Maddening Meddling

Updated: May 28

The Russian meddling scandal has provided a lot of annoyance to many people. Perhaps rightly so given its enormous and seemingly infinite press coverage. Nevertheless, I hold a lot of people seem to be missing the big picture here. It's an image that many political science students who have taken international relations classes will deem fascinating. Just an ethical clarification first; of course the public deserved to see the contents of the emails. People deserved to have their suspicions confirmed that the DNC was playing sides during the primary. As far as I know, there wasn't anything in the leaks that was dangerous or unethical in a confidential sense. And the big problem isn’t that somebody who was foreign stole them. It is instead that those who took them were orchestrated to do so by a foreign government. A government which few disagree is ridiculously corrupt and authoritarian while mainly being led by one individual.

When you have a foreign government trying to influence your election, not only with information but stolen information, that is a problem at the very least. The immediate response from critics will probably focus on the importance of transparency in American elections. However, another critical point of perspective here are the true intentions of the troublemaker. It's not as if the Russian government cared about the public wanting to see what was in those emails for transparencies sake. They did it to help a man reach office who they saw as better for their interests. So that’s meddling, which according to near everyone in the US intelligence community and Congress, undeniably occurred.

If anyone is skeptical about the legitimacy of the evidence gathering to make such a conclusion about who performed it, you may be right to hold that skepticism. In the past, the US intel community under certain governments has stretched to fulfill an agenda and achieve a particular goal. Despite that, this is an intelligence community that fits the political identity of the current president whom they are investigating. When people who are his ideological allies present the case that there was meddling by the Russian government, then the Russian leader responds by saying it didn’t happen, and your response is to say it looks as if the evidence scales here are equal, then you have just lost the plot on who you value for truth. Then all of the sudden the response from the Russian leader had changed.

The significant change was at the Helsinki summit. Beforehand, I had misunderstood the situation. A misunderstanding that I think is still clicking in the minds of many people. I had thought the Russian citizens who had done the hacking were a random batch who happened to have a political erection for Donald Trump. Yet as Vladimir Putin admitted at the summit, they were Russian citizens hired and orchestrated by their leader to do so. That changes the entire ballgame. To be clear, I understand there is a history of the US government meddling in other countries elections. Regardless, the goal should be to have a future where no country has a government that orchestrates an effort to influence the elections of other states in their favour. Unfortunately, with the news that Claire Mccaskill was almost a victim of a data breach, it appears the current Russian administration has no plans to stop. I myself don't have enough expertise in the field to decide which form of sanctions would be required to force them to cease. I'm merely trying to redirect the focus of dialogue.

One of the most aggravating aspects of this whole debacle is whenever the subject of meddling is forced to 45; he immediately pivots to comment as to how no collusion took place. The best guess as to why he continues to do such a thing is that he is so thin-skinned and childish, his ego so colossal, that he cannot withstand the idea that an outside entity helped him in his victory (therefore making his victory less of an accomplishment). As if there weren't already enough reasons to criticize such a president, he brings another one on himself there.

Now, as far as fighting the "Russian fake news" problem, it doesn't help that there is a president who repeatedly calls CNN, an organization with actual opinionless reporters, a fake news organization. Part of the problem is there exists a significant number of the American public who pay far more attention to their preferred political commentary pages than they do to actual real news reporting. CNN may have ridiculous debates between ideological pundits on their network, but at the very least they do have on the spot reporters working for them who never take a stance on anything. How many of the partisan Facebook political commentary pages in question have their own opinionless on the spot reporters?

Observing that so many Americans follow political commentary Facebook pages that aren't bound to any fact-checking must have led the so-called "online Russian trolls" to believe that they should create their pages of their own or spam the existing ones with reactions that suit their narrative. Do these Facebook pages and reactions make a tangible difference? We can certainly hope they don't. The bottom line is we should be building fact checkers into social networks to prevent ideological tribes from growing as well as to prevent people from seeing political analysis as being a real form of news. Social networks should also be adding preventative measures against hired political comment section seekers, no matter who is behind the hiring.

Definitively, the reporting of on the spot objective and opinionless reporters are what should be considered news. Given that those reporters are held to objective and empirical standards. Which at CNN, ABC, CBS, etc., the reporters are and if they do make a mistake they're generally solid at correcting them. Once again, they're reporters are generally opinionless and objective. Obviously their political analysts hold immense amounts of subjective thinking. To clarify, I'm not arguing that political analysis in media shouldn't exist. However, objective and empirical standards need to be applied in a way that isn't currently applied to the independent political analysis that resides on the troublesome Facebook pages. Meanwhile, the mainstream news outlets can scale down their political analysis altogether and focus more attention on their reporters and statisticians. They can also stop posting political op-eds and analysis bits on their main Facebook feeds in favor of only posting objectively true news.

It wouldn't be a dangerous bet to assume empirically driven, and objective political scientists don't run most of the troublesome Facebook pages in question. So, calling CNN "fake news" when they are a company with vast amounts of objective and opinionless reporters, as well as political and geographical statisticians who never share their political thoughts, is only making the problem worse.