The U.S. Justice Department has ordered RT America to register as a foreign agent of Russia by Monday, or risk the federal government seizing the assets of the Kremlin-backed cable channel.
RT America, in turn, vowed to challenge the order in court, which is based on 1938 legislation signed to prevent pro-Nazi actions on American soil.
Over in Moscow, Kremlin officials also have warned they may reciprocate by placing restrictions on American journalists who work in Russia. “If someone starts to fight dirty, perverting the law by using it as a tool to eradicate the TV station, every move aimed against the Russian media outlet would be repaid in kind,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Of course, this is all fallout from last year, when we learned that Russians had backed efforts not only to hack into the Democratic National Committee’s emails, but also to influence American voters with propaganda and inflammatory lies during the 2016 presidential campaign. How the Trump Administration may have cooperated, enabled or otherwise supported the Russians to help Trump win the presidency, and then lied about it after the fact, has fueled the growing federal investigation run by Special Counsel and former FBI chief Robert Mueller. That investigation already has indicted a former Trump campaign manager in Paul Manafort, who’d previously been funded by pro-Putin Russian oligarchs, and led to a guilty plea for at least one campaign adviser.
What does this have to do with comedy?
One of RT America’s weekly TV shows is Redacted Tonight, a half-hour satirical look at the news hosted by comedian Lee Camp.
Camp has appeared previously in The Comic’s Comic as a political comedian then based in New York City, and he also had actively supported the Occupy Wall Street movement before moving to D.C. and taking the gig with RT America. His staff and correspondents include other comedians I’ve known for years.
I haven’t written about Redacted Tonight because it’s funded by the Kremlin, and though I support Camp, I didn’t want to support Mother Russia.
Now that his bosses are forced to acknowledge their explicit connection to the Kremlin, I reached out to Camp for comment. Here is what he emailed me this afternoon, complete and unedited per his request (and do I have to also disclose that I have no genetic connection to the McCarthy referenced whenever someone mentions McCarthyism? either way, that’s disclosed once more):
“Forcing RT America to register as a ‘foreign agent’ is a laughable move by our neo-McCarthyist corporate government. No government official has seen fit to give proof showing how RT America is any different from BBC, CBC, or any other state broadcasters. RT America has programs and guests that represent both the right-wing and left-wing (ie me, Chris Hedges, Mike Papantonio) of American politics. Famed personalities Larry King, Jesse Ventura, and Ed Schultz are there as well. Where’s the evidence showing RT America is a foreign lobbying group? None has been presented. I agree with author Max Blumenthal who says this is clearly just a test case for a wider campaign of media suppression. All anti-establishment voices and content creators – whether they be on YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms – should be ready to be the next in line for heavy suppression. The death of freedom of speech will come wrapped in an American flag.”
Here is the most recent full episode of Redacted Tonight on the show’s YouTube channel, if you’d like to see what Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or Full Frontal with Samantha Bee would look like if they took a hard left turn into progressive socialism.