The other day RT reporter Dan Cohen flagged how New Atheism guru Sam Harris recently had a shady cold war manipulator on his podcast promulgating the establishment narrative that Russian hackers and trolls interfered in the 2016 US election, despite the fact that there is no more publicly available evidence for this than there is for the existence of biblical Jehovah. I find this both fascinating and hilarious.
Harris, author of The End of Faith and commonly mentioned in the same breath as atheistic thought leaders like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, once wrote the following:
“While believing strongly, without evidence, is considered a mark of madness or stupidity in any other area of our lives, faith in God still holds immense prestige in our society. Religion is the one area of our discourse where it is considered noble to pretend to be certain about things no human being could possibly be certain about. It is telling that this aura of nobility extends only to those faiths that still have many subscribers. Anyone caught worshipping Poseidon, even at sea, will be thought insane.”
Belief in the establishment Russia narrative is very much the same. As Ray McGovern of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity recently documented in an excellent article for Consortium News titled “A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate”, the entire election meddling narrative was built upon an ODNI assessment by two dozen analysts hand-picked and overseen by James Clapper. McGovern notes how Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence, is notorious for having helped sell the lies that led to the Iraq invasion, for lying to congress about NSA surveillance, and for multiple instances of claiming that Russians are genetically predisposed to nefarious behavior.
We the public have never seen the evidence that led to this extremely shady assessment’s findings, yet those findings have gradually been integrated into mass media reports as infallible fact upon which the rest of the establishment Russia narrative has been built. Like belief in mainstream religions, the only reason its lack of evidence fails to come into question is because it has been made popular by mainstream politicians and credulous media talking heads who have been reporting it as fact day in and day out for two years, without adding any solid, tangible evidence to the equation beyond the unsubstantiated say-so of intelligence agencies with an extensive record of lying to the public to manufacture support for preexisting geopolitical agendas. It’s an entirely faith-based narrative, only instead of placing faith in the words of priests and books authored by long-dead men, faith is placed in the authoritative say-so of the imperial intelligence community.
It’s funny then, given the aforementioned quote, that Harris escalated his already highly credulous relationship with the CIA Russia narrative in a podcast earlier this month titled “The Information War” in which he nodded faithfully along with a guest whose organization was recently exposed as having manufactured the appearance of Russian election meddling in an Alabama Senate race. His guest, Renee DiResta, is named in a December New York Times report for her involvement in a project by narrative control firm New Knowledge, which claims in an internal document to have “orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Alabama Senate candidate Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.” This same narrative control firm which manufactured the bogus story that Moore was being amplified by Russian bots also authored two reports on Russian social media meddling for the US Congress in December which set off a week’s worth of hysterical shrieking headlines.
At no time in Harris’ interview with DiResta does he question any of her cold war rhetoric or baseless assertions, and indeed he eggs her along with agreeable questions along the lines of the CIA/CNN Russia narrative.
“Many people, certainly most Trump supporters, continue to doubt whether Russia interfered in anything in 2016,” Harris said, as though skepticism of the unproven claims of shady intelligence agencies is a bad thing, then asked point-blank, “Is there any basis for doubt about that at this point?”
“Nope,” DiResta replied.
“This is just crystal clear as a matter of what our intelligence services tell us, and a matter of what people like you can ascertain by just studying online behavior?” Harris helpfully added.
“It happened,” DiResta replied. “There’s really nothing else to say about it. The intelligence agencies know it happened, foreign governments know it happened, the platforms acknowledge it happened. There may be some small group of people that continues to live like ostriches, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
Intelligence agencies know something happened, therefore it happened. The Pope knows bread and wine transubstantiates into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ, therefore it happens. Sam Harris went right along with this, completely unquestioning like a good little cult member.
In an article for The Nation, journalist Aaron Maté breaks down how the data within the establishment Russia narrative itself shows that Russia’s social media involvement in US politics was “small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election,” with only a tiny fraction of the Russia-based Internet Research Agency’s US content having anything to do with the election at all, a very small amount of funds allocated to the total project, and making up an infinitesimally small percentage of total social media content viewed by Americans. Maté has also noted that the total expenditure on IRA posts for the entire US election is actually comparable to what New Knowledge spent on its “false flag operation” in the Alabama Senate race alone, which New Knowledge claims was too small to have impacted the election.
If that’s not enough reason for you to be skeptical, Maté and the Moon of Alabama blogpoint out that there is no evidence that the Internet Research Agency had any intent to influence the election, nor indeed that it is anything other than a for-profit clickbait operation. Looking at the content of the posts we’ve been shown and the statistics we’ve been told about them, this is very difficult to argue against, which is probably why nobody ever tries to.
Sam Harris the credulous atheist never brings any of this up, uncritically letting his guest spout faith-based doctrine about both Kremlin social media interference and Russian hacking.
“Let’s talk about the WikiLeaks data dump,” DiResta said later in the podcast. “So as you mentioned at the start, the GRU had this hack, they had these emails and they laundered these emails through WikiLeaks. They gave them to WikiLeaks.”
There is no more publicly available evidence that this happened than there is that the Qur’an is the actual, literal word of actual, literal Allah, yet Sam Harris the credulous atheist never asked her for evidence of her claims. He uncritically let her advance not just establishment narratives but establishment agendas as well, nodding agreeably along as she called for social media platforms to collaborate with intelligence agencies and grieved about America being legally unable to respond with propaganda of its own to Russian online manipulations.
Support for establishment cold war narratives against Russia is not the only front along which Sam Harris finds himself in alignment with neoconservatism, whose push for a more aggressive posture toward the USSR was one of the early tenets of the movement. Harris’ extensive history of Islamophobic comments and his sympathetic attitudetoward the so-called “war on terror” and US military interventionism in Muslim-majority nations play right into the hands of neoconservative agendas in the Middle East, and he’s been accused of being a closet neocon so much he’s had to publicly address it. Neoconservatives have been consistently wrong about literally everything to do with foreign policy for decades, yet Sam Harris the credulous atheist finds theirs a sufficiently rational ideology to ride alongside. There is no more evidence that US interventionism in the Middle East is helpful than there is for the existence of Vishnu, yet Sam Harris the credulous atheist uncritically endorses it.
Establishment-fueled Russia hysteria is a religion. It is an entirely faith-based belief system which has toxic effects on the people who subscribe to it, and toxic effects on the world as it manufactures support for insane escalations between two nuclear superpowers. As we discussed yesterday, if you don’t have a functioning radar for detecting malignant narratives, you might get lucky and find yourself in opposition to some pernicious belief systems, yet also find yourself selling CIA narratives to your very large online audience as well.
Credulous atheist Sam Harris doesn’t oppose all religions. He is critical of some of them, and he is a zealous bishop of others.