Russian skepticism

Trump is more of a useful idiot.

Social media enabled the unmitigated proliferation of factually false information. Lies have always been a part of politics, but in the past few years we’ve gone from drinking from a sprinkler to a fire hose. Similarly, the regimes of world powers (including the US) have always done what they could to influence the outcome of consequential foreign elections, but social media provides them with an unprecedented tool by which to do so. The fundamental difference which is so alarming to Americans who pay attention is a major political party which is absolutely willing to court that interference from another power predominately hostile to our interests for their own advantage.

Perhaps even worse, there are a lot of Americans (and not only “conservatives”) who’ve decided that the stakes are high enough to justify any means. I honestly think if the self-sorting of political identities were still clearly delineated between states (rather than centering on urbanization), several might well have tried to secede during the previous administration…that the only glue keeping us “united” at this point is that we’re too jumbled together to easily split apart. There’s a certain eschatological disintegration to all of it that appeals to the religious right who pine for a Christian authoritarian state that never actually existed, and to a lesser extent to an increasingly disillusioned left that have lost confidence in democratic progress.

Did Russia elect Trump? No, of course not, that’s on the American electorate. And I agree there are too many people who seem to think if we root out Russian interference we can get rid of him. But the ability of Russia and other foreign powers to leverage social media as a tool to interfere in democratic institutions should worry everyone, Europeans included.

On top of that and in part because of that we have a president who is perhaps the most cynical politician of any to occupy the office, perfectly willing to lie regardless of the consequences so long as he comes out on top, because to him that’s what being an American means, putting yourself before everyone else irrespective of the cost. And most of his core base agree with him.

Part of the problem is the way the mainstream media frames things in condescending Manichean narratives tailored to a breakneck news cycle where substance is peripheral to attention grabbing headlines. But even if that weren’t the case, the old America is gone. We can’t un-ring that bell.

All that said, I think you’re really selling the community here short. Maybe it isn’t a high bar, but we’ve done a better job than most at not drinking the Kool-Aid that our enemies’ enemies are our friends.

Yes, and unfortunately so does the Alt Right.


I agree with most of your comment but do think that undermining confidence in liberal-democratic institutions in the West is part of the divide-and-conquer strategy.

The trade and military alliances between the U.S. and its allies are built largely on the postwar consensus that liberal democracy was (at least in the global north and the white British Commonwealth) the way to go. NATO and the EU won’t hold together so well if some of the senior member nation-states go fascist and/or protectionist*. As you note in the rest of your comment that would suit Putin just fine as he tries to reconstruct what he can of the old Russian/Soviet empire.

[* for example, during the worst days of the Cold War Franco’s Spain wasn’t allowed into NATO; the junta of the Colonels in Greece didn’t last in part due to the regime being an embarrassment to the U.S. and other NATO countries.]


Thank you @agger_modspil for bringing this up. I read BB and Naked Capitalism every day, and have been quite unsure of how to balance the POV’s on this issue amongst the commentariat.

Frankly it hurts my brain.


Back in the day there was one great big carefully curated pile of lies that all mostly fit together, and responsible people all agreed that the lies in the pile were true. And there were gigantic scandals whenever the pile got too big and some bit of it fell off, be it “we are winning in Vietnam” or “Nixon is not literally a crook” or “Reagan is tough on Iran.”

Now everybody’s got their own pile, and they don’t fit together, and there are no consequences when the deviations from observable reality become too extreme.

“Our interests” could mean literally anything.

People who talk like that are trying to sell us something we might not actually want.


I’d just like to point out that that article is fact-checking this claim:

ABC News has reported that Donald Trump received millions of dollars from Russia.

Nothing more than that. The fact check is that the report actually says President Trump has business interests in Russia. It is not a fact check of the broader claim that elements connected to Russia’s government have given him money.


The brief clip with Greenwald from Fox was indeed nod very informative, my bad.

This is a better and more thorough rendition of his arguments:


Thanks for your thoughtful comment. The statement that opens this thread was born out of frustration that a comment referring to US interference in other countries’ elections was flagged and hidden. I did not, at the time, find such a comment off-topic or irrelevant.

Indeed, I find the faux outrage that anyone would dream of meddling in other people’s elections quite frustrating. There’s this old TIME cover, essentially bragging that the US government put Yeltsin in place as Russian president.

