Monday, April 3, 2017

"Putin Derangement Syndrome": When Will the Fever Break?

There has been some really good writing lately about the Democrats' precipitous descent into full-blown McCarthyism, what Matt Taibbi has labeled in his latest Rolling Stone piece, "Putin Derangement Syndrome."

The Taibbi article is a must-read. It gives a man-on-a-galloping-horse perspective to the beltway Russophobia that has become completely disconnected from any discernible reality.

Combine Taibbi's piece with Daniel Lazare's "Democrats’ Blind Obsession on Russia-gate," which addresses the missing technical pieces of the "Russia hacked the election" argument, as well as Mike Whitney's "The Russia Hacking Fiasco: No Evidence Required," which provides a common sense unpacking of the McCarthyite position -- "So the Russians stole the election by bashing Hillary on Facebook? Is that what you’re telling me?" -- and you have yourself a powerful antidote to the hysteria.

Taibbi's article is a real treat:
Even the bizarre admission by FBI director (and sudden darling of the same Democrats who hated him months ago) James Comey that he didn't know anything about Russia's biggest company didn't seem to trouble Americans very much. Here's the key exchange, from a House hearing in which Jackie Speier quizzed Comey:
SPEIER: Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, director?
COMEY: I don't.
SPEIER: Well, it's a – it's an oil company.
(Incidentally, Gazprom – primarily a natural-gas giant – is not really an oil company. So both Comey and Speier got it wrong.) 
As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg noted, this exchange was terrifying to Russians. The leader of an investigation into Russian espionage not knowing what Gazprom is would be like an FSB chief not having heard of Exxon-Mobil. It's bizarre, to say the least.  
Testimony of the sort that came from Warner's committee last week is being buttressed by news stories in liberal outlets like Salon insisting that "Bernie Bros" were influenced by those same ubiquitous McDermott-chasing Russian "bots."
These stories insist that, among other things, these evil bots pushed on the unwitting "bros" juicy "fake news" stories about Hillary being "involved with various murders and money laundering schemes." 
Some 13.2 million people voted for Sanders during the primary season last year. What percentage does any rational person really believe voted that way because of "fake news"?
I would guess the number is infinitesimal at best. The Sanders campaign was driven by a lot of factors, but mainly by long-developing discontent within the Democratic Party and enthusiasm for Sanders himself.
To describe Sanders followers as unwitting dupes who departed the true DNC faith because of evil Russian propaganda is both insulting and ridiculous. It's also a testimony to the remarkable capacity for self-deception within the leadership of the Democratic Party.
If the party's leaders really believe that Russian intervention is anywhere in the top 100 list of reasons why some 155 million eligible voters (out of 231 million) chose not to pull a lever for Hillary Clinton last year, they're farther along down the Purity of Essence nut-hole than Mark Warner. 
Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of "unwitting" cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.
Imagine it's four years from now (if indeed that's when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.
Or, even better: that same candidate reminds us "what happened last time" when people decided to vote their consciences during primary season. It will be argued, in seriousness, that true Americans will owe their votes to the non-Putin candidate. It would be a shock if some version of this didn't become an effective political trope going forward.
But if you're not worried about accusing non-believers of being spies, or pegging legitimate dissent as treason, there's a third problem that should scare everyone.
Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia's apparent hack of DNC emails an "act of war." This coupling seemed at first like political end times: as Bill Murray would say, "dogs and cats, living together."
But there's been remarkable unanimity among would-be enemies in the Republican and Democrat camps on this question. Suddenly everyone from Speier to McCain to Kamala Harris to Ben Cardin have decried Russia's alleged behavior during the election as real or metaphorical acts of war: a "political Pearl Harbor," as Cardin put it.
That no one seems to be concerned about igniting a hot war with nuclear-powered Russia at a time when both countries have troops within "hand-grenade range" of each in Syria other is bizarre, to say the least. People are in such a fever to drag Trump to impeachment that these other considerations seem not to matter. This is what happens when people lose their heads. 
One would hope after an article like this finds some footing -- people actually read Taibbi, as opposed to the limited audience for the always excellent Robert Parry -- that the Democrats can pull themselves together. Too much longer in this direction and I don't think the party has much of a future.


  1. Huffington Post this a.m.:

    Me a few days ago:

    1. Nice job Bob. Now we have yet another false flag, this one outside Hama. Has to be a false flag. Whenever the propaganda rollout is consistent across the board -- French & British U.N. diplomats, Reuters, CNN, NYT, Daily Beast, doctors and media activists operating from "rebel-held territory," White Helmets, photos of clear-eyed "dead" children -- you figure it is a false flag.