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Liberals Morph from Peaceniks to Warhawks on Government Intelligence Agencies

By Stephen J. Sniegoski • Unz Review • January 28, 2017

During the latter decades of the Cold War with Soviet Russia, the charge of being “unpatriotic” or “anti-American” caused American liberals (excluding those who had to rely on the votes of regular Americans to hold political office) to burst into spasms of ridicule and howls of “Red-baiting,” “war-mongering,” “witch-hunting,” and “fascism.” Sophisticated folks, liberals implied, would never even deign to think of doing anything so gauche as to automatically support their country in its fight against what they sarcastically called the “Red Menace.” America’s very possession of nuclear weapons was considered a danger to all humanity and many liberals flirted with the idea of U.S. unilateral nuclear disarmament. And the slogan of the Democratic candidate for president in 1972, George McGovern, was “Come Home, America” — which meant U.S. military retrenchment that mainstream liberals now lambast as “isolationism.”

During this not-too-long-ago era (at least, it was not too long ago for me, who is too rapidly approaching the biblically allotted three-score and ten), the CIA and the FBI were considered the bête noire in this liberal Weltanschauung. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with his penchant for spying on innocent people, was regarded as thoroughly vicious. The CIA was notorious for being involved in the overthrow of nice democratic governments (at least, that is how liberals viewed them) in such countries as Iran, Guatemala, and Chile, and spying on leftist critics in the United States. The villainous nature of the CIA and FBI was a theme in many Hollywood movies of the era.[1]

Now let’s return to the present and the liberal hysteria over purported Russian interference with the U.S. presidential election. The most bandied about charge involves “hacking” the DNC and Podesta emails and providing these to WikiLeaks to denigrate Hillary Clinton, thus preventing her from becoming president. The support for this claim, at least as it has been presented to the America public, rests only on assertions made by the U.S. Intelligence Community, and this dearth of proof was continued in the most recent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” released to the public on January 6. The report represents the unclassified findings of the intelligence community’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. In the words of the report: “Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.”[2]

Even some believers, especially those who might know something about cyber technology and the capabilities of America’s intelligence agencies, evinced some concern about the report’s lack of substantiating evidence. For example, Wired, a high-tech webzine that usually follows the current progressive line, published an article titled “Feds’ Damning Report on Russian Election Hack Won’t Convince Skeptics,” in which Robert Graham, an analyst for the cybersecurity firm Erratasec, was quoted as saying: “But knowing what data they [U.S. intelligence agencies] probably have, they could have given us more details. And that really pisses me off.”[3] The thrust of the article is that the lack of substantial proof fails to convince skeptics, not that the intelligence report’s claims could be wrong. This position is rather understandable since skepticism about traditional beliefs such as Christianity is highly lauded by progressives, but skepticism is not allowed to cast doubt on the progressive narrative of the day.

President Obama went somewhat further in his attack on non-believers. In an interview on ABC News on January 6, Obama insinuated, and, in some cases, openly stated that people who express skepticism about the findings and conclusions drawn by the U.S. Intelligence Community are not on America’s “team” and are siding with Putin; in fact, he maintains that they “love” Putin. In short, Obama has come to assume that the American people must not question the sanctity of the U.S. “Intelligence Community.” To do otherwise signifies not merely a lack of patriotism but actual love for America’s alleged number one adversary—Vladimir Putin. “One of the things that I’ve urged the president-elect to do is to develop a strong working relationship with the intelligence community,” Obama stated. “We have to remind ourselves we’re on the same team. Vladimir Putin’s not on our team.” Obama warned that “If we get to a point where people in this country feel more affinity with a leader who is an adversary and view the United States and our way of life as a threat to him, then we’re gonna have bigger problems than just cyber hacking.” It appears to Obama that some politicians and reporters “seem to have more confidence in Vladimir Putin than fellow Americans because those fellow Americans are Democrats.” And he solemnly pontificated: “That cannot be.”[4]

Obama continued with this rather dystopian view: “[I]n this new information age, it is possible for misinformation, for cyber hacking and so forth to have an impact on our open societies, our open systems, to insinuate themselves into our democratic practices in ways that I think are accelerating.” Although “cyber hacking” existed even before Obama entered the White House and “misinformation,” according to the Bible, existed even when Adam and Eve resided in the Garden of Eden, Obama implies that he only now became aware of this possibility.[5]

