Except for the president of the United States and a few FOX News shut-ins, it has been long established that the Russian government had an effect on the 2016 presidential election. Whether this included the Donald Trump campaign directly or not, seeing how the infiltration all seemed to be aimed at getting him elected, still has to be determined. We have no less than three major criminal investigations happening in two branches of government and a special council on it. However you wish to see this, overrated or a threat to our democracy, is up to you, but it is real and it is starting to look like it was endemic. But I wish to discuss none of that today. What I wish to dissect is why it’s such a big deal.
I get why it’s a big deal to Democrats. It looks like their candidate got skunked by all of this. And I get why some Republicans and a preponderance of Americans care: How dare a foreign government, especially a hostile one run by a despot, be so brazen as to meddle in our political process!
Of course many of these people either don’t know or don’t care about the history of our incessant meddling in other countries’ political affairs for decades. Our meddling went further than posting fake new articles over social media and the hacking into and leaking of private emails. Ours included silent and bloody coups, assassinations, massive propaganda campaigns, and the funding, abetting, and direct involvement of insurrections and terrorism. Oh, we were good, everywhere – the Middle East, Central America, Europe, Africa, shit we even fucked with elections within the continental U.S.; which may indeed include but was not limited to intimidation, more assassinations, bugging, ballot-stuffing, illegal redistricting, racketeering, crazy amounts of insane propaganda, and my favorite; voter suppression. Hell, political parties have been gerrymandering all over the joint for decades. It’s going on right now and the Supreme Court is actually considering this legal, which on its face would be hilarious if it didn’t shed a glaring light on our point here.
See what the Democratic Party did with the Bernie Sanders campaign last year and you have a pretty good idea why fucking with elections is as American as fast food and dumb TV.
Facebook, the internet’s version of fast food/dumb TV, which is only now mostly used by people over forty, has been under some heat during these aforementioned investigations because it is finally coming clean on taking millions of dollars from Russian entities to post absolute nonsense that posed as news stories, which convinced people to vote for a goofball. All of these things made Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – already carrying the weight of self-inflicted trust issues – into some kind of godless, murdering psychopath.
Again, I get why people who falsely believe in the integrity of the nation are upset at this, but I think what is more important is our democracy, which is not just a concept for radio talk show hosts, protestors and professors to toss around in an ideological circle-jerk. Democracy, as the saying goes, is only as good as the people in it.
And so I ask; if said people, many of them having the experience of over four decades on this planet, choose to mostly get their news from Facebook or immediately believe something they get from a dubious source they never heard of that merely adds to their paranoia about the subject at hand – visa vie Hillary Clinton is bad so I will believe the absolute worst shit about her – then what’s the legal issue here?
I think I have stated about a billion times in this space over the past twenty years that being stupid is not a crime. If this were the case, many of us would have been locked up a long time ago. Shit, I would have a wing in Rahway. Where indeed does the responsibility fall? Are we not culpable, in fact, are we not completely at fault here?
There has been a weird trend in this country, already filled with intellectually lazy and pointlessly angry people, to heap their strange ideas about how perfect their lives and their country would be if only fill-in-the-blank. We claim we love freedom until we get “duped” by something; politicians, lobbyists, the media, advertising, agenda-driven content splashed all over place every second of every day. But being duped is what freedom is all about; the freedom to choose whether to be duped or not. This freedom also includes Facebook or Twitter or even FOX News to blurt crap all over the joint and take money from sponsors or Russians or whatever.
When I listen to all of these allegations of Russian infiltration I keep coming back to one key question: Did the Russian government hack into voting booths and make the game show guy president against the will of the people? If not, then I don’t get it. If the people (read democracy) were duly influenced by this crap then my next question is what is the difference between that and attack ads, super-pack ads or even candidates, like our current president, who has statistically now puked up about 1,200 falsehoods in eight months, making shit up? Aren’t we supposed to take the time to fact-check and hold the information intellectually accountable?
I hear people say all the time now, “The truth is under attack!” Really? It is only under attack if you let it be under attack. It’s like this stupid argument against “political correctness.” If you don’t want to be politically correct, don’t. If you don’t want “fake news” to influence you then make the effort to go to different sources and cross-check info. And if you don’t have time for this or don’t care enough to do it, then please don’t cry foul and please let’s not spend any more tax payer dollars “investigating” it.
I would like to see NFL players, bus drivers, mechanics, teachers, hedge fund managers, cops, rappers, celebrities, feminists, conservatives, progressives, you name it, take a knee to protest irresponsibility; the failure to blame the public if they refuse to pay attention to the veracity of information and gather it with serious measure of alacrity and stop looking to hang the fallout on someone or something else; Russians, Mexicans, China, race, religion, social media, congress, Obama, Trump for our inability to understand the basic concepts of being a citizen.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey,” “Fear No Art,” “Trailing Jesus,” “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y.” “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon”
And coming in June, 2018; “Accidently Like a Martyr, The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon”