Got a problem? Just blame Russia

Rania Khalek
Rania Khalek is an American journalist, writer and political commentator based in the Middle East.
Got a problem? Just blame Russia
At a time when relations between the US and Russia have worsened to levels unseen since the Cold War, the media and Democratic Party have somehow convinced themselves and the American public that Moscow controls the White House.

Anti-Russia hysteria has captivated the US since the election of President Donald Trump, with American officials blaming nearly everything on Russia to distract from their own ineptitude, lack of popularity and an unstoppable rise in anti-establishment sentiment. It’s the Russia distraction.

It started with the Clinton campaign’s refusal to take responsibility for losing the presidential election to the most unpopular candidate in history by blaming Russia – and has since spread far and wide.

Behind every progressive cause is Russia

New York’s two-term governor Andrew Cuomo has warned, with zero evidence, of Russian meddling ahead of the upcoming governor’s race in which he faces a Democratic primary challenge from progressive candidate Cynthia Nixon. Like all establishment Democrats, Cuomo is invoking Russia in an effort to undermine leftist opposition to his reelection bid.

This narrative is not limited to local US races.

Concerned about a possible victory of a leftist candidate in the upcoming Mexican presidential election, US officials are preemptively alleging Russian interference. The frontrunner is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist populist who poses a major challenge to the current right-wing administration.

“Although Lopez Obrador has moved toward the center during the campaign, his Morena party has a left-wing base that resembles some of the movements and governments that Washington has opposed since they began to spread through Latin America in the early years of the 21st century,”observes analyst Mark Weisbrot.

As the Atlantic noted, “some members of the U.S. political establishment seem to view Lopez Obrador as the second coming of Hugo Chavez.” So the US response is to tarnish him by blaming a potential victory on Russia.

It couldn’t possibly be that Mexicans have had enough of the violence, corruption and neoliberal economics that have hollowed out their country. It must be Russia driving the leftist to victory!

Meanwhile, opposition to racism ad climate disaster is also a Russian plot to undermine America.

So-called Russian bots were recently blamed for, among other things, spurring protests against racism at the University of Missouri in 2015. Apparently racism wasn’t a problem in America until Russian bots got involved.

Russia also stands accused of fomenting protests against pipeline projects across the US, including the Keystone XL and Dakota access pipelines. Who could’ve guessed that all this time those environmentalists trying to avert climate disaster were actually ‘useful idiots’ for the Kremlin!

The blame Russia game reached peak hysteria in the immediate aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, after which prominent liberal pundits, like Democratic Party apparatchik Eric Boehlert, shifted the conversation from the very real threat of mass shootings, which is as American as apple pie, to Russia.

Clinton started it

It’s important to remember that these Russia-blamers are following in the footsteps of the Hillary Clinton campaign, which cooked up the narrative that Russia got Trump elected in order to deflect blame for Clinton’s unexpected loss. The irony is that the Clinton campaign schemed to elevate Trump during the Republican primary under the assumption that the clownish, bloviating billionaire would be the easiest for Clinton to beat.

The reality is that Democrats lost an election to a guy who wasn’t even trying to win because they screwed up. The Democratic Party anointed the deeply unpopular Clinton as its nominee, went out of its way to piss off and push out Bernie Sanders supporters, and then ran a terrible campaign that had no real message. The Clinton campaign was so arrogant in its ability to win, it totally neglected traditionally Democratic Midwestern states that swung the election for Trump. (Then again, maybe the Kremlin forced Clinton to ignore those states!)

The Clinton campaign’s blame-game messaging was quickly picked up by the American intelligence apparatus, which has sought to place fault for the election on Russia ever since with a series of reports that have yet to produce any solid proof that Russia was behind Trump’s win.

The most recent advancement of this narrative was the indictment in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe charging 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies of using social media propaganda to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.

The indictment alleged a preference for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and disdain for Hillary Clinton. It was a clever way to discredit Sanders’s popularity. Rather than genuine, organic dissatisfaction with the status quo and a desire for the sorts of policies that Sanders is proposing – like Medicare for all, free college tuition, raising the minimum wage, etc. – we’re supposed to believe that all of the momentum that propelled Sanders during the Democratic primary was the result of some Russian trolls on Facebook.

Worst of all, many progressives are buying it, likely due to the media obsession with the story.

Repetition works

If you turn on CNN or MSNBC or open the pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, the news stories are almost always saturated with headlines promoting Russiagate. People were skeptical at first but the repetition seems to be working, especially on Democrats, the majority of whom believe Russia influenced the election in favor of Trump. This is dangerous and is leading to a Cold War siege mentality that makes escalation between two nuclear powers more likely. Meanwhile, anyone who questions Russiagate is branded a Putin apologist in true McCarthyite fashion.

Perhaps the corporate media continues to lead with Russiagate stories to distract from their own complicity in the rise of Trump. After all, they gave Trump an estimated $5 billion in free advertising to garner more views and clicks. During the presidential election, all of the major networks aired Trump’s stump speeches live from towns in the middle of nowhere simply because they got views. As Leslie Moonves, the CEO of CBS, confessed, Donald Trump’s candidacy “may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS.”

Instead of taking responsibility for missteps, societal flaws, corruption, or a lack of popularity, US officials prefer to blame Russia, and by doing so they have resurrected the Cold War. Blaming Russia is nothing more than modern-day McCarthyism. It’s an effective tactic for suppressing dissent and maligning people and movements demanding social justice. And it’s dangerous.

By placing Russiagate at the center of their opposition to Trump, his detractors in the press and in Congress are basically daring Trump to escalate against Russia. And it’s working. The Trump administration keeps taking the bait, intensifying sanctions against Russia, arming neo-Nazi affiliates against pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, and ordering the unprecedented expulsion of Russian diplomats.

It’s unclear what the Trump administration could do short of bombing Russia to convince Democrats and the mainstream press that Russia isn't calling the shots. Then again, if the US were to initiate a hot war against Russia, American leaders would likely do what they always do: blame Russia. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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