Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Russian influence in the US

This is a long-format article with lots of disturbing detail about the extent of Russian hacking, election meddling, social engineering, and just general nasty stuff they're doing in the US.

I think that most of us in the States are rightly concerned about all this, though my Colombian family members offered me a bit of insightful advice.  It seems that we in the US often focus on foreign affairs to the neglect of important domestic dynamics.  We are wont to get all riled up about genuinely bad stuff going on abroad, and the bad guys behind it, but in doing so we ignore our own very real shortcomings and problems.  In this case, my family members remind me that, regardless of Russia's hand in it, we in the US have a long, ugly history of oppressing, harassing, and antagonizing people of color, of voting sociopathic ideologues into power, of systematically excluding the poor from full participation in our economy and our democracy, etc.  Many of these trends have come to a head with the election of Mr. Trump, and to the extent that Russia has had a hand in fanning the flames of fascism in the US, then of course we should look to protect ourselves from such pernicious outside influences.  But most of the trend is homegrown.  With or without encouragement from Russia, just under half of the Americans that turned out on November 8th voted in favor of an outspoken bigot, corrupt oligarch, and cynical reality TV hack, largely because he promised explicitly to persecute and hurt lots of people.

In light of this, I would proffer that our attention should be fixated equally on both the hatred that has always roiled beneath the surface of the US, and the very real possibility that our elected officials and their advisors are taking their cues from leaders of a foreign autocracy.  The foreign autocracy can't much be blamed for doing bad shit--that's what autocracies do, and since it's a foreign one, there's a limited amount that we in the US can do to correct Russia's behavior.  Of course we need to attempt to defend ourselves from this foreign threat as we would with any other, but let's not fall into the mistaken belief that all our woes are coming from abroad.  Let's focus right here in our own country on a drift toward autocracy, and any actions by our leaders that would compromise our sovereignty.

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