st century, the concept of singling out a single broadcaster for censorship as a part of a wider political agenda, smacks of the kind of totalitarianism that many had hoped to leave behind in the last century.
In Russia for example, both the BBC and CNN broadcast freely, but those in Britain should know that as has been warned before, any action taken against RT, will result in reciprocal actions taken against western broadcasters by Russian authorities. Russia has in fact issued a statement to the UK stating that if London officials remove RT from the airwaves, all British media outlets in Russia will be shut down by the government authorities.
UK politicians of all parties have taken total flight of their senses and are engaged in not just an information war, but a censorship war. RT will by no means be the last media outlet to be targeted. It is merely the first on what is sure to be a very slippery slope descending into information tyranny. In such a world, all opinions which differ from the official government line will likely be condemned or even criminalised. All those who support the peaceful exercise of free speech ought to support RT by making public statements on social media and elsewhere demanding that RT be allowed to retain its licence to broadcast freely not just in the US or UK, but throughout the wider world.
In a marketplace of ideas, the world becomes poorer when any one of the many channels of information is aggressively shut down or otherwise censored.