“The downside of playing chicken with a nuclear-armed Russia is the end of life as we know it”.
The anti-Russian McCarthyism that has spread out from the USA to encompass the EU, Canada, and Australia has at its core an implicit recognition that neoliberal economics and neoconservative foreign policy have failed. Recently, when I asked a European journalist why this anti-Russian hysteria took root among mainstream European political parties, he answered with a question:
Do you think they can run on their success in handling the recession and the refugees?
In other words, European voters are angry about the painful economic conditions that followed the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the destabilising surge of immigrants fleeing from Western “régime-change” wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan. Therefore, like the Democratic Party that doesn’t want to engage in a soul-searching self-examination about Donald Trump’s victory, the European “establishment” parties need a handy excuse to divert criticism… that excuse is Russia, a blame-shifting that allowed them to slough off nearly every recent criticism of establishment government officials as “Russian disinformation”. It doesn’t even matter anymore that the criticism may be factual. Today, they deem even truthful information “Russian disinformation” or Russian-inspired “fake news”.
We saw that in the Canadian mainstream media’s denunciations of Consortiumnews.com for running an article that pointed out that Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland misrepresented her family history to white-out her maternal grandfather’s role editing a Nazi newspaper in Poland that demonised Jews and justified the Holocaust. Virtually every mainstream outlet in Canada rallied to Freeland’s side when she dismissed our article as Russian disinformation. Only later did a few newspapers grudgingly acknowledge that our story was true and that Freeland knew it was true. Nevertheless, the attacks on us continued. They labelled us “Russian disinformationists”, with no evidence needed to support the slander and no defence allowed. Although it’s arguably a small example, the Freeland story reflects what is happening across the Western MSM. The MSM dismisses almost every independent-minded news article that questions the establishment narratives on international affairs as “Russian propaganda”. The few politicians, academics, and journalists who don’t march in the establishment’s parade are “Moscow stooges” or “Putin apologists”.
The Russian Resistance
This anti-Russian hysteria began some years ago when President V V Putin made it clear that Russia would no longer bow to dictates from Washington and Brussels. Russia bristled at the encroachment of NATO on its borders, rejected the neoconservative agenda of “regime change” wars in Muslim countries, and resisted the US-backed putsch ousting the Ukraine’s elected president in 2014. However, the anti-Russian frenzy gained unstoppable momentum with the 2016 US election. The shocking upset of their presidential choice, Hillary Clinton, by the boorish and buffoonish Donald Trump horrified Democrats, liberals, and neoconservatives. After this bitter defeat, the losers looked for scapegoats rather than order up a serious autopsy on how they lost to the “unelectable” Trump, i.e, by choosing a corporate candidate associated with neoliberal economics and neoconservative war policies. Blaming Russia became the easy excuse that could unify the various pro-Clinton camps. Therefore, the Obama administration… in an unprecedented step… sought to poison the well for its successor by having the US intelligence community put out evidence-lacking allegations about Russian “meddling” in the US election to elect Trump.
The promoters of this Russia-did-it narrative merged with the “#Resistance” movement to do whatever was necessary to push Trump out of office. It didn’t seem to matter to them that they had very little evidence that the Russians actually did meddle in the election. The chief claim was that the Russians gave WikiLeaks the Democratic emails revealing the DNC’s sabotage of Senator Bernie Sanders’s campaign and the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta exposing the contents of Clinton’s hidden speeches to Wall Street and some pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation. WikiLeaks denied getting the material from the Russians, but… more to the point… there was no evidence of collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, as even Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman acknowledged. The WikiLeaks disclosures also weren’t a major factor in Clinton’s defeat, which she primarily blamed on FBI Director James Comey briefly reopening the investigation of her using a private email server while Secretary of State. Still, the absence of evidence didn’t deter Democrats, liberals, and neocons from spinning a vast Russian conspiracy theory that ties together Trump’s past business dealings in Russia with the notion that somehow Putin foresaw that Trump would become US President, an eventuality that nearly every American pundit considered impossible as recently as last year. However, sceptics of the Trump/Russia conspiracy… if they dare note that Putin would need the world’s best Ouija board to foresee Trump’s victory… must then prove that they are not “Russian propaganda/disinformation agents” for having these doubts.
New McCarthyism and Maddow
Given the emergence of this New Cold War, I suppose it made sense that we’d soon have a New McCarthyism, although it may have come as a surprise that the liberals and the MSM are leading this witch-hunt, albeit with important assistance from neocons, who’ve long engaged in smearing the patriotism of anyone who doubted their geopolitical genius. Remember back in 1984 when US Ambassador to the UN Jeane Kirkpatrick, an early neocon, denounced traitorous Americans who “blame America first”. However, it appears now that their hatred of Trump blinds so many liberals (and even progressives) that they haven’t thought through the wisdom of their new alliance with the neocons… or the fairness of smearing fellow Americans as “Putin apologists”.
