On numerous occasions I have written about why connecting Trump to Putin is not only a stupid idea, but one which ultimately benefits both Trump and the Russian propaganda machine. Apart from the fact that Trump and Putin couldn’t possibly “get along” if the former were elected (perish the thought),this strategy seems to have been tried with Brexit and look how that worked out. And despite the fact that I’m by no means the only person pointing this out, it appears that the Chicken Littles are doubling down on the Trump-as-agent-of-Putin angle. So much so that now Trump is Putin.

If you’re looking for a sane voice debunking that particular article, I would recommend this one. I am not looking to debunk this idiotic theory anymore, because doing so doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact. Instead, I’m going to do something that many of these pundits are incapable of doing- empathizing with the sort of people who might be swayed by Trump and Russian propaganda. See, I know how the world looks through the eyes of a Kremlin supporter duped by propaganda and living in America because…well…over a decade ago I was one.

Before I can go on to explain the way many of these people see the world I must point out a key difference between them and myself back then. I was “self-radicalized” in the era before RT. You couldn’t really be passively exposed to Russian propaganda back then. This distinction is crucial because I had a personal interest in Russia pre-dating the Putin administration whereas much of the Kremlin’s target foreign audience today knows nothing about Russia and doesn’t care to know. As such, any focus on Russia is lost on them. These people are concerned about domestic issues.

That out of the way, let me tell you how your average populist responds to hysterical wailing about Trump being friendly with Putin. In the fantasy world inhabited by many pundits, people are supposed to read about these real or imagined (or distorted) connections and think: “What’s that? Trump is friendly towards Vladimir Putin?! Well that’s it! Hillary’s got my vote now!” In real life the reaction is something more like: “Well this Putin guy must be pretty good if the politicians I hate seem so upset about him and he likes Trump.”

From the other side of the pond, the goal of Russian propaganda has long been about promoting Russia’s image as some kind of alternative to the “globalized, neoliberal order,” the “establishment.” It really doesn’t matter what your political ideology is. Many neo-Nazis are convinced that Putin is fighting against the “Jewish-controlled New World Order.” Leftists are duped into believing that Putin represents an alternative to free-market “neoliberal” economics and the austerity that followed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Whatever you see as “the establishment,” Russia wants to portray itself as the exact opposite of that. That this image is total bullshit is really irrelevant. Only a tiny portion of this audience will ever actually visit Russia and it is unlikely they’ll discover the truth from their trip thanks to the language barrier and expat privilege.

Trump is playing a similar game, and it’s amazing that the punditry still hasn’t figured it out yet. This is the same thing teenagers do when they’re rebelling against teachers or their own parents. Whatever shocks the adults the most is “cool.” In Trump’s case, he’s been playing this game against two sides. First you have the Obama administration and his opponent, Hillary. On the other side he’s been waging war against the stagnant, traditional side of his own party. If you look at the policies of all these sides, it isn’t hard to understand where Trump’s Russia strategy is coming from.

For an example let us go back to the election of 2012. Remember when Obama got caught on mic telling then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev about how he could be more flexible after the election? Here you can see how GOP candidate Romney played it in a debate:


From a traditional conservative standpoint it was a perfect gaffe on Obama’s part. It goes with their line about how Democrats are weaklings who are willing to submit to other countries, including our “enemies.” But Trump, of course, is not a traditional conservative. He’s a populist who’s after a rising number of people who are conservative but who grew weary of the Bush doctrine and its aftermath. At the same time, occasionally spitting out anti-war rhetoric (when he’s not talking about slaughtering terrorists’ families) ingratiates him with a large but politically illiterate radical anti-war movement. And again, virtually none of these people give a shit about Russia.

Thus when pro-Hillary pundits start screaming “Putin! Putin! Russia!” it sounds like they are advocating a new Cold War. Russian propaganda seizes on this and portrays Hillary and anyone who opposes the Kremlin’s regional imperialism as “neocons” out of the Bush era. This just makes their candidate look even more distasteful, more establishment.

The fact is that there are plenty of reasons to hate and revile Trump. There are plenty of reasons why people who currently support him really ought to think twice about the consequences of their actions. Idiotically labeling Trump an agent of Putin isn’t going to sway any of those people. Why not focus on the issue at hand, which is America?

