On the “Russian hacking” accusation
December 21, 2016
The following is another extract from a Facebook discussion. I had originally posted an article by Stephen Gowans titled “How an evidence-free CIA finding alleging Russian interference in the US election was turned into an indisputable ‘truth’“; this raised objections from an old friend of mine; then (after much spilling of ink) another friend in New Jersey, who is a teacher, remarked that some of the sources I was citing would be rejected by her in her Freshman writing class as unreliable. This was my response to her.
First, I would point out that, of those sources which you say would not stand the test of credibility in your freshman writing class, one of them (the consortiumnews document) was written by a group of retired intelligence professionals whose credentials include “former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA,” … “former United States Senator,” … “Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Middle East, CIA,” and so on; another source is a journal called the Belfast Telegraph, which basically reports the personal testimony of a career UK diplomat, Craig Murray, who says that he met the person who leaked the DNC documents to Wikileaks and that that person is an insider, not a foreigner, an American, not a Russian; if you don’t trust the Belfast Telegraph’s account of this, you can go to Craig Murray’s own webpage, and read what he has to say about it: https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/…/cias-absence-conviction/ If what you tell your Freshman writing students is that statements made by former senators, ambassadors, and members of the intelligence community are not to be trusted when those statements conflict with declarations made by the CIA and the consensus opinion presented by the New York Times and NPR, then I would submit that you are teaching your Freshman students to be dutiful parrots of an officially sanctioned narrative and not critical thinkers.
I appreciate your attempt to understand where I am coming from here, and I do not generally unfriend people unless they have a habit of being egregiously unfriendly. I think that, if you look through my Facebook page over a number of years, you will find that, from the beginning of the Syrian war, I was skeptical of the official American position, namely, that Assad is a tyrant and that the people trying to depose him are democracy-loving freedom fighters. One reason why I was skeptical of this is that, having worked in Albania and having known people who visited Syria in the past, I know that that country was, at least until this war began, the religiously most tolerant country in the Arab world. Very early in that war, two Orthodox bishops were abducted; they haven’t been heard from since, and have presumably been killed. This abduction was done by the people my government has been supporting and touting as freedom-fighters — people who also happen to be supported and funded by Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive, religiously intolerant countries in the world and a major US ally. It is one incident, but, for me, it had a certain decisive effect; it helped bring home to me the extent to which the American humanitarian rationale to this war is a lie. Virtually everything I have learned about the war since then has confirmed for me the utter falsity of the narrative about this war which most people accept as fact: that we are virtuous humanitarians, that the Russians, coming to the aid of the Syrian government, are bloodthirsty murderers, that we are genuinely committed to destroying ISIS, etc., etc. It’s all lies and propaganda, and most people, yourself included, seem quite oblivious of the extent to which so-called reputable media outlets like the New York Times and NPR feed their readers a steady diet of propaganda on issues like this.
That is perhaps why I am inclined to be skeptical towards the pronouncement by Mr. Obama and the CIA and the FBI that Mr. Trump’s presidential victory was due to the work of “Russian hackers.” I have learned, by long experience, that most of what comes out of the mouths of people like John Kirby, Samantha Powers, John Kerry and the like is (if you’ll pardon the expression) bullshit, and that Mr. Obama, who has hired these career liars to spread this manure far and wide, is himself a consummate liar and generally not to be trusted when he pontificates on American virtue and Russian perfidy.
Of course, you don’t have to believe me, and probably won’t. But the claim that people who do report on these things, who present other points of view differing from the approved narrative of the mainstream are, by definition, mere peddlers of “fake news,” or that, because a number of sources report a narrative that differs radically from the approved one, they “harbor biases” (perhaps they are biased towards the truth) is simply insulting to one’s intelligence. It supposes that educated people cannot make their own decisions, on the basis of reason and experience, about what sources of information they should trust; they need to have someone else make these decisions for them. If that is the attitude you are teaching your students, you are doing them a disservice.