Summary: Here is a look at a typical example of propaganda about RussiaGate. Every day millions of Americans consume these thought-deadening products, which are slowly making us into peons. Learning to recognize propaganda is the first step to fighting it.
We know little about RussiaGate and Mueller’s investigation of it. Nor should we. But it is politically useful for both sides to leak information – and misinformation. If Mueller finds no smoking gun, the important effect of his investigation will be Democrat’s use of it to cripple Trump’s administration. So Republicans work to delegitimize the investigation, and Democrats work to counter the Republicans’ efforts.
Here is an example, written by a skilled propagandist. It is negative information, leaving readers less well-informed than before they read it. Articles like this are the daily fare of the news media. It is what we want, so they provide it. It’s worth close examination.
“How the Trump echo chamber pushes bit players like Stefan Halper to center stage”
By David Ignatius in an op-ed at the WaPo.
“In the bizarre double helix that is the Russia investigation, one of the recurring themes is the role of would-be influencers. They start off as connectors and facilitators, but gradually (and implausibly) they move to the center of the story.”
Ignatius leads with gibberish. The players he mention are those that provide most of the information in the RussiaGate stories. That makes them central characters, whose motivations and credibility warrant scrutiny.
“That’s true with Stefan Halper, the retired American professor at Britain’s Cambridge University who has become the object of President Trump’s counter-witch-hunt to expose a supposed FBI mole who infiltrated his campaign. The FBI is guarding Halper’s identity, as it should any trusted informant, but he was named a week ago by conservative news sites and then by other publications.”
This is masterful use of lies and omissions. The FBI and DoJ using an informant to gather information about a major party’s presidential campaign is unprecedented intervention in politics. Congress and the President asking questions is an appropriate exercise of their oversight responsibilities. It’s not a “witch hunt.”
Chuck Ross of the Daily Caller first reported on the strange activities of Stefan Halper on March 25 – and in subsequent articles – with no hint that he was working with the US government. Halper was outed by highly specific details leaked by government officials to the public via the WaPo and NYT (the “other publications” Ignatius coyly mentions). Ross said that Halper was a “mole” only after the WaPo and NYT stories.
This quasi-official news also contradicts Ignatius reference to a “supposed FBI mole.” Also, leaking identifying details is not “guarding Halper’s identity.”
“But it’s laughable to imagine Halper as a superspy, infiltrating the heart of the Trump campaign. …But this is not James Bond. …”
This is hard-core propaganda: exaggerating then giving a rebuttal to his exaggeration. Who says Halper is a “superspy.” He is someone widely known to have times to US and UK intel agencies, but not as a spy. He reportedly acted as an amateur investigator or informant, contacting people associated with the Trump campaign (not its “heart”) – probably for pay.
Halper is a minor figure in RussiaGate, but would have been central if he had elicited damaging admissions about Trump’s campaign. The Bond comparison is nuts.
“The professor is just one of the unlikely figures who populate the edges of the Trump-Russia investigation. These Zelig-like characters at the periphery have been so enticing for journalists, left and right, that they’ve become part of the central narrative. They’re the mice that roared. …Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who was indicted last year by Mueller, is another influence peddler who now looms larger than life.”
Democrat-friendly journalists like Ignatius put Manafort part of the center right by high-profile articles after his indictment by Mueller. He is the biggest fish caught so far — Trump’s former campaign chairman, hit with serious charges. The reference to “larger than life” is just more chaff.
“Steele may be the ultimate Zelig in this story, a character who keeps reappearing at each turn. From what his former colleagues say, he was too good an intelligence operative to be described as a peddler. But his role as a freelance investigator, hired by Trump’s opponents, has become a black hole in this story, into which other facts disappear. …”
More misdirection. Steele is a major figure in TrumpGate, whose role has not been well explained to the public. He was a conduit for information poisonous to the Trump campaign (e.g., the “pissgate” story that electrified the Left). We still do not know the source(s). Legitimate informants? Or Russian intel operatives planting information to destroy Trump (Clinton probably would not have pushed through large boosts to DoD’s budget, as Trump has). Again Ignatius ends with meaningless chaff to give an illusion of rationality to his article (“a black hole”).
“The Russia investigation, like these other moments in history, is becoming a version of the butterfly effect, where seemingly random, distant events have large consequences – thanks to the pro-Trump echo chamber.”
In 818 words Ignatius has provided no evidence for this claim. Only misinformation, misdirection, and much trivia. Yet partisans of the Resistance will nod wisely when reading this, as if there was fact or logic in it.
Until we learn skepticism, US politics will continue to be shaped by propaganda. The Left clearly sees the flaws in the Right’s stories, and vice versa. But nothing will change until each side sets standards for themselves, not just their foes. Even laughter at propaganda like Ignatius’ will help.
As with most things in America, the power lies in our hands. We need only the will to use it. See these posts for more about ways we can regain our skepticism.
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- The verdict on the stories of Russian hacking in the 2016 election.
- A review of Russiagate, its propaganda and hysteria.
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- The secrets of RussiaGate, and what it all means.
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- We learn the secret origins of RussiaGate.
21 thoughts on “Read RussiaGate propaganda, the first step to fighting it”
Larry, please bring back a military topic like Niger or the CMH rift between the Air Force and the Navy. I beg you.
The primary goal of the FM website is not providing information — the preferred entertainment of the Outer Party, giving them a feeling of being “involved.” That is the equivalent of playing with model trains, and there are a thousand magazines and websites that provide that kind of entertainment. Their quality hardly matters, any more than does the political content of adult comics (and their big screen adaptations).
The goal of the FM website is to awaken people so that they act. A quixotic goal, of course. I post about RussiaGate because it provides a mirror. It shows how our elites regard us. And that their low opinion of us is fully justified. But we can do better.
You lost me at the primary goal. Blah, blah, blah. Dude, drink a beer, put down your comics and light saber and Wookiee mask. And if you read mags on model trains you’re a dork. Choo choo.
I don’t do model trains, let alone read magazines about them. But I know people who do from Scouting. Impressive men, whom I have trekked into the Rockies with, leading a band of young men.
As for your opinion of the FM website, perhaps you would find other places more congenial. This doesn’t seem to match your views well. Lots of websites feeding “info” to applause of Left or Right. Soothing, fun, light.
Russia Russia, Marsha… What about Canadian ,collusion in US Elections? http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/233185-canadian-pro-keystone-agency-donated-to-clinton-foundation
There are probably many examples of Canadian Conservatives colluding with Reagan and Bush elections as well as the reverse. US collusion in Canadian Elections.
Even, or maybe especially close allies have vested interests in each others elections, do we only care when collusion or interference is from an “enemy”?
Now that’s a different perspective, one that had never occured to me. Thanks for posting it!
The real elephant in the room, imo: these outraged “there’s gambling here” ignore the CIA’s long history of interfering with elections (even in those of our allies, like Italy) — and overthrowing elected governments that we don’t like. We don’t have clean hands. Perhaps we shouldn’t whine about people doing to us what we so often do to others.
I fear that our belief in American exceptionalism will hang us, eventually.
Amirlach’s point is interesting, but right now you can probably make a better case for British interference in the election than Russian. The Brits seem to have been feeding John Brennan a lot of piffle about Trump’s associates, and we may never know how that got started. Were the Brits feeding their cousins something for which there was a market demand, or did Brennan ask them to do him a favor because he needed a foreign intelligence source for something he couldn’t do legally on his own? And who was holding Mifsud’s leash anyway, and has anyone seen that guy lately? But all of this is speculation, however entertaining.
But what’s factual is that we probably need to be on the lookout for any argument that assumes its own conclusion, and when we see it, .the deflector shields should go up and we should call a yellow alert. And the case for collusion fits the bill. Even if we grant that the Russians had something to do with the Dem’s email problems (And that theory also mostly assumes its own conclusion. The actual evidence for it is a bit thin), that still doesn’t require Trump’s knowledge or involvement. Also remember that retconning may be allowed on a TV show, and may even be welcome if it means your favorite character or ship gets a new lease on life But this is real life, and retconning the origins of an investigation might just be a sign that someone has something to hide.
I’m feeling a bit of nostalgia here. I used to love Cosmos, and I remember Carl Sagan’s explanation for why people used to think that maybe there were jungles on Venus. They couldn’t see through the clouds, so they said well, I can’t see through the clouds, so clouds means water, and lot’s of clouds means humidity, and jungles are humid, and that could mean blah blah blah…
Observation – I can’t see anything on Venus Conclusion – Dinosaurs.
I think I hear the bellowing of T Rex
“right now you can probably make a better case for British interference in the election than Russian.”
Another score in the comments. I had read about British intel involvement — and rumors of deeper involvement — but I hadn’t put the pieces together like that. Worth some thought. This indicates, again, how little we know.
“Observation – I can’t see anything on Venus Conclusion – Dinosaurs.”
That’s brilliant. Much like the conclusion to yesterday’s post – but more vividly stated!
Oh, the Brits getting involved in American politics. Again. How wonderful.
British Security Coordination: The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas, 1940-1945.
America needs to squash that perfidious Albion tradition, the sooner the better.
With Britain’s life at stake fighting fascism, personally I’d give them a break on their WWII intel activities in the US.
Considering that the British were responsible for losing most of their fighting force during WWI because of the cold , callous, and indifferent attitude of the British military class along with Churchill scheming to get the US involved in the war
Especially when The British claimed that the Great War was a necessary to provide protection of democracy and freedom along with protecting gallant Belgium against the Prussians. One theory, which I lend credence from viewing https://youtu.be/GIpm_8v80hw Robert Newman’s History of Oil is that the Great War was about oil and preventing the construction of the Berlin-to-Baghdad railway to deny Prussia oil from Iraq.
Even back then, millions of Americans brought the party lines that a war to be fought was one of justice against an evil empire scheming to smother democracy.
