Open Question

Now that “RussiaGate” is over (granting it may not be) what are the lessons to be learned?

Some areas to explore are media, politics, culture, law and the Constitution, but lessons learned need not be restricted to any one of these.

For myself, I have become more receptive to a political theory I never gave much thought to when I was young: the notion that secrecy, blackmail and conspiracy are main drivers of the engines of power. This notion has been a great awakening for me.

The open question, however is not quite so specific. What should we be thinking about now?

15 thoughts on “Open Question

  1. “…secrecy, blackmail and conspiracy are main drivers of the engines of power.”

    In autocratic regimes, that is the norm. Turkey, which used to have a decently democratic and open society has become a hotbed of conspiracy theories because no one trusts anything coming from the regime or the press. Or what is left of the press since so many journalists have been imprisoned.

    And, of course, with a weakened press, comes secrecy.

    He who controls the information, controls the mob. (I think in Roman times it was bread and entertainment.)

    Murdoch knew this and set out to get Trump in the White House since about 2011 or maybe 2013.

    And now that he is there (and theirs) FOX has literally moved in with him.

    Which, in a way, might be a good thing. Since that pretty much wraps up FOX’s credibility as a member of the free press.

    Not to say that there is no bias in the media. That train left the station around 1800.

    But with multiple voices, even though handful of major corporations own most of the media, truth will out with some research. And the internet has added a myriad of voices, many of which you have linked to.

    So information is the key, in my opinion. Traditional takeovers and revolutions appropriated the radio and TV stations just for that reason. In the world of cell phones and internet, it is a bit more complicated to do so. That is a good thing. But we see China controlling access to the internet in a variety of ways, so information control is still very much possible and desirable for an autocratic regime.

    A sub-section of information is scapegoating. Find a focus for the mob to take their attention elsewhere. It is almost always a minority or an unpopular segment of a society. In pre-WW2 Germany it was the Jews. Toss in Gypsies and other assorted groups, of course. But the Jews were blamed for the misery of the Depression, Socialism, Communism, diseases and probably bad breath.

    So information and scapegoating are the routes to autocracy, I believe.

    Which is why I feel comfortable during the Trump regime. The country is too large, too diverse, the bureaucracy too massive, and the government too divided (Constitutionally, not just politically). Toss in a relatively strong number of economic safety nets and a military that is literally and deeply embedded among the population.

    And, again, the media across the spectrum.

    (For example, how long did it take to expose the lie that 4,000 terrorists were apprehended at the southern border?
    A couple of hours, if that much. A few pointed questions and some quick research by the media it all it took. In another regime, controlling the information might have created a bit of a panic.)

    The current scapegoats are the Hispanics at the border, and by extension, both legals and illegals in the country. And, of course, the Muslims.

    But the Hispanics are a major segment of our society and with many in very powerful positions in business and government.

    Muslims are making inroads in government as well as business and professions.

    Hard to blame either ethnic group for all our problems. Or any of them, for that matter.

    So, in my opinion, information control is the main source of power. From that, a regime could control secrecy and create conspiracies.

    Blackmail I think has faded. Sexual preferences are no longer fodder for blackmail.

    Everyone has peccadilloes and abuses and some are even proud of them. Financial corruption? No one cares. Settlements with confidentiality agreements end that side of extortion. Unless the feds get their first, then you have a problem.

    IMHO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I disagree with almost every one of your observations, but in fairness there are no wrong answers to the question as asked.

      There is one thing I would mention about secrecy, however, which I have only recently begun to appreciate. In business, there are things that managers do not reveal to their subordinates, or to the public, or to competitors. There are reasons for this which are good and practical such that knowing when and how to be open and when and how to be secretive are basic management skills.

      This is the fuller context in which I have begun to appreciate secrecy as a “driver of the engines of power.” It is so essential that you couldn’t run a government or a foreign policy without it. And of course, that which is good can also become corrupt.

      Thank you for your thoughtful response to the post!

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  2. One thing that needs to be done, perhaps retroactively, is to find some way to make whole those innocents who are caught up in these witch hunts.

    Many innocent people have been financially ruined, losing life savings and even homes to legal bills defending themselves against prosecutors seeking to extort testimony against others. The government has a bottomless purse in legal matters and can harass an innocent person into bankruptcy. Even if they eventually give up, you are ruined.

    If we allow this to go unaddressed, the only people who will be willing to participate in campaigns of administrations will be those with no assets to lose.

    When people are targeted in these investigations are found to have done no wrong, or entrapped into process crimes, they should be made whole. No one should have to choose between losing a house and confessing to something they didn’t do or giving false testimony.

    We can’t afford to make public service too big a risk for good people.

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    1. RE: “One thing that needs to be done, perhaps retroactively, is to find some way to make whole those innocents who are caught up in these witch hunts.”

      Well put.

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  3. Another thing occurs to me. Almost ignored in the recanting of the Russian attempts to interfere in the election is that they were successful in achieving their goal, which was not to get Trump elected.

    On the contrary, they didn’t think he would win.

    Their goal was not to select the winner, it was to so divide the nation that whoever won would not be unable to effectively govern a nation at each other’s throats.

    And the fact that over 2 years later we’re still fighting over the results instead of working together to solve our problems. is a testament to their success.

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    1. Don, you are forgetting that after Clinton was elected, the right spent 2 years, 55 million dollars and a blue dress to “unelect him”.

      Similarly with Obama. The right spent their entire political capital, government shutdowns and continued the myth of his birth to get rid of a properly elected president, both popularly and electorally.

      So pass on the crying over Trump, would you please. And you might do some conservative introspection as to who started all this crap. Try Newt Gingrich and the “no compromise” Tea Party.

      Thank you.

      Secondly, what makes you think the Russian goal was not to get Trump elected? Every trolling ad was against Clinton or the Democrats. The hacked emails were obviously designed to destroy Clinton’s chances.

      Trump himself may not have colluded directly. But his campaign sure made an effort to play off the Russian influence. The Trump Tower meeting, never refuted and completely admitted, was good evidence of that.

      Never mind that Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, tried to sell Ukraine down the river to Putin. Or Trump’s own indebtedness to Russian investors. And these are not speculative. They are admitted connections by the regime itself. Over and over.

      This is not to say that there may have been some overly enthusiastic patriots in our government that may have over-stepped their bounds, but the bottom line is that Trump surrounded himself with con artists, thieves, tax cheats, liars and other wonderful folk. I wouldn’t shed too many tears over their problems.

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      1. “you are forgetting that after Clinton was elected”

        Apples and oranges. I don’t remember any accounts of Starr prosecuting anyone to get them to roll over on Clinton. Nor am I aware of any innocents being bankrupted defending themselves. I won’t dispute that the attempt to impeach Clinton was unwise, but that isn’t the issue. No previous political investigation has victimized people simply for participating in a campaign or serving an administration.

        Those tactics are common to drug enforcement efforts to get lesser criminals to roll over on greater criminals, not to coerce innocent people to make up lies against other innocent people.

        “Secondly, what makes you think the Russian goal was not to get Trump elected?”

        Because the summary of the Mueller report says so. ” The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord…”

        Earlier reports by various intelligence agencies said the same thing.

        https://www.npr.org/2018/12/17/677390345/new-reports-detail-expansive-russia-disinformation-scheme-targeting-u-s

        Different false memes were distributed to different groups to divide the electorate. The Russians. like everyone else. thought Hillary would win, but their goal was for whoever was elected to face the kind of investigation that Trump has. I have no doubt that had Clinton won, the GOP would have started investigations from day one as well.

        The Russians were completely successful at putting us at each other’s throats.

