FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Social Media Madness: the Russia Canard

by

Photo by mkhmarketing | CC BY 2.0

For several months we’ve been hearing a crescendo of outcries that Russia used social media to sway the 2016 presidential election. The claim has now been debunked by an unlikely source — one of the most Russiagate-frenzied big media outlets in the United States, the Washington Post.

Far away from the media echo chamber, the Post news story is headlined: “There’s Still Little Evidence That Russia’s 2016 Social Media Efforts Did Much of Anything.”

The article focuses on “what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts.”

In fact, the ballyhooed Facebook ads were notably not targeted to be seen in swing states, the piece by Post journalist Philip Bump reports. As for the much-hyped tweets, they were smaller than miniscule in quantity compared to overall election-related tweets.

But don’t expect the fervent canard about Russian manipulation of social media to fade away anytime soon. At this point, the Russiagate atmosphere has become so toxic — with incessant propaganda, credulity, fear-laced conformity and partisan opportunism — that basic logic often disintegrates.

One of the weirdest aspects of claims that Russia undermined the election with social media has involved explaining away the fact that few of the ads and posts in question actually referred to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or the election. Instead, we’re told, the wily Russians tried to help Trump by inflaming social divisions such as racial tensions. It’s a rampant storyline (rendered here by NBC News political director Chuck Todd) that’s reminiscent of the common claim during the civil rights movement that “outside agitators,” such as Russian-directed reds, were inflaming and exploiting racial tensions in the South.

From there, it’s just a hop skip and jump to smearing Americans who dissent from U.S. orthodoxies as useful idiots who serve the interests of plotters in the Kremlin.

Of course history is not exactly repeating itself, but it’s rhyming an awful lot. There are real parallels between the McCarthy Era and today’s anti-Russia fervor in the United States.

Despite all the information and analysis that have strengthened progressive understanding in this country during the last few decades, fixating on Russia as culpable for the election of Trump has been widely irresistible. Perhaps that fixation is less upsetting than deeper realization of just how rotten the U.S. corporate system of injustice has become — and how the forces that brought us the horrors of the Trump presidency are distinctly homegrown.

Narratives scapegoating Russia now have an extremely powerful grip on the USA. The consequences include heightened U.S.-Russia tensions that absolutely mean heightened risks of nuclear war — and worsening threats to democratic discourse at home.

The conditioned reflex to label as somehow “pro-Putin” any opinion that overlaps with a Kremlin outlook is becoming part of the muscle memory of much of the American body politic. Countless journalists, pundits, activists and politicians have fallen under the Russiagate spell. They include the liberal primetime lineup on MSNBC, where — as the media watchdog group FAIR pointed out last month — Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes routinely bypass stories of great importance in order “to lead with minutiae from the ongoing Russia investigation that has consumed MSNBC‘s coverage like no other news event since the beginning of the Trump presidency.”

Across most of the media landscape, the meme that Russians attacked American democracy with social-media posts has been treated as self-evident.

In a typical exercise of the conformity that afflicts the national press corps, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine, David Corn, wrote this fall that the House intelligence committee needed more staff to investigate, in his words, “how” — not whether — “a foreign adversary attacked American democracy.” His piece breathlessly declared that “the Trump-Russia scandal” was “expanding — it now includes new revelations regarding Moscow’s use of social media in the United States to influence the 2016 campaign.”

That kind of stenography for powerful spin may snag cable TV appearances and lucrative book contracts, but it’s a notable disservice to journalism and democracy.

Meanwhile, most Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to engage in such rhetoric. So, it was just another routine appearance when Senator Richard Blumenthal went on CNN a week before Christmas and declared “there is increasing evidence that the Russians are continuing their attack on our democracy.” He said: “The Russian attack on our elections in 2016 was endlessly ingenious and inventive, using all kinds of social media, all kinds of intermediaries, sources of information for them.”

To put it mildly, that sort of bombast gains vastly more airtime than discussing the urgent need for détente between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow has climbed with her ratings to great mass-media acclaim, while advancing herself from the outset of the Trump presidency as one of the most prominent and irresponsible Russia baiters in U.S. media. At this rate, when Maddow retires — if she and the rest of us are lucky enough to avoid a nuclear holocaust — she can look back on a career that deteriorated into an obsessive crusade against Russia that increased the chances of World War III.

In the poisonous media environment that keeps boosting her fame and fortune, it’s grotesquely fitting that Maddow — time after time after time — has devoted so much of her program to the illusory Russian assault on democracy via social media.

That’s the way it goes in the propaganda-polluted land of Russiagate.

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail