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.
For More Information
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- The secrets of RussiaGate, and what it all means.
- RussiaGate: fragments of a story large beyond imagining.
- We learn the secret origins of RussiaGate.