Meanwhile, MSM news organisations have abandoned even the pretence of professional objectivity in their propagandistic approach toward anything related to Russia or Trump. For instance, I’d defy anyone reading New York Times’ coverage of Russia to assess it as fair and balanced when it’s clearly snarky and sneering. It also turns out that this New McCarthyism is profitable for its leading practitioners. On Monday, the New York Times reported that ratings for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow are soaring with her frequent anti-Russian rants. It wrote:
Now, rattled liberals are surging back [to network television], seeking catharsis, solidarity, and relief.
The NYT cited a Kentucky woman who explained why she became a devotee of Maddow:
She’s always talking about the Russians!
Frankly, for the past dozen years, I’ve wondered about Maddow. I first heard her on the radio in August 2005 when she was a summer fill-in at Air America reporting on President George W Bush’s Katrina fiasco, which she partly blamed on the deployment of Louisiana National Guard units to Iraq so they couldn’t help evacuate flooded New Orleans. It was clear that Maddow was talented and her excoriation of the Iraq War was on point, although… by summer 2005… it didn’t require a huge amount of journalistic courage to slam Bush over the Iraq War. As I watched, her career rose through a regular Air America gig, to her show on MSNBC, and then to stardom as an anchor on the network’s election coverage, I always wondered whether she’d put her lucrative corporate acceptance at risk and go against the grain at a tough journalistic moment. Now, Maddow’s behaviour in becoming a modern-day MSM Joe McCarthy put my doubts to rest. She’s riding high in the ratings by keeping her whip-hand coming down hard on the bash-Russia steed. She’s putting her career and her politics ahead of journalism. Like so many other Democrat/liberal/neocon activists, Maddow not only ignores the evidentiary gaps in the Russia-did-it conspiracy theory, but she seems oblivious to the dangers of her opportunism. By stirring up this McCarthyistic frenzy, she and her “never-Trump” allies make a rational policy toward a nuclear-armed Russia nearly impossible. Thus, she contributes to the real risk of a hot war with Russia that could lead to the annihilation of life on the planet.
One of the bitter ironies here is that Trump’s critics correctly noted that his thin-skinned temperament made him unfit to possess the nuclear button, but they now egg him on into a mano-a-mano confrontation with Putin. If Trump doesn’t get the better of Putin in every situation, Trump faces renewed pummelling for “selling out” to the Russians. Already, neocon Senator Lindsey Graham declared:
2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.
If Trump doesn’t go along, he will face battering from the likes of Maddow, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and pretty much every MSM news outlet. Therefore, Trump may have no political choice but to get tough. However, what happens when Putin pushes back? In the past when I’ve made this point about the recklessness of Russia-bashing, they’ve told me that I’m being alarmist, that “kicking Russia in the ass” and baiting Trump to join in the kicking won’t lead to a nuclear war, that the Russians aren’t that stupid. Yeah, let’s hope not. On the upside of this anti-Russia strategy, the anti-Trump activists insist it is the most promising route to get rid of Trump, which they view as justifying almost any action. It’s not for them to prove that Trump did conspire with Putin to rig the US presidential election; it’s enough to raise the suspicion and use it to push for Trump’s impeachment.
As someone who’s covered national security scandals since the 1980s, I’m familiar with the kind of evidence needed to make serious allegations. For instance, when Brian Barger and I wrote the first story about Nicaraguan Contra drug trafficking in 1985 for the AP, we had about two-dozen sources plus documents. Most of the sources were insiders… i.e., inside the Contra movement and inside the Reagan administration… who described how they ran the operation. We had this evidence before we made any public accusation. In the case of the Russia-Trump conspiracy theory, the US intelligence community presented almost no evidence of Russian “hacking”. It admits that it has no evidence of Trump’s collusion with the Russians. As far as we know, no one has found an insider who can describe how this alleged conspiracy occurred. That isn’t to say that some evidence might not eventually surface that confirms the Russia-Trump suspicions, but that’s true of all conspiracy theories. Who knows, maybe Joe McCarthy was right about all those Communists inside the US Government secretly working for the Kremlin? Maybe, he did have a real list of names. That’s what “witch hunts” are all about… investigations designed to prove a point whether true or not.
In this current case, however, the downside isn’t “just” the destruction of people’s careers and a few imprisonments. The downside of playing chicken with a nuclear-armed Russia is the end of life as we know it. At such a moment, journalists and politicians should demand the highest standards of proof, not no proof at all. Sometimes, I envision the argument that I’d hear as the mushroom clouds begin rising over US and Russian cities. If not incinerated in the first moments of the cataclysm, the “smart” people of the US MSM (and their liberal and neocon allies) would insist that it wasn’t their fault… it was someone else’s fault, blame-shifting to the end. Therefore, as the Democrats and liberals join with the neocons in launching this New McCarthyism over Russia… with people like Maddow leading the charge… what’s arguably the most depressing fact is that there appears to be no Edward R Murrow, an MSM journalist with a conscience, anywhere on the horizon.
13 March 2017