Menu Close

Carlson’s interview with Putin exposes Western media bias

Share This Article:

Picture: Gavriil Grigorov / POOL / AFP / on February 6, 2024 – In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to US talk show host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 6. The way the western media has responded to the interview is problematic and exposes the instrumentalisation of global media platforms in peddling one-sided and pro-West narratives about the state of the world, the writer says.

By David Monyae

US former Fox News host Tucker Carlson sat down with the Russian President Vladmir Putin for a wide-ranging two-hour interview at the Kremlin. The interview was broadcast on Carlson’s YouTube channel on February 9, and has since garnered an incredible 16 million views at the time of writing.

Carlson and Putin discussed a number of issues including the history of Russia and Ukraine, the circumstances that led to the Russia-Ukraine war, the state of global order, which has moved, the US elections, China, the Nord Stream explosion, de-dollarisation, de-Nazification of the Ukrainian government, Elon Musk and the emerging technologies, and Orthodox Christianity among others. President Putin laid the blame for the escalation of tensions in Ukraine on the actions of the US and the West not least their intention to accept Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) which would have threatened Russia’s security.

He further claimed that Russia is open to a negotiated settlement to bring the hostilities in Ukraine to an end, but the US remains a stumbling block urging Ukraine to fight on. The veracity of the claims made by the Russian leader is a legitimate object of contestation. However, the way the western media has responded to the interview is problematic to say the least and exposes the instrumentalisation of global media platforms in peddling one-sided and pro-West narratives about the state of the world.

This was roundly dismissed in the western media and described as boring, nonsense, and servile just to mention a few of the insulting and derogatory adjectives used by western media platforms in relation to the interview. In other instances, Carlson has been blamed for giving a platform to a person responsible for the brutal war in Ukraine, which has turned Ukrainian neighbourhoods into ruins and claimed tens of thousands of innocent lives. The CNN lamented that Carlson gave the Russian President a platform to “spread his propaganda to a global audience with little to no scrutiny of his claims”. Carlson has also been criticised for failing to challenge Putin and allowing him the latitude to state Russia’s case without scrutiny.

The tantrum being thrown by the western mainstream media following Carlson’s sit-down with President Putin is sad but not surprising. Boasting a big war chest, which has enabled them to field bureaus in every corner of the world, traditional western media outlets have always enjoyed the monopoly of shaping the narrative of global events to advance specific interests and agendas even to the detriment of justice and global peace. Their audiences have had a steady diet of pro-West reporting rammed down their throats.

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict, the global media has promoted the narrative that President Putin and Russia are bent on annexing Ukraine as part of a plan to resuscitate the Soviet Union. Russia has been characterised as a belligerent power whose actions undermine global peace and stability while Putin has been branded a bloodthirsty monster. All this without ever giving the Russian leader a chance to explain his side of the story, thus breaching one of the most fundamental values they profess to hold dear: the right of reply.

Neither did the western media scrutinise or challenge the narrative advanced by the western political elite as they demand of Carlson. Moreover, in a shameful violation of media freedom, western powers also decided to remove Russia Today, the Russian state-owned news network, from their platforms thus depriving people of hearing what Russia has to say about what is happening in Ukraine. It begs the question why the West is so afraid of a multiplicity and diversity of voices in the media space.

The whole narrative around the Russia-Ukraine war has been centred around Putin-bashing without questioning how the US and the expansionist policies of Nato contributed to the war in Ukraine. The media is peddling a narrative that does not promote reconciliation and peaceful resolution of the conflict. Instead, Russia and Putin and their allies are portrayed as a danger to global order and the noble West must do all in its power to stop them in their tracks and save the day.

The bias of the western media has been laid embarrassingly bare in its coverage of the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict. The coverage has sought to explain, justify, and legitimise Israel’s brutal and genocidal bombardment of Palestinians since October last year in a campaign that has claimed more than 30,000 lives and displaced millions more. The US and its western allies have pumped billions of dollars to aid and abet Israel’s onslaught in Gaza.

Perhaps the most significant incident that exposed the western media’s bias in the conflict was when major western outlets such as CNN, BBC, Sky News, and France 24 among others ignored and failed to broadcast South Africa’s January 11 presentation in a case it brought before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of harbouring genocidal intentions in its actions and policies on Gaza. However, the very same networks carried a live broadcast of the Israeli side’s presentation the following day seeking to absolve the Jewish state of the allegations brought forward by South Africa. It appears as if these networks and the people who control them wanted to shield their audiences from hearing the other side of the story on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Thankfully, the new media is democratising the global media space and is disrupting the monopolistic stranglehold of the western mainstream media. Tucker Carlson, armed with social media platforms with massive following, is the personification of how social media has helped to challenge one-sided global narratives by promoting alternative stories and voices. The scathing criticism of Tucker Carlson’s interview flooding the western media outlets is not based on principles or values.

They are just realising that social media has pulled the rug from under their feet and thrown wide open a space they once controlled as their own. To remain relevant, the western mainstream media should start being objective and grant alternative voices some airtime. These days, stories are shred into pieces on social media as they are being broadcast. The traditional western media should stop holding on to a world that no longer exists and adapt to the shifts that have taken place to salvage whatever is left of its relevance and credibility.

Prof David Monyae is Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science, and Director of the Africa-China Studies Centre at the University of Johannesburg