After that, as most people know, Yeltsin went on to implement neoliberal reforms that threw tens of millions of Russians into abject poverty, only benefitting the nascent class of robber barons and the Western, mainly American, companies that got in on the loot.

But, then there’s the question of proportions - the troll armies creating false instagram accounts with 25 followers are not likely to accomplish a whole deal. So, I was frustrated by the faux outrage and the hyperbole. But I do think, following your comment, that I was overreacting and that the majority of this community is actually wiser than that.


That’s quite the toss-up, IMO… but.

Sure, US politics was tainted and toxic as fuck before Putin started pissing in the punch bowl, but dude - kompromat puppetry is a whole new realm of dastardly bastardry.

And yeah, this Manchurian candidate business is hardly unprecedented in relation to all the strategic meddling the US been up to for 70 years, but it can certainly be regarded as a whole new situation when you consider that the effects of scale mean that enough of a quantitative change creates a qualitative change.

In the past, if you squinted a bit and let a bunch of stuff slide under the radar, America’s claim to being ‘leader of the free world’ sort of held water, in the same way that a filthy sieve does. But now, it’s impossible to maintain even a shadow of that pretence, and furthermore, old alliances are being sorely tested and what passed for global stability is fast becoming a fond memory.


Perhaps you might consider the fact that it’s not the only uninformative and irrelevant link you’ve had to post in this thread to support your argument.

He’s basically making the same strawman argument that you are, agreeing with the interviewer’s contention that:

this story provides a shortcut both retrospectively and prospectively, in the sense that it offers an explanation that doesn’t involve Hillary Clinton’s failings for why Drumpf won, and prospectively, it offers a shortcut to getting Drumpf out of office short of defeating him at the ballot box.

I challenge you to find one liberal or progressive regular on this site that hasn’t to one degree or another criticised Clinton’s and the DNC’s failings or who is resting all their hopes on impeachment and shrugging off the election of 2020 (or 2018). Just one. We’ll wait.

As explained, it was “whataboutism”. Now you seem to have moved on to strawmen.

The very real outrage in this case is about current and illegal meddling in American elections by Russia on behalf of an administration that seemingly approves of it. Despite your implication, that does not mean people here were somehow supportive of how the American government (and, more specifically, neoCons) enabled the looting under Yeltsin that set the stage for Putin’s kleptocracy.

In addition to my earlier challenge, find one liberal or progressive regular on this site who is unaware of or approves American meddling in elections throughout history.

Then you don’t understand much about PR, black propaganda, disinformation, or the concept of force multipliers. Social media has provided Russia with a very cost-effective wedge to widen an existing rift in the American electorate.

Given the fact that Dolt-45 won the election not on the basis of the national popular vote but on the electoral college votes of two swing states (both sites of failure on Clinton’s part) which had very tight popular races you’d be surprised how much a highly targeted propaganda effort like this can accomplish. It was a lucky roll of the cost-effective dice for Putin.

On whose part? Be specific this time.

Based on your last two comments in this thread I am forced to continue to doubt the sincerity of that comment.

As I responded to an actual pro-Putin troll in an earlier thread:

In addition to “reputable” I’d add “relevant” and “not prone to fallacies” to the criteria regarding sources.


Keep in mind that Russian social media meddling didn’t start with the 2016 election.

In the period after the Ukraine invasion, I noticed a huge surge in Russian activity towards driving Islamophobia and the demonization of Syrian refugees. (They probably started sooner, but that’s when I noticed it.) From troll accounts, fake news aggregators, Islamopobic sites, propaganda pieces from Russia Today. They didn’t hide their tracks very well, perhaps this was an experiment?

They were in the same echo chamber as Jihad Watch‎, the Gatestone Institute and David Horowitz Freedom Center, driving the hate of the far-right, and worry of the general population in many countries.

Russia helped set the stage for Trump to walk onto with his Muslim ban and fear/hate of refugees.


That’s not the outrage. We’re not outraged at the Russians who tried to interfere in our elections. The outrage is at our own politicians who let themselves become Russia’s pawns, and then at the Americans who tried to cover this up.


