By Robert Bridge*
It seems everyone wants a piece of the US democratic action these days. Yet little do these meddling outsiders know, the system was already ‘hacked’ many years ago by the Americans themselves.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fable, The Emperor’s New Clothes, two enterprising tailors promise the emperor a new suit of clothes that they say will be invisible only to those who are stupid or incompetent. In reality, the weavers produce no clothes at all. Terrified at the thought of being betrayed as fools, not a single soul in the king’s court dared say aloud what their eyes could plainly see – until one boy merrily pointed to his highness’ exposed assets.
In the modern American version of this tale, nobody wants to admit the painful truth – that, for fear of being branded anti-American, unpatriotic and heretical to the hysteria – no foreign government on earth has the power to sway the outcome of an American election. Not one. But let’s not let the facts spoil a wonderful fairytale.
John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, warned at the weekend that the upcoming 2018 US midterm elections might be targeted by not one, but four international baddies, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. Deferring to national security concerns, Bolton failed to provide evidence to support his claim.
Meanwhile, Evelyn Farkas, senior fellow at the NATO-funded Atlantic Council, fueled the conspiracy theory that Russia is hacking America’s brain when she wrote in the Atlantic, “Facebook announced it had detected and shut down more than 30 Russia-linked fake pages created as part of a campaign to influence the U.S. midterm elections.”
Since Farkas failed to provide her readers with full disclosure in the Atlantic spiel, allow me: First, Facebook itself admitted it has no idea who was behind the Facebook postings, saying they “don’t have all the facts.” Second, the Atlantic Council, for which Farkas dutifully disseminates her twisted worldview, is now partnered with Facebook to provide “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.” Speaking of “threats,” this is the same outfit that released a Dr. Strangelove-style paper in July 2016 advocating “offensive cyber operations” against Russian targets that include “the Moscow metro, the St. Petersburg power network, and Russian state-run media outlets such as RT.”
With regards to influencing the US electorate, do these people have any idea how out of touch with reality they sound? Yes, with just $100,000 dollars invested in some snarky social media ads, you too can manipulate the outcome of the multi-billion-dollar US political system!
Remember that last Thanksgiving dinner you attended when Uncle Mel, between chomps of turkey leg and stuffing, lectured you on the finer points of political theory, saying you’d be wasting your vote to support some long-forgotten candidate? Did he come close to remotely changing your mind? Probably not. Or how about that last argument you had on Facebook with some vague friend or relative over the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? Most people these days would sooner dispatch someone to ‘unfriend’ purgatory than to hear a view that clashes with their own. That’s because opinions are some of the hardest things in the world to change because few people enjoy being proven wrong. Yet we are expected to believe that Vladimir Putin and the Russians have discovered the secret bot for gaining direct access to America’s frontal lobe, playing head games with the national psyche around election time.
In reality, if people like Evelyn Farkas truly cared about the condition of American democracy, they’d be spending their think-tank time and money analyzing the organizational structure of the US political system. Indeed, how can anyone speak about ‘foreign meddling’ in our elections – a virtual impossibility, incidentally, since the voting machines are not hooked up to the internet – when corporations and mega-wealthy individuals are spending billions of dollars to sway the outcome of these contests?
Consider the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Outside groups spent almost 7 billion dollars greasing the wheels of democracy, reported the Center for Responsive Politics. Not only is that a new record in election spending, it’s over 300 million dollars more than the 2012 election. Yet the Atlantic Council and far too many US politicians are fretting over some Russian Facebook ads that even the House of Zuckerberg admitted had not the slightest impact on the elections.
Most of the coverage of Russian meddling involves their attempt to effect the outcome of the 2016 US election. I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.
— Rob Goldman (@robjective) February 17, 2018
Much of the reason for the explosion in campaign spending is connected to the 2010 Citizens United case, which opened the floodgates on corporate and individual spending in the political process through so-called Super PACS (‘public action committees’).
Former US president, Barack Obama, slammed the fresh Supreme Court decision as a “strike at democracy itself.”
“This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy,” the Democrat leader said, in a remark that enjoyed bipartisan support. “It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way — or to punish those who don’t.”
This severely flawed system, in which raw spending in the political process is considered ‘free speech,’ allows extremely rich people, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, to inject a king’s ransom into the machinery.
For these ultra-wealthy ‘consumers’ of the political process, the mundane act of visiting the polling stations and casting a vote has become an archaic and redundant task since they have already paid for their representation, many times funding both sides of this political Punch and Judy show.
Here is the real source of ‘foreign meddling’ that people like John Bolton and Evelyn Farkas should be condemning night and day. But because such a splurge of funds goes directly into the coffers of the two dominant political parties, trickling down to the candidates themselves, this leaky pipe never gets fixed, let alone mentioned.
This mega-expensive make-up of the US political system goes far at explaining why the American people really only have two political parties to choose from: the politicians – who Jesse Ventura once memorably advised should be required to wear NASCAR-style jackets with corporate decals to show where their real interests lie – have no desire to share the wealth with other political players, while the lobbyists who distribute the funds enjoy the monopolistic structure of the power system.
Jimmy Williams, a former lobbyist on Capitol Hill turned journalist, admitted that Washington is based on a “system of sycophantic elected leaders expecting a campaign cash flow, and in return, industry, interest groups, and big labor are rewarded with what they want: legislation and rules that favor their constituencies.”
“It’s a system that only responds to money,” he said.
In closing, it deserves attention that at the very moment a maverick ‘swamp drainer’ arrived on the US political scene in the person of Donald Trump – a man with enough personal wealth not to be beholden to wealthy donors and lobbyists – we suddenly hear, without any sort of iron-clad proof, about “Russia hacking American democracy.” That accusation has been followed up by the ugliest political witch hunt in US history. This should be enough to make many people suspicious as to the real reason behind the hype and hysteria.
The reason is the very survival of the current structure of US government, which rewards the ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations who are able to afford democratic representation – at the expense of everyone else.
* Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. Former Editor-in-Chief of The Moscow News, he is the author of the book, ‘Midnight in the American Empire,’ released in 2013