The Convenience of Red-Baiting

From Chip Gibbons:

As Trump pushes through a nightmarish whirlwind of executive orders, the urge to undermine his presidency is more than understandable — it’s absolutely essential. But organizing against Trump in an anti-Russia idiom ignores the xenophobic right-winger’s most serious problems — and it makes it easier for the state to crack down on left dissent and ideas…

The ODNI report’s annex on RT is particularly alarming, not because of what it says about Russian propaganda efforts inside the US, but because of what it says about the propaganda efforts of the US intelligence community inside the US. Put bluntly, the intelligence community is actively working to equate domestic dissent with nefarious machinations from the Kremlin…

It mostly assailed RT for giving a platform to left-wing movements in the US. By way of evidence, the government agency cited RT’s repeated airing of a documentary about Occupy Wall Street, which depicted the movement as opposed to the “ruling class” (quotations in the report). RT, the report further lamented, covered infringements on civil liberties in the US and “alleged” Wall Street greed. Of additional concern was that RT had hosted a third-party presidential debate and claimed that the US’s two-party system did not represent “29%” of the population. Lies only the Kremlin could tell, indeed…

Denouncing opponents as fellow travelers of Putin allows political and media elites to delegitimize critics of the neoliberal order, scrubbing public debate of any mention of the root causes plaguing the advanced capitalist world. It is not austerity that drives opposition to the European Union, but a Russian plot to weaken Western European institutions. It is not the legacy of colonialism that is re-emerging in the program of the European far right, but bad thoughts the Kremlin has put into people’s minds.

This is particularly dangerous in the US. Trump enters the White House after running a campaign infused with bigotry and fear mongering, while promising to bring back torture, surveil Muslims, and undermine what little progress has been made in restraining police brutality. Meanwhile, the Republicans in Congress have made it clear that they want defund Planned Parenthood, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and go after Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. All of these are very pressing dangers…

[A]s Doug Henwood has pointed out, fixating on Russia allows establishment Democrats to avoid asking any hard questions about why Hillary Clinton lost. Not only can they ascribe Clinton’s loss to Russian hacking — instead of her ties to Wall Street or her tone deafness to populist outrage — they can argue that focusing on anything but Russia distracts us from the most pressing issue: the Kremlin’s hijacking of our democracy.

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