Trump is a candidate who is literally making open racism and neo-Nazism publicly acceptable. Just a few years ago no political candidate would want to have even the most tenuous link to anti-Semites or far right figures. Now we have a candidate who refuses to speak out against any of the numerous open racists supporting him; on the contrary, he often re-tweets their messages. Meanwhile online it seems that people have forgotten why Nazism was evil in the first place. On several occasions critics of Trump who have Jewish heritage have found themselves the target of mass harassment campaigns involving Holocaust-themed imagery. As polarized as the country was during the last Bush administration, such a thing seems unthinkable in those years.

Another issue that ought to get far more attention than Trump’s contrived Russia links is the rise of what some have dubbed “post-fact” society. Vox fact-checked Trump’s recent speech and as it would turn out, he actually managed to get a few things correct. It’s worth reading just to see what he was right on, because some of those points help explain Trump’s success and Hillary’s obstacles. But while Trump’s speech was more distortions than outright lies, the orange man has been pulling claims straight out of his ass since the beginning of his campaign. There is a serious problem with out society when a person can make up something that never happened, have their claim thoroughly debunked beyond any shadow of a doubt, and yet people are still willing to support him, fanatically even. When objective reality no longer matters, things get bad. That’s how you get ISIS. I’d say that’s how you get Nazi Germany, but this is the internet in 2016 and I’m afraid there are too many people out there who would need me to explain in painstaking detail why that’s bad.

These are just two of the major dangers of the Trump campaign- that he is causing division and discord in America and that he is waging a war on objective reality itself. Our media would do well to focus on these subjects instead of casting Trump as the Manchurian candidate of a county and leader most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about.

24 thoughts on “STOP…DOING…THIS…NOW!

  1. AndyT

    I’ve noticed that piece on The Atlantic – but as soon as I read the sentence “Hillary Clinton is running against Vladimir Putin”…


    I couldn’t read it.

  2. Mr. Hack

    Putin’s supposed friendly attitude towards Putin certainly gains steam with news about the GOP gutting ‘GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine’ that just came out a couple of days ago. The bigger question for many Ukrainian-Americans and other political watchers is why Trump keeps Paul Manifort on staff in the visible role of his campaign manager, who has worked as a lobbyist (an image polisher) for such perennial all stars as Viktor Yanukovych, and the always
    popular Ferdinand Marcos. He was also involved in lobbying stints for Siad Barre of Somalia, and Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre. Some think that Trump will soon dislodge himself of this heavy cargo.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      In this case I suggest reading the links in this article, which cover many of these concerns. And if it’s only a matter of supporting dictatorships- Hillary’s already ahead of Trump in that respect (as is her husband).

      I think that the seemingly pro-Russia rhetoric is an attempt to appear anti-establishment. Remember the flak Obama got for the “reset” and on Magnitsky Act.

      The sad news is that we’re seeing American politics become more like Russian politics.

      1. Mr. Hack

        I will definitely read the links when I have some more time. As to your comment regarding how American politics is looking more and more like Russian, I’ll only say that at least in the states we still have the choice between two evils, which is infinitely better than only one evil. 🙂

      2. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Well technically you don’t have a choice because if you don’t vote for the “right” candidate, you’re destroying America.

  3. Mr. Hack

    Sorry, the sentence should have started as ‘Trump’s supposed friendly attitude towards Putin’…
    This is what happens when one is writing during a short lunch period…

  4. akarlin

    Trump is a candidate who is literally making open racism and neo-Nazism publicly acceptable.

    Come on, it’s The Current Year. Nobody cares about being called racist now.

    On several occasions critics of Trump who have Jewish heritage have found themselves the target of mass harassment campaigns involving Holocaust-themed imagery.

    Maybe they should critique Israel instead?

    Guess not! Some walls are more equal than others.

    Julia Ioffe ’05, vice-president of the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee, however, said the wall is necessary for Israel to protect its citizens against suicide bombers.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      “Come on, it’s The Current Year. Nobody cares about being called racist now.”

      Non-sequitur, but even if that were true that doesn’t mean it’s good.

      “Maybe they should critique Israel instead?
      Guess not! Some walls are more equal than others.”

      If they were engaging in principled criticism of certain Israeli policies that would be another matter. Photoshopping someone’s face onto concentration camp victims isn’t criticism of Israel- it’s 4chan Nazism.

