My Thoughts On Mueller and Russiagate

The tl;dr version:

1. My basic policy is that most people in power are possibly psychopaths (see my new book The Psychopath Economy) and therefore we should investigate them as often as we can. Trump especially falls into this category, as do many of the people around him.

2. I had no problem with the Mueller investigation. Ever.

3. My main issue with it has always been that some people on the left seemed to treating collusion as a fact, despite there being no (or not enough, if you prefer) evidence to conclude that. As I’ve always maintained – meeting with Russians, in and of itself, was neither illegal nor evidence of collusion. Neither was hoping Russians would release hacked emails.

4. The media hype around collusion for the last two years, in my opinion, was not justified by the evidence.

5. The Mueller Report, rightly or wrongly, declared there (and I quote): The investigation did not establish that the contacts described in Volume I, Section IV, supra, amounted to an agreement to commit any substantive violation of federal criminal law-including foreign-influence and campaign-finance laws, both of which are discussed further below.”

6. Therefore Mueller seems to agree that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude a conspiracy / collusion – and so why all of the hype about it for the last two years? Why were people so convinced it was a fact?

7. As for Russian interference, the FBI already investigates that, so there’s no need for a separate investigation, as far as I can tell. That does seem like a waste of money, but hey, the US has money to burn, so why not.

8. As for who hacked the DNC, I acknowledge that Mueller concurs with the intelligence agencies – which isn’t surprising, seeing as he’s a former Director of the FBI. I, of course, don’t trust the FBI or the CIA, because they have been caught out lying continually in the past. That doesn’t mean they are wrong in this instance, but they have a shitty track record at telling the truth, especially when it involves Russia. Does that mean you should or shouldn’t trust his findings on collusion? I don’t care. Trust or don’t trust. Up to you.

9. Assange, on the other hand, has an excellent track record of exposing lies and telling the truth, at least as far as we know. That said, he might be lying in this instance, or just plain wrong. I have no evidence either way. So I’m neutral on the issue.

10. If Russia *did* hack the DNC and leak it to Assange, I don’t really care. Good on them both. The leak exposed the Clinton / DNC corruption, and a lot more, including France’s motivations for destroying Libya, so the leak was in the public interest and I applaud whoever was behind it.

11. Was all of the hype around collusion justified? Apparently not, if Mueller couldn’t find enough evidence to charge anyone with conspiracy. So why did the hype exist? Maybe the media, supposedly made up of professional and highly trained journalists and editors who are good at being objective, just got carried away? Like they did when they told us Saddam had WMD. But Cicero told us to always ask “cui bono” (who benefits)? Who benefited from two years of collusion delusion? The media sold a ton of papers and tv advertising, which boosted their revenues. The DNC got to distract people away from their own corruption (as revealed by the leaks) and how they screwed the Sanders campaign during the primaries – and eventually lost the election to a buffoon who didn’t even want, or expect, to win. Did these parties deliberately distract the American population with the collusion delusion? I don’t know. I have no evidence to support those theories. But I would love to know.

The LONG version:

To avoid having to repeat myself over and over: my point over the last could of years has never been that Trump isn’t dirty or guilty of all sorts of crimes. On the contrary – I assume he is dirty. What I’ve been going on about for the last couple of years has been that the COLLUSION narrative that everyone has been obsessed with was based on zero evidence. Having meetings with Russians was not illegal or evidence of collusion – it was evidence of having meetings with Russians.

As for people saying there was evidence but just “not enough for indictment”, I think that’s heavy spin doctoring. Conspiring is like being pregnant. It’s a binary situation. Saying “but they french kissed” does not mean there is evidence they are pregnant. An agreement to conspire on something is black and white. Either they agreed to conspire or they didn’t. There isn’t any way to have a partial agreement.

Over the last couple of years, a lot of people told me I was insane / naïve / a dupe because I wouldn’t agree with the collusion narrative. They assumed Trump (or his campaign’s) guilt, I gather, because it’s what they wanted to believe. But, of course, it turns out I was right (at least according to the Mueller Report).

And I’m highly amused that those same people are now either: a) denying they ever claimed there was / believed in collusion, b) trying to spin it into “but but but what about cover ups?” or c) saying “but but but he’s a criminal.” Instead of being honest and saying “yeah we sure did jump the gun on that one and maybe we should learn to think before we buy into media narratives.”

I think the questions we should be asking now are:

Who created the narrative?

What did they hope to gain?

Why did the media push it for two years when it was obviously bullshit from the get-go?

And why did you buy into it?

