‘Russian asset’ – a PC version of ‘traitor’

A new McCarthyism is poisoning public life, and Tulsi Gabbard is its latest victim.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Staff writer

Topics Politics USA

‘I think they’ve got their eye on somebody who is currently in the Democratic primary’, said failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton last week: ‘She’s the favourite of the Russians.’ Clinton was widely believed to be talking about Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

For good measure, Clinton also labelled Jill Stein of the Green Party, who ran for president in 2016, a ‘Russian asset’. And of course she pointed the finger at Donald Trump: ‘I don’t know what Putin has on him, whether it’s both personal and financial… I assume it is.’

Sadly, Clinton’s wild paranoia is shared by a substantial proportion of the American establishment. Since the 2016 presidential election, accusations of treacherous dealings with Russia have become a routine part of public life. Much of the news media have swapped hard news for feverish conspiracy theories about the Russians ‘hacking’ elections with fake news, social-media bots and, of course, Russia’s Manchurian candidate in Trump.

For all the liberal hand-wringing over the ‘death of truth’ in the Trump era, anti-Russian conspiracy theories have proliferated. They are immune to evidence. Resistance liberals had high hopes for the Mueller investigation. They prayed – literally in some cases, with Mueller-adorned prayer candles – for a smoking gun that would link the Trump campaign to Putin. When ‘Russiagate’ turned out to be a damp squib, Russiamania continued unabated.

While it was true that Russia’s so-called ‘troll farm’, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), posted some memes, there’s no evidence whatsoever that they played a major role in the election. Many of them had no explicit link to the election at all. The most liked IRA post on Instagram, for instance, urged users to ‘like if you believe’ in Jesus and ‘scroll past if you don’t’.

It is a strange quirk of modern geopolitics that the Russian government pays people to ‘shitpost’ on the internet, but this is hardly an existential threat to Western democracy. Even with a slicker online operation, it is hard to see how a middling country like Russia, which has a GDP smaller than crisis-ridden Italy, could ever command the resources to bring the most powerful nation on earth to heel. American paranoia about Russia simply defies reason.

The ‘paranoid style’ in American politics has been around for a long time. This is not even the first ‘red scare’. This is the country that gave us McCarthyism, after all. And that’s all the more reason to be concerned. Then, as now, we saw political disagreements reframed as threats to the nation. So Tulsi Gabbard can’t just hold different views on American military intervention – no, she must be working for the enemy. We can already see the dangerous, authoritarian consequences of this playing out in the media. Instead of challenging Gabbard’s views, the New York Times says she’s acting suspiciously. A former FBI agent is reported in the press saying Gabbard is ‘the Kremlin’s preferred Democrat’. And As Matt Taibbi points out, Russiagate has led to a shocking number of former intelligence officers becoming TV news pundits, and ‘op-ed pages and news networks are packed now with ex-spooks editorialising’. Debate and analysis give way to baseless smears.

Politicians that don’t fit the liberal, centrist, woke modes are accused of spreading and amplifying ‘Kremlin talking points’. On ‘Resistance’ Twitter, literally anything can be declared a Kremlin talking point. The journalist Caitlin Johnstone recommends typing those three words into Twitter’s search and marvelling at the sheer range of results. Anything from opposing US foreign policy to criticising centrist heroes like Nancy Pelosi and John McCain could get you labelled a Russian stooge.

But far more dangerous than Kremlin talking points are certain ‘Washington talking points’ – as these really can fan the flames of authoritarianism at home and abroad. The confected panic around ‘fake news’ in the wake of the West’s populist revolts has been seized upon by Putin as a pretext for cracking down on journalism and dissenting opinion. Similarly, when tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Moscow earlier this year, the Russian government was quick to blame ‘foreign meddling’ for sowing discontent. You would hope that the ease with which liberal paranoia about Russia can be used to legitimise authoritarian crackdowns should give the Russia-botherers at least some pause for thought.

But sadly, Russiamania is too important a displacement activity for America’s battered elites. And no, the Kremlin didn’t pay me to say that.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: Getty.

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Jim Lawrie

27th October 2019 at 9:49 am

Donald and Vladimir ought, by every means legal, to encourage and fund “Hillary for President”.

She will ensure that no competent or cogent candidate ever emerges from the Democrats’ ranks.

