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Demonstrators Bought And Paid For?

(AP /APTN)
Speaking of staged media events, "On The Media" last week highlighted a far more intricate example. Bob Garfield interviewed Alan Cullison, a Wall Street Journal reporter who, along with James Bandler, uncovered a scheme in which people were paid by the Kremlin to participate in demonstrations against Chechen militants in various U.S. cities. According to the Journal, Russian émigrés have orchestrated "nearly a dozen paid-for protests" in the U.S. in the past two years:
They spent $150,000 to $200,000 in some months, accounting records indicate, to rally thousands of demonstrators near spots such as United Nations headquarters and the World Trade Center site. State-controlled Russian television, whose content is closely guided by Kremlin handlers, covered some of the events, often as the only news organ present, showing video of them on the evening news back home.

Organizers said the effort was funded by private individuals they declined to name. Some former insiders of the campaign told a different story: that both its instructions and its funding came from Moscow. Specifically, they said it came from the Russian founder of a youth group that staunchly supports the Kremlin and has gotten lavish support from the Kremlin in return. This account was supported by emails and other documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

One source told the Journal that "influential people within Russia" ordered state-controlled Russian television, First Channel, to cover the demonstrations despite the fact that, according to the source " 'at First Channel, everyone knows it is a fake.'"

In a shocking twist, the Journal reports that "the Kremlin declined to comment" for the story.