The more I read and learn about this new McCarthyism (including this threads and many others at bbs), the less convincing I find the narrative. What I think matters more is the conditions that produced Trump – conditions hugely contributed to by corporate Democrats – not whatever influence Russia might have on our elections. That influence has so far not been conclusively proven as nearly enough to sway the election for Trump. And the new McCarthyism is a huge distraction from the failings of corporate Dems, who want to maintain their grip on the party’s power while under threat from upcoming and more left-leaning forces.


That’s debatable considering the slim margins, but attempted robbery is still a crime however incompetent the people running the bank were.

Also, I haven’t seen anyone in these threads engaging in a “conspiratorial mindset seeing Russia behind everything” or giving Clinton and the DNC a pass.


Well, if there is indeed no evidence of decisive intervention from Russia, then it’s hardly a straw man - rather, the argument stands, whether put forward by me or by Greenwald.

Noam Chomsky seems to think along similar lines:

I haven’t, as it happens, seen that opinion (of completely absolving Clinton and the DNC) on this site. I guess we all agree that the “pied piper” strategy was about as stupid and irresponsible as it gets.

Cory Doctorow has often, on this site, pointed out that operations like Cambridge Analytica are not, in fact, smooth operators or data wizards selling election victories to prospective buyers - rather, they are hacks and snake oil salesmen masquerading as such operators in the hopes of making a buck. In which they have apparently succeeded. But this does not mean that the snake oil they’ve been peddling actually works very well.

This is not, however, to completely discard the power of “influence” campaigns. I believe that the xenophobic right in this country (Denmark) largely rose to their current prominence due to a small group of people (20-25) incessantly writing “letters to the editor” and creating the illusion of a much greater movement. So things can certainly be achieved. I don’t really, though, believe these mechanisms are well enough understood for reliable manipulation by either Russia, Cambridge Analytica or other operators.

AND such accusations may all too easily be abused to smear opponents. Exhibit A:

(and a response to it)


Right, debatable. Which differs from what I wrote, “conclusively proven.” And i didn’t say it’s not a crime. Of course it is. The issue I’m pointing to in those terms is scale. Seems to me that the crimes of the corporate Dems are much larger, even vast, yet the attention they get compared to Russiagate is miniscule.

Again, it’s not about giving them a pass or not. As the FAIR piece I linked to points out, it’s a matter of scale in terms of attention given to the two problems.


I’m curious what you think the mission of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg is.

Then perhaps stop attributing it to people who are discussing Russian disinfo and hacking activities here.

In a system as broken and polarised as the U.S. one it doesn’t have to work very well, just well enough.

I don’t know about Denmark, but far-right parties and movements in other European countries have received funding from Putin’s proxies – yet another way his regime is trying to undermine liberal democracy in the West.


i’m kind of with @gracchus on this one. while i do think the election of 45 is mostly on us, the tiny fraction of the population that made the electoral college difference between his election and the election of hilary instead is small enough that russian meddling in the election might have helped push it over. and whether you like the “corporate” democrats or not i think we’d both agree that 45 is a much more disastrous choice for president. and, as mr. g. pointed out, regardless of the competence of the tellers, robbery is still a crime.

besides which, even though i don’t buy into the thinking that russia is a focus of evil, they are not our friends. putin is a believer in power politics and is clearly looking for the best strategic position for russia he can muster. he is also very much of the same zero-sum mindset as 45 and sees any possible weakening of the u.s. global position as a positive for russia.


Well yes. After 25 years of their shifting rightward, what the neoliberal-lite Dem establishment does is accepted by the MSM as “business as usual” (i.e. dodgy and destructive but not illegal). Russian interference in its many forms, on the other hand, is a new twist that actually is illegal.

Focusing on BB, I’ve seen more articles over the years about the failings of the Dem establishment than I have about Russian interference. Both are worthy of discussion in the context of the disaster of 2016. Calling the discussion of the Russian efforts “new McCarthyism” is inaccurate both in terms of the historical and functional definitions of the term: there is clear evidence of Russian interference, the “president” and his cronies have been openly encouraging it, and there isn’t mass hysteria about thousands of Americans working in the media and academia and the permanent bureaucracy being covert Russian agents.


Again, I never said it’s not a crime. It’s just not as big a one as we’re being told it is, and it’s much smaller than the crimes of establishment Dems, which we’re being told to ignore.


Hmm, that reminds me of the concept of “rule lawyering.”

Plus: “As long as it’s legal, it’s okay”? Come now, we’re better than that.