So no, I will not give the British a break because they keep interfering in American policy to this day.
Partly right and partly wrong. Yes, the military class, at least in the first three quarters of the war, let down the country. Their conduct of operations in France was a classic instance of the Psychology of Military Incompetence (a must read book).
It was this failure that led to the Oxford Union voting that they would not fight for King and Country. But the reformed military leadership did, in the final period, pretty much invent combined arms infantry tactics, air, armour and infantry to defeat Germany, and the Oxford Union graduates did indeed enlist and fight in the reformed army.
But wrong as to why they fought. Hindsight is perfect. The overriding reason was fear of the Channel ports falling into the hands of a hostile power. You can argue that the result did not justify the cost of preventing it. You can argue that they should simply have allowed a repetition of 1870, a quick German victory over France and a negotiated peace. But given the world as they saw it in 1914, even if you accept this retrospective view, their decision was understandable. They were making decisions under uncertainty and had no guarantee that any settlement would have restored Belgium. And would have had no way of enforcing a German withdrawal from Belgium.
The decisive moment was the BEF. Read Houseman, Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries. Along with the Horation Ode, one of the great political poems in English.
“The decisive moment was the BEF. Read Houseman, Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries. Along with the Horation Ode, one of the great political poems in English.”
I’ll check those out, thank you
” But the reformed military leadership did, in the final period, pretty much invent combined arms infantry tactics, air, armour and infantry to defeat Germany, and the Oxford Union graduates did indeed enlist and fight in the reformed army. ”
Before or after the Etaples mutiny in September 17?
Regardless, the point to all of this is to treat and recognize the sources of propaganda so that the American people will not be fooled. Not that much anyway
“Until we learn skepticism, US politics will continue to be shaped by propaganda. The Left clearly sees the flaws in the Right’s stories, and vice versa. But nothing will change until each side sets standards for themselves, not just their foes. Even laughter at propaganda like Ignatius’ will help.”
Yes, spot on. We may not be able to get the full or true story, but propaganda is recognizable by its internal marks. But destroying the market for it…. its very tough.
“But destroying the market for it…. its very tough.”
We have long since past the point at which there are easy ways to reform America. A large segment of the public (a third?) learning skepticism is an extremely easy step — compared with the following steps.
Given you reference to “the CIA’s long history of interfering with elections”, you may enjoy Chomsky’s view, at “Noam Chomsky’s Surprising Take on the Russia Scandal.”
Elsewhere (I can’t find it now) he quipped that, in light of this history, the world must be “rolling on the floor with laughter” at hearing Americans whine about Russia’s alleged mucking in US democratic processes.
Thanks for posting that! I’m not a fan of Chomsky as a political analyst, but he nails it there!
“… the important effect of his investigation will be Democrat’s use of it to cripple Trump’s administration.”
Trump and the Republicans do that daily all by themselves. Begining with calling for Russia’s intel help during the campaign. Making a mockery and abject fool of himself regarding the treatment women, the disabled, Gold Star Families and POW’s. Passing a massive tax cut for the wealthy and a less generous tax cut for the rest of us that will end in 8 years. Gutting environmental controls, the admitedly miserable Affordable Care Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank. And last, but certainly not least, appointing his totally inept and unqualified son-in-law to negtiate a peace treaty between Israel and the Palistinians. Perposterous on its face. Incidentally, doing business with and having relations with representatives of a peer competitor and rival foreign power like Russia will definitely put you and your crew on the national security state’s radar. Expect to be “looked up”.
I said “… the important effect of his investigation will be Democrat’s use of it to cripple Trump’s administration.”
You replied: “Trump and the Republicans do that daily all by themselves.”
Apparently many leaders in the Democratic Party disagree with you. As well they should. Trump and the GOP have been very successful at rolling back more of the New Deal. Tax cuts for the wealth and business, crushing unions, eroding away Obamacare, boosting military spending, gutting key Federal agencies (eg, State, EPA, CFPB), appointing plutocrat-friendly judges, and deregulating businesses. And that’s after only 16 months!
You appear to consider these things inconsequential. My guess is that future historians will wish the Dem’s had made stronger efforts to cripple the actions of Trump’s administration. Such as focusing on policy, not personalities (a tactic which has by now proven its ineffectiveness to anyone paying attention).
“Begining with calling for Russia’s intel help during the campaign.”
Americans used to value getting information, no matter what the source. Now we often hate those that tells truths we don’t know. It is one of the many traits that make easily governed, ideal peons. Let’s see what Trump said about the missing emails from Hillary Clinton’s server, which she was ordered to turn over:
As David Halberstam said about us: “The elephant was great and powerful, but preferred to be blind.” And so we are.
I forgot to add the video of Trump’s speech. Note that Trump’s critics say he is speaking in the future tense (he wants Russia to hack), when in fact he refers to Russia releasing emails if they already have them. After all, the damage is done if the Ruskies have them. We might as well see them too.