Curating identities and dissent in a globalized media ecology: Cross front populism on RT

Dr Precious N Chatterje-Doody, Paper presented at conference of the Association for the Study of Ethnicities and Nationalism, 2018

Keywords: Russia, national identity, populism


Since 2005, Russia’s state funded international broadcaster RT (Formerly Russia Today) has represented Russia, and a Russian perspective on global politics, for international audiences. The network has been extensively sanctioned for its misleading coverage, but it has also received accolades for both its investigative journalism and pedagogical outputs. The outputs of RT TV are designed to appeal a wide variety of audiences from across the political spectrum, by foregrounding populist tenets with cross front political appeal. Counterintuitively, this transcends, but is also contingent upon, traditional notions of nationalism. This paper explores the ways in which RT TV presents its outputs in order to appeal to disparate sections of international audiences united in their skepticism towards the contemporary system of political economic organization. It conceptualizes RT as a consensus building tool aimed at creating the conditions of possibility in which structural critiques of the international system can achieve a greater resonance. Through an in-depth analysis of the network’s output, this paper examines how populist tropes recur within RT’s coverage: repeated through carefully curated topics of focus; restricted modes of representation; and the foregrounding of favoured themes. The output of RT therefore consistently redefines the global political economy in ways appealing to those marginalized by current systems of political and economic organization, regardless of their political orientation or nationality. In promoting this cross front populism, RT’s content exploits existing predispositions to anti-Americanism; sympathy for Russia; and scepticism of the mainstream media.