There’s a scene near the end of Elem Klimov’s classic 1985 Soviet anti-war film ‘Come and See’, where a member of a Nazi unit that had just burned alive hundreds of Belarusian villagers issues a hate-filled diatribe against the Soviet partisans who held him and his fellow murderers captive.
“You’ve got no right to be,” the Nazi says, generating an angry roar from the partisans who have him surrounded.
“Listen!” Kosach, the commander of the partisan unit hisses. “Everyone, listen!”
The partisans fell silent.
“Inferior races spread the contagion of communism,” the Nazi continued. “You have no right to be here. And our mission will be accomplished. If not today, tomorrow.”
Listen. Everyone, Listen.
In July 2022, Peter Ermolin, a producer with the Russian RuTube channel ‘Solovyov Live!’ reached out to see if I might be interested in a collaboration that would take advantage of their existing studio infrastructure to create a podcast where I served as host. My job would be to interview Russian personalities – academics, military and intelligence professionals, politicians, and journalists. These interviews would be posted on YouTube so that they might become accessible to American and Western audiences who otherwise, largely because of the Russophobic cancel culture in place in the West, would be denied the opportunity to hear them. The interviews would be streamed live on RuTube and YouTube, to both Russian and non-Russian audiences. Although I am not, by training or ambition, a media host, I agreed, if for no other reason than I, as a long-time Russia analyst, would benefit intellectually from such interaction. If others could benefit from the same, so much the better.
I had few expectations from what became ‘The Scott Ritter Show’. (I argued in vain for a less ostentatious-sounding name, but Peter pushed back, saying that my name was the best entrée into the Russian market and, by extension, the non-Russian market.) I should point out that I did not receive any compensation from ‘Solovyov Live!’ for my involvement in this project, and the YouTube channel set up to air ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ was not, to the best of my knowledge, monetized; I know I derived no income from this project whatsoever. I participated in this effort because I felt it was the right thing to do. Knowledge, I’m fond of saying, is power, and ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ had the potential to be a unique source of knowledge for those interested in hearing a Russian perspective on complex and controversial issues.
In all honesty, I did not see the show succeeding. As I previously noted, I am not a school-trained interviewer (my past experiences were linked to interactions that could be more likened to interrogations), and the impersonal nature of the project, with myself and my guest speaking using a Skype video link, often communicating through the use of a simultaneous interpreter, only added to the awkwardness of the experience. Our first guest was Leonid Reshetnikov, the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies and a retired lieutenant-general of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. Our 40th episode saw me interview Akhra Avidzba, the commander of the Pyatnashka volunteer brigade fighting on the side of Russia in the Donbass. In the interim, the YouTube channel that aired ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ grew to a modest yet respectable 86,000 subscribers.
While I enjoyed every interview I did, the most joy I got from the process was reading the comments after each episode. Repeatedly, people thanked me for helping bring a Russian voice to the Western audience. For non-Russians, the show was everything I had hoped it could be – a vehicle for bringing Russian voices into their lives. And for Russians, my show proved that their voices mattered, that they did, in fact, have a right to be here.
And then YouTube shut down the channel.
There was no warning given, no indication that a rule had been broken by me or one of my guests. All YouTube did is claim that the channel had violated its rules regarding ‘hate speech’, without providing any indication of how that conclusion had been reached.
Within YouTube there is a division known as Trust and Safety, which is responsible for determining which content is allowed on YouTube. It should come as no surprise that many of the personnel who staff this division are former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA specializes in what is known as ‘information operations’, the art of manipulating data to achieve an intended result. The CIA has a close and continuous relationship with the Ukrainian intelligence service, the SBU, which is responsible for countering what it calls “disinformation” from foreign media outlets. The SBU has, in the past, asked the FBI to intervene to block the Twitter accounts of journalists and persons deemed to be engaged in disseminating narratives that run counter to the official line coming out of Kiev. One can assume that similar connectivity exists regarding the SBU, the CIA, and YouTube.
By cancelling ‘The Scott Ritter Show’, YouTube demonstrated that it was beholden to politicized pressure from ideologically motivated sources to eliminate and/or suppress the ability of Western audiences to access critical Russian voices on issues of relevance. Knowledge is power, and the YouTube/CIA partnership, to better control the population of the collective West, is determined to prevent the accumulation of such power by controlling the content of information in a manner which perpetuates the very fear-based ignorance that Western governments then exploit to achieve their policy objectives. ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ empowered its audience with information that was unavailable anywhere else, and as such posed a threat to those who used ignorance as a weapon.
But the YouTube/CIA partnership is about far more than perpetuating politicized ignorance. It is the embodiment of organizational ‘hate speech’ facilitation, a poster child for Russophobia and the hate-motivated suppression of all things Russian. By shutting down ‘The Scott Ritter Show’, YouTube has become the modern-day manifestation of the Nazi from ‘Come and See’, proclaiming to the world that Russia and Russians have no right to be here. Shutting down the show was a hate-filled action intended to silence hundreds of voices forever.
Listen. Everyone, listen.
“By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive.” These words, taken from Scripture (Matthew 13:14), serve as a lesson to all who have watched YouTube strike down ‘The Scott Ritter Show’, and others like it, for the simple ‘crime’ of daring to shine a light on topics the powers that be who guide YouTube decision-making about content find inconvenient.
As an American, I take umbrage at what is a blatant violation of my First Amendment right of free speech. For all of you would-be Constitution scholars out there shouting that YouTube is a private entity, and as such is not required to adhere to the First Amendment, understand this – if YouTube has in any way enabled the US government, directly or indirectly, to influence what content is permissible, then that is a First Amendment violation.
But the YouTube decision impacts many persons who are not US citizens, including Russians. The YouTube/CIA partnership has undertaken measures designed to erase Russians and Russian thinking from the minds of Americans. Not only do these actions ‘dumb down’ American and Western audiences alike, but they belittle and dehumanize the Russian people by effectively saying “you have no right to be here.”
The antidote to Russophobia is information, especially that which gives voice to a Russian perspective. Russia does have a right to be here, and be heard, just as I have a right to speak freely in a manner which brings a Russian voice to American and Western audiences. I may no longer stream ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ on YouTube. However, I will not be silenced – ‘The Scott Ritter Show’ will continue its mission of bringing Russian voices to non-Russian audiences by streaming on Rumble, an online platform which adheres to free-speech practices, and my work is also still available on Telegram, Twitter/X and my website.
Russian voices must be heard, especially today. Americans must be given the opportunity to hear and understand, and to see and perceive.
Knowledge is power. Listen! Everyone, listen! And you just might learn.