The scandal revolving around Russian interference in US elections has dominated the media since the election of Donald Trump.
It began with the hacking of DNC emails, which were subsequently published on Wikileaks. The emails revealed a concerted campaign among leaders of the Democratic Party to kill the popular campaign of left-wing candidate Bernie Sanders. It was then alleged that Julian Assange and Wikileaks conspired with Russia to hack the DNC.
The DNC’s cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike originally made the claim that Russians had been behind the email leak. The election of Donald Trump was then blamed on the Kremlin, and the media fascination with the alleged connection between Trump and the Kremlin went viral. Article after article was published in reputable outlets such as the New York Times lending legitimacy to this theory. More cybersecurity firms, along with intelligence agencies, have accused Russia of foul play. What’s the phrase? If you repeat something enough times, it becomes true?
These so called scandals have been used to associate anyone who dares to question the Democratic Party as a Russian asset. Moreover, it’s led the Party and its supporters to call for regulation of social media to address disinformation.
The irony here is that the entire Russia narrative is disinformation.
The House Intelligence Committee produced a report a few months ago and reported what many of us suspected: nothing. No evidence of Russian hacking or interference. No connection between Russia and Trump. No evidence that Wikileaks, Julian Assange, or Russia had anything to do with the DNC hack.
Americans have been so inundated with the idea of Russian disinformation, it seems there must be some truth to it. So where has all of this Russia hysteria come from?
Here’s where the Integrity Initiative comes in. Fashioned as a nonprofit “to counter disinformation”, it receives funding from the UK foreign office, along with NATO and Facebook. Ironically, it’s job seems to be to spread disinformation, specifically about Russia and anyone who questions official Western narratives.
It’s come to light that the initial accusation of Russian interference was compromised. The DNC had initially told Crowdstrike that Russia was suspected in the hack, and that’s the conclusion it came to. Crowdstrike’s president Shawn Henry later admitted under oath that the company had no concrete evidence of this, saying “There’s circumstantial evidence, but no evidence that they [the emails] were actually exfiltrated.”
Furthermore, as Aaron Maté, who has written about the issue extensively, reports, Mr. Henry has worked as an analyst for MSNBC, one of the main outlets pushing the narrative, since 2015. Maté reveals further conflicts of interest, such as donations by Crowdstrike to the Democratic Party and Nancy Pelosi’s €1 million stake in the company.
What’s more, Crowdstrike never allowed the FBI to directly examine Crowdstrike’s servers during its investigation, denying multiple requests. Instead the FBI had to rely on images of the servers, which were redacted.
Okay, so maybe that Russian interference scandal was debunked, but what about the rest of them?
Let’s look at a few more examples.
Following Crowdstrike’s allegations, more blame was cast on Russia in the Steele Dossier. The dossier was written by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 agent, for the private firm Fusion GPS, and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump. The report was based largely on a previously anonymous source which a Wall St Journal investigation has exposed as Olga Galkina. A Russian PR executive, Ms. Galkina was working for a firm based in Cyprus, XBT Holding, the parent company of internet hosting company Webzilla, when her boss took steps to fire her. Apparently, Ms. Galkina was chronically late and showing up drunk to work. Around the same time an old friend of hers and employee of Mr. Steele, Igor Danchenko, requested information linking Donald Trump to Russia.
After finally being fired, Ms. Galkina told Mr. Danchenko that her former boss and owner of XBT Holding, Aleksej Gubarev, was behind the cyber attack on the DNC. Mr. Gubarev has denied the charges and is suing Mr. Steele in the UK for defamation. Ms. Galkina is also the source behind the allegation that Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with Russian intelligence agents in Prague to discuss ways to cover up the supposed hacking scandal.
Then there’s the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The company collected data from Facebook to influence voters in the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the UK Brexit referendum. And it was supposed to have some connection to Russia. Or that’s what journalist Carolyn Cadwalladr and her source, Christopher Wylie, said. However a new report by the British Information Commissioner’s Office found no such connection. Cadwalladr is, however, associated with the Integrity Initiative.
Let’s turn to some more recent examples. This election cycle, the FBI and New York Times alike have focused on a website called Peace Data. Ben Nimmo, who works for the social media mapping firm Graphika, told the NYT, “In terms of posting, they [Peace Data] were clearly significantly left of the Biden-Harris campaign.”
“The goal, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security, appeared to be to drive people to the Peace Data site, which billed itself as a ‘global news organization’.”
No evidence was given by the NYT that Peace Data is even run by Russians, but assuming it is, I can say that I am outraged. How dare foreigners try to influence domestic politics! Only the US is allowed to do that! [See: US election meddling in every Latin American country in the past half century.]
