That the American left is morally and intellectually bankrupt is hardly breaking news, at least to my longtime readers: I reported it way back in 1999, when “leftists” were cheering on the bombing of Serbia. I updated this critique when our vaunted “progressives” attacked Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald for exposing the depredations of the Surveillance State during the reign of Barack Obama. Of course, there have been – and continue to be – exceptions. Yet the old-style liberals, of the sort exemplified by, say, Alexander Cockburn, who never waffle when it comes to questions of war and civil liberties, are few and far between. With Cockburn’s death, in 2012, the species became as rare as an albino redwood – and, yet, not quite extinct.
The “Russia-gate” hoax now being perpetrated by the anti-Trump “Resistance,” in league with elements of what we call the intelligence “community,” has given fresh impetus to the ongoing degeneration of the American left – while highlighting the fact that pockets of healthy dissent remain. Consumed by hatred for President Trump, most of what passes for the “left” today has rushed to embrace the story – concocted by former CIA director John Brennan and a gaggle of still-serving intelligence officials – that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian intelligence to “steal” the 2016 election from Hillary Rodham Clinton. This was done, they claim, by “hacking” the Democratic National Committee’s email system and exposing the profound corruption at the heart of the Clinton campaign. Ancillary to this operation was a concerted effort by the Russians to broadcast “fake news” denigrating Hillary and promoting Trump. All this was done, according to the official intelligence reports and the liberal media, on direct orders from none other than Vladimir Putin himself.
The problem with this narrative is that there’s no evidence for it. The two reports made public by our spooks are laughably bereft of any proof, forensic or otherwise, consisting mainly of bare assertions. The actual evidence, we are told, is classified top super-duper secret, and we’re given the old we-must-protect-sources-and-methods run-around. In short, the intelligence community that told us Saddam Hussein most certainly had weapons of mass destruction ready to launch is now telling us that we just have to trust them.
And while a disturbing proportion of self-avowed liberals and “progressives” are doing just that, this phenomenon is not universal. Over at The Nation, Russia scholar Stephen Cohen has been warning about the dangers of the new Russophobia, and James Carden has been asking why the CIA narrative about the alleged “hacking” of the DNC is being taken at face value. Now a new study by cyber-war experts has challenged the forensics – or lack of them – behind the official narrative: the investigation is conducted by a group of independent researchers and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). I covered their findings here, but to reiterate I quote the VIPs report:
“There was no hack of the Democratic National Committee’s system on July 5 last year – not by the Russians, not by anyone else. Hard science now demonstrates it was a leak – a download executed locally with a memory key or a similarly portable data-storage device. In short, it was an inside job by someone with access to the DNC’s system. This casts serious doubt on the initial “hack,” as alleged, that led to the very consequential publication of a large store of documents on WikiLeaks last summer.
“Forensic investigations of documents made public two weeks prior to the July 5 leak by the person or entity known as Guccifer 2.0 show that they were fraudulent: Before Guccifer posted them they were adulterated by cutting and pasting them into a blank template that had Russian as its default language. Guccifer took responsibility on June 15 for an intrusion the DNC reported on June 14 and professed to be a WikiLeaks source – claims essential to the official narrative implicating Russia in what was soon cast as an extensive hacking operation. To put the point simply, forensic science now devastates this narrative.”
