Saturday, April 1, 2017

Russia May Be A Red Herring

What worries me: I think the Russia deal may be a huge red herring.

Yes, Russia has sought to influence elections and politics and public opinion everywhere for decades. They are a dirty country and have caused only bad shit in the world for centuries. Their cultural and scientific achievements are laudable, but their autocratic politics have been a burden for the uneducated people – to understand Russia, I read before I visited, one must understand that they never had an Enlightenment – and to the rest of the world. Communism simply substituted one ruling order for another, and increased the cruelty. Their politics have been a blight on humankind.

But, that's been there for a long time. What was new this time around was Trump's using their false news, their lies, their falsehoods, their prevarications, their inventions, their bots, their malevolence, instead of ignoring it as others have done. He simply spread the false news. What does he care for truth? Yes, some of his people were probably tipped off to the hacks that were about to be released, and stupidly bragged about it. But besides having no class, many of Trump's people are pretty stupid. They are lowlifes. They are rude and crude. They aspire to be gangsters.

But, here's the problem. All of that could simply be a diversion. All the Devin Nunes idiocy – talk about a dunce – will turn out to be idiocy and sycophancy. I hope he broke a law, I hope others broke laws, I hope they go to jail and rot for a while, they certainly deserve it. But, it is still all a diversion.

The real crimes being committed are crimes of policy and crimes of decency. And crimes of self-interest and emoluments, certainly. But the real policy and decency crimes are being committed by the Republican Party. They are trying to wrench health care from those who need it, out of a world view that sees those less well off than themselves as guilty of their producing their own need. These are craven and despicable narrow people, most of them fairly stupid and the smart ones are generally twisted, like Steve Bannon, who are doing whatever damage they can to the world.

But in resisting, the opposition needs not only to protect, but to persuade. Could this be a learning experience? Could the opposition persuade others that what they see happening is horrible, by their own standards? That it is wrong to treat people so unfairly, that it is wrong to disobey the precepts of our founders, and what we still call the “American Dream,” of working hard and not being stolen from? That's the challenge, seems to me.

This is a version of the urgent driving out the important. Yes, get the crimes and prosecute them. But what if they escape that prosecution? What if they don't go to jail, what if they can turn around and say, “See!? I told you we were fine!” The electorate is not really that smart, which is a weakness of democracy. They can be misled when a court or other tribunal finds no grounds to prosecute, or if the reprobates can cast the attacks as politically-based and partisan. The electorate then says to themselves, well, I guess they are all right after all.

To me, this is the danger of the concentration on Russia. Yes, it's a threat, and yes, casting a light on it is important. And who knows, maybe this is exactly the most important thing to highlight. After all, liberal democracy is under threat everywhere, and unmasking the Russian methods in such a public way might be exactly the best thing to do. The public absorbs only a limited amount of information – my friend Michael has a housekeeper and aide to his wife who is ill, and when he talks to her and her replacements, he says it is amazing how narrow her world is, how little she knows aside from the block where she lives and the few narrow people that she talks to. How to penetrate to her? Well, that's probably impossible, and she probably doesn't vote. But at a level above her, there must be a voting public that absorbs along a very narrow bandwidth. What's better to absorb: “Russia is evil” or “Republicans are evil,” or “Trump is evil?” All three would be nice, but Republicans are the real target, to me. They are the ones with the deepest set power.

Democracy certainly is hard – look at all the different perceptions one has to deal with! The stupid Hillary campaign thought that Trump would hang himself with his crassness and bad manners. Wrong! What they reacted against, rather, was the practiced and careful politician who seemed to be part of the problem. Now, what if Trump escapes capture, and proclaims, “See?! I'm innocent! They're just trying to hang me!” Will those same people who voted for him, and others, be caught up in the simplistic perception of a brave champion standing up to the biased and self-interested politicians? That's my worry. I guess I just stated it twice. Oh, well, maybe one way or the other was clearer, and this is a short piece.

So, if I were a Democratic leader, I would be downplaying the Russia thing. If it happens and there is a crime, fine, good, hang him, hang them, spit on them and kick them until they die. I'm all for it. Great.

But the odds are that won't happen. The odds are that yes, there was disinformation, and yes, there were conversations, but there was nothing really criminal. Despicable, yes, certainly. But the real crimes against the people are being committed every day by the Republicans, and this is where I would concentrate.

Could the Democrats turn the media's attention to the issues? Now, that's a harder sell. But if I were Schumer, I would certainly try.

On the other hand, there is some virue in the Russia story. There are some nice new faces emerging on the House side – Schiff and Himes on the Intelligence Committee, for instance. And this is what is needed, some new leaders, some good leaders, some substantive leaders. But what I would be urging them to do is to make the connection between attaining power, as the Republicans have, and then turning that power against the interests of the people. I'd be saying, the Republicans used whatever influence they could to attain power, and now we see why – look what they're doing to enrich themselves and their companies on the backs of the people. And then list the ways, in the same order every time: they are taking away health care, they are terrorizing immigrants and their children who are all generally good and hardworking people who just want a chance the way we all do, they are trying to increase the prices of goods by limiting trade, they are fouling our air and water so they can make mor money, etc. Why did they turn to the Russians? To enrich themselves, and to enforce their rules of conduct on you, the American people, to abolish a woman's right to choose, etc. Same list, every time.

Boring? Maybe. But you never get the nail in the wood with one stroke. You need to hit the nail on th head over and over and over. Maybe then enough of the electorate will get it, even in those parts of the country that are seemingly permanently retarded.

Oklahoma, Kansas, maybe ungettable. But North Carolina? I'm looking at you!

Budd Shenkin

No comments:

Post a Comment