For two years and what feels like an eternity, the United States has been consumed with the saga and perceived peril of “Russian interference.” It’s the one topic that has dominated mainstream political discourse, with politicians and media elites each virtue signaling their patriotism by calling out and condemning the so-called “attack on American democracy.” Mainstream journalists, in fact, have been among the foremost torchbearers of this newfound method of virtue signaling — for example, taking every opportunity to spark and provoke drama by calling on Trump to condemn President Putin at quite literally every press conferences between the two.
But after two years, the jig is up. Not only has the sensationalized narrative of Trump-Russia collusion proven to be factually bankrupt, the didactic indignation by Russiagate’s most fervent promoters has also been proven to be disingenuous and selective at best as evidenced by two points in fact.
First, as soon as the fantasy of collusion dramatically fell apart, pundits and politicians so committed to the cult-like faith in a grand Trump-Russia conspiracy quickly shifted their focus and collective outrage to the hints of obstruction of justice buried within the pages of the Mueller Report. News outlets spent hours breaking down the case for obstruction, but spent hardly anytime devoted to breaking down or critically discussing Volume I of the Mueller Report (the part dealing with Russian interference).
No longer did Russia or Russian interference reign as the topic of political conversation. It was as if Russia was nothing more than a political battering ram that lost its utility as soon as it became clear that collusion wasn’t going to tear down the walls of Trump’s presidency.
Second, while the Bill Mahers and Rachel Maddows of the world have week in and week out called to obsession the ways in which Russia “interfered” in 2016; they and the rest of America’s gatekeepers have willfully overlooked other, arguably more effectual cases of foreign interference and election meddling.
Take for example, Ukraine’s interference on behalf of the Clinton campaign — which came to light at the beginning of 2017, but has been largely ignored.
According to Politico, “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump” by disseminating and leaking documents to the Clinton campaign that were designed to damage Trump and those involved in his campaign. In fact, Ukraine’s “meddling” had a tangible impact on the presidential race as evidenced by Paul Manafort’s resignation as campaign manager and the advancing narrative that Trump’s campaign was intimately involved with Russia. That, however, did not warrant a special counsel or any on reaction by those on the Beltway.
Likewise, towards the end of 2018, The New York Times broke a story about election meddling originating from within America’s borders. Although the report had all the ingredients necessary to be a bombshell news story that would garner similar levels of outrage to Russian meddling, the story never got much mainstream traction.
The New York Times found that New Knowledge, a cyber-security firm connected to the Democratic Party, “orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation” that used fake Russian Twitter and Facebook accounts to plant the impression that Kremlin-linked accounts were working to defeat the Democratic Senate candidate, Doug Jones — when, in fact, those accounts were bought and operated in the United States.
This project aimed at disinformation impersonated conservative Alabamians, sought to sow discord among Republicans, and ultimately hoaxed the national news media into believing the Roy Moore campaign was being tangibly supported by Russia. Speaking of which, the Russian-troll farm (with no provable connection to the Russian government) often pointed to as the crux of Russia’s interference efforts, spent around $51,000 on social media ads leading up to November 2016 — purportedly to impact a national election. New Knowledge, by comparison, spent $100,000 on a state-wide race that resulted in a major upset and elected the first Democrat since 1997 to Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. Which do you think had a bigger impact?
As it so happens, Russia is the only country singled out for trying to exert influence on American politics. There is no question of Israeli influence, which, for example, spent $43 million dollars in lobbying-related activities in 2017 (Russia, by comparison, spent less than $1.3 million). Likewise, there is no criticism or sanctions directed towards Ukraine for Ukrainian interference in 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign. There’s also virtually no outrage over New Knowledge’s election manipulation in the 2017 Alabama Senate Race, although it almost exactly mirrored Russia’s alleged interference.
The indifference towards other instances of foreign influence and/or election meddling is revealing. The fact that foreign influence and election meddling is only worthy of ire if it originates from Russia shows just how disingenuous and selective the outrage really is. If one is outraged over Russian interference, then logically, one should be outraged over Ukrainian interference. If one thinks the Internet Research Agency should be prosecuted for it’s social media campaign, then logically, one should hope to see New Knowledge brought to justice.
Either foreign interference and election meddling is a problem or it’s not. It’s either a genuine cause for outrage and action in all cases — or it’s not. That said, it’s up to media elites, politicians, and the American people to decide that, but given the utter and complete apathy towards the instances aforementioned — one would reasonably assume they have already decided it’s not.
Hunter Cawood is the founder of the Russian Public Affairs Committee. He holds a Master’s in Management from Saint Petersburg State University (Russia) as well as a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Kennesaw State University.