The American Public Should Be Thankful For Russian “Interference”

Sometime this afternoon a flood of new “Russian hacking” claims started emanating from a variety of U.S. Federal Government Agencies — precipitated, seemingly, by an Executive Order issued by Barack Obama at 12:01 AM on December 29.

If there’s any doubt that Cold War 2.0 is upon us, it should be dispelled after today. Here’s what the Baltimore Sun writes:

In what amounted to the strongest retaliation against Russia that the U.S. has pursued in decades, the administration sanctioned two Russian intelligence services as well three companies officials said aided them. The administration also denied access to a recreational compound in Queen Anne’s County that officials said had been used for “intelligence collection activities.”

It should be noted that this article originally referred to the Russian-owned Maryland facility as a “spy base,” but has since been revised without explanation or notation to use the word “retreat” instead, which is quite a shift. One of the authors of the article, Ian Duncan, put it thusly:

So suddenly we’re bombarded with allegations that “the Russians” secretly carried out “intelligence collection activities” from what may or may not be a “spy base” 60 miles outside Washington D.C. The facility had been in operation since 1972, and the U.S. Government casually tolerated this state of affairs until…today. Oh, OK.

I can’t comprehensively sift through all the disparate claims, reports, and orders we’re being inundated with at the moment, so I want to make one quick, overarching point. Let’s stipulate for the time being that it really is all true: Putin was exceedingly interested in the daily activities of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and John Podesta, and launched a state-sponsored hacking campaign to access and disseminate their emails.

This would have to have been one of the most benign examples of foreign “interference” ever. It’s not even alleged anymore that any of these documents and emails were forged or fabricated. So the fruits of the “hacking” that everyone keeps screaming about is information regarding the conduct of powerful political actors was made available to voters. But for the “Russian hacking,” we would have never gotten to see Hillary’s Wall Street speech transcripts, which she promised to “look into” releasing but concealed. We would’ve never known that her top aide, Cheryl Mills, privately advised Hillary not to run in the first place because her legal problems stemming from the unsanctioned private email server would be so debilitating.

I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating now as we enter yet another phase of Russia Mania. Here are many more crucial revelations brought to you exclusively by Russian Hackers:

It would be one thing if Russian saboteurs infected election systems and tampered with the actual tabulation of votes, but there’s no evidence at all for this and no one seriously alleges it. (Even so, half of all Democrats now believe that the vote really was “rigged” by Russia.)

If the state-sponsored Russian hackers did something truly malignant, like messing with election results, then yes — that’d be a severe breach and warrant substantial retaliation. But as it stands, the sinister Russians are accused of illuminating American voters as to the activities of the country’s most powerful political actors. The revelations made via WikiLeaks shined a light on all manner of fraud, deceit, and malfeasance. Would it have been better had voters not received access to this information? Who did it harm, other than a small group of political functionaries like Podesta and Wasserman-Schultz? Didn’t the American polity actually profit as a result of these hacks, given that they were provided important information about a presidential candidate that would have been otherwise suppressed?

When people use the word “interfered” to characterize what the Russian government is supposed to have done here, they give whole matter a needlessly nefarious gloss. “Russian interference in the election” connotes some kind of elaborate, intensive subversion plot. But that’s not what happened at all — voters weren’t harmed as a result of this “interference.” They were benefitted.

Now, again, we don’t yet know with anything close to certainty that these new claims of attribution are valid. But stipulating that they are: is this really such a huge crisis? Would people be wailing just as vigorously if Trump’s operatives had their emails hacked and published, or would that be lauded as a worthy dissemination of material in the public interest? I think U.S. Democracy can survive the successful phishing of John Podesta’s gmail account.

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