And before you say something about “Russian interference in the democratic process”, a) that isn’t new, b) we didn’t need this investigation to tell us that and c) there’s already ongoing investigations into that, has been constantly for 100 years.

Investigations are fine, have as many as you want. But investigating the foreign interference in domestic politics is something the FBI gets paid to do and has been doing for nearly a century. Russians attempting to interfere in American elections has been going on since 1930. Nothing surprising about it. FBI files are full of it. Pretty much all J. Edgar Hoover ever thought about.

It should be pretty clear to everyone by now that the whole COLLUSION!!! narrative we’ve had for two years was overblown and that *someone* had an agenda behind it. Was it the Obama administration trying to deflect attention from their failure to stop the Russians? Was it the DNC trying to deflect attention from how they fucked Sanders and lost the election? Was it the media just profiting from the chaos? Was it Wall Street who continued to bleed America dry and run their foreign wars while everyone was distracted by nonsense? Was it a little of all of those things? I don’t know the answer – BUT I think those are the right questions to be asking about now because THAT is what is destroying America’s democracy. Not the Russians. Not Trump. It’s the forces that allowed Trump to get elected in the first place.

Amy Goodman interviewed Noam Chomsky recently and asked him to explain the Trump presidency. At the 48 minute mark he nails the move of both major parties to the right since the 1970s, and how the GOP managed to balance their primary constituency – big business and the wealthy – whilst also targeting small but passionate niches – the religious right and gun owners. He also explains why Russiagate was such a bunch of nonsense.

I would have hoped that after the whole “Saddam has WMD!” furor 18 years ago, Americans – especially those on the “left” – would have developed a better bullshit filter when it came to interpreting the US media. Apparently they aren’t ready yet. Here’s a handy guide for what to do the next time you hear something in the news which maps into your confirmation bias.

The way people are doubling down on their commitment to the Russiagate narrative reminds me of how members of a doomsday cult act then the big day doesn’t happen. They don’t acknowledge they were wrong. They are too invested in their beliefs. So they often become more fervent than ever before. American politics has become, more than ever before, a matter of religious fervour – even for the atheists.

One other thing I’ve suspected over the last year or so is that Trump (and his father before him) actually has real connections to Russian mafia via Semion Mogilevich, Bayrock, Felix Sater, etc. We talked about those on BFTN 4 and BFTN 18. I’m quite surprised Mueller didn’t report on that or Trump’s reported tax fraud (as discussed that on BFTN 21).

Chomsky: It’s Hard To Look Into The Mirror.

Yesterday I spent some time transcribing the podcast interview I did with Noam Chomsky way back in 2005 for the book I’m working on. If you haven’t heard that episode, I highly recommend having a listen, even through the audio quality leaves a lot to be desired. I hadn’t listened to the full thing myself in many years and it blew me away. It’s as relevant now as it was back then (if not more so).

Anyway, here’s just one of the profound snippets from the show. I suggested to Noam that people often find it hard, after a lifetime of corporate and nationalist propaganda, to accept his view of the world. I asked him what people can do to realign their worldview. Here’s a segment of his answer:

Look into the facts. This isn’t quantum physics, the evidence is easily available if you want to look at it.

Actually one of the hardest things to do, whether in personal life or in thinking about international affairs, is just to look into the mirror. We all know this in personal life. It’s much more convenient to have illusions about yourself than to look into the mirror and see yourself honestly. Anyone who doesn’t know that is just lying to themselves. We all know it. We create an image and picture of ourselves which fits our need to believe that what we are doing is basically benign and helpful and forthcoming and sympathetic and sometimes it’s true but often it isn’t and when it isn’t we typically finds ways of explaining it away.

But if we are honest we will look into the mirror and see what the truth is and do something about it. And the same is true when you look at international affairs.

