My position on Russiagate is nuanced... nuanced as in, "meh."

1) I never denied that Russian "meddling" in the US election in 2016 happened.  I'm pretty sure it did happen, to one extent or another.

2) But I don't really know.

3) And I don't really care.

4) Let me modify and clarify that: so far as I know, Russia didn't do anything that I care about during the 2016 US election.  But that doesn't mean that there couldn't, potentially, be something that Russia did that I don't know about which I would be very, very concerned about.

5) When people say that Russia "hacked" the American election, what exactly are they accusing the Russians of doing?  Two things, as far as I can tell:

     a) They are accused of setting up teams of trolls who personally and by way of bots put up messages on social media, including facebook. 

          i) That is not "hacking" by any reasonable definition of the term "hacking".

          ii) I am a freedom of speech and freedom of expression fundamentalist.  As far as I am concerned, everyone has the right to post anything they want onto facebook.  You may say, "But they aren't American citizens!  They don't have these rights!"  But the Declaration of Independence reads, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...."  It doesn't say, "All Americans are created equal."  Now I would amend that a bit, getting rid of both the creationism and the sexism, to say, "All people are equal," but I insist that this means all people all over the world have right to the freedom of expression, and this includes Russian people posting on facebook, even if they are paid to do so.

          iii) Besides... this was not the "sophisticated" intelligence hit job that some American media outlets make it out to be.  I've seen some of the memes that Russians started, and I am not at all impressed.  These were idiotic, unfunny, boring, and often incomprehensible cartoons put together by buffoonish bureaucrats who demonstrate very little understanding of American culture.

     b) They are also accused of leaking some of the Democratic National Committee's private email correspondence to Wikileaks.

          i) On the one hand, this is a much more serious charge than all this baloney about facebook posts.  This is comparable to the wiretapping of the DNC at the Watergate Hotel, which triggered the famous scandal that eventually led to Nixon's resignation.  I take this matter much more seriously.

          ii) On the other hand, I cannot pretend to be certain that it was indeed Russian intelligence that carried this out.  It's always seemed quite plausible to me that a disgruntled DNC employee may have been the one to leak it.

Yes, the American intelligence community insists that they have evidence that proves it was the Russians.  But I have not seen this evidence, and this is the same community that claimed that Iraq had "yellow cake" and was working on a nuclear bomb and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that lied to Congress for 8 years about a program whose details we still don't fully understand, etc., etc., etc..  I have no reason to trust anything they say, ever.  Until I see the proof, I have to stay agnostic.  And since the Russian nationals involved will probably never be extradited for a trial, none of us will probably ever see this supposed evidence.  For now, all we get are thick black lines in the Mueller Report.

          iii) Isn't it a bad idea to punish leaks harshly?  The ability not to reveal sources is a fundamental necessity of a free press.  I was a major fan of Wikileaks when it started.  I'll write some other time about my current feelings about Wikileaks.  But for now, I just want to say: open, transparent government is good, and necessary for democracy. 

6) I have no doubt that many countries, all over the world, "meddle" in our election.  I'll bet China also "meddled" in our election. Presumably, Saudi Arabia also did to a very large extent. More likely than not, European countries, and Israel did, too.  And probably many others.  I'm sure they have for many decades, and I doubt they'll stop any time soon.

7) And, of course, no country has "meddled" in elections more than the United States, which has vastly larger resources to employ in election interference, and has never been shy about using them. "We" (not you and I, but the ruling class, and their puppet government) have done far, far more, and far worse in other countries' elections than they ever did in "ours."  Not only have we been attempting assassinations of world leaders since the 1950s, planning genocidal coups, removing democratically elected leaders and replacing them with dictators, and tapping the phone lines of the leadership of our "ally" nations as recently as recently as the previous administration.  For much of the 20th century, the United States and its allies subverted every instance of worker power (however corrupted) in favor of the direct, brutal capitalist exploitation, especially in the developing world.  The "velvet revolutions" were massively supported and coordinated by American intelligence.  And after the collapse of the so-called "communist" bloc, the United States continued to "meddle" in the elections of Eastern Europe and especially Russia.  In 1996, Yeltsin's election was massively supported by the United States when the communist candidate, Zyuganov, came close to winning democratically, demanding a run-off.

When Americans act horrified and offended about the concept of a foreign government "meddling" in an election, I'm always reminded of the scene in Casablanca:

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

Croupier: Your winnings, sir.

Captain Renault: Thank you.

