Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

The Elites' Russian Propaganda Meme Is Really an Attack on Democracy, Not Moscow

The elites are raging at the demos, not Russia

In June of this year Great Britain held a referendum on continued membership in the EU where majority of the voters decided they want Britain to leave the association. Despite this the British government has yet to act on the decision of the people and the entirety of its political elites, including the leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, are acting in a way that shows the referendum result completely ruined their day.

They had never seriously contended with the possibility that referendum would pass. Leaving the EU seemed too unlikely and too scary to contemplate. Now that the people have decided otherwise -- instead of bringing the country along the new course charted by the electorate -- they have been dragging their feet and waging a war of attrition on Brexit.

In the US as well, the elites never seriously contended with the possibility of the populist Donald Trump presidency. Everything was already set for Hillary (or at most Jeb Bush) to take over. The alternative seemed too unlikely and too scary to contemplate. But the people interfered giving the presidency to Trump instead throwing off so many of their plans for the country and their careers in the dustbin.

Rather than accept the vote as legitimate and chart a course of action to reengage with the people they have been fantasizing about how a recount or an electoral college coup might yet salvage the situation for them.

In the continental EU right now the Italian government has lost a centralization referendum to the anti-elite Five Star movement, the 12-year chancellorship of Angela Merkel seems poised to come to an end, and in France the populist Marine Le Pen has a realistic shot at the presidency.

Across the western world those pesky polls are interfering with the agenda of the establishment elites. Why this is possible and why this is causing such a panic among its ranks is not because the people and elections are hugely influential. They are not. The reason is that the elites have become so intellectually insulated from the wider citizenry that they have no idea how to speak to the people and no real taste for it either.

As alienated as they are from real people even the laughably constrained form of "democracy" that we know has resulted in a huge amount of fear, grief and confusion for the elites.

And here is where the Russian "hacking", "propaganda" and "fake news" meme comes in. As we know it came about by accident. Hillary needed to deflect heat from a politically damaging leak and tried to muddy the waters by crediting the demonized Russian president Putin.

Clinton's claim was obviously silly and yet the elites in both the US and the EU have latched onto it like a drowning man to a straw. Right now the elite-friendly mainstream media is speculating that Russia either already has, or plans to, "hijack" polls in Britain, the US, Germany and France. 

Is that because the elites have it in for Kremlin and thirst for a confrontation with Russia? No, not really. It is because to elites who are alienated from the people but also do not want to seriously engage with the people a fairy tale like that has enormous explanatory power.

As ridiculous as the idea that Russia is swaying elections in the west is on its face, the western elites can not shake it because it jives with every prejudice they hold -- not about Russia -- but about the electorate and democracy itself.

Firstly, the elites are contemptuous of the people. (In the US Clinton straight up said one half of Trump's voters were deplorable. Meanwhile in Britain the elites constantly imagines the populace is about five minutes away from a campaign of an-anti immigrant pogroms.)

Next, because they hold the people in contempt they do not have a taste for speaking to it (as opposed to at it and about it). Unpracticed as they are they also do not know how to effectively speak to people. (In most western democracies only about half of the eligible voters bother to cast a vote and most of them without passion.)

Finally, they do not really believe the people, deplorable as they are, should have a lot of say in how they are governed and resent having to answer to them. (This is most visible in Europe where increasing number of policies and laws are being made following invisible and Byzantine proceedings in Brussels and Strasbourg.)

The idea that the Kremlin is now successfully manipulating elections and referenda across the western world serves to reinforce and justify all of these elite prejudices.

As the elites see it if you oppose open borders and gay marriage you are obviously a vile human being. But if in addition to that you also cast your votes the way Vladimir Putin wants you to then you are also an idiot. Russian propaganda meme is so appealing for the elites because it tells them they have been right all along to think so little of the demos.

It is also appealing because it tells the elites they are not the problem. They are not being frustrated at the polls because they do not know how to connect with the people, but because the morons are easily swayed by foreign powers. Also, the Russian propaganda myth assures them they do not need to really re-learn how to engage with the unwashed. All they need to do is block Kremlin-friendly media and ramp up the demonization of Vladimir Putin.

Finally it tells them how unfair and dangerous it is that the people should have any power over them whatsoever. If the unwashed morons can be swayed by Russian shenanigans then obviously their input and influence should be strictly limited. If Russian propaganda is indeed effective then sitting on a referendum result, staging an electoral college coup, or gutting democracy via supranational associations is not a crime against liberal democracy. It is one's holy patriotic duty.

Of course what makes the Russian propaganda meme so attractive for the elites -- the idea they don't need to work on themselves -- also makes it a deadly trap for them. The actual ordinary people are buying into none of this Russia swaying elections nonsense. If the elites sincerely are, then they are all the likelier to be frustrated in the future as well.

The Russian interference meme arose as an attempt by Hillary to fool the electorate but it may yet result in the elites pulling the wool down their own eyes,

Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

Our commenting rules: You can say pretty much anything except the F word. If you are abusive, obscene, or a paid troll, we will ban you. Full statement from the Editor, Charles Bausman.