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Mystery as C-SPAN turns Russian for 10 minutes

Commentary: One minute you're watching something fascinating. The next, it becomes the RT channel. A technical glitch?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Putin on many TVs

Today C-SPAN, tomorrow Best Buy?

Dima Korotayev/Getty Images

The Reds, so we're told, aren't just under our beds (or, at least, filming us in our bedrooms).

No, the Russians are inside Democratic laptops and even, who knows, in many more laptops than we imagine.

I offer this fanciful fear after venerable US television channel C-SPAN1 began live-streaming Russian news on Thursday.

This was first noticed by Deadspin's Timothy Burke.

One minute, there was Rep. Maxine Waters talking about Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.

The next, there was cheery music and some Russian mockery of Poland's foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, who had invented a country called San Escobar during his pleadings for Poland to join the UN Security Council.

This was programming brought to you by RT, Russia's worldwide English-language TV channel.

C-SPAN didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. It did, however, offer this statement via Twitter: "We are currently investigating and troubleshooting this occurrence. As RT is one of the networks we regularly monitor, we are operating under the assumption that it was an internal routing issue."

RT, on the other hand, was amused. A spokeswoman told me: "Of course we hacked C-SPAN. We also stole the Lindbergh baby, and all the aliens from Area 51." She added that the channel believes C-SPAN's explanation that it was an internal routing error.

In these perilous times, however, might such an assumption be dangerous? This was 10 minutes of Russian propaganda propagated at those most deeply committed to official process.

C-SPAN says its broadcast was only briefly interrupted. Burke said the interlude lasted around 10 minutes.

Naturally, there were dark utterings from C-SPAN's Twitter commenters. For example, this from one Tommy Waters: "Nothing to see here, folks. Just Russia hacking a US news agency the day after @realDonaldTrump cries about them being mean to him."

RT was implicated in Russia's hacking attempts aimed at influencing the US elections.

I'm sure many would like to see the outgoing administration immediately investigate what happened here.

I'm also sure many expect that the incoming administration will use its hotline to Russia and say: "C-SPAN? No, no, you fools. 'The New Celebrity Apprentice' is on NBC."

Updated 8:36 a.m. PT Jan. 13: adds comment from RT.