Time to Push Back on Russia Scare Neo-McCarthyism
By Tim Canova — Candidate for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District
Last week, House Republicans used the present hysteria about Russia to try to discredit me and every citizen and activist who has ever spoken out against “fracking,” otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, and dangerous pipelines and liquefied natural gas facilities.
A majority staff report of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology purports to expose the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere with U.S. energy markets by influencing domestic policy by spreading propaganda on social media. I was a target of this smear campaign for simply posting tweets against fracking and against the Sabal Trail Pipeline.
Apparently, a single retweet by a Russian internet troll is all it takes for these Republicans to smear U.S. citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.
The Republican majority staff report points to a Tweet of mine that I posted on October 23, 2016 (pictured left), stating: “Good news: Last night, Miami-Dade officials voted unanimously to ban fracking. #ProgressForAll” and then citing to a news report in the International Business Times, which is owned by Newsweek, not the Kremlin.
According to The Tallahassee Democrat, which is owned by the Gannett company, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, since my tweet was re-tweeted by a Russian bot, it suggests that the Russians must have co-opted me to undermine the U.S. energy market. No wonder that John Quarterman of the Suwannee RIVERKEEPERS called this attack “rolling-on-the-floor laughable.”
I will not be intimidated by these tactics of fear and smear. Rest assured, with your help I will continue to speak out against fracking and dangerous pipeline projects and liquefied natural gas facilities. I will continue to advocate for 100 percent renewable energy and a green New Deal. We will continue to fight back against this Russia hysteria and stand up for environmental activists everywhere.
The Russian posts and tweets in context
According to the Republican staff report, between 2015 and 2017, there were 9,097 Russian posts or tweets regarding U.S. energy policy or a current energy event on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. At least three tweets about the Sabal Trail Pipeline protests were linked to Russian Twitter accounts. That’s 9,097 posts and tweets out of what’s got to be literally millions of posts and tweets by Americans on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram dealing with U.S. energy policy during that same period of time.
What’s behind this Russian Red Scare Campaign
Of course, these Republicans and many establishment Democrats have every incentive to ignore the factual context and take cheap shots at environmental activists. They are in the service of the fossil fuels industry, which spends millions of dollars a year on campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats alike, including Congressman Lamar Smith, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee that issued this terrible report.
It’s shameful to see corporate interests that are so opportunistically using McCarthyism tactics to try to discredit American citizen. Just look who’s behind the 515-mile Sabal Trail Pipeline that will pump over a billion cubic feet a day of highly pressurized fracked gas through Alabama, Georgia and Florida — including through a fragile aquifer that supplies 60 percent of Florida’s drinking water. It’s a joint venture of Spectra Energy Partners, Duke Energy, and NextEra Energy, the parent company of Florida Power & Light (FP&L).
Next Era and FP&L have spent millions of dollars lobbying for fracking and pipelines and against citizen referendums for solar energy in the Sunshine State. They are among the biggest donors to our opponent Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and not surprisingly she has flip flopped many times on fracking in the Everglades and she has been completely silent on the dangerous Sabal Trail, the siting of liquefied natural gas facilities in our communities, and citizen referendums for solar energy.
A New McCarthyism
During the McCarthy Red Scare of the 1950s, American citizens were hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and asked, “Are you or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party.”
Look at how far we’ve come. Today, the question is becoming, “Have you ever been retweeted by a Russian troll?”
This Republican staff report does a disservice to the people of Florida and around the country who have opposed fracking and been actively fighting the Sabal Trail and other pipelines. And the shame falls on many Democrats as well. Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said the Kremlin was trying to exploit “useful idiots” from unwitting environmental groups and activists to further Kremlin energy influence. It’s disapointing to see Cardin engage in such petty name calling, particularly after he has been taking tens of thousands of dollars from fossil fuel companies, electric utilities, and other energy interests.
Covering Up the Real Dangers of Fracking and Pipelines
The county commissions that passed fracking bans all across the state of Florida were influenced by very real threats to our drinking water, based on scientific studies, not Kremlin propaganda. In fact, near the end of the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), after years of study, finally concluded that fracking does indeed contaminate drinking water.
As stated by Daniella Levine Cava, a Miami-Dade County Commissioner who voted to ban fracking: “This is about our water supply. In this kind of acid fracking, the chemicals are potentially very dangerous and not disclosed. The risk of them entering into our water supply through our porous limestone substrate is too high.”
Apparently, the majority staff report was not interested at all in considering actual scientific evidence about fracking. Because their objective was to discredit environmental activists and a political candidate, any arguments against fracking and pipelines are assumed to be nothing more than Russian propaganda — even when the arguments are made before any Russian retweets.
The Russia Scare as U.S. Censorship
The Tallahassee Democrat went beyond the majority staff report by taking a swipe at me for being interviewed about the Sabal Trail Pipeline protests on Russia Today (RT) cable TV. And they then criticized a Sierra Club organizer for retweeting my RT video interview. RT did not compensate me in any way or provide any talking points, just as I have never received compensation or talking points from MSNBC, CNN, or FOX News for my interviews with them.
I have appeared on RT numerous times on shows hosted by Ed Schultz, Larry King, Lee Camp, and Thom Hartmann, among other programs, to discuss the issues, just as I would go on other foreign owned stations to get our message out — including the British Broadcast Company (BBC) and Al Jazeera TV. The question is not why RT would be interested in covering environmental activism in the U.S. The bigger question is why corporate-owned U.S. mainstream media — such as MSNBC, CNN and FOX — have blacked out all coverage of public protests and controversy over fracking, the Dakota Access, Sabal Trail, and other oil or gas pipelines. This news blackout is the real disgrace.
We know it’s time to push back against establishment conspiracy theories and Russia Red Scare hysteria when environmentalists and political candidates get attacked for simply being retweeted by foreign internet bots and trolls.
We will not back down and we will continue to speak out on the issues that matter to the people of our country. We will call out these shameful “guilt by association” tactics for what they are, a New McCarthyism that seeks to discredit our growing grassroots and progressive movement.
It is shameful to see politicians use hysteria over Russia as an excuse why we should put up with threats to our land and drinking water from fracking and dangerous pipelines. We stand by our commitment to ban fracking and convert to a 100 percent renewable energy economy, a green and solar New Deal — not because of Russia, but because we need clean water to survive, a sustainable full employment economy that works for everyone, and a sustainable environment and ecosystem for future generations.