It seems that some individuals and media outlets are not letting up on the idea that Russia basically won the election. Since they will not shut up about it, I’m sure many people on the Kremlin’s payroll are no doubt celebrating an early Christmas- nothing ensures your funding and career better than Western media outlets panicking and overstating the efficacy of Russian active measures.
Once again I think it’s time for a reality check. Did Russia at least attempt to interfere in the US election? Yes. Did they succeed in influencing it, to some degree, yes. Are they the reason why Trump won and Hillary lost? Absolutely not. What happened on that November Tuesday was the sum result of processes that had been set in motion decades earlier, in the Clinton administration at the latest. Now, the truly disturbing thing is that it really seems the Democratic party is cultivating the “Russia did it” thesis in order to rationalize its apparent unwillingness to change its politics. This is a very dangerous thing.
Usually when I write about projection here, it’s about the projection of the Putin regime. They claim to be a defender of Western civilization, or at times a unique, superior civilization, but when you actually examine Russia and come up with all kinds of inconvenient facts that cast doubt on their pretensions, the regime supporters insist that this is all the West’s fault. The West forces sexual immorality, drug use, and rampant consumerism on Russia, so examples of these things don’t count. In reality, of course, Russia is what Russia does. If, say, pornography and prostitution were so antithetical to inherent Russian values, these things wouldn’t be so prevalent in Russia and you wouldn’t need an internet watchdog to censor sites like PornHub. In other words, if Russia was so inherently opposed to such things, then the West wouldn’t even be able to import them.
Well since we’re all fair and balanced here, guess what- the same thing applies to the West, and especially America. For most of my life I’ve listened to or scene what today we might call “fake news,” and very little was done to oppose it. Even so-called “liberal” news outlets usually submitted to the frame that conservatives had built. For example, the liberal case for welfare was basically, “Yeah, there’s a big problem with welfare, but you can’t let poor people starve.” Nobody seemed to really challenge the conservative argument and aggressively attack the misnomer of “welfare queens,” nor did they point to studies showing that states with cash payouts had fewer people on welfare for less time. For liberals, it seemed to be a question of whether you had a heart or not, as if there wasn’t a rational, economic argument for welfare. No surprise, the system ended up being gutted by Democrat Bill Clinton in collusion with a Republican congress.
The “fake news” reached fever pitch after 9/11, and led directly to the Iraq War, yet even there, the supposed other side put up little fight. Not only did they contribute to the mass terrorism hysteria that broke down Americans’ critical thinking in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, but they also failed to seriously challenge the administration on its WMD claims. Nowadays it’s apparent that the media would like most of America to just move on, but the problem is that the relatives killed in that war are still dead, and the lives ruined by the economic hardships surrounding it haven’t been rebuilt for the most part. Some media outlets have issued apologies and introduced more diversity of opinion since then, but that’s little comfort to those who lost people to the war or who just fervently believed in something they found to be a lie.
After 9/11 there also seemed to be a certain mainstreaming of conspiracy theories, both those related to 9/11 and later with the Tea Party. The calm, rational, level-headed Democrats treated this as a source of amusement. These folks were really crazy! Isn’t it funny how crazy they all are? Filming a Tea Party supporter rattling off his theories about Obama being a secret Muslim Communist Manchurian candidate was a source of entertainment; it was never taken seriously as the threat that it was.
I could go on and on about all the issues that went unaddressed or poorly addressed in the past 20 or so years, but what matters is that none of this is Russia’s fault, and for most of that time Russia had virtually zero ability to influence American opinions. And when Russia got this ability, they did so almost exclusively by vacuuming up conspiracy theories and certain ideological currents from the West and then repackaging them. It’s very fitting that RT only really came on the radar as a result of Occupy Wall Street. Ignoring all the problems of that train wreck for a second, who is truly foolish enough to claim that this was a Russian active measures operation? OWS was a reaction to policies and trends in America, period.
When you look at the myriad of problems in Russia, you can see that projection is largely one of the reasons why they are not rectified. If it’s all just a Western plot, what can you do? Just because the US is far more powerful than Russia and still maintains some semblance of democracy doesn’t mean that the exact same mode of thinking won’t have a seriously negative impact on American society. At the very least, you can rest assured that such thinking doesn’t do anything to oppose the conspiratorial thinking that is associated with this so-called “post-fact, post-truth” society. In fact it’s quite the opposite.
I’ve been saying this for a long time now- If Western liberals are losing to Putin, it is their own fault for refusing to correct their own policies and reestablish trust among their constituencies. The practice of idolizing the “free market” and slavishly catering to if not worshiping the super-rich has not only compromised the West’s immune system, but it actually created and nourished Putin’s corrupt regime. The political class can either collectively wake up and start implementing the changes to reverse this process, or they can wallow in conspiracy theories and blame everybody but themselves. What choice will they make?
Oh. This. Great.