#DemocracyRIP and the narcissism of Russiagate

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. [Gone with the Wind]

It’s not been a great week for proponents of Russiagate conspiracies. A release of transcripts of meetings of the American House of Representatives Intelligence Committee revealed that person after person interviewed by the Committee denied having any knowledge of collusion between Donald Trump and his campaign on the one hand and the Russian state on the other. This was despite the fact that many of those so interviewed had claimed in public that such collusion had taken place. The discrepancy between their public and private utterances has rightfully been interpreted as further evidence that the whole collusion story was a fabrication from start to finish.

Collusion was only half of Russiagate. The other half was the allegation of Russian ‘interference’ in the US election, founded especially on claims that the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, had hacked and leaked documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC). This allegation was based on research undertaken by a private company Crowdstrike, but now the Intelligence Committee minutes reveal that Crowdstrike couldn’t even confirm how the DNC data had been leaked let alone that the Russians were responsible. All they had, according to the testimony, was   ‘circumstantial evidence’ and ‘indicators’ – not exactly solid proof.

Given this, you’d imagine that this would be a good time for Russiagaters to slink off into a dark corner somewhere and hope that people forget all the nonsense they’ve been spouting for the past four years. But not a bit of it, for what do we find in the latest edition of The Atlantic magazine than an article by Franklin Foer with the scary title ‘Putin is well on the way to stealing the next election’.

Foer is in some respects the original Russiagater. He was well ahead of the game, and in a July 2016 article in Slate laid out the basic narrative many months before others latched onto it. The article has it all: a scary title (‘Putin’s Puppet’ – meaning Trump); Vladimir Putin’s evil plan to destroy Europe and the United States; a cast of characters with allegedly dubious connections to the Kremlin (Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, etc. – you met them first in Foer’s article); Trump’s supposed desperation to break into the Moscow real estate market; allegations of Trump’s lack of creditworthiness leading him to seek shady Russian sources of finance; and so on – in short, the whole shebang long before it was on anyone else’s radar.

Not wanting to let a good story go to waste, Foer has been on it ever since, and gained a certain amount of notoriety when he broke the ‘story’ that US President Donald Trump was secretly exchanging messages with the Russian government via the computer servers of Alfa Bank. Unfortunately for Foer, it didn’t take more than a minute or three for researchers to expose his revelation as utter nonsense. This, however, didn’t seem to shake him. In the world of journalism there appears to be no such thing as accountability for those who publish fake news about Russians producing fake news, and so it is that Foer is back on the Russiagate wagon with his new piece in the Atlantic, warning us that it’s bad enough that Putin elected Trump once, but now he’s going to do it all over again.

The basic theme of Foer’s latest is pretty much the same as in his original article of July 2016. Back then Foer informed readers that, ‘Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West – and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump’. ‘The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States’, Foer went on, keen to let us know that Putin’s aims were nothing if not extreme (‘The destruction of Europe’ no less!!). Now, nearly four years later, he tell us breathlessly that ‘Vladimir Putin dreams of discrediting the American democratic system’ (How does he know this? Does he have some special dream detection equipment he’s snuck into the Kremlin? Alas, Foer doesn’t tell.) According to Foer:

It’s possible, however, to mistake a plot point – the manipulation of the 2016 election – for the full sweep of the narrative. Events in the United States have unfolded more favorably than any operative in Moscow could have dreamed: Not only did Russia’s preferred candidate win, but he has spent his first term fulfilling the potential it saw in him, discrediting American institutions, rending the seams of American culture, and isolating a nation that had styled itself as indispensable to the free world. But instead of complacently enjoying its triumph, Russia almost immediately set about replicating it. Boosting the Trump campaign was a tactic; #DemocracyRIP remains the larger objective.

