A genuinely curious Progressive asked me to address this breathless article claiming that Russia actively interfered with the American election:
In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.
U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections. Russian state propaganda gave little doubt that this was done to support President-elect Trump, who repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and excused the Russian president’s foreign aggression and domestic repression. Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directed the illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
Of the top of my head, I was able to come up with several “don’t worry” arguments, but I did want to tap all of you for further arguments. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Hillary’s problems started when her private server came to light, something that happened because of an individual Romanian hacker. That’s what first put Americans on notice that (a) she was violating national security laws; (b) she was running a pay-for-play operation from the State Department; and (c) she was ripe for blackmail by any hostile person or nation. Russia had nothing to do with this, the biggest hit on Hillary’s credibility.
2. The DNC documents were easily hacked. Whether Russia or someone else did it, it was a useful window in the DNC’s disdain for its own voters, which it divided into useful color categories (“brown ones,” etc.), its concerns about Hillary, the fact that it deliberately destroyed Bernie Sander’s candidacy, and problems. Those facts, once out there, weren’t faked, but they were informative.
3. It was Obama who promised Putin more flexibility after his reelection, which sounds as if he was lying to the American voters during his second campaign.
4. It was Obama who handed Syria, and therefore control over large swaths of the Middle East, to Russia.
5. It was Obama who was inert when Putin invaded Ukraine.
6. It was Hillary who allowed Russia to purchase 20% of our uranium interests in return for money paid to the Clinton Foundation.
7. It was Hillary’s own John Podesta who had business interests with Russia.
8. Trump’s currently pushing hard to have Romney be his Secretary of State — the same Romney who warned in 2012 that Russia was our biggest geopolitical enemy, at which point Obama made the sarcastic (and fatuous) crack that the 80s are calling because they want their policy back.
9. Except for avid policy junkies, the public at large was mostly disinterested in the contents of the Wikileaks. As for those who paid attention, they were mostly used by people who had already made a decision about their candidate and simply wanted their belief system reaffirmed.
10. Given that the American media had turned itself into a campaign arm of the Clinton party, addressing all of its “news” stories to destroying Trump and elevating Clinton, any allegedly Russian-hacked documents were a drop in the bucket of information deluging Americans.
11. The whole “fake” news thing is a scam. If you look at Buzzfeed’s “fake news” story, a few stories are indeed predicated upon made-up data. However, most of them, both those Buzzfeed designates as “real” news versus “fake” news are opinion pieces. And as well all know, opinions clash.
12. This is a sore loser story. It’s an attempt to explain away the fact that the DNC couldn’t find candidates other than old white people, ignored popular support for Bernie Sanders, and anointed Hillary Clinton, possibly the worst candidate ever to run for President.
Have I missed arguments? Have I misstated arguments? Are the arguments I did make as strong as they can be? Am I entirely wrong and is the breathless article about scary Russians a legitimate concern?
Your help wanted, please.
UPDATE: An apropos cartoon: