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YouTube Continues its Assault on the Press, Removes 6 Years of Chris Hedges' RT Show From Platform

© AFP 2023 / KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEVThis picture taken in Moscow on October 12, 2021 shows the logo of Youtube social media on a smartphone screen.
This picture taken in Moscow on October 12, 2021 shows the logo of Youtube social media on a smartphone screen.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.03.2022
On Monday, YouTube removed six years' worth of episodes of the Emmy-nominated show On Contact by Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges. The show was produced by RT, formerly Russia Today, but Hedges maintained editorial control.
No explanation, forewarning or notice was given by YouTube, the videos simply disappeared, according to Hedges, who wrote about the experience on ScheerPost in an article titled “On Being Disappeared.
“I received no inquiry or notice from YouTube. I vanished. In totalitarian systems you exist, then you don’t. I suppose this was done in the name of censoring Russian propaganda, although I have a hard time seeing how a detailed discussion of “Ulysses” or the biographies of Susan Sontag and J. Robert Oppenheimer had any connection in the eyes of the most obtuse censors in Silicon Valley with Vladimir Putin. Indeed, there is not one show that dealt with Russia.”
On Contact contained interviews with a wide range of individuals. From social commentators like Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, novelist Russell Banks, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, among many others, the show provided a platform for many different voices.
RT America (formerly Russia Today America) is funded by the Russian government, not unlike Sputnik News. RT was dropped from American cable networks and YouTube after Russia’s special operation in Ukraine. The EU and the UK also banned RT and in the case of the EU, Sputnik News.
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The justification for Russian media’s disappearance in the West was over allegations of “Russian disinformation” being spread, particularly as it pertains to the situation in Ukraine. With the removal of On Contact, the justification has seemingly been expanded to include not just Ukraine but any information with even a tenuous connection to Russia.
On Contact did not discuss the situation in Ukraine, its primary focus was on the multitude of issues facing the West. Hedges, the former New York Times journalist and creator of On Contact, explains.
“I was on RT because, as a vocal critic of US imperialism, militarism, the corporate control of the two ruling parties, and especially because I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, I was blacklisted. I was on RT for the same reason the dissident Vaclav Havel, who I knew, was on Voice of America during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. It was that or not be heard. Havel had no more love for the policies of Washington than I have for those of Moscow.”
Hedges’ channel is not the only one to be censored as US tech giants look to appease their government’s foreign policy objectives. As he mentions, Progressive Soapbox was recently demonetized and Status Coup was suspended for airing footage of the January 6 riots, something nearly every mainstream outlet also aired.
As OpIndia points out, the Indian news channel WION was suspended for airing parts of a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. WION claims Western outlets also covered the speech but were not de-platformed.
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YouTube, as a private entity, can choose what it allows on its platform. However, YouTube’s dominance of its marketplace essentially makes it the video platform of record on the internet. If a video is not on YouTube, it might as well not exist. Its biggest direct competitors are Dailymotion and Vimeo, which have a fraction of YouTube’s audience.
Congress has recently begun pressuring social media platforms to combat ‘disinformation.’ With the massive scope of large tech companies, corporate censorship is almost as impactful as government censorship.
“A few decades ago, we still had a press that, however flawed, had not rendered whole segments of the population, especially the poor and social critics, invisible. It is perhaps telling that our greatest investigative journalist, Sy Hersh, who exposed the massacre of 500 unarmed Vietnamese civilians by US soldiers at My Lai and the torture at Abu Ghraib, has trouble publishing in the United States. I would direct you to the interview I did with Sy about the decayed state of the American media, but it no longer exists on YouTube.”
Fans of Hedges can find his remaining work on ScheerPost or by subscribing to his substack.
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