A discussion about RussiaGate

Published by marco on

Is RussiaGate a giant pile of smoke? Just listen to two defenders of it, James Risen and Jane Bradley[1] in this video CIJ Logan 2018: Collusion or the New McCarthyism? by CIJ (Vimeo).

Risen circumlocutes into a summation that says that the Russians almost certainly didn’t do anything worthwhile, but that they tried real hard to do something, even if that something can’t be proved. He backs off considerably on the main RussiaGate accusations, although he is a stickler for terminology. It’s just that this attention to detail is kind of the noose on which he swings: he says that collusion isn’t a legal term. That’s true, but it’s a cudgel he uses to get attack people he finds unsavory.[2]

Jane Bradley is even worse. She ends up saying that the reason Russia got away with meddling in Brexit was that Great Britain was too afraid to say anything because they didn’t want to jeopardize their economic relationship with Russia. As we say in German, “bin ich im falschen Film?” This would be the same Great Britain that positively blew up the Skripal case? The same Great Britain that has participated in crippling sanctions on Russia with the U.S. since 2014? But in the case of election-meddling for the Brexit vote, Great Britain was suddenly afraid of offending Russia?

She cites that Teresa May even said that she wasn’t investigating because she “didn’t want to jeopardize GB/Russian international relations”. For Jane, “it doesn’t get more black and white than that.”

Let’s accept that May said this. Let’s also ignore that Jane probably slashes May to bits for nearly everything else she says and does (as do most other British reporters), but that this one nugget is the truffle snuffled out by May.

However, don’t politicians sometimes say things they don’t mean? What if May thought the whole case was a load of bollocks and her security staff agreed, but the public was dead-set on following it to the end (probably due to goading from journalists like Bradley)? What would she say then? Her ratings are already in the toilet; is she going to come right out and erase the last few remaining percent by insulting the British public’s opinion outright? What can she say instead? Ah, she could say that she’s trying to keep the peace with an economic partner that will continue to trade with them after Brexit is implemented. That should keep them quiet.

I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case. I have as little proof as Bradley for her viewpoint. But Bradley uses May’s statement to prove her allegations when the statement can’t possibly be trusted that far.

Jane, you should probably remove that plank from your platform. It makes no sense at all.

Mary Dejevsky[3], of the Independent, does a much more sane job of refuting Bradley’s case. She discusses how the intelligence services in Britain are hip-deep in the whole affair. She mentions that the Skripal case was taken from local police within hours.

Glenn Greenwald’s defense after all of this is to point out—Chomsky-like—that we allow ourselves to be massively distracted by what we think the Russians might be up to, when (A) we’re having a devil of a time proving Russian efficacy and (B) we have our hand in the same cookie jar.

“We’re American and British, so there’s a tendency to view things from an American or British perspective. So when we hear that Russia’s doing something bad to our countries, we clap and cheer. And we’re much less interested in the things that we’ve actually been doing to the rest of the world, including the Russians.”
“I say that, again, not to say that we do it and, therefore, it’s OK that the Russians do it. But the question of ‘how can we stop this?’ necessarily requires us to examine our own conduct that contributes to it. Even though it’s not as fun and doesn’t lead to as much patriotic cheering. Because we helped create a framework in which the Internet is now a weapon to intrude into the affairs of other countries. And the US and UK use it very aggressively against Russia and other countries.”

And we’re doing it much more and have been meddling in elections much longer and much more effectively than Russia has. For fuck’s safe, we practically single-handedly got Yeltsin elected in 1996. This is documented, not just alleged. We were proud of it. We trumpeted it on major magazine covers, like Time. We helped topple Ukraine, right on Russia’s doorstep. But Russia’s the bad guy and we should stop them, right? This is not to say that Russia’s not doing anything, but they’re ineffective and they are pikers compared to us.

Glenn points out that the RussiaGate scandal has moved from saying that

“[…] Trump participated in the hacking. And the reason I mention it is that we’ve now shifted away from that to what Jim described—I think more-or-less accurately—which is that the Trump campaign was interested in receiving information that they thought would be harmful to their political opponent, Hillary Clinton.”

Jim completely ends up mischaracterizing all of Glenn’s arguments—literally seconds after he just made them. He just reiterates his beliefs that he just cares more about it, as an American. Risen answers a question later, saying “the evidence is growing that it did happen”. This belies his previous statements where he showed that the original charges have been considerably weakened.

A guy at the end asked a very good question about how Risen is absolutely hounding on the RussiaGate thing, but there are several mechanisms contributing to election-tampering, chief among them being gerrymandering. That, in fact, within a few decades a large majority of Americans will be represented by only 40 Senators in 20 states.

Risen responds that things used to suck even worse democratically and that America has always been unequal. Thanks for playing, Jim. You’re exactly right, but that’s not answering the guy’s question. He wants to know why we should give a shit about the potential .02% swing of Russian meddling[4] when gerrymandering is changing the shape of our government by several orders of magnitude more.


[1] I know, apparently Buzzfeed is a news source equivalent to the Intercept and Glenn Greenwald.
[2] Yes, many of us find Trump unsavory, but Risen is a bitchy little pouter. Whenever he’s not talking, he’s sulking. He also can’t stick to the debate rules because he thinks he’s on FOX News or something. This is especially rude since Glenn is calling in from Brazil and can’t really debate back-and-forth quickly. When Risen gets shot down by the moderator, his foot is twitching like crazy; I’m surprised he doesn’t just walk out. Risen and Greenwald work for the same journal, The Intercept. I think Greenwald is a shareholder.
[3] Poor Mary had to take a few seconds at the end to clear up that she is not Russian, despite her last name. It’s her married name and her husband is American. She probably did this to avoid having Risen kick the shit out of her in the parking lot on the way to her car. Joke’s on her, though: Risen’s too clever to believe her little story about her name—he knows she’s “deep cover”.
[4] I made up the small number. Jim said it’s not quantifiable—he would have guessed much higher, I bet, but we’re both right, in our minds.