Don’t hold your breath for it, but there should be an abject apology coming from US politicians, pundits, media and intelligence agencies.
For months leading up to the midterm elections held last week, we were told that the Kremlin was deviously targeting the ballot, in a replay of the way Russian hackers allegedly interfered in the 2016 presidential race to get Donald Trump into the White House.
Supposedly reliable news media outlets like the New York Times and heavyweight Senate panels were quoting intelligence sources warning that the “Russians are coming – again”.
So what just happened? Nothing. Where were the social media campaigns of malicious Russian-inspired misinformation “sowing division”? Whatever happened to the supposed army of internet bots and trolls that the Kremlin command? Where are the electoral machines tampered with to give false vote counts?
Facebook said it had deleted around 100 social media accounts that it claimed “were linked” to pro-Russian entities intent on meddling in the midterms. How did Facebook determined that “linkage”? It was based on a “tip-off” by US intelligence agencies. Hardly convincing proof of a Kremlin plot to destabilize American democracy.
If elusive Russian hackers somehow targeted the midterm Congressional elections they certainly seem to have a convoluted objective. Trump’s Republican party lost the House of Representatives to Democrat control. That could result in more Congressional probes into his alleged collusion with Russia. It could also result in Democrats filing subpoenas for Trump to finally disclose his personal tax details which he has strenuously refused to do so far.
Moreover, having lost control of one of the two Congressional chambers, Trump will find his legislative plans being slowed down and even blocked.
Thus, if Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin are the purported “puppet masters” behind the Trump presidency, they have a very strange way of showing their support, as can be seen from the setbacks of the midterms.
A far simpler, more plausible explanation is that there was no Russian hacking of the midterms, just as there wasn’t in the 2016 presidential election. Russian interference, influence campaigns, malign activity, “Russia-gate”, and so on, are nothing but myths conjured up by Trump’s domestic political opponents and their obliging media outlets.
Now that all the dire warnings of Russia hacking into the midterms have been shown to be a mirage, the US intelligence agencies seem to be adopting a new spin on events. We are told that they “prevented Russian interference”.
In a Bloomberg article headlined ‘One Big Loser of the Midterms – Russian Hackers’, it is claimed: “Security officials believe [sic] they prevented cyberattacks on election day.” However, they added, “it’s hard to tell.”
In other words, US security officials have no idea if putative Russian hackers were targeting the elections. The contorted logic is that if there were no hacking incidents, then it was because US cybersecurity prevented them. This is tantamount to invoking absence to prove presence. It’s voodoo intelligence.
President Trump has a point when he lambastes Democrats and their supportive media for crying foul only when they lose an election. In various midterm races, it was apparent that Democrats would protest some alleged electoral discrepancy when their candidate lost against a Republican. But when Democrats came out on top, there were no irregularities.
One can imagine therefore that if the Democrats had failed to win control over the House of Representatives, then they and their intelligence agency and media supporters would have been clamoring about “Russian interference” to help Republicans retain the House.
As it turned out, the Democrats won the House, so there is no need to invoke the Russian bogeyman. In that case, it is claimed, Russian hackers “did not succeed” to penetrate the electoral system or pivot social media.
Nonetheless, there was indeed rampant interference in the recent US election. For one thing, some 28 pro-Israeli Political Action Committees and wealthy individuals spent around $15 million to promote 80 candidates in the Congressional elections, according to the organization If Americans Knew. This foreign influence on US voters in favor of Israeli interests is nothing new. It is standard practice in every election.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, the Israeli-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson reportedly donated $25 million to Trump’s campaign. Undoubtedly that legalized bribery is why Trump on becoming president has pushed such a slavishly pro-Israeli Middle East policy, including his inflammatory declaration of Jerusalem as the sole capital of the Zionist state.
But there is no outcry about “Israeli influence campaigns” and “hacking” from the US media or from Democrats over this egregious interference in American democracy. No, they prefer to obsess about the phantom of Russian meddling.
Another evident source of electoral hacking was of the homegrown variety. There seem to be valid grievances among ordinary American voters about gerrymandering of electoral districts by incumbent parties, as well as voter disenfranchisement, especially among poor African-American and Latino communities. There were also reported cases of phone canvassers making malicious calls to discredit candidates, as was claimed by the beaten Democrat contenders in Florida and Georgia.
Clearly, there are huge flaws in the US electoral system. Most glaringly, the gargantuan problem of campaign funding by corporations, banks and other representatives of the oligarchic system.
A further chronic problem is yawning voter apathy. The recent midterms were said to have seen a “record turnout” of voters. The official figure is that only 48 per cent of voters exercised their democratic right. That is, over half the voting population view the ballot exercise as not worth while or something worse. This is a constant massive disavowal of American democracy expressed in every US election.
The midterm elections demonstrate once again that American democracy has its own inherent failings. But the political establishment and the ruling oligarchy are loathe to fix a system from which they benefit.
When the system becomes unwieldy or throws up results that the establishment does not quite like – such as the election of uncouth, big mouth Trump – then the “error” must be “explained” away by some extraneous factor, such as “Russian hacking”.
However, the latest exercise in American democracy, for what it is worth, gave the salutary demonstration of the myth of Russian interference – at least for those who care to honestly see that.
Another valuable demonstration was this: if supposedly reliable news media and an intelligence apparatus that is charged with national security have been caught out telling spectacular lies with regard to “Russian hacking”, then what credibility do they have on a host of other anti-Russia claims, or, indeed, on many other matters?
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.