Any brainwashed leftists who still believe the Russia conspiracy theory pushed by the corrupt MSM need psychological help.
Half the country hates Donald Trump, and even the half that thinks he’s doing a good job often flinch from his boorishness, his nasty public attacks, sometimes even on his own aides. For all the top talent he says he’s surrounded himself with, the president repeatedly attracts among the worst that Washington—and New York—have to offer. No doubt that’s one reason why whatever is thrown at him seems to stick.
At the same time, there is a growing consensus among reporters and thinkers on the left and right—especially those who know anything about Russia, the surveillance apparatus, and intelligence bureaucracy—that the Russiagate-collusion theory that was supposed to end Trump’s presidency within six months has sprung more than a few holes. Worse, it has proved to be a cover for U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement bureaucracies to break the law, with what’s left of the press gleefully going along for the ride. Where Watergate was a story about a crime that came to define an entire generation’s oppositional attitude toward politicians and the country’s elite, Russiagate, they argue, has proved itself to be the reverse: It is a device that the American elite is using to define itself against its enemies—the rest of the country.
Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump.
Recently, a writer on The New Yorker blog named Adrian Chen gave voice to the central dilemma facing young media professionals who struggle to balance their need for social approval with the demands of fact-based analysis in the age of Trump. In an article pegged to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments of the Internet Research Agency, Chen referenced an article he had written about the IRA for The New York Times Magazine several years ago. After the Mueller indictments were announced, Chen was called on to lend his expertise regarding Russian troll farms and their effect on the American public sphere—an offer he recognized immediately as a can’t-win proposition.
“Either I could stay silent,” wrote Chen, “and allow the conversation to be dominated by those pumping up the Russian threat, or I could risk giving fodder to Trump and his allies.”
In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, Chen explained, no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin. That’s what happened to Facebook advertising executive Rob Goldman, who was obliged to apologize to his entire company in an internal message for having shared with the Twitter public the fact that “the majority of the Internet Research Agency’s Facebook ads were purchased after the election.” After Trump retweeted Goldman’s thread to reaffirm that Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with his electoral victory, the Facebook VP was lucky to still have a job.
Chen’s article serves to explain why Russiagate is so vital to The New Yorker, despite the many headaches that each new weekly iteration of the story must be causing for the magazine’s fact-checkers. According to British court documents, The New Yorkerwas one of the publications that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele briefed in September 2016 on the findings in his now-notorious dossier. In a New Yorker profile of Steele this week—portraying the spy-for-corporate-hire as a patriotic hero and laundering his possible criminal activities—Jane Mayer explains that she was personally briefed by Steele during that time period.
The New Yorker has produced tons of Russiagate stories, including a small anthologyof takes on the Mueller indictments alone. Of course there’s one by the recently-hired Adam Entous, the former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the news that the Washington firm Fusion GPS, which produced the Steele dossier, had been hired by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee—a story that helped Fusion GPS relieve some of the pressure congressional inquiries had put on the firm to release its bank records. No doubt Entous will continue to use his sources, whoever they are, to break more such stories at The New Yorker.
One person at The New Yorker who won’t get on board with the story is Masha Gessen. Born in Moscow, Gessen knows first-hand how bad Putin is and dislikes Trump only a little less than she dislikes the Russian strongman. Yet in a recent New Yorker piece, Gessen mocked Mueller’s indictments: “Trump’s tweet about Moscow laughing its ass off was unusually (perhaps accidentally) accurate,” she wrote. “Loyal Putinites and dissident intellectuals alike are remarkably united in finding the American obsession with Russian meddling to be ridiculous.”
Another native Russian-speaking reporter, Julia Ioffe, formerly with The New Republic and more recently, The Atlantic, has some similar reservations. In a September 2016 article for Politico, she threw cold water on the legend of Carter Page, master spy and wheeler-dealer. As Ioffe reported, virtually no one in Moscow had ever heard of Page.
From the beginning, Gessen saw the collusion story as dangerous, not because she supported Trump but because it fed into a fantasy that convinced Trump’s opponents that they need not bother with the difficult and boring work of procedural politics. And who were the would-be agents of America’s salvation? Spies—the former British spy allegedly responsible for the dossier and countless American intelligence officials using anonymous press leaks to manipulate the American public.
“The backbone of the rapidly yet endlessly developing Trump-Putin story,” Gessen wrote in The New York Review of Books nearly a year ago, “is leaks from intelligence agencies, and this is its most troublesome aspect.”
The specter of an intelligence bureaucracy working in tandem with the press to preserve the prerogatives of a ruling clique is the kind of thing that someone who knows Russia from the inside and actually fears the specter of authoritarian government would naturally find worrying. And not surprisingly, concerns over the role of the intelligence community and its increasingly intrusive methods motivate other Russiagate critics on the left, like Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, historian Jackson Lears writing at the London Review of Books, and Stephen Cohen at TheNation.
“One of the most bizarre aspects of Russiagate,” writes Lears, “is the magical transformation of intelligence agency heads into paragons of truth-telling—a trick performed not by reactionary apologists for domestic spying, as one would expect, but by people who consider themselves liberals.”
Cohen, a distinguished if often overly sympathetic historian of the Soviet Union, was even more alarmed. “Was Russiagate produced by the primary leaders of the US intelligence community?” asks Cohen, referring to former CIA director John Brennan as well as ex-FBI chief James Comey. “If so, it is the most perilous political scandal in modern American history and the most detrimental to American democracy.”
Yes, the left hates Trump. I didn’t vote for him, either. But what Gessen, Greenwald, Lears, and Cohen all understand is that Russiagate isn’t about Trump. He’s just a convenient proxy for the real target. Their understanding is shared by writers on the right, like Andrew McCarthy, a former lawyer at the Department of Justice, who has unfolded the Russiagate affair over the last year in the pages of National Review, where he has carefully explained how the DOJ and FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in order to spy on Carter Page and violate the privacy of an American citizen.
What unites Gessen, Greenwald, Lears, and McCarthy obviously isn’t politics—rather, it’s the recognition that the Russiagate campaign represents an attack on American political and social institutions, an attack on our liberties, an attack on us. Russiagate is a conspiracy theory, weaponized by political operatives, much of the press, as well as high-level intelligence and law enforcement bureaucrats to delegitimize an American election and protect their own interests, which coincide with those of the country’s larger professional and bureaucratic elite.