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Reading Pravda

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This is kind of interesting; I open up Fox News and find a front page article on a threatening new Russian ICBM that’s apparently capable of defeating any US missile defense system. The missile, a variant of the Topol-M, isn’t new. The Russian claims that the ICBM can defeat a missile defense system aren’t new, either. Fox’s shoddy reporting aside, though, it’s curious that someone decided to front this article today. Russia has become threatening and irritating in any number of ways over the past five years or so, so why the alarmist report now on an event that amounts to, essentially, nothing?

Fox’s model is a remarkable synthesis of canny consumerism and political purpose; they understand that they need to please a consumer base expecting red meat, yet at the same time they can lure that base in particular directions. I’m wondering whether this article is part of the first project, or of the second. Does the braintrust at Fox think that the base is ripe for some Russia baiting? They have a viewership that trends old, white, and male, and might have some fond memories of the Cold War. Still, I can’t remember all that many articles at Fox recently highlighting the Russian threat. On the other hand, could the folks at Fox be thinking that this is the time to emphasize national security in a way that doesn’t refer to Iraq or to the War on Terror? The article takes pains to conjure a new Russian threat, mentioning that the new ICBM was (purportedly) developed in response to the withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and pointing out Russian intransigence on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty.

So I have to wonder, is this part of an effort to steer the media debate towards national security, but in a way that ignores Iraq and the GWOT? Are we going to see the Republican nominee next year denounce his Democratic opponent for being insufficiently tough on the Russians? Indeed, (and this would be truly perverse) I have to wonder if we’ll see someone claim that we oughtn’t withdraw from Iraq because “we can’t look weak in front of the Russians”.

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