#DemocracyRIP?? Seriously? Where does Foer get this? I’m willing to offer him a challenge. I’ll pay him $100 (Canadian not US) if he can find anywhere, anywhere, any statement by Vladimir Putin or another top official in the Russian Federation in which they state any sort of preference for what sort of political system the United States has, and in particular state a preference that the USA ceases to be a democracy. If he can’t, he’ll have to pay me $100. I’m confident I’ll win. The truth, as far as I can see, is that like Rhett Butler, they don’t give a damn. America can be a democracy, or an autocracy, or any other thing as far as they’re concerned, as long as it just leaves them alone. Insofar as thinking Russians do discuss the matter, I get a strong impression they generally regard the problem not as being that America is a democracy so much as being that it isn’t, not really, as actual power is seen as lying in the hands of special interests and some sort of version of the ‘deep state’. More democracy, not less, would be the preferred solution.

So where does all the nonsense about Putin wanting to destroy democracy come from? It certainly doesn’t come from anything he’s ever said. And it certainly doesn’t come from a serious examination of Russia’s true potential. Russia can no more destroy American democracy than it send a man to Alpha Centauri. And its leaders know that perfectly well. So why do Americans think that Putin is lying in his bed, ‘dreaming’ about the ‘destruction of Europe’, the ‘weakening of America’ and ‘#DemocracyRIP’? I’ll hazard a guess – it’s a serious case of narcissism. America believes it is the centre of the universe, and it also imagines itself a democracy, and so it thinks that American democracy must be what’s at the centre of everybody else’s universe too. Well, sorry, Franky boy, it just ain’t so. #DemocracyRIP?? In your dreams, perhaps, but certainly not in Putin’s.

27 thoughts on “#DemocracyRIP and the narcissism of Russiagate”

  1. I saw Franklin Foer on MSDNC last night in a Brian Williams puff segment. What a coddled hack!

    They both continue to peddle as fact that Russia intervened in the 2016 election and have such plans for 2020. They mentioned a supposed recent Putin-Trump phone conversation, when the two presidents (according to Williams/Foer) ridiculed Russiagate as a hoax (that it actually is). Williams ended the segment with Foer by saying that the Trump-Putin chat was a depressing moment in depressing times.

    Related, this is mint:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. According to reliable sources, Rhett Butler didn’t actually say, “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.” That was the cleaned up censored version.
    What he actually said was: “Frankly my deah I don’t give a flying rat’s fart!” And then, in his rage and need for profanity quickly switched to Russian, and it was “bl**” this and “bl***” that.

    And Scarlett was, like, “Why, Ah nevah in all mah born yeahs!” and “Oh Fiddle-dee-dee, Rhett!”

    Like

  3. These “journalists” are part of the propaganda machine.

    There is no point in challenging Mr Foer to verify the information- he is not there for that.
    The Atlantic council is a propaganda think tank.

    They are there to promote certain “ key messages” in support of USA hegemony and the corporations that benefit from this.

    Trump was correct when he calls certain aspects on the media “Fake news” but perhaps not for the right reasons.

    Media is there to support particular interests. Who ever pays the piper calls the tune!!!
    Find out who funds them and you will know what message they will convey

    The USA has two political parties who take turns In power but serve the same corporate interests.

    Trump was seen as a threat to this.

    Russiagate was a means to bring him into line and it succeeded. All the ideas Trump had before the election were crushed and we got the same old policies -tax breaks for big business, – on going wars, Russia as the eternal enemy!!

    ****I would like to add that journalists are given a special status – they are seen as a profession to be protected – free speech etc This status is abused as we can see with Russiagate and no doubt there are other examples

    Like

    1. Media is there to support particular interests. Who ever pays the piper calls the tune!!! Find out who funds them and you will know what message they will convey

      I vaguely recall my first Google led encounters with the US media scene post 9/11.

      Trump was correct when he calls certain aspects on the media “Fake news” but perhaps not for the right reasons….

      Do you have any idea about the news business, historically, presently, and in the US more specifically? The diverse dissenters it could have produced in the last two decades? Meaning, what otherwise vastly different groups could he have reached with the label: Fake News?

      Considering Trump, and surely his campaign was a very fascinating story to watch. What do you think were his relations to the American news business ‘interests’ before (assuming that’s the piper calling the tune) his campaign both in the field of news and infotainment news before his campaign?

      perhaps not for the right reasons..?

