I didn't tune in to the Academy Awards last night because I "cut the cable" a couple of months back. I suppose I could have caught it online but I just wasn't that interested.
That's not to say I did without television. I fired up my trusty Roku box and scanned through a bunch of channels, most of which I have but have never watched. I finally settled on RT, Russia Today. I hadn't seen RT for months, possibly back before Trump won the election.
A good while back I caught a lot of flack for pointing out that RT, no matter how reasonable it might seem, was still an agent of the Russian government, Putin's media outlet. Apparently some didn't like to hear that.
I wasn't prepared for what I watched last night. RT has truly flipped the switch. It is decidedly pro-Trump and echoes his talking points about draining the swamp, fake news, the media as enemy of the American people.
It was pure Agitprop in the finest tradition of the communist propaganda of the Soviet era. The earlier, more or less reasonable RT was gone. This was in the mould of Tass or Pravda.
Then they launched into Europe, again with a clear right wing populist slant.
After an hour of this I tried to make sense of what I'd witnessed. What were they getting at? The only conclusion I could reach was that the Russians have taken off the mask because they want to foment and exploit chaos across the European Union and in the United States. Trump has become the surprise answer to their dreams even when adversarial.
Oh well, I hope you enjoyed the Oscars.
Update: It turns out the New York Times sees Russia's play the same way.
“They think he is unstable, that he can be manipulated, that he is authoritarian and a person without a team,” Alexei A. Venediktov, the editor in chief of Echo of Moscow, a liberal radio station, said of President Trump.
The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, has long sought to crack the liberal Western order, both as a competitor and as a champion of an alternative, illiberal model. To that end, he did what he could to buttress the electoral chances of Mr. Trump, who seemed like a kindred spirit with his harsh denunciations of NATO and the European Union, his endorsement of the British withdrawal from the European Union and his repeated shrugs over Russia’s destabilizing Ukraine.
In this context, Mr. Trump’s election was an unexpected bonus, but the original giddiness has worn off and Moscow has returned to its tried and true formula of creating turmoil and exploiting the resulting opportunities.
“They are all telling each other that this is great, he created this turbulence inside, as we wanted, and now he is focused on his domestic problems and we have more freedom to manoeuvre,” Mr. Venediktov said. “Let them deal with their own problems. There, not in Ukraine. There, not in the Middle East. There, not in NATO. This is the state of mind right now.”
Sergei A. Markov, a leading analyst friendly to the Kremlin, made much the same point. “Right now the Kremlin is looking for ways that Russia can use the chaos in Washington to pursue its own interests,” said Mr. Markov, a member of the Civic Chamber, a Kremlin advisory group. “The main hope is that the U.S. will be preoccupied with itself and will stop pressuring Russia.”