Haven’t heard about the Veneto referendum to leave Italy? You’re not watching enough RT. Monday’s glorious Crimean exercise in democracy was not the only example of a European country devolving decision-making to the local level. The Italian region of Veneto also kicked off a referendum over the weekend that could see it separate from Italy. Presumably, you did not hear about this major shake-up in Italian politics, which has serious implications for the future of the European project, nay, the future of a united Europe itself. That’s because you’re likely a consumer of the hopelessly biased Western media, a mix of “corporatocracy” and state-run propaganda outlets like the BBC and France 24. They chose to ignore the Italian vote and focus all of their attention on the Crimean one, which, in a Russophobic fury, they have inaccurately portrayed as a sham election held under the watchful presence of a foreign military. This is the message you would have received if you bothered to watch RT, the multilingual global propaganda news channel funded by the Russian government. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I turned on the Internet livestream of RT America to learn how it was covering the Crimean referendum, which took place after Russia invaded the Ukrainian peninsula, violently installed a puppet as prime minister, and cracked down on the independent press. “Media coverage has been muted with the Crimean referendum getting center stage,” an RT anchor complained.
To emphasize the point of Western media bias, RT aired a man-on-the-street interview with perplexed Germans in Berlin, asking them if they were aware of the vote in Veneto. “Italian referendum?” asked a befuddled old German man in Potsdamer Platz. “Is it today? I haven’t heard.” Several other interviewees replied that they were only aware of a referendum in Crimea—apparent dupes of the “Anglo-Saxon mass media,” as Vladimir Putin calls it—but had heard nothing about the Venetian one.
But the reason why you haven’t heard much about the Veneto referendum isn’t due to Western media bias; it’s because the outcome is practically irrelevant. That stands in contrast to the snap Crimean ballot. The former is not taking place with the presence of foreign troops on Italian soil, as is the case in Crimea, despite the pathetic efforts of the Russian government and its American apologists to claim that the 20,000 men patrolling the peninsula without insignia on their uniforms aren’t Russian. Likewise, Venetians are voting for independence, not to join another country, as was the case with yesterday’s referendum in Crimea, which resulted in a North Korea-esque tally of 97 percent of citizens wanting unification with Russia. Another crucial difference is that the Veneto vote is non-binding, because it is unrecognized by the central government in Rome. While the Crimean referendum is de jure non-binding because the Ukrainian government in Kiev (along with the United States and European Union) have all vowed not to recognize it, it is de facto binding in the sense that Russia has the force of arms to make it so.