The Peace Data site has since been taken down. What’s more disturbing than the site’s supposed left-wing journalism is that the NYT didn’t even try to substantiate its claims that the site was run by Russians. What’s happened to journalism?
Even if Russia, or paid foreign actors, had peddled disinformation, this would pale in comparison to the scandal represented by the 2010 Citizens United decision. To refresh your memory, the Supreme Court ruling decided that “money is speech”, and therefore that unlimited amounts of money could be donated to campaigns and spent on political advertising. It’s almost as if the entire Russia-did-it scandal has been a cover up of the Snowden/DNC leaks and what’s clearly US disinformation about Syria.
Anyway, social media have begun their campaigns to weed out so-called disinformation at the request of liberals outraged at the election results and the alleged role of Russian actors.
On Twitter, it began with the labelling of Russian and Chinese state media outlets as “state affiliated media”. The reach of these channels has also been limited.
Okay, that’s well and good to label state affiliated media, you might think. But then you realize that Twitter isn’t labeling NPR or the BBC as state-affiliates – even though the BBC, for example, had a major bias against left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn in the last UK election. Nevermind, only enemies of Washington can have media bias. Then you remember that other media are privately owned, and reflect the views of their owners, such as Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, or Rupert Murdoch. But Twitter would have you believe that billionaire-affiliated media is independent.
Well okay, they’re only censoring a couple of state-affiliated channels, no big deal right?
No, that’s not enough. Twitter has also labeled left-wing news channel In the Now – which is not in any way affiliated with Russia or any country – as “Russia state affiliated media”. The same happened to an independent left-wing journal, Ruptures, in France.
In the Now isn’t just being censored on Twitter. Facebook followed suit and mislabeled the channel, and the parent company is now suing for damages.
A few days ago In the Now journalist Rania Khalek reported that she was blocked by Facebook-owned Instagram when she tried to upload an interview about the Bolivian election, saying that the activity was restricted to “protect their community”. Facebook also blocked a video about the Bolivian election by the left-wing magazine Jacobin. Of course, the Bolivian election saw a landslide victory for the socialist party of Evo Morales, MAS, after a US-backed coup d’etat last year. The coup government has ruled in a fascistic fashion over the past year, jailing and murdering indigenous people and dissidents. Now, however, with MAS winning 55% of the vote and hundreds of international observers, the election results are undisputed (except, apparently, on Facebook).
Are you seeing a pattern? Regulation of “truth” by social media companies results in censorship of left-wing voices. Perhaps this was the purpose of the entire operation in the first place. Of course, we can think of other reasons for the corporate parties and intelligence agencies to brew a new cold war with Russia (and now, China). Enemies are always useful, whether they be Russia, migrants, minorities, or antifa. Creating enemies is a time-honored tradition of the political class, deflecting attention from their own totalitarian and corrupt oligarchic policies. It’s also a useful excuse to start more wars and sell more weapons.
But why Russia? It could have to do with their harboring of Edward Snowden, who revealed the US’s mass surveillance program, and who the US intelligence community would surely like to see dead. It could have to do with the fact that Russia has been on the other side of the Syrian war for the past decade, in which the US was funding and arming al-Qaeda rebels. It could be because Russia funds Russia Today, a news outlet which gives voice to the American left. It seems clear that the US is trying to inoculate against RT when one of it’s preferred liberal propaganda factories, the NYT, bothers to mention it as a prime example of disinformation – though of course, it points to no examples of falsity.
“The Kremlin’s audience for open disinformation is surprisingly large,” the NYT states. “The YouTube videos of RT, Russia’s global television network, average one million views per day.”
Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest disinformation campaign of the decade, that of Russian interference, continues even after its main claims have been debunked. Of course, you’ll never hear that these theories have been discredited in the mainstream media. Nor does Wikipedia acknowledge it. And anyone who questions their legitimacy is called a “Russian agent”.
Then there’s Julian Assange. Publisher of Wikileaks, he’s an Australian citizen who is about to be extradited from the UK to the US, where he’s being charged with sedition. He’s in solitary confinement and facing life in prison for exposing US war crimes. Maybe you think the Democratic Party is saintly so you have no sympathy, because how dare he shed light on their conspiratorial sabotage of Bernie Sanders, or the war crimes of Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration. Democrats are sacred! Nevermind that they block us from getting health care and have promised not to take any meaningful action against climate change, because Orange Man Bad.
The precedent set by the Assange case is chilling, because its essentially against a journalist for publishing classified information. Investigative journalists rely on leaks. What happens to the truth if journalists begin to be prosecuted for publishing classified information?
Good, with anyone on the left who questions mainstream media narratives censored, delegitimized, or charged with sedition, what could possibly go wrong? After all, the Democrats are good guys, right? And the New York Times has my best interest in mind. They’d never lie to me. What could go wrong?