Now the term “open society” was popularized (at least in intellectual circles) by the philosopher Karl Popper.”[6] and its most prominent proponent today is billionaire George Soros (a student of Popper’s). Soros’ Open Society Institute has as its goal spreading the “open society” world-wide. An open society, as Popper presented it, would be open to all types of ideas with people being free to make their own decisions. Soros, in contrast, expressed a view similar to that of Obama, contending that “Popper failed to recognize that in democratic politics, gathering public support takes precedence over the pursuit of truth. In other areas, such as science and industry, the impulse to impose one’s views on the world encounters the resistance of external reality. But in politics the electorate’s perception of reality can be easily manipulated. As a result, political discourse, even in democratic societies, does not necessarily lead to a better understanding of reality.”[7] The implication is that gatekeepers are needed to protect “truth.” As one critic puts it: “the Open Society Institute embodies Popper’s idea of an open society the way the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) embodied democracy.”[8]

Moving away from the focus on hacking, the recent ODNI report describes the Russian effort to affect the US election as “multifaceted” and devotes almost half of the report to propaganda (despite the negative connotation, propaganda can be true) spread by Russia, especially by its major government-sponsored television network for foreign countries, RT.

Moreover, the intelligence report interprets the alleged Russian effort to aid Trump in the election as only one part of a broader goal to combat the United States’ “liberal democratic order,” stating: “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”[9] Moreover, the report considers any type of criticism of the United States as a “desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.” And the report deals with aspects of this broader goal that are entirely unrelated to any Russian effort to aid Trump. This is of the utmost importance since the media narrative focuses on the idea that Russia aided Trump in the 2016 election but, for proof, relies on a report that deals with a much broader subject. That Russian media provides a negative view of America does not mean that this propaganda played a role in making Trump president. And it is not only the mainstream media but even the leaders of the intelligence community who blur this distinction.

Illustrating the point made above about the report’s concern with Russia’s alleged broader goal is its devotion of considerable space to Russian news stories casting the United States government and economic system in a negative light, but having nothing to do with Trump or the 2016 election. For example, the report observed that “RT aired a documentary about the Occupy Wall Street movement on 1, 2, and 4 November [2016]. RT framed the movement as a fight against ‘the ruling class’ and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations. RT advertising for the documentary featured Occupy movement calls to ‘take back’ the government. The documentary claimed that the US system cannot be changed democratically, but only through ‘revolution.’”[10] Although this report disparages the existing economic system in the United States, it could hardly be interpreted as encouraging anyone to vote for billionaire Donald Trump with his proposed agenda that included lower tax rates—especially the corporate tax rate–and a reduction in economic regulation that liberals and Democrats claimed helped only the wealthy.

The study also points out that “RT runs anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.”[11] That Russia’s alleged favored candidate Trump was pro-fracking whereas Hillary straddled the issue would mean that the RT anti-fracking program could militate against supporting Trump.

The report also maintains that “RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.”[12] Again, this would not seem to generate support for Trump.

The report refers to articles written in 2012 that deal with the U.S. presidential election that year, which did not involve Trump, and reflects the fact the study covers, as the title states, recent U.S. elections, not just the 2016 election. For example, “In the runup to the 2012 US presidential election in November, English-language channel RT America . . . intensified its usually critical coverage of the United States. The channel portrayed the US electoral process as undemocratic and featured calls by US protesters for the public to rise up and ‘take this government back.’”[13]

Still dealing with the 2012 election, the intelligence report stated: “From August to November 2012, RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”[14] Oddly, this is almost identical to what the mainstream media has been saying since Trump won the election.

