This is the second part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on an article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.
Section 2. "Cold War 2.0" — This section has nineteen paragraphs:
1. Obama is said not to have reacted right away after being informed of the Russian “intrusion” as he did not want to seem to be “partisan.” The author now speaks as if the hacking is a “fact” when all that has been established is an unproven assertion.d
2. An unnamed member of Clinton’s inner circle grouses that Obama did not make a big deal over Russia’s “attack” on the United States. If he had then a majority of the people would have “sat up and taken notice.” [This may have helped Clinton.] Unproven assertions have evolved into an “attack.” The unnamed source goes on to say, however, he thinks we can not “lay blame for the results of this election at anybody’s feet” but even so Obama should have treated the intrusion as “a five alarm fire.” [Many Clintonites are still trying, however, to blame their loss on the FBI and Putin rather than HRC’s inept campaign].
3. Benjamin Rhodes, of Obama’s circle, defends how the so-called hacking was handled — all they could do was expose WikiLeaks and the Russians; they could not stop the publication “of the e-mails or the fake news.” The author fails to remind us that none of the e-mails or information released by WikiLeaks was shown to be inaccurate or untrue. There was no “fake news” coming from WikiLeaks and the link between the Russian government, WikiLeaks, and “fake news” has yet to be established. This New Yorker article apparently has no respect for journalistic standards.
4. At the G-20 Summit meeting in September Obama told Putin to “cut out” the hacking and interference in our elections, otherwise “serious consequences” would result. Putin ignored the threat and the accusations but did remind Obama that the US has a record of meddling in the internal affairs of Russia.
5. In October, we are informed, “evidence of Russian meddling mounted” — but evidently the “evidence” did not mount to the level of proof as the Administration only stated that “it was confident” the DNC had been hacked by the Russians. Can you imagine FDR telling the American people he was “confident” the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor? Anyway, downloading information and revealing it, whoever did it, is not “hacking” in the strong sense of breaking into a system to tamper with it and alter it. This word is just tossed about to create a negative opinion (fake news if you like) rather than factually inform anyone.
6. An unnamed “national security official” reports there was no evidence the Russians “crossed the line” from “covert influence” to “adversely affecting the vote count.” This was before the election and Clinton was leading. She actually “won” the election — it was the Electoral College that put Trump in office. [It seems difficult to know what did or did not affect the vote count before the vote count, but it seems it was not the Russians!]
7. Obama nixed Kerry’s idea to start an independent investigation of Russian election tampering, according to “two senior officials.” “This would have gotten the ball rolling,” as one aide said, as Trump would hesitate to shut it down. It would be harder to set up under Trump.
8. We are here told that all sorts of talk was going on during the transition period from Obama to Trump and that there were all sorts of contacts and potential compromising behaviors between Trump’s people and the Russians. To what did this amount? “No conclusive evidence” regarding Trump. Nothing that showed any aiding or abetting the [alleged] “interference” with the election. A senior Obama Administration official (unnamed) said he was unaware of any “clear information of collusion.” Nevertheless, this story is kept alive to this day by the mass media and the Democrats.
9. Here we are told “evidence” of a “wide-scale” Russian “operation” has resulted in multiple investigations. The “evidence” is classified. Three weeks after the election Sen. Wyden (D. Oregon) of the Intelligence Committee asked FBI Director Comey if he would release the classified information with the proof of Russian tampering to the American people. Comey said “I can’t talk about it.” The authors conclude, “Wyden’s questioning had served its purpose.” Well, since Obama could have ordered this “evidence” made public, and didn’t, the purpose must have been just to keep this apparent conspiracy theory alive. It’s been going on for months now and the public knows virtually nothing about what really happened — just speculation and assumptions, and this article doesn’t add anything to this speculation except poor journalism. Although, as pointed out in part one, the FBI knew this was all a fraud.
10. About the classified material, Sen. Wyden remarked that he was worried about using the “classified” designation more for political reasons than for national security. Sen. Warner (D. Virginia) reviewed the classified material and appears to be convinced by it. Unfortunately, the rest of us still have to take it on faith that the government really has proof. My objection to this article, and type of journalism, is that it ignores the real story — the keeping of the proof, or lack thereof, from the American people and instead implies that the government’s position is correct anyway. How does this differ from state controlled propaganda?
11. This is a long paragraph with a lot of speculation and comments about ex-UK intelligence official Christopher Steele’s charges about Trump and the Russians: the author admits it’s a “dossier of unverified allegations.” It has that in common with all the other information presented in the article with reference to Russian meddling. Again, if the Russians are anything like the US, then they probably meddle around when they get the chance, but to write a big long speculative proofless article about “what some officials believe” is just propaganda not journalism.
12. Trump calls the dossier “fake,” the Russians call it “pulp fiction,” McCain gave it to the FBI and some “of his colleagues” want it investigated. All well and good. But we don’t know if it’s pulp fiction or not, yet many of its more salacious allegations have already become part of pop culture re Trump and are a staple of late night TV comedians such as Colbert and others: the “Golden Shower”, etc.
13. A revealing paragraph that may expose the real motives behind this witch hunt. Many in the intelligence community are worried about Putin’s long term game plan, as they see it, to disrupt America’s world domination that “has shaped the postwar [WWII] world.” The alleged hacking is a way to create hostility towards Putin, Russia, and WikiLeaks (which has revealed many of the criminal dirty secrets of the US and its allies).
14. This paragraph summarizes the Obama White House consensus of what Putin is doing. He has started an “offensive” outside of what he considers “his sphere of influence.” By the way, the US sees the entire world as its sphere of influence either actually or potentially so conflict is inevitable. He wants to, according to this view, break up the EU and NATO (both of whom, by the way, expanded into the traditional Russian “sphere of influence”) and he wants to “unnerve” the US. Most importantly he wants to change the world system set up by the US and that we have “benefitted (sic) from for seven decades” (Samantha Powers). Well, we replaced the socialist USSR, which didn’t compete with us for markets, with the capitalist Russian Federation and now there is an equally greedy class of Russian capitalists out to win markets and influence away from our capitalists. What did the US expect?
15. The relations with Russia were not reset properly — with the US dominant and calling the shots — and so many on both sides are talking about “the second Cold War.” [Putin and Russia (being both economically and militarily weaker) have tried to avoid a new Cold War but the US and NATO have ridden roughshod over Russian interests and evidently left Russians thinking they have no choice but to push back.]
16. NATO says Russia is being aggressive because it has called the NATO build up on its borders “provocative” and because it objected to the US installing new ground based missiles in Romania. [Russia also pushed back in Ukraine against the US/NATO backed coup against the pro-Russian president and has supported the Syrian government against US support of attempts to overthrow it. Every “aggressive” Russian action seems to have been in response to a US “poke.”]
17. This paragraph describes the world according to Robert Gates, former secretary of war, I mean ‘defense,’ under Bush 43 and Obama. Relations between Obama and Putin were “poisonous” (partially due to Obama’s needless belittling of Russian self esteem). Trump has to improve relations without giving in to Putin’s aggression (push backs) and “thuggery.” This has to be done without giving Putin a big victory. A tall order as any “victory” for Putin is considered unacceptable. By the way, a compromise where the US has to also give up something as well as the Russians, is considered a Putin victory! All this has led to Putin crossing the Rubicon in 2022.
18. Dmitry Trenin (Carnegie Moscow Center) reports that “the Kremlin” expected that if HRC won the election she would militarily intervene in Syria, perhaps setting up no fly zones. Trump won and the fear of a Russian-US military “collision” has diminished. [Trump was unpredictable. He bombed Syria, perhaps to quell speculation he was too friendly with Putin.]
19. Sergie Rogov (Institute for US and Canadian Studies, Moscow) says US relations with Russia are the worst they have been in a generation: it’s 1983 all over again.
This is the end of part two. From reading part two of The New Yorker Article you will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the "hacking" of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections. Maybe we will learn something in part three.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.