EvX: Today we have an Anonymous Guest Post on the History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria. (Your normally scheduled anthropology will resume next Friday):
2011: Liberals get excited about Arab Spring. They love the idea of overthrowing dictators and replacing governments across the Middle East with democracies. They largely don’t realize that these democracies will be fundamentalist Islamic states.
Official US government policy supports and assists rebels in Syria against Assad. Leaked emails show how the US supported al Qaeda forces. See Step by Step: How Hillary and Obama Incubated ISIS.
Note that ISIS is also fighting against Assad, putting the US effectively on the ISIS side here. US support flowed to Syrian rebel forces, which may have included ISIS. ISIS is on the side of democracy and multiculturalism, after all.
Russia, meanwhile, is becoming more of a problem for the US Middle East agenda because of its support for Assad. In 2013, this comes to a head with the alleged Assad chemical weapons attack. Everyone gets very upset about chemical weapons and mad at the Russians for supporting Assad. Many calls for regime change in Syria were made. ISIS is also gaining power, and Russia is intervening directly against them. We can’t have Russia bombing ISIS, can we?
As a result, around 2013 Russia started to gain much more prominence as “our” enemy. This is about when I started to see the “Wikileaks is a Russian operation” and “ZeroHedge is Russian propaganda” memes, although there are archives of this theory from as early as 2011–Streetwise Professor: Peas in a PoD: Occupy, RT, and Zero Hedge.
There is, of course, negligible evidence for either of these theories, but that didn’t stop them from spreading. Many hackers have come from Russia over the years, and Russia was surely happy about many of Wikileaks’ releases, but that does not mean that they’re receiving money or orders from Russia.
In 2014, Russia held the Olympics, and around that time there was a lot of publicity about how Russia does not allow gay marriage. Surely only an evil country could prohibit it. Needless to say, I saw little said about Saudi Arabia’s position on gay marriage.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and sanctions were introduced against Russia. Most likely the annexation was opposed because this would mean that Crimean gays would not be able to get married any time soon.
[EvX: I think Anon is being sarcastic here and does actually understand geostrategy.]
The combination of Russian interference in opposition to ISIS plus the annexation of Crimea was just too much for liberals and cuckservatives still opposed to “Soviet” influence, and various aggressive statements toward Russia began to come from Hillary and members of Congress.
Trump enters the presidential race in 2015, and he wonders why we’re opposing Russian actions against ISIS. Why are we taking agressive stands that could lead to war with Russia? What’s in it for Americans?
Obviously could only mean that Trump was a Russian agent. And who would a Russian agent work with but Russian hackers and the Russian Wikileaks agency?
Wikileaks released the DNC emails in July 2016, and they released the Podesta emails shortly before the election. Since Americans were known to not have any access to any of the leaked information, it could only have come from Russian government hackers.
Liberals have assumed that any contacts between the Trump team and Russian diplomats prior to the election were related to illegal coordination to influence or “hack” the election. Never mind that communication between presidential campaigns and foreign diplomats is not uncommon–CNN Politics: Obama Takes Campaign Trail Overseas.
Following the election, Trump associate Flynn might have said to the Russians that the sanctions could possibly be reexamined at some point, thus obviously severely interfering with US diplomatic relations. Of course this statement has been worthy of an extensive FBI investigation.
Most recently we have the “leak” of classified information from Trump to Russia, in which Trump told the Russians to be on the lookout for ISIS bombs smuggled onto planes in laptops. Apparently this is very bad because it’s important for ISIS to successfully bomb Russian civilian planes if they feel like it.
Let’s sum up this logic:
Russia is bad because they oppose US efforts to install Islamic fundamentalist governments in the Middle East, because they oppose gay marriage, and because taking Crimea is basically the same as Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Russia is full of hackers. Assange is a Russian agent since he publishes information leaked from the US. Trump is a Russian agent since he opposes war with Russia.
Russians hacked the DNC and Podesta at Trump’s request and gave the information to Wikileaks. Flynn interfered with US diplomacy. Trump is giving US secrets to Russia.
Note the strength of this narrative despite its very flimsy evidence. Investigations into Trump’s “Russian connections” can continue endlessly so long as people believe in them.
10 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Quick History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria”
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I assume all of you would be totally okay with this if Putin had supported Clinton and made sure she won?
Your question is too vague to answer. Who is “all of you?” (note that you are the only commentator so far.) What is “this”? (Please be careful when using pronouns so that people can understand you.) Nothing in the post claims that Putin did anything in support of Trump, so there is no way to speak meaningfully of Putin supporting Hillary without making up a bunch of fantasy scenarios, which of course would be meaningless.
What would you do if Clinton had won in precisely the same way Trump did?
Me? I’ve never endorsed either candidate here. Perfect neutrality is of course impossible, but I try to look at what leads people to endorse particular positions/policies/candidates. In this case, I think the “Russia conspiracy” is basically a red herring, and Anon has done a nice job of summarizing its history.
When you say, “precisely the same way,” do you mean “Trump’s strategy of populist rallies, outrageous Twitter comments, and Electoral College victory sans popular vote victory?” which I agree happened, or “collude with the Russians to hack into Hillary’s campaign and throw the election?” which I don’t think happened?
The former wouldn’t really bother me (I only really care about policy outcomes, after all.) The latter would be worrying if it actually happened, but recall that Hillary did receive plenty of money/help from sources outside the US.
Now I think there’s a reasonable discussion to be had here: how much outside influence is acceptable? What if a country donates to a candidate’s charity with totally 100% good motives because they want to help people, and another country donates because they’re trying to buy influence? How would we know the difference, and would it matter? What if the NYTimes writes favorable articles about one candidate in a foreign election and only negative articles about their opponent? Is that okay? What about the BBC? What if the people of China think a particular candidate will do things that help them and so go online en mass to write positive posts about that candidate? What if a multi-billionaire in one country buys up newspapers and media outlets in another country and runs a ton of stories in favor of some candidates and against others? What about the CIA helping overthrow elected governments throughout Latin America, or the Bay of Pigs Invasion? And what if the Russians decided to try to help foreign candidates who were favorable toward Russia and to hurt candidates who talk about war with Russia? (That would still be way less than what we did to Allende.)
We might conclude that there’s a range of behavior from, “Totally acceptable,” like newspaper endorsements, to the “Not acceptable, cut that out,” like invading countries, with a lot of in-between stuff that’s vaguely shady but you can’t really do much about it, so it’d be better to just acknowledge it and ask if it’s in our personal interest.
For example, I’m not really comfortable with close relationships between Hillary and the Saudis, because I don’t exactly trust Saudi Arabia and I’m not keen on their culture, and I’m equally not comfortable with Trump’s relationships with the Saudis. By contrast, I’m pretty neutral on the Russians–don’t hate ’em or love ’em. I don’t want to go to war with them and think it’d be useful to cooperate with them in pursuit of my own interests.
What do you think?
“What do you think?”
I think that I would like to know the “facts,” because if the Russians did help elect Trump, I want to be able to send my sincere thanks to Mother Russia.
You cannot explain the Deep State’s continued hatred of Russia without mentioning Snowden. The Deep State would like to kill Snowden if they could but he’s in Russia. Arguably the most embarrassing loss of secrets looks like it was set up by the Russians, or at least exploited by them. This is a big part of why both CIA and FBI people working on counterintelligence hate Russia and are happy to entertain fantasies about Trump. You can see why they see Russia as the “main enemy.” These are the same Deep State people and institutions who got everything wrong for the last 70 years. It is therefore not a surprise that they don’t know what they are talking about now.
[…] And Mrs. X rounds out the week with a Guest Post: A Quick History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria […]