It's the media's job to help keep our government accountable and transparent. But accusing Trump of treason isn't just insincere — it's also destroying our collective ability to engage in dialogue with each other
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
There are a number of advantages to being an American living in self-imposed exile.
One benefit is that you are spared the vitriolic, insincere political projectile-vomit spewing from every television set, satellite radio and insufferable work colleague every hour of every day.
Here in Russia, there doesn't seem to be much interest in the daily bloviations of Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh. Yes, on the other side of that seemingly impenetrable wall of American political word salad is a beautiful new world waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Of course, the major disadvantage for most ex-pats is that they rely upon the internet to stay "informed" of what's happening back in the homeland. This is where things get a bit sticky. And depressing.
If we had to make an honest assessment about the current political landscape in the United States, based solely on our "Facebook feed" and self-righteous Guardian op-eds, we'd likely conclude that nationwide politically-motivated violence will become the norm in a matter of weeks.
But we are cautiously optimistic that our view from Moscow has been distorted by a kind of viral hysteria that has been spread by "the loud little handful", as our friend Mark Twain puts it.
Television pundits and corporate-owned newspapers have always been terrible. But the level of insincerity currently being pumped through the airwaves and WiFi hotspots boggles the mind. And we're already witnessing the results.
Take, just as an example, this op-ed by Jill Abramson, the former managing editor of the New York Times:
Here's Abramson's opening broadside:
As the threads of the Michael Flynn scandal are pulled, each one reveals a deeper pit of Russian intrigue and raises more questions about the integrity of the 2016 election. Now, it is time to ask the central questions at the rotten core of the Flynn imbroglio: did Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin engage in a plot to interfere with the 2016 election and, if so, was Flynn their middleman?
What a spectacularly clumsy way of trying to create connections without providing evidence or even a logical thought process. Abramson's headline says that an investigation is needed to determine if "Trump [told] Flynn to reassure the Russians that the new administration, once in office, would go easy on them".
Instead of explaining why offering an olive branch to the Russians "hits the foundation of our democracy", Abramson immediately launches into wild speculation about Trump conspiring with Putin to rig the 2016 election.
The mental gymnastics on display here are shocking in their own right; but the fact that Abramson's total lack of sincerity is now standard operating procedure for the vast majority of television pundits and newspaper columnists should worry us even more.
There does seem to be evidence that Flynn was in contact with the Russians about the possibility of reversing Washington's stance on sanctions. But is this a crime, and does it suggest some sort of sinister collusion with the Kremlin? In 2012, Barack Obama was caught on a "hot mic" telling Medvedev exactly what Flynn is now being accused of: After the election, his administration would have "more flexibility" when it comes to negotiations with Russia. And in Obama's case, he was speaking about missile defense — a serious foreign policy and national security issue:
Was Obama in the wrong to tell this to Medvedev? To use Abramson's own words, should Obama be investigated for "reassuring the Russians that the new administration, once in office, would go easy on them"? No and no.
And yet, Abramson — and so many other "respected" political commentators and journalists — tell us that Flynn's conversations with the Russians is clear evidence of election-rigging.
That certainly seems like a hard sell to us. And even if we take "anonymous U.S. intelligence officials" at their word (not recommended), the idea that there is any evidence pointing to treasonous collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians is simply not true. It's not even an accusation made by the Times' own anonymous sources:
Three of the US sources interviewed by The Times said that despite the frequent contact, there was no evidence that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia on the cyberattacks. What concerned the American officials, however, was how often Trump associates were allegedly communicating with Russian officials during an unprecedented election in which Trump repeatedly showered praise on Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
And yet here's Jill Abramson, telling us the exact opposite.
We are not arguing for or against Donald Trump or his administration — that's a separate discussion.
We are instead asking a sincere question, and we deserve a sincere answer: Flynn talking with the Russians about sanctions "hits at the foundation of our democracy"?
Does anyone sincerely believe this? A phone call? (Or even several phone calls?)
Not decades of illegal wars based on lies? Not institutionalized domestic spying programs, or assassinating American citizens with drones? Not Obama's war on whistle-blowers, which will almost certainly continue under Trump?
Not America's 20% child poverty rate?
No. None of these things. We are told our democracy is at risk because of a phone call about sanctions.
Well, we have good (or bad, depending on how you look at it) news.
For the vast majority of 9-to-5, mortgage-paying wage slave Americans, there simply isn't any time — or unexpended patience — to care who is calling the shots in Washington.
It would behoove disciples of both extremes of the political spectrum to remember that 47% of eligible voters couldn't be bothered to cast a ballot in our last and extremely contentious election. (An even more troubling statistic: Only 11,000 Americans voted for the famous murdered gorilla, Harambe. Didn't the Huffington Post project that he had a 98.2% chance of winning Florida?)
But as political dialogue becomes more and more insincere and pointless, frustrated Americans will begin to find other ways to channel their political rage.
We already saw it when Richard Spencer was punched in the head for saying things that some people don't like. And we saw it a few weeks later at Berkeley, the fabled home of the Free Speech Movement.
H. L. Mencken once correctly observed, "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” Is it a good idea though? Or even an effective way of advocating for your own political beliefs? No and no.
We'll allow Dave Rubin to explain this not-very-radical concept of not punching people who say stuff that you don't like:
Do you want to know how many "progressives" we know who now openly celebrate every act of violence committed against people who have political beliefs that they don't like? Too many. Far too many.
We're not arguing that Jill Abramson (or anyone else, on the left or right) is inciting violence by being unreasonable or insincere. But we do believe that as dialogue becomes less reasonable and more extreme, Americans will rapidly lose the ability to communicate with one another. And violence will fill the void.
Let's return to the 47% of Americans who don't even vote.
The loud little handful want us to believe that Americans are on the verge of a second Civil War. Conservative uncle against liberal college-goin' nephew. Husband versus wife. Cat vs. dog. Whatever.
It's all a big fat lie. Most of us understand that our government has never cared about us or our problems.
And violence certainly won't change that.
So that's something to comfort us all. We guess.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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