But what about the “fake news” — fictitious articles deliberately fabricated to deceive–that the mainstream media claimed helped Trump, largely by harming Clinton? For example, a Washington Post article, dated November 24, 2016, was titled: “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.”[15] CNN, in its article, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” dated December 2, made similar claims, relying heavily on the aforementioned Washington Post article. [16]

(After extensive criticism including legal threats from the sites the Washington Post described as Russian propaganda outlets, the Post added its lengthy editor’s note distancing itself from the anonymous group that provided the key claims of Russian “fake news” saying that the Post would not vouch for its validity.) [17]

Even Director of National Intelligence James Clapper referred to the Russians making use of “fake news” during the election. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on “Foreign Cyber Threats to the United States” on January 5. 2017, Senator Jack Reed (Democrat, Rhode Island) asked Clapper about media reports that held that Russia was engaged in the creation of “fake news.” Clapper responded: “This was a multifaceted campaign. So, the hacking was only one part of it, and it also entailed classical propaganda, disinformation, fake news.”[18] When the January 6 ODNI report was released, NBC News even claimed that it mentioned “a series of fake news stories damaging to Clinton, many of which got their start with Russian-backed outlets.” [19]

Considering the many references to “fake news,” even by the Director of National Intelligence, it is astonishing that the January 6 report did not cite any examples of this alleged phenomenon—or even mention it. What stands out is the absence of the term “fake news.” Did “fake news” itself turn out to be “fake news”? Whatever the case, the mainstream media did not seem to notice the absence of “fake news” from the report.

While the Intelligence Community did not make any mention of “fake news” in its report, it did make general claims—assessments by the intelligence community — that held that Russia favored Trump over Hillary Clinton. For example: “We assess the influence campaign aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.”[20] The report also states: “RT’s coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism. Some Russian officials echoed Russian lines for the influence campaign that Secretary Clinton’s election could lead to a war between the United States and Russia.”[21] None of these political views differed from what the anti-Clinton media in the U.S. expressed, so it is not apparent how Russia would add any credibility to these claims. It might even have tended to detract from them, which seems to be the case after the election. And since Russian officials did make the aforementioned claim about war, the mention of it does not seem to reflect any type of bias.

In contrast to the Russian depiction of Clinton, the intelligence report stated that Russian government media outlets RT and Sputnik “consistently cast President-elect Trump as the target of unfair coverage from traditional US media outlets that they claimed were subservient to a corrupt political establishment.”[22] This view was also commonly expressed by the more conservative media in the U.S., even that media which was not supportive of Trump.

RT put forth an extensive refutation of the intelligence report’s claims in an article entitled, “All the ways RT ‘influenced’ American politics ‒ it’s not what the ODNI thinks,” dated January7.[23] In many cases, RT made an effort to show that it also presented news stories that were contrary to those that the report cited—in essence, that its reporting was balanced while the intelligence report “cherry picked” RT stories to fit its narrative. It should be noted that no supporter of the Intelligence Community’s findings, from either the U.S. Intelligence Community itself or the private media, made the effort to rebut RT’s detailed criticism of the report.

It would seem to be self-evident that Russian media would act to promote Russian interests—although information used to achieve this goal might be true–just as US government-sponsored international media is intended to promote the interests of the United States. However, while the intelligence report holds that the Russian media was biased in favor of Trump, it fails to prove that bias. The report, for example, did not come up with any obvious erroneous information, such as the U.S. media’s account of the alleged killing of the incubator babies during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990; the WMD story in the run-up to the 2003 war on Iraq; and the recent story about the Russians hacking the Vermont power grid.

The report could have relied upon a statistical analysis of the Russian media’s election reporting. Numerous efforts have been made in the United States to use statistics and computer analysis in assessing media bias. Analyses that stand out tend to conclude that the U.S. media have a liberal bias. They include: The News Twisters (1976) by Edith Efron; T he Media Elite (1986) by Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, and Linda Lichter; Press Bias and Politics: How the Media Frame Controversial Issues (2002) by Jim A. Kuypers; and Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, (2012) by Tim Groseclose. Many statisticians have found fault with these studies despite their often extensive use of statistical data and comparisons among various media outlets. If this extensive information can be rejected, how could one accept the intelligence report’s claims of Russian media bias where no statistical proof or even standards for determining bias exist? The intelligence report, indeed, not only eschews statistical analysis for its bias claims, but acknowledges that it does not even make a comparison between Russian media and U.S. media, stating that “it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.”[24]

Moreover, it is not apparent that the Russian media would affect how any significant number of Americans vote. And the report explicitly states: “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”[25] With all the uproar about Russian meddling in the US election, and allegations by prominent figures that Trump is not a legitimate president, it would be expected that the report would try to determine if this alleged meddling had any effect on the election’s outcome.

