This week began with a mass email from the head of the Democratic National Committee, who declared: "By now, Americans know beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russian government orchestrated a series of cyberattacks on political campaigns and organizations over the past two years and used stolen information to influence the presidential campaign and congressional races." DNC chair Donna Brazile went on: "The integrity of our elections is too important for Congress to refuse to take these attacks seriously."
The importance of election integrity had eluded Brazile when she was a regular on CNN, posing as neutral in the Clinton-Sanders battle. "Brazile is not apologizing for leaking CNN debate questions and topics to the Hillary Clinton campaign during the Democratic primary," the Washington Post reported last month. "Her only regret, it seems, is that she got caught."
Many big factors affect any presidential race, and the Russian government may have tried to be one of them for the 2016 election -- though it's hardly the slam dunk that agencies like the CIA and U.S. mass media are now claiming. But in any event, this month it has become routine for a lot of progressive organizations and individuals to descend into a dangerous mode of partisan flackery.
Less than two weeks ago -- as soon as unnamed CIA sources told journalists that the Kremlin was behind hacks of DNC and Clinton campaign emails -- a wide range of progressive online groups, activists and commentators reflexively embraced the dominant media spin. High profile among them was MoveOn, which used its big digital footprint to spur the frenzy.
MoveOn matter-of-factly decried the "chilling news" of "Russia's election tampering." And, without a hint of media literacy, the group also informed its readers that "news broke that the Russian president himself was involved in the efforts to influence our November election -- in favor of Donald Trump."
Such eagerness to share undocumented spin as absolute fact has led many progressive groups to go with knee-jerk reactions. Bent on gaining a propaganda advantage over Trump, those reactions are helping to stampede this country toward a modern form of McCarthyism -- as well as brinkmanship with Russia that could lead to a cataclysmic military conflict.
Zeal to blame Russia for a bad election outcome has spread like contagion among countless self-described progressives, understandably appalled by the imminent Trump presidency. But those who think they're riding a helpful tiger could find themselves devoured later on.
If civil liberties instead of repression and diplomacy instead of war are progressive values, then all too many progressives -- eager to tar Trump as a Kremlin product -- have been undermining those values.
Already, from witch-hunt legislation in Congress to pernicious media blacklisting, the anti-Russia hysteria -- being fueled by the high octane election-intervention storyline -- has gained enormous momentum.
Days ago, assessing the momentum of that hysteria, Russian studies scholar Stephen F. Cohen cited some of the key motives propelling it (the first of which touted extremely farfetched hopes):
* "One is to reverse the Electoral College vote."
* "Another is to exonerate the Clinton campaign from its electoral defeat by blaming that instead on Putin and thereby maintaining the Clinton wing's grip on the Democratic Party."
Thus, countless Bernie supporters have been unwittingly strengthening the Clinton wing of the party while beating on the anti-Putin drum.
* "Yet another is to delegitimate Trump even before he is inaugurated. And certainly no less important, to prevent the de'tente with Russia that Trump seems to seek."
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