In recent days, a disturbing trope has appeared among the self-declared “Resistance” to Trump. Citing “research” that often has the scientific rigor of Donald’s Trump’s investigations of Barack Obama’s birthplace, they say that Russia is fanning the flames of the Black Lives Matter movement and the “Take a Knee” campaign. Some of these progressive Resisters are taking it a step further, tracing Kremlin perfidy in stirring up trouble in God’s perfect American heaven back to the Sixties. Yes, liberals are now aping the John Birchers and Klan goobers and American Nazi goons of old who claimed the Civil Rights movement was just a Commie plot. They really are going there, as Max Blumenthal has pointed out.
A couple of days ago, an Australian journalist named Chris Zappone tweeted a chart put out by the “Alliance for Securing Democracy,” a group of heartfelt patriots including Michael Chertoff, leading security apparatchik from the Bush Regime who cashed in to become the head of a highly profitable fear-mongering consultancy; Bill Kristol, a notorious lover of world peace through military aggression and mass murder; and Michael Morrell, former CIA apparatchik and stout defender of “extrajudicial killing” and torture, who, needless to say, is also now lapping at the “security consultant” gravy train. No one could possibly question the sincere devotion of these fine figures to truth, accuracy, morality and democracy. Together, they have helped bring freedom from all earthly cares to tens of thousands of innocent people all over the world.
They now provide a vital service in “tracking Russian influence on Twitter.” This is actually not as hard as it sounds. You might think it would require extensive technical know-how and spycraft to ferret out the Kremlin’s connection to this nefarious network. But no; all you have to do is find tweets with the theme of “anti-Americanism.” This includes any reference to the Syrian conflict that doesn’t follow Washington’s approved narrative; tweets criticizing Morgan Freeman; any support of secession movements in Catalonia or Kurdistan; and, perhaps most sinister of all, “a travel guide for Crimea.”
I myself was once accused (by association) of being a Kremlin Commie Putinist Right-Wing Bolshevik Fascist Godless Orthodox Pro-Trump dupe by no less than the Washington Post, which published a list from another similar (although more anonymous) group, denouncing a whole host of “pro-Kremlin” sites — including CounterPunch, where I write a monthly column for the print version. The Post was quickly forced to retract most of the story, but the pattern was clearly set: find something — anything, anywhere — that deviates one inch from whatever is the accepted line of conventional wisdom about America’s good greatness on any given day, then denounce the heretic as a Kremlin tool. The progressive world will beat a path to your door — even if, like the worthies above, you have the blood of innocent children and tortured captives on your hands. Sweet!
As the Alliance of Torturers and Warmongers — sorry — for Securing Democracy puts it: “The charts and graphs here display hashtags, topics and URLs promoted by Russia-linked influence networks on Twitter. Content is not necessarily produced or created by Russian government operatives …Just because the Russia-aligned network monitored here tweets something, that doesn’t mean everyone who tweets the same content is aligned with Russia.” As I said: a veritable Trump-like level of analytic rigor.
Anyway, the Australian journalist tweeted a chart, with the ominous warning that “Pro-Russia social media” (that is, tweets by people “not necessarily…aligned with Russia”) was in “overdrive,” trying to “stoke outrage” about the “Bend a Knee” campaign which is protesting the wanton killing of unarmed people — primarily African-Americans — by unaccountable police departments. Obviously, no one would normally be outraged by this unless they were being “stoked” by Kremlin tricksters. Max Blumenthal jumped in to make this very point – “Yup, Putin is tricking us Americans into being outraged at racism. It's all a Russian op.” – to which Zappone riposted with this zinger:
“Yes, it's not like Russia doesn't have long history of making hay about US race issues.”
And presto, there we are, back in the beer joint with the John Birchers, growling about them Commies stirring up the coons. Now, it so happens I grew up in a time and place where such sentiments were readily heard — and not just from Birchers but from eminently respectable mainstream Republicans … and Democrats. In fact, given the partisan make-up of rural Tennessee at that time, almost ALL the people I heard voicing such notions were Democrats.
Anyway, having stumbled across Mr. Zappone’s Bircher re-hash, I added my own brief contribution to the debate. (I will recast the Twitter breakage into solid text.)
“Oh be fair. Everyone knows there was no racism in the US until Lenin and Putin started tweeting about it in 1917. Growing up in rural TN in the 60s, I remember how Clem the Commissar would come by in his pick-up & force homefolk to protest integration. "Make hay, y'all, make hay!" he'd holler, passing out pointy hoods with the hammer & sickle on top. Then he'd force the aldermen to ban African-Americans from buying property or drinking out of public water fountains. "But we love our black bretheren," homefolk would cry. "No matter," Clem would say, whipping out his Kalashnikov. "Nikita wants y'all to stir up trouble, so get to it." And so, sorrowfully, under the Communist lash, good folks in a land that had never even heard a harsh racial word had to build an entire system of racial bigotry affecting jobs, education, justice, civil rights, medical care, financial services and every other aspect of life. They didn't WANT to, but them damn socialist media Russkie agitators MADE 'em do it. Like Vietnam, it was just another tragedy that FOREIGNERS inflicted on us!”
I too oppose Trump — both for his unique awfulness and for the myriad ways he continues the heinous crimes and corrosive follies of his predecessors (including his immediate predecessor, who bequeathed to Trump a presidential assassination apparatus, numerous undeclared wars, an alliance with an increasingly genocidal Saudi onslaught against Yemen, a free pass for the rapacious corporations and oligarchs whose greed and fraud plunged the world into economic ruin, a free pass for torturers and torture apologists, and so on). But the “Resistance” — especially the part led by Establishment worthies and Hollywood celebrities who act as if Trump is some eruption of unprecedented evil in a previously pure system — is going to some very dark places. They are beginning to equate any criticism of American policy or American society with treasonous foreign influence. People who “stoke outrage” over police killings by supporting the entirely peaceful, silent protest of football players are now part of a Kremlin “network.” And the "Resisters" are working this trope backward into American history, trying to taint any protest movement or action for social change as “anti-Americanism” which was “stoked” by nefarious Russians.
I make this prediction, and it is not ironic or satirical: before the year is out, we will see some prominent “Resistance” figures directly denounce Martin Luther King Jr. as a Kremlin dupe. After all, the Russians “made hay” with the “anti-Americanism” of his Vietnam War protests and his denunciations of racial and economic injustice, didn’t they? Like Zappone, they won’t even think about the implications of what they’re saying; they’ll be too blinded by their need to find pernicious Russian influence everywhere, to “prove” that the Russians — who, as Resistance hero James Clapper (former head of the whole security apparat) said are “almost genetically driven” to deceive, infiltrate and subvert other nations — have always been “at war” with us by stirring up trouble. If they were doing it back then, they’re obviously doing it now. Ipso facto, Trump is a traitor and we can just cancel the results of the 2016 election. (This is another idea actually making the rounds these days, despite the fact that this would require destroying the constitutional system of government just as thoroughly as anything Trump hopes to do.)
The fact that they’re re-animating zombie lies and racist tropes that millions of people fought — and often died — to destroy will be lost on them. But it’s not just a blind hatred of Trump; it’s the even more compelling need to remain blind to the militarist, imperialist, oligarchic, inhumane, unjust, neoliberal horror show that gave rise to Trump in the first place: a show in which they have been willing players or happy cheerleaders for decades. They’ll bring back any lie, besmirch anyone — anything to keep from holding the mirror up to the nation, and seeing the truth.