I think NPR really came through on this piece of journalism:
They probably stand alone among the media, who have profligated (I made that word up!) a pretty tenuous notion that it was Russian “hacking” – and nothing else! – that cost Hilary Clinton the Presidency and put Donald Trump there.
Here is the simple logic which deflates such a notion:
- Hilary Clinton didn’t really lose the election, unequivocally. Another blazing news item is the discrepancy between the Popular Vote and the Electoral Vote. The Russian “hacking” argument says, essentially, that Hilary’s character was so defamed by these alleged Russian media artifacts, that she lost a significant part of her constituency? First, that doesn’t match the Popular results. So, that refines the claim to say that the Russian meddling somehow influenced the Electoral College? How exactly? It would have to be shown, in a mathematical way, that enough votes shifted, from one or more States, from Democrat to Republican, so that the majority went to Repulbican, hence the Electoral College voted Republican. It would require a mathematical explanation, ultimately. But, does it even really sound reasonable, in the first place?
- The argument is unequivocal – it purports to rule out every other possible cause for her loss – right? Aren’t we saying “Hilary Clinton lost the Presidency because of Russian hacking?” There is never any “and….failure to win Bernie’s constituency; failure to appeal to the Midwest laborer vote, etc.” No. The argument as presented is that if there had been no interference, Hilary Clinton would be the 45th President – no contest.
- The most strikingly ridiculous part of all of this is that we are comparing some media items which defame Hilary in some way, to the mountain of media artifacts that defamed Trump throughout his campaign, and we are saying that Hilary’s defamation came out worse? Trump’s ludicrous Tweets alone should have cost him the Presidency, if this is really the argument. He demonstrated bigotry, racism, sexism, philandering, ridiculous tax records – I mean, what did the Russians put out there that trumps all of the public embarrassment that Trump embodies? The NPR article says. That’s it? I mean, the DNC emails were mean-spirited, indeed, as were the “jokes” about Benghazi. But ties to powerful bankers? How does that lessen Hilary, in comparison to Trump?
- The messages revealed the gritty inner workings of the party elite and showed its preference for Hillary Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders supporters were outraged; the embarrassment prompted the resignation of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
- Later, WikiLeaks released emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, which depicted her and the campaign’s ties to powerful bankers, internal jokes about the Benghazi investigation and other such exchanges.
- Parallel stories about the FBI’s investigation into the private email server that Clinton used at the State Department
That’s it? I mean, the DNC emails were mean-spirited, indeed, as were the “jokes” about Benghazi. But ties to powerful bankers? How does that lessen Hilary, in relationship to, of all people, Donald Trump?
NPR does not mention the “fake news” campaign, which is also regularly described as “hacking” (in a pretty non-technical sense, publishing fake news cannot be considered “hacking”, since anyone, including my mother, can do it. The Washington Post, famous for uncovering the Watergate scandal, did the most thorough investigation (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/russian-propaganda-effort-helped-spread-fake-news-during-election-experts-say/2016/11/24/793903b6-8a40-4ca9-b712-716af66098fe_story.html?utm_term=.abba7b86a8b9). This is their conclusion:
Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.
So, it’s just spreading right-wing point of view across social media? This is supposed to have lost – I mean actually functionally lost – the Presidency for Hilary Clinton? The WP goes on to say
There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders.
Note that the rhetoric switches from the Democrats, to democracy, and from Hilary Clinton, to its leaders. The Democratic Party is hardly equivocal to Democracy, and Hilary does not represent the leaders of Democracy. But back to the point – the point was that Russian “hacking” lost Hilary the Presidency. The point was NOT that Russian “hacking” ruined our Democracy (it’s a Republic, by the way; abandoned Democracy when the popluation exceeded, say, 100).
Take this into account, from the NPR article
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said in September that the Republican National Committee also was hacked during the campaign.
Well, well. So the Russian “hacking” damaged Hilary significantly – or the DNC, anyway – but had what, the opposite effect on the RNC?
The bottom line is this: the Russian “hacking” argument needs to be expanded beyond the facebook bytes and Tweets: what is the actual position? The only real question is this:
- if the Russians took votes away from Hilary, where did those votes go? One can’t imagine that these were closet Republicans, just waiting for unsubstantiated claims against Hilary, for them to “swing” all the way to the Right? Right? It seems more likely that the 1,000,000 Bernie supporters, who deserved to be the most offended by the “hacked” emails (the emails weren’t actually “hacked” – that is, they were not altered: what the DNC Chair said about Bernie was the (her) truth), might have chosen not to vote at all. But one can hardly imagine that they voted for Trump.
- who was swayed by this dys-information? Who read those Tweets, and acted on them? Staunch Hilary supporters? Reading what, the Breitbart Twitter feed? Word: the staunch Hilary supporters don’t even really know what these media artifacts even say – at least they didn’t until after the election. Democrats read Democrat social media, and believe it all; Republicans read Republican media, and nothing else. So,
- Who, exactly, did the Russian influence?