Now there’s a difference in this case. When it’s a matter of just yourself, when it’s just a matter of how you deal with it, when you try to look honestly at your own society, its history and actions and so on, you’re facing a massive deluge of propaganda and indoctrination that is trying to create a delusionary picture. So power systems are naturally conspiratorial, naturally they are going to dedicate enormous efforts to try to get the population to view the exercise of power and hierarchy and authority as if its benign and full of benign intentions. I don’t know an exception to that in history. If you read the pronouncements of even the worst monsters, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Hirohito, they are all full of the most eloquent rhetoric about their noble intentions and how they are sacrificing themselves for the benefit of the people and so on and so forth, and yes major institutions are developed to try to promulgate those ideas and in fact its true that in the countries most people believe them. So for example in Nazi Germany, until it began suffering serious military defeats, Hitler was very popular, maybe the most popular leader in German history and his conception of the nobility of their engagement in the world and domestically, that was widely accepted. Same in fascist Japan, same in Stalinist Russia. That happens and it also happens in more free societies. Furthermore, there is nothing novel about it. Centuries ago, David Hume had an important work on political philosophy called “Foundations of The Theory of Government”. His first principle of the foundation of government he pointed out that power is actually in any society, he said, power is in the hands of those who are governed. They don’t know it, but power is actually in their hands. And therefore to maintain authority it is necessary to impose consent, it is necessary to compel the general population to consent to the authority of the masters. And he said that’s true in every society, from the most free to the most despotic. And that’s basically correct. And anyone with any degree of authority knows it, whether it’s in a family or school or corporation or government or World Bank, you know that, you have to compel consent somehow and to do that we now have massive institutions, huge institutions, media, educational systems, huge public relations industries, which are, to a large extent, devoted to this. If you want to discover the truth about your own society, its history and workings and so on, you do have to overcome barriers, barriers which are erected to prevent such understanding, but it’s not very difficult, again, it’s not quantum physics.

Chomsky: America’s Rank Hypocrisy — Why Is it Only an “Atrocity” When Other Countries Do It?

I’m about 20% of the way into my new writing project “You Are Blind” – a look at how propaganda works in a corporatocracy – and it’s going very well.

Meanwhile, OpEdNews has this excellent new article by Noam Chomsky.

He starts by quoting  international affairs scholar James Peck who states:

“In the history of human rights, the worst atrocities are always committed by somebody else, never us” — whoever “us” is.

Chomsky then presents a few recent examples of how the western media loves to focus on atrocities by “the bad guys”, such as Syria, while ignoring (or justifying) similar or worse atrocities committed by “our side”. Or they highlight China’s treatment of dissidents like Chen Guangcheng while ignoring 0r justifying American treatment of dissidents like Bradley Manning.

It’s all part of what I’m writing about in my book. We are programmed from birth by our governments, corporate media, corporate PR departments, the education system (co-financed by the government and the wealthy elite) and religions to believe that a certain set of truths are self-evident – and that this programming is so pervasive that we don’t even notice it.

don't ask, don't tell
don’t ask, don’t tell

The Propaganda Model

 

The propaganda model is a theory advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky that alleges systemic biases in the mass media and seeks to explain them in terms of structural economic causes.

The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.

First presented in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, the propaganda model views the private media as businesses selling a product — readers and audiences (rather than news) — to other businesses (advertisers) and relying primarily on government and corporate information and propaganda. The theory postulates five general classes of “filters” that determine the type of news that is presented in news media: Ownership of the medium, the medium’s Funding, Sourcing of the news, Flak, and Anti-communist ideology.

The first three (ownership, funding, and sourcing) are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important. Although the model was based mainly on the characterization of United States media, Chomsky and Herman believe the theory is equally applicable to any country that shares the basic economic structure and organizing principles the model postulates as the cause of media biases. After the Soviet Union disintegrated, Chomsky said terrorism and Islam would be the new filter replacing communism.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Obama Targeting Journalists

According to Jeremy Scahill, the Obama administration (and President Obama directly) is running a campaign against whistleblowers and journalists (see article at RT.com).

Now it has been divulged that Obama even appealed with the president of Yemen to ensure that one of their own journalists would stay behind bars for telling the truth. Journalist Jeremy Scahill tells RT that Yemeni reporter Abdulelah Haider Shaye was instrumental in exposing the falsities of a covert war in Yemen. In December 2009, Scahill says the press reported that a Yemeni strike had killed 34 members of al-Qaeda. When Shaye went to investigate though, he soon learned through spending time on the ground that the US was actually directly involved in the attack — an attack which took the lives of civilians. Shaye was eventually put on trial for exposing the truth behind the event and allegedly the court introduced false evidence, which in the end yielded a conviction that potentially  carried a death sentence. But since the entire case against the journalist was fabricated by his government, the journalist got off with a relatively mild sentence of just five years. Under pressure, Yemeni President Saleh intended to pardon Shaye. This is when he got a call from President Obama himself, personally requesting that Saleh switch his stance on pardoning the reporter.

Is this the Obama people thought they were voting for in 2008? Chomsky says Americans should vote for Obama again in 2012 because he is “the lesser of two evils”. Perhaps. But it’s also important that they understand who they are voting for. Look behind the Hollywood-written speeches and shiny images and pay attention to what his administration actually *does*, not what it says.

Democracy Now has an excellent interview with Scahill who has just returned from Yemen.