Stated Goals vs Actual Goals: "CrossTalk" Lives Up to Its Name

Last week, I was on RT's show "CrossTalk" about Syria and ended up spending most of the show trying to make a point I didn't think I'd have to on that media outlet. 

Here's the video: 

RT of course used to be know as Russia Today and is often regarded as extremely critical of U.S. government policy. But, I found out, not really that critical. [Video also here.]

As the show got going, the thrust of the conversation was that U.S. policy in the Mideast was "irrational". So, I made the point that one shouldn't exclude the possibility that U.S. government policy wasn't actually irrational, but rather that its stated goals -- democracy, stability, fighting terrorism -- were actually different from its actual goals. It might therefore appear to be irrational because its actions wouldn't "make sense" if you took it at its word, but they would have a Machiavellian logic to them. 

I thought it a fairly obvious point, but the other folks kept going back to either standard pro-Putin talking points or to their "irrational" depiction of U.S. policy, so I'd make that point again. The host, Peter Lavelle, at one point seemed -- there was a lot of CrossTalk, so can't be sure -- to say I didn't have a basic understand of foreign policy, which was actually the charge I was leveling at him. "Governments lie" as I.F. Stone was fond of reminding students

At first I thought that they were just being foolish by not seeing the point I was making -- they're supposed to be critics of U.S. government policy. Then I wondered if the notion of parsing through a government's stated goals vs its actual goals might be threatening to folks who take their queues from the establishment of any country. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. establishment is rather nimble at questioning the motives of official enemies, so contrast how Putin is written about in the U.S.: "Putin’s goals in Syria clear to all but Obama," "Moscow’s many stated reasons for fighting in Ukraine are either false or incoherent. Its actual goals, unfortunately, preclude a tidy and quick resolution ever taking hold," "Russia's real Syria goal explained by top experts". In this environment, when Putin's goals are regularly scrutinized -- sometimes in contorted manner -- and U.S. establishment goals are barely scrutinized at all, many end up drawing conclusions like "Putin outwits the United States, again" -- a questionable conclusion that perhaps some at RT have a stake in promulgating as well. 

The deeper issue is that we have these media outlets of various nationalities -- RT for Russia, France 24 for France, CNN for the U.S. establishment, Fox for the U.S. establishment rightwing, MSNBC for U.S. establishment corporate liberals, Al-Jazeera for Qatar, Al-Arabia for Saudi Arabia, CCTV for China, etc. 

They all foster shallowness and a ultimately prize hacks over real journalists. 

We desperately need a global, real network dedicated to real facts and meaningful dialogue between various viewpoints. 

Addendum: "More CrossTalk™"

5 responses
Sam, I think the issue with CrossTalk is that Lavalle is a lightweight, and the recruitment talent in the media is poor. You can see it all accross the board. Hiring intelligent moderators, is inexplicably difficult. You're not the first person to run into trouble with Lavalle. The guy has gotten his fair share of pushback from some guests, and he does provide an arena for heated discussion, but he's some mediocrity from a college in California who doesn't really have the class, charm, or intellect to do more than he's doing. Tim Sebastian would be the ideal fellow for these sort of debates, but he remains tightly on London's payroll. There's just slim pickings. So your idea about a global network - good luck. I mean you'll have an even harder time hiring the talent. It's just not easy. Go back on the show, go talk on RT, make your points perhaps a few more times, I'm sure they'll give you a second chance. Write them a formal complaint and say " I want round two" since I doubt anyone with a brain wouldn't agree with the point you were making. I think it was more the heat of the moment that resulted in a dispute and disbelief about the points you were making. Unless otherwise these guys are that stupid.
Thanks Arielle, I emailed my piece to the producer for what that's worth. I think that people have been lead along by Al Jazeera and now RT. I'm sure there are decent people working at these outlets, but ultimate control is in the hands of quasi government officials and you can't really rely on a network like that. Serious independent, global structures need to be built or we're in for a very rough ride. Don't think that The Real News or Democracy Now or Telesur or such are really doing whats needed.
Sam, I was appalled at how you were treated on the Crosstalk discussion. I thought I was watching Fox News. I have been a fairly regular viewer of the show, but always with a flexible-critical class analysis. I understood clearly what you meant about United States foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, in general, and towards Syria, specifically. I concluded in my book, entitled The Destruction of a Nation: United States Policy towards Angola, 1945 to the Present (Pluto Press, 1997), that the United States would rather have chaos and destabilization rather that a regime it could not control maintaining "stability." Interestingly, I can not recall the guest or date off the top of my head, but one of the guests within the year on Crosstalk, made a similar point as you tried to make. As I recall, Peter Lavelle agreed with the point. I guess a lot has gone under the bridge since that broadcast. Professor Emeritus George Wright, Department of Political Science, California State University, Chico
Thanks very much Prof. Wright, very interesting comments. Please drop me a line! sam -- at -- accuracy dot org.... This actually highlights how a regular person, by closely watching various media, can infer the shifting alliances. So much is in plain sight. Don't swallow the spin, use it as a guide.
***"Then I wondered if the notion of parsing through a government's stated goals vs its actual goals might be threatening to folks who take their queues from the establishment of any country.*** I think you nailed it Sam. @mikedelic hilariously dubs this dynamic "clownwashing" It seems to be a curious form of American Exceptionalism, where plainly strategic features of a system (destabilization vs. nationalism) are willfully confused as bugs. Gee Whiz imperialism. I believe Jay Rosen called Wikileaks our first "stateless news organization", or something to that effect. It may provide a model for the future, but given the pile of shit they have to deal with, a foreboding one.