The Left Needs to be Critical on Russiagate

By Joe Lowndes (February 26, 2018)

I have not posted much on Russiagate out of my own ambivalence. On one hand, I am wary of the liberal investment in both fantasies of deliverance and nightmares of foreign control, as well as the uncritical trust placed in the FBI and CIA. But on the other hand, I DO think that we have to take seriously Russia’s promotion of racist, ultranationalist, and fascist political formations around the globe.

Yet, what began as a charge of collusion by Trump and the far right has now been turned on anyone to the left of Clinton (which, I suppose, should have been pretty easy to predict in retrospect). It is exactly the kind of demonology the late political theorist Michael Rogin described – a paranoid style that will always more easily be focused on the left in US politics. It is not only Sanders who is loudly being called treasonous on the basis of almost no evidence. An article in Raw Story last week blamed Al Franken’s fall not on his own well-documented history of sexual harassment, but on Russian bots.

What then happens to any movement that challenges the political center?

Will Black Lives Matter be delegitimized as a polarizing force authorized by the Kremlin? What about when high school students go after Democrats who get money from the NRA? Liberals who are drawn into this particular form of melodrama and uncritically accept this framing of the political landscape in the US will lose allies they need in battling Trump and the far right, and worse, destroy the possibility of any real political vision that can contest our dismal present. It is possible to see Russia as an imperial power with an interest in promoting polarization and supporting neo-fascist movements without believing that it has omnipotent power over domestic politics in the US.


We Have More Serious Things to Worry About Than Russian Meddling

By Arun Gupta (February 21, 2018)

I’m convinced the Russian state did/does have the intention to stir the pot in the U.S., sabotage elections, create chaos. But that is mainly because we destroyed their country during the shock therapy of the 1990s. There was a staggering decline in life expectancy on the scale of a full-blown invasion. Then Clinton lent U.S. support for anti-Russian unrest in the Ukraine and anti-Putin protests in Russia.

So I think anyone on the left trying to deny Russian meddling is hiding their head in the sand.

That said, my opinion of it is, “Meh.” There is a huge gulf between the intent to meddle vs. how much if it has really happened, and, then, most important, whether it has any actual effect. On the last part, I think the evidence thus far shows the impact is pretty much nonexistent.

It’s amusing and sad to watch so many liberals itching for a new Cold War with Russia and calling Trump a traitor. Because long before the Russians supposedly tried to hack the 2016 election, the U.S. electoral process was a shitshow.

Part of that shitshow is due to partisan right-wing gerrymandering that goes back years.

Part of it is due to voter suppression and the disenfranchisement of millions of Black and Brown folk criminalized under the bipartisan war on drugs and war on crime that go back decades — and which the Clintons bear considerable responsibility for.

And part of it is embedded in the U.S. Constitution going back centuries, specifically the anti-democratic nature of the Senate at the federal (and state) level, and the unitary executive with veto power from the municipal level to the federal.

Either of these are far more damaging to a functioning representative democracy than not just Russian intervention, but the bugaboo of money in politics.

As for the Russian troll and bot armies on social media, they are laughable. Liberals, progressives, leftists, “revolutionaries,” don’t need help attacking each other with hammer and tongs. I can’t open Facebook without seeing conversations where people — who know each IRL — are cursing and slandering each other.

It’s understandable, the stakes are high and we seem powerless. I am certainly not an innocent in this internecine warfare online. But I’ve concluded the problem is not Russians stirring the pot, it’s social media itself. It valorizes strident rhetoric and snarky slogans, both of which damage genuine organizing and base-building.

I prefer to hang out and talk to people in person, whether in a formal organizing setting or shooting the shit over good food and drink.

We build a better world by building better relationships.