The economy is booming, GDP is growing, the stock market is soaring, hitting historic high while unemployment rates hit historic lows. Job-stifling regulations are being eliminated. Homeland security is improved due to strict immigration policy and border protection. United States energy dominance and independence are boosted. Significant achievements are being made in the promotion of the international fair trade. The list of achievements of the Trump administration is long.
What should we do to this president, though? Impeach him, of course — according to Democrats. Because of Russia … or something.
Democrats say it was Russia who stole the elections in 2016 when they hacked the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails and exposed their shortcomings. Well, apparently it was not only Russia that was “responsible” for the Democrat candidate’s defeat — it was also the FBI, the DNC, white men, women, Bernie supporters, independents, political journalists, WikiLeaks, President Obama, TV coverage of the campaign…
Now, on the eve of the midterm election, the Democrats are summoning the Russian boogeyman back to the political discourse.
Conspiracy Theories as a Part of the Left’s Mythology
The logic of the Democrats is quite predictable, and the creation of an “enemy” image and its evil plots have become a favorite technique of their propaganda. As the left does not have any rational counterarguments to the effectiveness of Trump’s policies, they use deception and try to scare people.
How does this method work? The growth of the social and emotional discomfort caused by the spread of fear of real or fictitious threats, allows, firstly, to consolidate consumers on a myth around a political leader of the party who promises protection against those threats.
Secondly, it diverts people’s attention from the other issues, including, for example, shortcomings of the Democrat’s policies, sex scandals, violence of the left, etc. Also, the “conspiratorial” mythology aims to diminish the achievements of the rival party in the eyes of the voters — if the Trump administration serves Russia, then everything that it does can’t benefit America.
The Truth of the Myth
While the conspiracy theory that claims Russian President Vladimir Putin owns Donald Trump is false and made-up, the myth about Russian hackers is not a sheer lie.
Every myth, to look trustworthy and believable, contains a grain of truth, but is usually grossly distorted and twisted, misinterpreted and aimed to deceive rather than inform.
Indeed, cyber threats from Russia, as well as other countries such as China and Iran, and from extremist groups and international criminals, is real and imminent. Rapid technological and informational development has its downside: its vulnerability to the malware that may potentially disrupt the work of industries and governments while consuming close to none of the material resources. Cyberspace has become one of the main battlefields today, and the United States — the world’s largest superpower — is naturally becoming a primal target of the cyberattacks.
The 2016 presidential election was a way too important and significant event for foreign governments not to try to interfere in it. There were proven cases of Russian cyberattacks exposed by the U.S. Intelligence Community. As the result, in March 2018, the Trump administration had imposed sanctions on Russian government hackers, including 19 people and 5 organizations, as well as Russian spy government departments — Federal Security Bureau (successor of the Soviet KGB) and GRU, or Main Intelligence Directorate, Russian military intelligence.
One year earlier, on May 11, 2017, Trump issued an executive order “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure” to “improve the Nation’s cyber posture and capabilities in the face of intensifying cybersecurity threats.” This EO focused Federal efforts on modernizing federal information technology infrastructure, working with state and local government and private sector partners to more fully secure critical infrastructure, and collaborating with foreign allies.
The Trump administration is fully aware of the threat and acts vigilantly on this matter.
Thus, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Sept. 5 said that the cyberweapons and sophisticated hacking pose a greater threat to the United States than the risk of physical attacks, and urged state elected officials to add more safeguards to their voting systems.
The Lie of the Myth
But that is not how the Democrats present the issue. They aim to create an impression that it is only them who are under attack.
Thus, by late August, four Democrat candidates running for Congress were cyberattacked. Although only one cyberattack has been tied to Russians, mainstream media outlets like Reuters, Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast and CNN, reported that the cyberattacks “pay resemblance” to the hacking done to Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
Anecdotally, at the same time, the DNC raved about the Russian cyberattack that aimed to steal millions of voter records. It eventually turned out to be a test attack conducted by the Michigan Democratic Party that it had failed to inform the DNC about.
What the Democrats usually do not mention is the attempted hacking of the U.S. political institutions and conservative think tanks such as The Hudson Institute that conducts in-depth research on Russian corruption, and the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes democracy worldwide. Even when it is mentioned, it is always linked to the hackers’ attack on the DNC and Clinton’s campaign.
The repetitions of “Russian meddling” and “Russian interference” which are always connected to the specific case of hacking targeted against the Democrats in 2016 aims to create a stereotypical and subconscious belief that the Russian hackers play on the side of the Republicans and President Trump.
But the strength of the myth is that once it is rooted in one’s worldview, it is extremely hard to disprove, which is exactly why the Democrats appeal to emotions rather than intellect. Creating scarecrows in order to excuse own failures is so much easier than a self-reflection.
In the end, it is the Americans who cast their vote and thankfully most of them are not easily fooled.
Veronika Kyrylenko, Ph.D., is a research fellow at GeoStrategic Analysis in Arlington, Virginia.
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