This view was elaborated on in a long piece by Patrick Lawrence in The Nation: it is comprehensive, and, in my view, convincing – at least credible enough to throw the “hacking” narrative into serious question. But certain “associates” of The Nation, including writers Joshua Holland and Katha Pollit, are most unhappy that the oldest left-liberal periodical in this country saw fit to publish the Lawrence piece. As reported by Erik Wemple in the Washington Post, a number of the magazine’s supporters wrote to editor Katrina van den Heuvel in protest. After ranting about the “irreversible crisis” of the Trump administration occasioned by collusion with “a foreign government that meddled in the election that catapulted [Trump] into power,” the protesters get down to brass tacks:
“We understand that anxiety about foreign – especially Russian – influence is a familiar trope in American politics, and has been used in the past to suppress internal dissent. But to emphasize this particular angle in Nation coverage over the conduct of the Trump administration is a dereliction of our responsibility as progressive journalists. Last week, for example, the magazine ran a piece casting doubt on the motivation of the officials behind the White House leaks, one of several it has published in recent months that have implied the real threat to national security is not Trump’s conduct but rather the attacks on him. As longtime associates of The Nation, we are deeply concerned that by making these editorial emphases and by likening calls for investigations into the Russia connection to ‘red baiting,’ the magazine is not only playing into the hands of the Trump administration, but doing a dishonor to its best traditions. We have noted, too, with dismay, that Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and other far-right adversaries have taken comfort in the writings of other Nation writers on the current crisis.”
Who cares about what’s true – we can’t possibly agree with Tucker Carlson and/or Ann Coulter!
Not one word refuting the Lawrence piece’s central contention – that the forensic evidence points to an inside job at the DNC rather than a hack by the Russians or anyone else. The evidence is irrelevant, because, after all, the Trump administration is facing an “irreversible crisis” – and we can’t let mere facts get in the way of such an alluring prospect. Oh, yes, we get that anti-Russian hysteria has been used to “suppress internal dissent” – but, oddly, they don’t mention that it’s also been used to take us to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Were any of these worthies alive during the Cuban missile crisis?
And as for The Nation “doing a dishonor to its best traditions” – well, that depends on what one considers “best.” As I recall, The Nation was in the forefront of those leftists who defended the Moscow Trials in the 1930s. That the signatories want to uphold this inglorious tradition is the measure of how far the American left has lost its moral compass in the age of Trump.
Ms. Pollit’s comments to Wemple show that the infection isn’t limited to Trump Derangement Syndrome: a bona fide case of Russophobia is in the works:
“‘I just felt that for some reason, we are too heavily invested in the defense of Putin and all his works,’ she said. And she can’t abide too much more applause for Nation content from certain quarters. ‘These are our friends now? The Washington Times, Breitbart, Seth Rich truthers and Donald Trump Jr.? Give me a break. It’s very upsetting to me. It’s embarrassing.’”
Pollit is much more comfortable being friends with Bill Kristol, John Brennan, and the Alliance to Secure Democracy, which spends its enormous resources (supplied by the German government) tracking “Russian influence operations” on the Internet.
Poor Katha! At her feminist consciousness-raising coffee klatch, when all the other ladies are denouncing Putin as a male chauvinist pig and wondering when we’re going to send more arms to Ukraine, Ms. Pollit has to defend her magazine against charges of cuddling up to Steve Bannon. This simply can’t go on.
Wemple reports that The Nation is “reviewing” the Lawrence article, under heavy pressure for a retraction: this is how today’s neo-Stalinist left operates. While editor van den Heuval insists that her magazine has no “party line,” the reality is that the politics of Russia-gate militate against objective fact-based journalism. The Democratic party and its various appendages have destroyed what little independence the American left ever had.
This is about more than Russia-gate. Pollit accuses her fellow Nation writers of being “invested in the defense of Putin” – an echo of the new interventionism among Democratic party politicians calling for a new cold war with Russia. Because you can’t be for détente with Russia without being “invested in the defense of Putin” – that is the new foreign policy orthodoxy on what passes for the “left” these days.
This is what we’re faced with: foam-flecked neo-cold-warriors to the left of us, and warmongering neoconservatives to the right of us. But not to worry! Because the American people are waking up to the War Party’s machinations: they are no more interested in launching a crusade against Russia than they are in committing mass suicide.
But we can’t take anything for granted. That’s why Antiwar.com is more important than ever: when even The Nation shows signs of caving to the War Party, independent journalism debunking the interventionist narrative is essential. So please: make your tax-deductible donation to Antiwar.com today. Matching funds are still in effect, so your contribution will be doubled.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.