      What would be right vs wrong reasons for his hyping of the term: Fake News?

      Like

  4. My working hypothesis is that the Russia hoax is a brilliantly successful agitprop operation by someone. The question is, who? Chinese intelligence, to keep the US & Russia at odds? The EU, which wants US money and military protection on the cheap? Ukrainians, who want to keep looting the country under the umbrella of US protection? The US military-industrial complex, which has to justify spending 10X what Russia does, largely for obsolescence such as 11 Carrier groups? A lot bribe money must be flowing to the mainstream media, from somewhere.

    Like

    1. Love good conspiracy theories jvd2014. That said, the permeating neocon, neolib and flat out anti-Russian leaning biases, are so ingrained without any clandestine Machiavellian orchestrated Sino initiative.

      On another matter that you mention, yes, there’re a lot of folks in the US with non-Russian central and east European roots who’ve it in for the Russians. Not that we should automatically judge people on their ethnicity.

      Fortunately, not everyone with non-Russian eastern and central European roots have views like Charles Gati and David Kramer. Related:

      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/10/17/geopolitical-realism-utilized-by-obama-and-trump/

      A good deal of the Western based dislike for Orban, is on account of his pragmatic attitude towards Russia.

      Like

      1. babbling if I may?
        It feels, I followed that link once before, felt familiar anyway, but surely at that point in time I wasn’t aware Kramer met Steele in London. I should have?

        Twice? Two depositions? Since he met Steele in London and there was told who the sources are?

        No doubt dramatic opening of the deposition transcript. One anyway.

        The Truth and nothing but the Truth

        Like

      2. We don’t have to look for any sinister Unknown – there is a huge compound called NATO which doesn’t have any real excuse for its existence. And thus has to invent one.

        Like

  5. Thanks so much for saying it just as I would. It was always clear for any objective eye that there was no evidence to support the Russiagate/collusion accusations. These recent revelations are of course what that objective eye would expect and indeed are almost superfluous. But apparently nothing outside Foer’s echo chamber head has meaning for him. I am glad to join you in your wager and I’ll up the ante by a factor of 5. Lordy, how did they get this way?

    Like

  6. Clearly the answer to your initial question must be William Browder, perhaps the greatest hoaxster of all time but increasingly transparent as such. So there may be no great geopolitical objective in promulgating this true and monumental travesty; but rather salving a threatened pathological ego and creating a dense smoke screen to cover his/their own crimes and nefarious intentions. Who cares what hell the lies may bring on us all!

    Like

  7. Thanks for this post, Paul. I often wonder, how (if at all) has your personal worldview change since Russiagate? I used to have so much respect for “highbrow” magazines like the Atlantic, New Yorker, etc. Literally, if I had to name just one reason I am so utterly disappointed in the US of A, it would be the fact that it’s “thinking class” turned out to be so… stupid. That all the intellectualism, all the professed respect for truth, facts, rigor, rationality – even simple civility – was nothing but a mask. Turned out the “thinking people” are different only in that they spout nonsense using longer words.
    Having said this, let me recommend an example of “thinking people” displaying their better side: the recent V. V. Posner-D. Gordon interview. Though Posner and Gordon thoroughly disagree about many political issues, most notably Ukraine (clearly, a very emotional issue for Gordon), they managed to have a respectful, civilized conversation, and this disagreement didn’t prevent them from connecting on a more personal level.

    Like

    1. Dolores: If you actually lived in the USA (which I assume you don’t), you would know that there is no “thinking class” any more. I think they all died out sometime in the late 1950’s. What is left of any “intelligentsia” here are basically zombies with half a brain cell.

