Former New Republic staffer and conservative writer James Kirchick went on RT today to talk about the Bradley Manning verdict. Instead, he popped on a pair of rainbow suspenders and began to troll the RT anchors for two and a half minutes about everything: the anti-gay law, about the fact that RT is a Kremlin propaganda channel, about what happens to journalists in Russia.
This segment brought me pure, unalloyed joy for several reasons. One, Russia Today is a ridiculous sham of an organization where "whataboutism" reigns supreme. It unintentionally produces segments—like this one on America's colonization of Sweden ("The United States of Swedamerica")—that seem like they were picked up off the cutting room floor at "The Colbert Report." When Russian President Vladimir Putin talks about the editorial process of RT, he uses the first person plural—"we"—because it was founded by the Kremlin not as a news channel, but as a counterweight to Western (and, in the Kremlin's view, anti-Russian) media. Moreover, it hires Westerners, often ones who can't hack it in the West, to run its shows, using their perfect English and either their cynicism or naivete to present its view without an accent. If you've ever wanted to see what cognitive dissonance looks like, try having a drink with an RT employee living in Moscow.
But the main reason Kirchick's performance is spectacular is because this is exactly what people should be doing to protest Moscow's anti-gay laws: Don't boycott Russia, troll it. Boycotting them gives them a sense of wounded pride and artificial importance; trolling, they don't know what to do with. As Mr. Kirchick so aptly demonstrated today.