By ROBERT MACKEY
After St. Louis county police officers in full battle gear trained sniper rifles on peaceful protesters in the suburb of Ferguson last week, and then proceeded to douse the streets in tear gas and round up journalists, a Russia analyst named Mark Adomanis observed that images of a crackdown on dissent in the United States would make life easier for the man recently put in charge of propaganda for the Kremlin, Dmitry Kiselyov.
As my colleague David Herszenhorn reports, Russia’s state television channels have indeed featured the violence in Ferguson in heavy rotation since then and an anchor in Moscow told Russian viewers on Tuesday that the situation in Ferguson was veering close to civil war. “Cases of racism are still not rare in the nation of exemplary democracy,” the government-controlled channel Rossiya 24 explained.
Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian foreign ministry’s commissioner for “human rights, democracy and rule of law,” also weighed in Tuesday on the police response to the protests in Ferguson over the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, on Aug. 9. Taking note of “the high degree of tension in U.S. society, which remains split along racial lines,” Mr. Dolgov said that the U.S. “should take care of large-scale internal problems and take effective measures to resolve them.”
The ministry’s official Twitter feed shared a report on Mr. Dolgov’s comments with a photograph of Hedy Epstein, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor and political activist based in St. Louis, being arrested on Monday for protesting the Missouri governor’s decision to deploy the National Guard in Ferguson.
“While urging other countries to guarantee the freedom of speech and not to suppress antigovernment protests, the United States authorities at home are not too soft with those actively expressing discontent over persistent inequalities, actual discrimination and the situation of ‘second class’ citizens,” Mr. Dolgov added.
The “extreme mayhem” has also become a major focus for the Kremlin-funded news network Russia Today, or RT, which targets viewers abroad through broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic that often highlight America’s shortcomings with a neo-Soviet zeal.
A new advertising campaign for the Kremlin-funded news network Russia Today, or RT, tries to persuade New Yorkers to view it as an alternative to American channels.
This week, RT’s main English-language channel featured regular updates from the “war zone” by its correspondent Anastasia Churkina — a daughter of Russia’s United Nations ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin.
[Video: An update from Ferguson, Mo., on the Kremlin-funded news network Russia Today, or RT. Watch on YouTube.]
RT’s news agency, Ruptly, has filled its YouTube channel with live streams from Ferguson, raw footage of tear gas victims and a drone’s-eye view of protesters near a looted and torched gas station.
[Video: Raw footage of a photographer suffering from the effects of tear gas in Ferguson. Watch on YouTube.]
[Video: Video of the damage in Ferguson from a state-funded Russian news agency. Watch on YouTube.]
Absent from this coverage was any mention of the laws that effectively ban street protests in Russia or the jailing of prominent bloggers and dissidents. Then again, as the Russian-American writer Julia Ioffe explained in The New Republic last week, officials in Moscow have long relied on discussions of racial inequality in the United States to counter criticism of their own human rights abuses. “The now sacred Russian tactic of ‘whataboutism’ started with civil rights,” Ms. Ioffe wrote. “Whenever the U.S. pointed to Soviet human rights violations, the Soviets had an easy riposte. ‘Well, you,’ they said, ‘lynch Negros.’”
While the unrest has also shocked American observers and foreign correspondents from other Western democracies — including British and German reporters who have been struck by the “sounds of battle” and endured arrest — some of the most strident criticism of the police violence in Ferguson has come from authoritarian nations where the police are often venerated and dissent is scarcely tolerated.
Coverage that echoes the broadcasts from Moscow has also appeared on Iran’s state-run Press TV, in reports about the use of force “to suppress protests in Ferguson,” that also make no mention of how demonstrations are dispersed in Iran.
[Video: An English-language broadcast from Iran on the unrest in Ferguson. Watch on YouTube.]
A series of updates to the Twitter feed of Iran’s nation’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, took matters further. Several tweets in the ayatollah’s name drew attention to America’s long history of racism.
Other messages from Iran’s supreme leader were premised on the conspiracy theory that American leaders ignore the suffering of their own people because of “Zionist domination” and a preoccupation with the defense of Israel.
Not to be outdone, a spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, Badr Abdel-Atti, told the official news agency MENA on Tuesday that his country was “closely following” the protests in Ferguson. According to the state-owned Ahram Online, Egypt “called on U.S. authorities to exercise restraint and deal with the protests in accordance with U.S. and international standards.” The statement came just days after the first anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of peaceful protesters by the same military-backed government.
As my colleague Austin Ramzy reported, China’s official Xinhua news agency also published a commentary this week attacking the United States for racism and hypocrisy when it comes to human rights. “The Ferguson incident once again demonstrates that even if in a country that has for years tried to play the role of an international human rights judge and defender, there is still much room for improvement at home,” Xinhua editorialized. “Obviously,” it concluded, “what the United States needs to do is to concentrate on solving its own problems rather than always pointing fingers at others.”
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(via NY Times)