      Like

  8. Well Paul, this is probably the most agitated I have seen you in a piece on your own blog. But then, you are 100% right: the challenge of any empire or large ego is to keep yourself from believing you are the topic of everyone’s dreams. “America believes it is the centre of the universe, and it also imagines itself a democracy, and so it thinks that American democracy must be what’s at the centre of everybody else’s universe too. Well, sorry, Franky boy, it just ain’t so.”
    They key to the USA is how it is the world’s centre for fantasy and imagination, ‘new realities’ – it is more about movies than reality and hence even the current Covid crisis buckles to existing ideology of libertarianism vs the “world’s/liberal’s” projections. This ‘Frankie’ realizes that all too well, takes from Karl Rove: he will just construct his own reality. Repeat, ad nauseum. Of course it’s wrong. Of course it’s nauseating, irritating and dangerous. But it is also wildly entertaining. Which is why us Canucks keep watching that southern zoo.

    Like

  9. Given the name of the author, the epigraph should read:

    “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

    Careful, Professor! Don’t you know, that you dare to raise your mocking voice to a true luminary?

    Gee, the guy is simply making a living by working as a propacondom for hire! How’s that amoral in the already amoral world of the pressitudes?

    “#DemocracyRIP remains the larger objective”

    Ehm, “Press «F» to pay respects”?

    Like

  10. Thanks for the link, not sure if I will have the time to devote as much attention to the author, as on superficial check he seems to deserve.

    But concerning Foer, you might be interested in Foer’s quite, well how to put it, why not: academic adviser.

    https://tinyurl.com/Orenstein-lands-between

    Well written no doubt, pulls you in. No? Novelistic style on first check? But yes, maybe I’ll read it. After all I feel a bit in between too. Once Again. On the other hand some of the arguments in support of Russiagate make me laugh out loud. Always did leave me puzzled.

    Like

    1. These guys are so collapsible. They aren’t so stupid, as evidenced by how they duck what’s stated in opposition to them. Jeffrey Goldberg (who is originally from my hood and knows my bro and sis) tweets about how FF has the details on Russia’s meddling.

      Foer tweets kudos to Thomas Rid, who is demolished in this piece:

      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/03/30/continued-western-mass-media-creativity-misinformation-on-russia-knows-no-bounds/

      Like

      1. Jeffrey Goldberg (who is originally from my hood and knows my bro and sis) tweets about how FF has the details on Russia’s meddling.

        Are well yes, Goldie, Point of No Return and later Obama eulogist. … vs Hillary … We came, we saw, we won. Long not thought of him.

        Let’s see, she was gone at the time the big Obamagate Revelation will bring to the foreground. The fat lady hasn’t sung yet!

        Does he still have his blog? I am too lazy to look it up. But as you may or may not guess by now. I was thoroughly perplexed by his attempt at literary criticism of Carlyl Churchill’s rather more than simply shortish play Seven Jewish Children. Didn’t he discover blood libel in it? I vaguely seem to recall it sent me on a longer excursus beyond known of a scholar that studied the topic in the GB at the 13th century.

        Otherwise: Store your link for now. Thomas Rid? Worth to remember? Keep in mind? Presently suffering from synapses overload. Hmm? Link Münkler pupil. Ok, maybe I’ll take a look. Now.

        ********
        I am admittedly getting heavily bored by the Russia versus Obamagate after close to 3-4 years, which by now and mostly repetitious.

        I’ll wait without bated breath for the curtain to rise for the final act. …

        And then? Once the big conspiracy is unveiled: Trump and Putin will kiss and decide among themselves how to share the European gas market. Trump and his LNG via the Polish port and Putin or Russia directly via Northstream2?

        Like

      2. abbreviated here, it seems. Not elegantly:
        a longer excursus beyond known of to a seemingly interestingly scholar that studied the topic in the GB at the 13th century more recently.

        See, these synapses stay much more reliably then the new name you give me. But would need time and attention to find him again.

        Like

      3. I am not even in a hurry, simply babbling mode: Semi-inattentive.
        a longer excursus beyond known to the encounter with to a seemingly interestingly scholar that studied the topic in the GB at the 13th century more recently.

        Hmm, know whom I could ask.

        closer attention would have resulted in two necessary strike tags.

        Like

  11. I just want to say that I found this post of yours, Paul, very moving, precisely because it is so honest. The reduction of America to a kind of infantile self-absorption is one of the most striking features of our age, and you have called it out here more clearly and truthfully than almost anyone.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s