It has been a long year ever since January 20th of last year. Not only because of the ever-ensuing embarrassments of the Commander in Chief with such frequency it can be difficult to follow, but also – and I would say especially – because of the incessant daily media focus on the so called “Russiagate” scandal, a conspiracy which seeks to prove a collusion between the Putin and the Trump administration in order to successfully steal the 2016 presidential election win away from Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.
The United States and the Russian Federation have a long history of mutual hostility – famously dividing the East and West into a bipolar world during the Cold War – and the vision of Russia is among many Americans still that of the Soviet bad guys. The Cold War was not a pleasant time for many obvious reasons, but in the minds of the American left, the McCarthy era is one that still sticks, and its apparent return is something that seems to concern only a minority on the left – including myself. Now for the unacquainted, McCarthyism can be described as “the vociferous campaign against alleged communists in the US government and other institutions carried out under Senator Joseph McCarthy in the period 1950–4. Many of the accused were blacklisted or lost their jobs, though most did not in fact belong to the Communist Party” (source). It was a clever way used by the US government to frame and condemn all the big left leaning civil rights and social justice movements that were happening during the Cold War era. Professors, academics, independent media platforms, politicians or activists with left leaning messages were being labelled as Soviet agents by the US government, discrediting them completely of any legitimacy in the eyes of the American people through the widespread Red Scare. What has been happening in the last year can be seen as a mirror of the same mentality, except that “Soviet spy” has today been replaced by labels such as “Kremlin agent” or “Russian bot”.
It isn’t news that what is often referred to as the “American Left” of the Democratic party is in reality nothing more than a neo-liberal party slightly more to the center/left than the GOP. So in this article, when I am referring to the terminology “American Left”, and the one subject to the revamped McCarthyism, I am in fact talking about the often anti-establishment, anti-imperialistic and even sometimes anti-capitalistic left – the one that threatens the current neo-liberal status quo. So as I elaborate my case, I just want to make it clear that I am referring to the latter.
One of the greater, larger left-wing media presence on US ground is undoubtedly RT America (RT short for Russia Today). Hosting many US critical segments such as Redacted Tonight by Lee Camp, On Contact with Chis Hedges and Breaking The Set with Abby Martin, RT America comes out as a prominent side-narrative to the mainstream medias such as MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CNN, NPR and so forth. Yet last year, RT America has had to register itself as a “foreign agent”, on the basis of a very weak report by the Director of National Intelligence. Reasons for this decision as stated in the report claims to be that RT regularly covers surveillance, civil liberties, protest movements, the environmental impacts of fracking and Wall Street greed. Other more establishment friendly foreign news media on US soil such as BBC America have not had to register as a foreign agent. So far, only RT. Facebook (known for working closely with the US government) has even gone as far as marking RT articles shared on its platform as spam The Intercept did find out recently as well that Facebook does censor certain of its pages on behalf of governments, so more of the same behaviour is expected to be seen more in the future.
Where the delegitimization of leftist media really strikes is in the realm of “fake news”-stamping and propaganda-flagging. The Washington Post backed the website project PropOrNot.com which frames in a sort of ‘blacklist’ news medias that they believe are Russian Propaganda, with usually no evidence to back up their claims. Many independent news outlets are to be found on their list, and none of the major media conglomerates (unless they’re Russian, of course). In the same vein, Facebook has decided to team up with established media outlets such as AP and ABC News to find out and decide what is or is not “Fake News”.
Apparently, Americans are believed to be too unwise to figure it out for themselves, and if alternate narratives and opinions are being held, it must be because they have fallen victim of fake news. BBC has even gone as far as taking the teaching role in spotting “fake news”. The concept seems to be that social media platforms and mainstream media outlets are to tell the population what is real and what is a lie. The same outlets that pushed the war in Iraq, Syria, Libya, as well as the current Russiagate narrative. Media outlets that are ramping up on US intelligence spokesmen for their news segments, despite the fact that they are historically known to lie and deceive the American people. These same people are to tell us what is the truth. It is my belief that one of the only way such a development has become possible lies in the fact that the Democratic party and its voters have a newfound love for the FBI, NSA and CIA, thanks to the Russiagate conspiracy.
During the last year, James Comey and Robert Mueller have incessantly been praised by the media as American heroes and patriots saving the American people from the Kremlin puppets that Trump and his administration are accused to be (with very little evidence so far). It would seem that in this day and age, the Democrats would rather side with the deep state than with reason. Through programs such as COINTELPRO and Operation Mockingbird, the FBI and CIA have spent decades and millions of dollars deceiving and crushing any movement that dared to challenge the two-party system. For “the resistance” movement to embrace US intelligence agencies and the lies they propagate is an extremely reckless and dangerous move, and by doing so they are not only consciously trying their best to harm the current administration, but unconsciously harming the many media outlets, journalists, activists and politicians who hold a different view on the world than the Washington narrative, and who are now all being flagged as Kremlin agents pushing Russian propaganda.
During the last year we have been told not only that Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin, but also that Bernie Sanders, Green Party leader Jill Stein and even that UK’s Jeremy Corbyn did. So have we been told about whistleblowers Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, and many of RT America’s journalists who have their shows and articles published on RT America for the sole reason that RT is one of the only outlets allowing their differing viewpoints on American politics. Many Russiagate sceptics on Twitter have received messages directly from Twitter informing them that they might have fallen victim to Russian propaganda because they had retweeted or were following certain accounts they deemed to be associated with the Kremlin. From my own personal experience, I cannot count how many times I have seen Russiagate sceptics being called-out by liberals for being Kremlin agents or Russian bot accounts – all because of the many, many Russia-Kremlin-Trump stories that have been promulgated over the last year. It has paralyzed a large portion of the centre-left to not even move an inch more towards the left, and has condemned those who have.
There is a paranoia happening in the US political establishment, remarkably similar to the one experienced during the Cold War era. It doesn’t matter whether the Russia-Collusion story is true or not (let’s not forget the United States has itself meddled in countless foreign elections ever since the end of WWII, even in Russia in 1996), it matters more what this ongoing investigation and grotesque media-hype is doing to the American public – and by extension to the rest of the world. The US-Russia relation is worse today than at the high point of the Cold War, all thanks to this constant Putin bashing and the fact that NATO is slowly encircling the Russia in Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, the Arctic, the Middle-East and Asia. Despite the West promising not to expand NATO an inch Eastwards as part of the German reunification deal, such promises have not been kept. But of course, most of the general population is fine this politically unwise expansion of NATO, “because you know, Russians are bad” (satire).
If there is a threat to national and global security today, and a threat to free speech and independent media, it is not coming from Putin or the Kremlin – but rather from the United States. And until the American left gathers itself and stops listening to the warmongering pundits and establishment journalists parroting the Washington narrative, we have nothing but a bleak future in front of us with regards to the relation between thte two old nemesis nuclear superpowers.
Jonathan Sigrist is a student at the University of Tromsø in Northern Norway, currently studying the geopolitical, environmental, cultural and economic relations between the Arctic nations (The US, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark/Greenland and Iceland), as well as the future of the Arctic’s role in global politics. He has lived in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and France, and is a fervent observer and critic of US foreign policy.