This week saw U.S. media reports claiming that Russian military intelligence is spreading disinformation about the coronavirus to sow discord ahead of the November presidential election. Such reports are nothing but more bombast and reprehensible Russophobia as part of a chronic mental condition which seems to have no cure.
Meanwhile, British media reported claims that Russia and China were targeting Germany with interference campaigns in order to undermine the transatlantic alliance. More bombast and reprehensible Russophobia augmented with Sinophobia.
Hardly a week goes by without some such lurid Western media “report” of malign Russian or Chinese plot to subvert Western democracy. Suitably, in this time of global pandemic, the political phobia seems to be going viral.
It can be reasonably posited that as certain nations undergo severe political and economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, there is a tendency to find a scapegoat as a means to “explain” the crisis. The United States and Britain stand out as the globe’s worst casualties from the pandemic. President Donald Trump in particular has seen his much-vaunted “economic success” turn to dust. Out of trauma to his ego, Trump has taken to blaming China for “the plague”. Trump’s cheap-shot politicization also resonates with a deeper political agenda to create a Cold War with China.
The pandemic has also exacerbated an explosion in popular protests across the U.S. over systemic police brutality and racism. The mix has created a climate of chaos and discontent in American society not seen for decades. Thrown into the mix is sharp partisan rivalry between supporters of this president and his opponents. The bitter factionalism is set to intensify as the nation heads to presidential elections in less than 100 days.
Given the upheaval and turmoil, it is all too tempting to find a distraction in the form of “foreign interference”. A Cold War legacy of Russophobia and Sinophobia is being resurrected to provide a convenient political escape route for deep-seated structural problems.
Both sides of the American political divide seem adept at playing the xenophobic interference card. Republican Trump this week claimed that foreign interference would abuse mail-in voting systems and suggested the election should be postponed. There is no evidence for such concern.
Likewise, Trump’s opponents in the Democratic party and their sympathetic news media outlets are adept at playing the same nefarious game.
Ever since Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, his opponents have obsessed over alleged Russian interference without ever providing any evidence for their outlandish speculations.
Chief among the exponents of such conspiratorial thinking is the New York Times, the so-called “newspaper of record”. The Times is a diehard pro-Democrat and “never-Trump” organ. The paper also has a long history of serving as a conduit for U.S. intelligence agencies. Its nadir of propagandist functioning was making the false case of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the genocidal U.S. and British war on that country. Indeed, some of the journalists who peddled that propaganda are still working at the paper and penning the most recent Russophobic articles.
In recent weeks, Russophobia at the Times has become feverish. On June 26, it launched a series of stories, amplified across U.S. media, claiming that Russian intelligence was operating a “bounty-hunter” scheme for assassinating American military in Afghanistan.
On July 16, the Times headlined with “Russian hackers trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research”.
This week, the “paper of record” announced “Russian intelligence agencies push disinformation on pandemic”.
The fiendish thing about such “stories” is the cleverly disguised lack of evidence. They all rely on unsubstantiated allegations made by anonymous sources who hide their vacuous “details” behind national security pretenses. This is an audacious affront to journalistic standard and ethics, but the one “advantage” is that the claims are sealed off from being definitely critiqued and disproven because the lack of evidence precludes a specific rebuttal. The upshot is the innuendo is permitted to linger and sow doubts.
The problem for the propagandists, however, is that the credibility of the “reporting” becomes threadbare with each cycle of unsubstantiated allegations. The increased frequency of the cycle indicates the propagandists are realizing their diminishing potency in the eyes of the public and hence try to compensate by narrating ever-more lurid stories.
In the final analysis, the political and economic problems facing the United States and Britain are endemic. The abysmal failure over the coronavirus pandemic is but one accelerant of a chronic collapse. The chaos and division in those societies is of their own making from the corruption of the political and economic system. Trying to resurrect a Cold War with Russia or China is a futile attempt to postpone a reckoning over inherent problems.
President Trump’s indulgence in conspiracies about China is consistent with his conspiracies about quack medical remedies. His conspiratorial psychosis is reflected in the derangement of his Democrat opponents and their media concerning alleged malign Russian interference. The chaos and division attributed to foreign powers is actually a bipartisan vice for avoiding the radical challenge facing the U.S. and its Western vassals like Britain.
A virus without a cure can become fatal. Russophobia is a virus without any cure as far as the Western political establishments are concerned. The result can be deadly. But deadly mainly for their own societies from not addressing real problems.