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A Tale of Two Russia Today Anchors

03/06/2014 05:16 EST | Updated 05/06/2014 05:59 EDT

There are two sorts of people who call themselves anti-imperialists: those who oppose imperialism, and those who oppose imperialism in specific instances because it is not wrapped in their preferred flag or ideology. Although Vladimir Putin's recent decisions regarding Crimea have received much deserved criticism over the last few days, most of his critics unfortunately fall solidly into the latter sort of anti-imperialist.

They take on the rhetoric of 'defending sovereignty,' cry that these sorts of actions cannot be tolerated in the 21st century, and then let everyone know that they really, really, really just care about the fate of the Ukrainian people. Yet despite this rhetoric (which would be great if it were honest), nationalists can never really cover their tracks from the observant, and the ensuing hypocrisy is often nauseating.

Take for instance John Kerry's remark on the ongoing situation, claiming,

"You just don't invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests ... This is an act of aggression that is completely trumped up in terms of its pretext."

How this could come out of Kerry's mouth with a straight face is beyond me, yet due to American exceptionalism there will always be an audience who will eat it up. As such, it is not surprising that the divide between genuine anti-imperialists and their badly disguised nationalist counterparts has arisen in media coverage on Crimea over the last couple days.

On March 3, Russia Today-America anchor Abby Martin ended a segment of her show "Breaking The Set" by decrying the Russian intervention into Crimea. She claimed that,

"Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs. What Russia did is wrong."

This statement will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Martin's work, as she has consistently expressed opposition to any sort of imperialist interventions. As far as I can tell, Martin is one of the rare genuine anti-imperialists with access to a sizeable audience.

Yet Martin has not been the only RT-America employee to speak out against Putin's actions. On the evening of March 5, anchor Liz Wahl resigned from RT-America at the end of her 5 p.m. broadcast. She claimed that,

"I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I'm resigning."

Later that evening, both Martin and Wahl were on CNN with Piers Morgan discussing their recent statements. Morgan conceded that Martin may have editorial independence on her show, but questioned how she could put up with the supposed propaganda dominating the rest of RT-America's programming. Martin rightfully pointed out that RT-America, though biased, is not radically different than any of the corporate-controlled U.S. media.

This was a much-needed comment, as the sort of hypocrisy surrounding the justification of imperialist actions also runs rampant in regard to the supposed bias of news stations. This was exemplified by Wahl's comments on Morgan's show, as she made it clear that she loves America and believes in "the truth, [and] trying to seek the truth," implying that somehow she would avoid being a mouthpiece for government at, for example, CNN. Or perhaps being a mouthpiece is not a problem to her; the problem is just that she has found herself on the wrong side of the fence.

RT-America's separate reaction to both resignations does a super job of illustrating the issue at hand here. RT-America has not yet reprimanded Martin in any way, and stated,

"Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn't beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby's commentary on the Ukraine."

Yet in regard to Wahl, RT-America stated,

"Ms. Wahl's resignation comes on the heels of her colleague Abby Martin's recent comments in which she voiced her disagreement with certain policies of the Russian government and asserted her editorial independence. The difference is, Ms. Martin spoke in the context of her own talk show, to the viewers who have been tuning in for years to hear her opinions on current events - the opinions that most media did not care about until two days ago. For years, Ms. Martin has been speaking out against US military intervention, only to be ignored by the mainstream news outlets - but with that one comment, branded as an act of defiance, she became an overnight sensation. It is a tempting example to follow. When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt. We wish Liz the best of luck on her chosen path."

While it's not fair to speculate that Wahl made her dramatic exit in order to score a new, and potentially higher paying, job, it is certain that her patriotic exit will likely be rewarded by American media. This is because most of America does not really want genuine anti-imperialists. They prefer hypocrites. The American media is no different.

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