American news channel CNN told viewers this week that «US officials» have found «new evidence» to back claims that Russia state agents are working to «influence the presidential election». With subliminal Cold War scare tactics, the report opens with footage of a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
Strangely, though, no evidence is presented by the anonymous US official sources for their latest claims against Russia, as with previous charges of Russian computer hackers made by the Obama administration, secret services and the Clinton campaign.
In the latest twist of this long-running unverified narrative, US officials are asserting that Russian hackers are using the Wikileaks whistleblower site as a conduit for releasing damaging emails against the Clinton campaign.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, in an interview this week, that the claims of Russian state agents hacking into US systems to influence the presidential elections next month are «ridiculous».
Lavrov said that Moscow would not dignify allegations by even offering an official «denial». The top diplomat added that it is almost one year since Russia requested the US Department of Justice to provide some basis for an investigation, but still no evidence has been presented to substantiate Washington’s claims of Russian hacking.
This strongly suggests that the whole point is for Washington to give itself a license to keep pounding on the anti-Russia narrative regardless of facts. If facts were somehow allowed to intrude into the discourse, then the US anti-Russian narrative would come unstuck for lack of substance.
It is a sign of how dysfunctional US media are when they merely serve as an echo chamber for official claims, rather than digging for the truth, as Christiane Amanpour trumpets doing in self-promotional ads for her program.
Wikileaks, run by Australian journalist Julian Assange, has released thousands of emails hacked from the Democrat National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, which have been truly damaging and of having enormous implications for the American public interest. Wikileaks has rejected allegations of colluding with Russian hackers, and Assange has even suggested that his source was from within the DNC.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has a valid point when he questions why the US media have not delved into the Clinton scandals flagged up by the Wikileaks emails. Issues like Clinton allegedly taking corporate or foreign donations to influence government policy when she was Secretary of State during the first Obama administration – the so-called «pay-to-play» scam. Or, Clinton backing jihadist extremists in Libya and Syria with money and arms laundered through the Gulf Arab oil kingdoms.
Potentially, these are hugely disqualifying scandals if the US media were to give them proper attention, or as much focus as they are applying to allegations against Trump of sexual harassment of women.
One significant theme to come out of the recent batch of hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign is that her campaign managers are concerned by her «trust deficit» with voters. For all the massive attack ads run by Clinton against Trump and despite all the negative media coverage on her Republican rival, polls show that Clinton has disapproval ratings that stubbornly hang around 50 per cent among uncommitted voters. The whiff of scandals that hover around Clinton, even though the media have largely ignored them, is still enough to alienate a large section of the electorate from voting for her on November 8.
The Wikileaks emails also show that Clinton’s campaign managers are perplexed by her failure to connect with voters. Her Wall Street lobbying on behalf of banks at the heart of the ongoing US economic malaise is a barrier between her and many blue collar workers and families. The popular anger against what many see as a corrupt American establishment plays into Trump’s support, while Clinton is seen as part of the problem, despite her recent rhetoric about championing ordinary Americans.
With neither presidential candidate enthusing a majority of Americans, the concern is that this election will record an even lower turnout than previous presidential elections where as many as half the eligible voters don’t bother to cast a ballot. Media pundits reckon that a lower turnout would favor Trump’s chances of winning.
This is the context in which the claims of Russian hackers and Russian interference in the US election are best understood.
As in the old Cold War days, the US establishment is playing the «Russian Card» to discredit anyone deemed to be not amenable to their class and geopolitical interests. Clinton has long ago been selected as the preferred candidate to best serve the interests of the American ruling class, whether that be in the realm of domestic economic policy or projecting American hegemonic power around the world.
With regard to Russia, Clinton has stridently advertised her belligerence towards Moscow, from her fervent support for expanding NATO forces in Europe, to her more militarist approach to countering Russia in Syria and Ukraine. By contrast, Trump is ambivalent about NATO and Russia; indeed has called for more cooperative relations between Washington and Moscow.
Thus, Clinton is the candidate-of-choice for the US power elite. This pre-determination of the US presidential election outcome – so much for American democracy! – is evidenced by the ringing corporate and Pentagon endorsements, as well as the massive media campaign to ignore her scandals while relentlessly trying to trash Trump in the eyes of the electorate.
On top of the sex scandals dogging Trump, which he refutes as lies and fabrications, another obviously contrived narrative is «Comrade Trump». The billionaire business magnate has been widely accused in the US media of being a «Putin stooge» or «Kremlin patsy». Again, there is scant evidence presented to substantiate the claims. They are based, it seems, on some casual comments made by Trump complementing Vladimir Putin, his apparent nonchalance towards NATO, or due to one of his aides allegedly having past financial dealings with the pro-Russian Yanukovych government in Ukraine (before the CIA-backed coup in that country in February 2014).
The claims of Trump as a Russian «Fifth Columnist» are inherently lacking any credibility – if not patently absurd. That is why the US establishment is trying to beef up the Russian hacker theme. If the Obama administration is weighing-in to add its voice to claims that Russian state hackers have breached American institutions and are trying to interfere in the presidential election, then that tends to give the allegations more clout, which, in turn, rebound more negatively on Trump.
CIA director John Brennan is also adding his voice this week to the chorus claiming that Putin’s Russia is attempting to sway the forthcoming election.
The Russian Card is being played with a vengeance by the White House, the media and the state security apparatus in a desperate bid to ensure that voters ditch Trump and rally behind Clinton out of some kind of patriotic duty. Recall that a general voter apathy towards Clinton is a deep concern among her backers, which they fear might jeopardize her election.
So, as the days count down to the presidential race it is significant that in addition to the sex scandals being whipped up around Trump in the media, we are also seeing an escalation of claims that Russia is hacking into the American political process.
A giveaway of the manipulation underway comes from news reports that 20 American states have experienced some kind of electronic disturbance in their balloting systems. Then, as if on cue, we had the CIA’s John Brennan promptly assuring voters that all American electoral systems were «safe» from outside interference. Again, the inference here is that those dastardly Russians are attacking good ole American democracy. This atmosphere of patriotic duty is aimed at getting the voters out in force – and to stick it to the Russians and their «stooge».
That’s why Brennan was obliged to emphasize that the voter systems are «safe». If the Russian-hacker scare story was played too strongly then voters might stay away from polling booths altogether because they might think it all futile anyway. A low turnout is not what the Clinton backers want. They want to boost turnout with a patriotic, jingoistic mentality to favor Clinton. That explains Brennan’s contradiction of blaming Russian hackers for tampering with the US political process, but at the same time assuring folks that it’s safe to vote.
Ironic isn’t it? The CIA, which has interfered in and subverted so many countries around the world, is now bringing all its sinister skills to bear on the American electorate.
The Russian Card is being played alright as in the bygone days of Reds under the Bed and Cold War hysteria.
The fact that American power needs so much to recklessly revive the Cold War and reconstruct a «Russian enemy» in order for it to control its own population is a monumental testimony of how little democracy actually exists in the US today.