I don’t know what the truth is on Russiagate. However, even if it is true in exactly the way the New York Times says (reporting on revelations in the bipartisan Senate report this week), it seems relatively trivial and simply not as important as many people say it is. Even skeptics, it seems to me, rate Russiagate too highly by acknowledging that it would be a huge story if true. This judgment hinges on an unconscious American self-centeredness that is almost impossible to escape.
1. Americans lie to each other far more than the Russians lie to us. Stop blaming the Russians for our pathologies.
2. If we want to talk about foreign influence, then be serious. Israel and the Saudis do it far more and with more consequences both for our politics and for the lives of innocent people overseas. Though even here the blame for our actions ultimately falls on our elites and not foreign countries.
3. What we do to others, even including Russia, is far worse than what they supposedly did to us. Time Magazine openly bragged about our interference in Russian elections in 1996. It was on the cover. Russians suffered a catastrophic economic collapse under the people we supported.
4. Russiagate was used to gloss over what the emails sent to Wikileaks actually revealed: the inner workings of the Democrats. For instance, this site has covered the ways that Benjamin Netanyahu and major donor Haim Saban were shown to have coordinated candidate Hillary Clinton’s stance on the BDS campaign targeting Israel (“attack, attack, attack,” Netanyahu said). To the extent that Russiagate might have mattered, it would be because the emails might have made enough Sanders supporters mad enough to refuse to vote for Clinton.
But rather than focus on that, Russiagate gives an excuse to focus on how it was allegedly revealed. So people talk in nebulous terms about Russia interfering in our democracy without going into the details of what was exposed. That defused the wikileaks revelations and turned them into a weapon to attack both Russia and Trump. Most journalists and political junkies behave like sheep, or to mix metaphors, tribalistic sheep, so this insultingly obvious ploy worked like a charm.
5. Russiagate is an excuse to ramp up a new Cold War. That’s why so many national security types love it. Antiwar types should see this as an internecine fight between different factions of warmongers. A few lefties naively thought that Russiagate could be used to educate people about how corruption works in the US. Instead, as one would expect, it became a jingoistic and xenophobic way to blame our country’s pathetic political culture on evil foreigners. McCarthyism 2.0. The more demented liberals online blame every criticism of the Democrats on Putin.
6. Russiagate gives liberals a reason to ignore the harm Trump does to civilians in countries whose governments are allied to Russia. So we impose brutal sanctions on Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. This hurts civilians. It is supposed to hurt civilians. The Democrats support this and then turn around and say that Trump is Putin’s puppet, even as Trump wages economic war on Russian allies with their help and breaks arms control treaties with Iran and Russia, going against Putin’s wishes. Trump also opposes the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
People who focus on Russiagate and ignore this are American narcissists. What we do to hurt others doesn’t matter. What is done to us is all that matters.