Kremlin finds its James O’Keefe for Ukraine

Buzzfeed ran a very detailed takedown on a British freelance vlogger named Graham Phillips, who is stringing (temp-reporting) regularly for Russian state media, especially RT, all of which answer (to varying degrees) to the Kremlin in Moscow.

The best way I can describe him is that he’s like a British James O’Keefe but for Russian media instead of Breitbart. Just walks into places with a camera, gets people to make up stuff, and “reports” it. (Not to mention a shared, if rather more literal in Phillips’s case, affinity for prostitution.)

Here’s just one of many great pull quotes from the Buzzfeed exposé:

He seems unaware — either through gleeful disregard or rookie ignorance — of basic journalistic ethics, objectivity, or production values. He acts as if he has no concerns for his own personal safety, running across fields toward Ukrainian army installations, interviewing rebels as bullets fly overhead, and baiting militia manning rebel checkpoints.

In addition to his otherwise very weird background, there’s some indication that his current hostility toward the new government in Kiev may be motivated entirely by a recent breakup with a Ukrainian girlfriend who happened to support the protest movement. So now he just wanders around Eastern Ukraine posting crazy 30-90 second videos “interviewing” locals with no fact-checking, which racks up millions of views in sympathetic (Russian) circles.

Another great pull:

He says that he has no particular connection to or affinity for Russia, though he uses language of “fascists” and the “Kiev junta” that often matches Russian talking points word for word.

“There’s this idea that I have this dark line to the Kremlin but it’s really not the case,” he said. “They’ve got this terminology that they use but also that matches my own. That is how I feel,” he added. When pressed on how exactly he developed his political beliefs, Phillips is evasive, but says that they are based on observations from his time spent living in Ukraine. He has only visited Russia “a couple times” on holiday. “It’s very nice,” he said.

Beyond his frequent sales of video clips to Russian media, he is also selling to U.S. web publications such as POLITICO and Newsweek. All told, he’s made $20,000 in less than two months off the videos, with more during the Crimea invasion.

Which is stupid for everyone, including the Russian media, because his clips are so riddled with errors that even RT has had to retract some of them. And that is impressive.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official. Follow him @BillHumphreyMA on twitter.
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