Why Americans will keep accusing Russia and China of 'election interference'
Americans are voting in the midterm elections, a set of polls which will be a litmus test of support for the Biden presidency, while the US faces stagnant GDP, surging inflation, and shrinking living standards.
And, of course, with election season comes accusations that rival states (such as Russia and China) are interfering in American politics and want to manipulate the result in their favor. Last week, a report published in the Washington Post accused China of just that.
Beginning with the infamous ‘Russiagate’ in 2016, fearmongering of foreign powers manipulating social media to undermine elections has become a favorite pastime of US political classes. It does not matter how much evidence there is for it, or how effective these alleged campaigns even are.
Rather, it has become an easy way to discredit political opposition as a means of partisan squabbling and buy support for hawkish foreign policies. You lose an election? Can’t accept the will of the people? Then say your candidate’s victory is illegitimate because it was brought about by a foreign power.
And that’s what Russiagate was all about. In an increasingly polarized political environment, leading Democrats sought to discredit and delegitimize the presidency of Donald Trump by saying it was a product of Russia. Exaggerated a thousand-fold by the textbook drama of American politics, there was never any real evidence that the alleged Russian interference tipped the scales in Trump’s favor.
Mainstream liberals who voted to remain in the European Union during the UK referendum in 2016 also imported this tactic. Those who advocate election interference narratives like to vastly exaggerate the perceived power and influence of a given bogeyman (usually Putin) and in doing so gloss over the socioeconomic flaws and grievances in their own country that led to the ‘shock’ victories. Those who push these narratives tend to deprive voters of their own agency and assume them to be stupid.
Since that time, claims of interference have evolved to become a stick to beat opposition with in every major election, with not only Russia, but China as well targeted for demonization. Beyond partisan squabbling, these narratives also serve an important foreign policy tool by readily invoking fear of a given country, creating the perception that its influence and infiltration is everywhere, promoting hawkish and confrontational foreign policies in the process.
In this light, allegations of online ‘election interference’ are merely an evolution of what the US has always done. America justifies its hegemonic position and hyper-aggressive foreign policy by successfully selling to the public the perception that its “freedom and democracy” at home is always under threat by one bogeyman or another. Its global domination as a result is turned into a binary, fairy-tale struggle of ‘good vs. evil’. Whether it be global or domestic terrorism, Russia or China, the theme is always the same.
The advent of social media has now allowed that narrative to become more real, claiming that these adversaries are constantly seeking to undermine elections by pushing information and deceiving people, which are then attributed to cause political outcomes that “divide us” and “undermine democracy,” such as Brexit and Donald Trump. But, in reality, it’s these claims that clearly undermine the process of democracy itself, because they allow the real anger and concerns of the public to be readily dismissed under the label of ‘foreign interference’.
When viewed this way, ‘foreign interference’ – and not just in the context of elections, as seen with the Covid-19 pandemic – has become an effective and manipulative means of narrative control, as it is used by Western states to shut down all forms of dissent and police ‘official narratives’. If you don’t think what you are told to think, your views are just dismissed as a fabrication by China or Russia. This trend is growing in scope and scale. Every single thing which the state disapproves of is now branded as ‘misinformation’, and that label opens the door to growing censorship regimes on social media.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.