Surprisingly, the anchor and her panel, which consisted of RT’s news editor and a correspondent, allowed me to go on like this for more than two minutes. I even got in a line about how anyone who works for RT should be “ashamed” of themselves, and I asked the host how she could “call [herself] a journalist” and “go to sleep at night” seeing her “paymasters” rule a country where real reporters “are routinely harassed, tortured and in some cases killed.”
Shortly thereafter, my audio was cut off, and I rose from the chair. The Swedish crew, who I feared might face repercussions for my tirade, gave me a standing ovation. Bidding them a hasty farewell, I ran to the waiting Mercedes to catch my flight to Estonia. A producer from Swedish TV called to ask where I was. Worried that the Russians were looking for me and fearing a rebuke for abusing the Swedes’ hospitality, I told her she had no business asking my location.
“Calm down,” she said. “We are a democratic country and were impressed by what you did.” (When I told her that RT was “evil,” she chuckled and replied, “They have a different system.”)
Twenty minutes later, after a brief phone conversation in Swedish, the driver explained to me in broken English that RT would no longer pay for the ride and that he would have to leave me on the side of the road. As he pulled off the highway, I told him I would pay for the taxi — which, in light of the waiting time involved and the absurd strength of the Swedish currency, would set me back several hundred dollars. He agreed.
At the airport, the driver took my credit card and called his dispatcher to begin a transaction. After some back-and-forth with his colleague, he hung up and told me the ride was free. From donning rainbow suspenders on the network of a country where doing such a thing could land me in jail to spotting a taxi ride for the impulsive journalist who would pull such a stunt, there is no act too small in solidarity with those striving for their freedom.
Condemning Russian homophobia and supporting that country’s gay community were not my only purposes Wednesday. I also hoped to expose RT’s pernicious influence as an outlet that poses as a legitimate news organization, yet is anything but. For too long, journalists in democratic countries who take Western freedoms for granted have either accepted job offers or appeared on this network and others like it, lending these propaganda outlets undeserved credibility. They should instead treat RT with the contempt it merits.
Read more from Outlook, friend us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.