      Israel’s wall is also irrelevant here because Trump claims he’s building a wall to “protect” against illegal immigration. Just a couple of problems there- the first is that more Mexicans have been leaving the country than entering in recent years. Most illegal immigration doesn’t involve sneaking across the border; it entails coming over legally and then overstaying one’s visa.

      1. Mr. Hack

        Good point. Much of Trump’s case against illegal immigration would be pointless if only the current administration had shown any gumption in upholding immigration laws that are already on the books. When our parents (grandparents?) immigrated to this country from Ukraine, things were a little bit different than they are today. Firstly, they had to have a sponsor that was on the hook to finance the family if need be. I believe that they also had to have a job ready to be filled. They had to pass basic civil exams that indicated that they had a modicum of understanding about how the American system worked and also showed that they had a minimum proficiency in the English language. Too often today, immigrants come to the US and get started and hooked on myriad of government assistance programs (that our parents did not) that once started are hard to get weened off of. Your parents, or grandparent, did I assume relate to your about their immigrant experiences, Jim?

  5. Asehpe

    And yet it is everywhere in the liberalosphere… the Huffington Post, Salon, all of them have already some comment on how Putin is interfering in American affairs. Oh god. Where will this end?…

  6. Mr. Hack

    The scaremongering goes both ways; the Brits got what they wanted, they’re still here as I suspect they’ll be 10 yers from now…

      1. Shalcker

        Well, just like with Brexit noone should expect Trump to actually honour all his promises… or any of them.

        In no small part, like with Brexit, it’ll be big “f**k you!” to current establishment.
        And from that angle in case of winning Trump had already pissed off enough former Republican donors to later come after them just because they tried to switch sides to Hillary and rob him of his victory (certainly not because they are “corrupt establishment”). So as anti-establishment he looks like safe bet.

      2. Mr. Hack

        GB will continue to do business with the EU. No iron curtain 2 is slated to be built. The proponents were fed up with having an open border policy & paying huge taxes for the privilege. It’s not just Hungary and GB that want more control over their own borders, I read recently that Germans are jumping on the same bandwagon now too. Can you blame them?

    1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

      The latest is that the hack is far more extensive and likely contains documents which will be drip fed out to damage the Democrats.

      I agree with Galeotti that this will backfire for the Russians but to still say they’re not trying to influence through dirty tricks and this should be ignored cos it’s all scaremongering (Greenwald/The Nation’s line) is, frankly, rubbish. Same goes for the evidence of Trump’s debt being hugely with Russians. Just because some fool is saying ‘Manchurian Candidate’ does not mean there is no ‘there’ there.

      Of course this matters little in the rustbelt but I am a bit fed up with the poo-pooing from Jim and others who I doubt would say the same about the similar goings on in Germany.

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I’ve never denied that the Kremlin is trying to influence the election. But if Hillary wants to win this issue needs to take a back seat to domestic issues that mobilize voters- in other words what Trump is harping on all the time (and apparently succeeding at it).

        Also, if the Russians actually think Trump will be their ally, they’re going to get a rude awakening. I’ve already explained why Trump won’t be friendly numerous times in past posts.

      2. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

        It may well mobilise some of the Republicans turned off by Trump and there are also at least 15m Americans of E European descent. I am sure they’re not dumb enough to put this front and centre but equally sure they will deploy it strategically.

        One other point. I think the gloss on Trump’s outreach to the poor downtrodden white working class from the left, as opposed to HRC’s corporatism, heavily downplays the racist tone. This was a serious issue with the Sanders’ camp and remains so in much analysis I read.

      3. Jim Kovpak Post author

        Being an American of Eastern European doesn’t matter. Many of them are several generations removed, living in States that have been hit hard by globalization and the crisis. They care more about their jobs or lack thereof than Putin.

      4. Jim Kovpak Post author

        And yet look at Poland today, where there’s actually a rising pro-Russian sentiment. If that can happen in Poland proper, don’t trust Polish Americans, many of whom are far removed from their heritage. Remember- Tim Kirby is a Polish American. Peter Lavelle is an academic who lived in Poland for a long time and supposedly speaks fluent Polish.

  7. Pingback: Trump & Putin: Final Summary | Russia Without BS

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