Many writers much better than myself have treated the multiple stories known as “Russiagate”, but it occurred to me that maybe my friends who don’t follow this mess full-time would like some kind of little summary of just what is happening and not happening.
Right now might be a good time for this, with a Green-leaning audience, since the story just recently started including, of all things, Jill Stein potentially colluding with Putin’s regime. (snicker)
For Stein’s own story about this, you can immediately skip to here if you like:
Really, guys, what does anyone think the Stein campaign could have offered the Putin regime that had any value?
But for my own rant, let’s see if I can organize the whole “Russiagate” story for you by touching on some broad subjects that come up in all the writings about it. I won’t get into the weeds, except for a couple of links. You’ll largely need to do your own weed whacking. The specifics on these various stories are constantly changing.
(1) IS MUCH OR ALL OF THIS INVESTIGATING MOTIVATED BY A NEW RED SCARE, SIMILAR TO WHAT HAPPENED IN THE 1920s AND 50s?
In short, no.
There’s not much “red” about Russia any more; no socialist standard-bearer inspiring the poor to rise up or anything like that. It’s been a very long time since anyone found anything tempting about the Russian government as a good example of anything.
Putin’s regime and the oligarchs who might share power in his mafia state are stinking rich shitbags just like our own rulers. If they have any ideology, it’s similar to that of the Koch Brothers. They’re heavily invested in fossil fuels and are mainly concerned with laundering their loot overseas. This is one reason that the sanctions against Russia (known as the Magnitsky Act) are relevant in the discussion.
A panic about foreign influence can serve a number of political ends, including the investigation of one’s enemies for anything and everything that might be a useful smear, but we’re a long way from “Red Scare” scale in this. Hollywood writers, school teachers, and union organizers have far more to fear from random charges of sexual harassment than from any “Russiagate”. There’s very little new about any of this, until some relevant crimes are proven.
Dems are always happy to vilify a Green for anything, of course, and the Reps on the Senate Intelligence Committee are quite happy to investigate Stein as a bit of “whataboutism” that’s their usual defense against anything that embarrasses one of their own. The Dems are especially desperate to blame Clinton’s failure on anything other than Clinton. They talk about the provenance of the embarrassing emails, but never about their contents. Surprise, surprise!
Here’s a little fun from Lee Camp about how the vilification works, for your entertainment. Not saying I take him as gospel; he’s a comedian working with RT. Grains of salt there. https://popularresistance.org/lee-camp-dissects-npr-attack/
RT is actually a good source for some things. I’ve cited one of their videos in my collection of educational materials: https://electionreform.wordpress.com/
(2) DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO TRUST THE U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY FOR ASSESSING WHO DID ANY PARTICULAR HACK?
Leading Dems like Hillary sure dug their own graves by voting for the invasion of Iraq, didn’t they? Trump has a ready-made reply for any intelligence he doesn’t like, and it sounds pretty good. One can quibble over whether it was really the intel agencies or Cheney’s little cherry-picking task force that drew conclusions about the nebulous WMDs, but the meme will be there forever.
See this link for a little exchange among members of a group that tried to look at the available data that might or might not indicate who hacked into the DNC emails.
Two things to keep in mind about this:
1. Both sides are arguing over very incomplete data provided by people who might have all kinds of motives, good and bad, for never releasing any such evidence.
2. When the evidence is electronic data, it can easily be changed by editing. If it’s metadata showing when it was edited, that metadata too can be edited. It’s nothing like a film photo or ink stains on paper. I leave such analysis to the experts, and when the ostensible “proof”
is being kept secret, who tf knows?
(3) IS COLLUSION WITH A FOREIGN GOVERNMENT INHERENTLY CORRUPT OR ILLEGAL?
That depends entirely on the exact nature of the collusion. It’s hard to fault FDR for colluding with Stalin, for instance. You need to know exactly what propositions people are talking about in each discussion. Simply throwing the word “collusion” out there says nothing.
(4) EXACTLY WHAT DID RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AGENTS AND/OR THEIR “COLLABORATORS” POSSIBLY DO?
It can be hairy to figure out what someone is talking about when they say “the Russian hack”, since there might have been quite a few, for different purposes, or “hack the election”, which conceivably could take different forms, some vague and legal, some specific and illegal.
Here are some of the possibilities:
i. Hack into emails and expose them when they might embarrass a political opponent.
The hacking part would definitely be illegal. Exposing information that someone else handed to you might not be. I’ll let the lawyers bandy that one around.
ii. Buy ads to sow disinformation, promote partisan messages, and/or promote controversy
Many thousands of people and organizations do this all the time, all over the world. The only illegal thing anyone seems to be talking about in this regard is using foreign money to influence a U.S. election. When it comes to disinformation, there might also be some liability for defamation or “shouting ‘fire!’ when there is no fire”, but that would have to be applied to a particular ad, one case at a time.
This is exactly what I was talking about in my post about Gutenberg and what he wrought. When mass communication is free or very cheap, it’s a wild west that no institution can control, and the result is chaos, from which the world might take a long time to stabilize itself.
I’ve read of Mueller looking into whether the Trump campaign might have traded info with Russian agencies that bought ads. This would be interesting, but I really doubt that the Trump campaign knew anything that Russian intelligence didn’t know already. If info flowed in the other direction, is that a crime, accepting a gift of information?
Also, are we really being told only about ads placed by people connected to the Russians, and not those connected to British, French, Indians, Chinese, Nigerians, etc.? What’s the
proportion coming from one country versus many others? Has anyone analyzed that?
iii. Unleash a troll army to promote one’s message and harass opponents on social media and various discussion boards
It’s likely that lotsa governments, most of all our own, have efforts like this going on in any country where they wish to influence public opinion. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the same gets done to us. English-speaking countries are especially vulnerable to it, since far more people around the world bother to learn English than, say, Russian. The pool of Russians who could pass themselves off as Mercans when they write is probably many times that of the reverse.
Russia is also famous as a formidable power in the war of intelligence and disinformation, going back well into the 20th century. OF COURSE they did this. The only question is whether they needed or accepted any help from U.S. citizens. I really doubt that they needed any. Low-information voters (about 80% of voters) are easily influenced by memes and cheap shots. Nothing new there.
iv. Hack into voter records, presumably to mess with them in a way that might influence voting and vote counting
There is little doubt that the GRU tried to do this, but if they had any success, I don’t think it’s publicly known.
I haven’t heard of Mueller or any congressional committee looking into this. I suspect that this is far too touchy a subject for anything real to be made public. Once you tell voters that voting records and counts are unreliable, it calls into question whether the government has any “legitimacy” at all. Way too dangerous for the great unwashed to hear about.
v. Meet with a foreign power and promise policy changes if elected in exchange for something of value to oneself
This can be a hairy one. If one promises a policy change in exchange for cash to oneself personally, that’s bribery. If it’s in exchange for a policy change from that other government that benefits the U.S., that’s just diplomacy. Still waiting for something to be proven here.
(5) HAS ANYTHING IN THE WAY OF ILLEGAL COLLUSION TO INFLUENCE THE ELECTION RESULT BEEN PROVEN?
Not to my knowledge, from what seems to be publicly known so far, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is what somebody like Mueller might come across in a years-long investigation of anything and everything to do with the Trump campaign. Remember that Ken Starr never proved anything about the Whitewater land deal, the ostensible reason for his investigation. All it took was to catch Clinton lying in response to a question that was irrelevant to Whitewater, and the impeachment wheels started turning.
Mueller has a mandate to look into all kinds of financial records. Trump and his associates would be very strange oligarchs indeed not to have committed any financial crimes in their glorious histories. That’s where I would expect results. Don’t get too focused on “Russia hacked the election!”. I doubt that that’s the end game here.
Most important, don’t get sucked into the world view that says Trump is the problem. He’s only a symptom. The Rep Party is a symptom. The Dem Party is a symptom, as was the Clinton campaign. The disease is extreme concentration of wealth, which will always be concentration of political power, regardless of any laws that might try to segregate them.