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  4. Well, if we are going to make people whole then we owe Bill and Hillary Clinton tens of millions of dollars for three decades of legal fees that they have had to spend defending themselves from dozens of bogus charges which – unlike the Mueller probe – never even lead to a single indictment, much less a conviction of any kind of crime.

    Trump’s inability to govern has nothing to do with the Russian investigation. Other Presidents have carried on effectively as inquiries work their way to a conclusion. His inability to lead springs from his abysmal intellect and character. We are “at each other’s throats” because that is the way that Trump clings to power.

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  5. Secrecy, blackmail and conspiracy… and don’t forget bribery, murder, and intimidation. After 1920 the Comintern rolled into town with the whole arsenal of weapons that Lenin used to take down Russia. It’s what the Communists do well.
    As I studied American K 12, I realized that at many points our Education Establishment adopted policies and methods that are just nuts, like sticking needles in students. There was no rational reason to adopt Whole Word, New Math, Common Core, Constructivism and the rest. But if you were trying to defeat the US, those decisions were rational. A country with 50 million functional literates is simply not going to function as well as a country where all the people can read. Furthermore, semi-literate people will be more susceptible to propaganda.

    The Russians have always been meddling in our society since 1920. Does anyone not know that superspy Alger Hiss was FDR’s right-hand man for several years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Should be “functional illiterates,” a fancy way of saying semi-literate.

      Addendum: here’s a comment left on an article of mine this morning, which shows you how bad the illiteracy crisis was: “…It was over 40 years ago for me as a brand-new Second Lieutenant who was tasked with ensuring the soldiers in my artillery battery could pass the written portion of the then-new Skill Qualification Test for their specific military occupational specialty. The reading deficiencies were glaring and it was covering material the soldiers had already experienced in their job training after Basic….”

      People shooting big guns who can read just enough to fake their way through the training.

      Every time I hear about an explosion somewhere in the military, I Imagine somebody who can’t quite figure out the instruction manual. Russians love this sort of victory.. If we are too dumb to defend ourselves against their tricks, we deserve what we get.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I suppose the irony of someone decrying the shortcomings of others while displaying incredible ignorance and gullibility is lost on a “thinker” such as yourself?

        For example … “Does anyone not know that superspy Alger Hiss was FDR’s right-hand man for several years?”

        Yes, that would be any educated person who knows the facts and understands the sordid and deeply unamerican operations of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. One fact. Alger Hiss was never convicted of espionage – the allegations from the McCarthy gang were only that. And he was NEVER FDR’s right-hand man – he was a functionary in the State Department several levels down. Also, here is something you probably do not know – Russia was our ally during WW2 so LOTS of people in the government had histories of working with them.

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          1. RE: “Of course, the Communists have always maintained that Hiss was not a spy. But of course.”

            Exactly. In addition to Chambers, much has been made of various U.S. and Soviet intelligence archives which have surfaced in recent decades.

            The bipartisan Moynihan Commission on Government Secrecy, chaired by Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan stated in its findings: “The complicity of Alger Hiss of the State Department seems settled. As does that of Harry Dexter White of the Treasury Department.”

            In his 1998 book Secrecy: The American Experience, Moynihan wrote, “Belief in the guilt or innocence of Alger Hiss became a defining issue in American intellectual life. Parts of the American government had conclusive evidence of his guilt, but they never told.”

            That the HUAC investigations were somehow illegitimate is one of the big lies of American political history.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Whatever these “Communists” have always maintained,” the fact remains that Alger Hiss was never convicted of espionage. So, whatever the secret “evidence” that he was a “super spy” it must not have been very convincing given the temper of the times. And, to repeat, Hiss was NEVER FDR’s right-hand man for even a moment, let alone “for years”. That is just another lie.

            It is not surprising the followers of the jackass President who just yesterday was fighting off investigations of his criminal career with accusations of treason aimed at law enforcement believe that the activity of the HUAC was anything other than a national disgrace.

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