The study does hint that Russian media might have had some effect on voting by using graphs that show it is competitive with leading international media—Al Jazeera English, BBC World, CNN/CNN International. The Economist, however, provides an effective statistical refutation of this claim: “In Twitter and Facebook, RT’s reach is narrower than that of other news networks . . . . Its biggest claim to dominance is on YouTube, where it bills itself as the ‘most watched news network’ on the platform. As the intelligence report fretfully notes, RT videos get 1m views a day, far surpassing other outlets. But this is mostly down to [due to] the network’s practice of buying the rights to sensational footage, for instance of Japan’s 2011 tsunami, and repackaging it with the company logo.”[26] A September 2015 article in The Daily Beast, “Putin’s Propaganda TV Lies about Its Popularity,” states: “As of 2015, RT is still largely absent from cable news rankings.”[27] Moreover, RT’s influence would seem to pale to insignificance compared to the totality of American media.

Considering all the information provided by the U.S. Intelligence Community, it would appear that the entire issue of the alleged Russian meddling in the election turns out to be, to quote the Bard, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

References

[1] Maria Lauino, “Hollywood Presents: Government as Villain,” New York Times, February 12, 1995, http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/12/movies/film-hollywood-presents-government-as-villain.html?pagewanted=all

[2] “Background to ‘Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections’: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution,” January 6, 2016, p. 1.

[3] Andy Greenberg, “Feds’ Damning Report on Russian Election Hack Won’t Convince Skeptics,” Wired, January 6, 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/01/feds-damning-report-russian-election-hack-wont-convince-skeptics/

[4] Kevin Liptak, “Obama: ‘Vladimir Putin is not on our team,’” CNN, January 6, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/06/politics/obama-vladimir-putin-is-not-on-our-team/

[5] Liptak.

[6] Noted philosopher Henri Bergson actually introduced the term “open society.”

[7] George Soros, Project Syndicate, November 8, 2007, https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/from-karl-popper-to-karl-rove—and-back?barrier=accessreg

[8] Jonathan David Carson, “The Left’s Theft of the Open Society and the Scientific Method,” American Thinker, April 24, 2008, http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2008/04/the_lefts_theft_of_the_open_so.html

[9] Intelligence Community Assessment, “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” p. ii.

[10] Assessing, p.7.

[11] Assessing, p.8.

[12] Assessing, p. 7.

[13] Assessing, p. 6.

[14] Assessing, p. 6.

[15] Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” Washington Post, November 24, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.715bb

[16] Jill Dougherty, “The reality behind Russia’s fake news,” CNN, December 2, 2016,http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/politics/russia-fake-news-reality/

[17] Glenn Greenwald, “WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived,” The Intercept, January 4, 2017, https://theintercept.com/2017/01/04/washpost-is-richly-rewarded-for-false-news-about-russia-threat-while-public-is-deceived/

[18] Alex Griswold, “James Clapper Confirms Russia Was Behind Fake News During 2016 Election,” Mediaite, January 5, 2017, http://www.mediaite.com/tv/james-clapper-confirms-russia-was-behind-fake-news-during-2016-election/

[19] Ken Dilanian, “Report: Putin, Russia Tried to Help Trump By ‘Discrediting’ Clinton,” NBC News, January 6, 2017, http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/report-putin-russia-tried-help-trump-discrediting-clinton-n703981

[20] Assessing, p.2.

[21] Assessing, p. 4.

[22] Assessing, p.4.

[23] RT, “All the ways RT ‘influenced’ American politics ‒ it’s not what the ODNI thinks,” January 7, 2017, https://www.rt.com/usa/372890-odni-rt-influenced-election/

[24] Assessing, p. i.

[25] Assessing, p. i.

[26] RT’s propaganda is far less influential than Westerners fear,” The Economist, January 19, 2017, http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21715031-kremlin-backed-network-inflates-its-viewership-youtube-disaster-videos-rts-propaganda

[27] Katie Zavadski, ‘Putin’s Propaganda TV Its Lies About Popularity,” The Daily Beast, September17, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/17/putin-s-propaganda-tv-lies-about-ratings.html

January 28, 2017 - Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , ,

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