Jane 70

26th October 2019 at 5:45 am

Congresswoman Gabbard seems to be an eminently sensible, decent and intelligent person; a breath of fresh air. No wonder Hillary and co are denouncing her.

As to Russian influence; it’s been on the agenda for far too long: a cynical opinion might be justified in thinking that ‘reds-under-the-beds revisited makes for a conveniently justifiable target for liberal outrage, the wicked Russians being white, orthodox Christian-in many cases- and ruled by a rich white bloke, who doesn’tcare what the chatterati think of him.
Contrast this weaponisation of all things Russian with the now obligatory pc assertions that all cultures and customs, be they ever so disturbing, are of equal value and thereby immune from criticism.

H McLean

26th October 2019 at 6:31 am

They don’t just believe other cultures are equal but interchangeable with western/European culture. Essentially, the political elite pretend that being English (for example) and having a certain worldview that has been shaped by growing up amidst the culture and values of your community and country are worthless and meaningless, so allowing millions of people from other countries with different values, education, religion and worldviews is not just OK but highly desirable. Multiculturalism was foisted upon all western democratic nations without the consent of the citizens and, given the basic decency of citizens it has worked mostly, but in all the important ways it has failed, much to the detriment of the host countries and their own cultures.

Jane 70

26th October 2019 at 8:30 am

How right you are; multiculturalism has been sold to an increasingly reluctant electorate as the way to go to achieve a rainbow super-society.

Now that public discontent is rising both here, in the US and across much of Europe, what better way to provide a convenient safety valve than to point the establishment finger at the Russians.

Classic displacement, practised by governments of every kind.

Andrew Leonard

26th October 2019 at 7:05 am

You might find this interview interesting

H McLean

26th October 2019 at 11:43 am

That’s an incredible interview. She speaks with such clarity.

Jane 70

26th October 2019 at 1:34 pm

A remarkable woman; I’ve got 2 of her books

Andrew Leonard

26th October 2019 at 2:26 am

A new McCarthyism is poisoning public life, and Tulsi Gabbard is its latest victim.

Is this a joke? Communist infiltration into the American political arena was real. Do you suppose the Russians (and yes, the Americans too) stayed in their respective homelands and behaved themselves, during the Cold War? The only problem with so-called McCarthyism, is that Joe McCarthy got greedy. Otherwise, the policy was spot on (and don’t you suppose the Russians had their equivalent of McCarthyism?).

In the absence of McCarthyism or equivalent policy, there is now the situation in American universities, of more professors identifying as Marxist, than Conservative! Bring back McCarthyism!

In comparison, the people pushing the ‘Russian asset’ claims, are completely delusional, and an example of a world that is losing touch with reality.

Ven Oods

26th October 2019 at 8:58 am

“more professors identifying as Marxist”
I’d have thought it would be more worrying if they were Marxists but kept it secret.

Andrew Leonard

26th October 2019 at 9:11 am

Now that the Marxist worldview – everything is about oppressor and oppressed – is dominant, secrecy is no longer necessary. So the current situation is actually more worrying than that of the 1950’s, when Communists had to be discrete.

T Zazoo

15th November 2019 at 7:48 pm

“(and don’t you suppose the Russians had their equivalent of McCarthyism?).”

Yes, I think it was called ‘The Soviet Union’.

H McLean

26th October 2019 at 12:36 am

The USA has spent the better part of the last 100 years panicking about Russia and the subversive nature of communist agitators. Look up ‘1919 Red Scare’, for example of how visceral the US reaction to the communist threat was right from the start. Given a whole century has passed and they are still in the throes of hysteria must surely tell us something about the state of modern politics.

In retrospect much of the concern was warranted and being dismissive under the banner of ‘McCarthyism’ (itself a well-worn scare tactic) is a rookie mistake, especially when we consider the now well-documented and long-standing communist infiltration of Hollywood. By the early 1960s the ideological overthrow of academia was already a done deal.

Considering all this, it’s hardly surprising actual mainstream politicians (including the Democratic nominee front runners) with communist-inspired policies would eventually use the same scare tactics to further their own pursuit of power.

BTW, McCarthy got more right than he got wrong. His position in history is long overdue a reappraisal.

Jim Lawrie

25th October 2019 at 10:09 pm

None of the Russophobia stands up to scrutiny and it is not meant to.

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