8) And when you try thinking about it from a perspective that isn't completely narcissistically narrow and limited to American hyper-nationalism, when you try to broaden your empathy just a little bit to attempt to imagine what things might look like from literally any other perspective than the one that is completely brainwashed by the American jingoistic propaganda that is broadcast everywhere, it's hard not to see something pretty dark, if not disgusting about this whole American project - promising and evangelizing and exporting and militarily installing "democracy" everywhere, while, at the same time covertly using intelligence agencies to subvert and crush actual democracy.  Can you blame anyone from feeling some resentment about that?

9) Come to think of it, maybe people from other countries ought to have a say in who leads America.  After all, the U.S.A. is the hyperpower, the hegemonic power on Earth, dominant militarily, economically, diplomatically, culturally, technologically, and in other ways, imposing its will on every corner of the globe.  Shouldn't people from other countries be able, at least, to post their opinions on social media about it?

I propose the following rule: anyone who lives in a country where the United States has a military base should have representatives in Congress, and should be able to vote for President.  Occupation without representation is tyranny.  Resistance to the quartering of troops was one of the primary motivations for the American Revolution, as you can see reflected in the 3rd Amendment.

Effectively, the United States already is a world government.  But it is a government in which most of the governed have no say.  As Amy Chua has pointed out, the United States, as an imperialist power, is less like the Roman Empire - where the conquered nations had the chance to become citizens - and more like Genghis Khan's empire, where conquered people simply had to accept their fate.  If people born on the wrong side of imaginary lines under this worldwide system do not have a legal means of participating in the power that controls them, then they may be forced to take alternate routes.

10) In fact, I think it would be better for America - that is, for the people of America, or the vast majority of them - if people from other countries had a say in our governance.  Imperialism has a terrible effect, not only on the countries of the periphery whose natural resources and labor markets are extracted and exploited, but also on the form of government of the center of imperialism, the country doing the extraction and exploitation.  It leads to governments that are more secretive, less transparent, less responsive, more out of touch, less effective, more repressive, more corrupt, and more likely to see people as statistical quantities to be used and dispensed with.

Imperialism is primarily an economic process, based in part on the financialization of capital and the circulation of this capital into a world market; its state effects are secondary. During the twentieth century, as multinational corporations outcompeted smaller, local businesses, driving them to destruction, and global markets allowed for speculation at an international scale, governments were reduced to competing with each other for which state would submit to the whims of investment capital more fully, and the U.S. government sometimes "won" by demeaning itself the most abjectly - and often the losers in all of this were the American people, both as workers and as residents.  Maybe a little "interference" from the "outside" (though no one is truly outside the system) could actually help liberate us a little bit - or at least act as a check, a balance, to the enormous power that capitalist imperialists enjoy.  Currently the scales are tipped way too far in their favor.

(At the very least, there should be Congressmen, Senators, and Electoral College members that represent the people of Puerto Rico, the North Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  And couldn't the Philippines be looked at as a client state?  What about Bajo Nuevo Bank and Serranilla Bank?  And so on, and on, and on....)

11) ...Because, ultimately, all of this "meddling" by state actors, like foreign governments is chicken feed compared to the major interference in our democratic processes by corporations and by the ruling class, the investor class.  At best, it could be a counter-balance to them.  More likely, it will only reinforce them, because the countries that are doing the meddling are just as "interfered" with by their own ruling class - and ours.  But global wealth and power are so concentrated into the United States that foreign investor classes are relatively weak by comparison.  If anything, China occupies more of a pivotal and tactically superior position on the global supply chain than Russia, but the ruling class of the United States still enjoys a far greater surplus of disposable resources with which to interfere in global politics compared with China.  So if Russian intelligence was trying to convince the world that they matter, I suppose they succeeded in creating this illusion, but only because the American media played into this narrative so uncritically.

Here is the crux of the issue.  No one wants to discuss it, but it's high time we had this conversation on a national scale - and you would think that this event would be enough to spur such a discussion, but so far, no: Where do you draw the line between the competing interests of openness and transparency in government on the one hand, and personal privacy on the other?  It's a tough question, and one that really should be looked at very closely.  No one wants their personal emails to be read to the world.  On the other hand, public figures like presidential candidates warrant closer scrutiny than the average citizen.  What about campaign managers?  What are the appropriate boundaries, and how do we determine and enforce these boundaries?  I honestly don't know, and I wish this were the topic that pundits were weighing in on.  I'd like to hear your thoughts. 


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