I didn’t really invent this meme, as Patrick Armstrong once credited me; there were a few disjointed mentions of it there and there from before 2011. That said, I do think I did more than than anyone else to popularize it. Anyhow, the term Putin Derangement Syndrome has finally gone mainstream, with Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibi writing about its “arrival” a few days ago (though arguably, it arrived a decade ago).
One way we recognize a mass hysteria movement is that everyone who doesn’t believe is accused of being in on the plot. This has been going on virtually unrestrained in both political and media circles in recent weeks.
The aforementioned Mensch, a noted loon who thinks Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart but has somehow been put front and center by The Times and HBO’s Real Time, has denounced an extraordinary list of Kremlin plants.
She’s tabbed everyone from Jeff Sessions (“a Russian partisan“) to Rudy Giuliani and former Assistant FBI Director James Kallstrom (“agents of influence“) to Glenn Greenwald (“Russian shill“) to ProPublica and Democracy Now! (also “Russian shills“), tothe 15-year-old girl with whom Anthony Weiner sexted (really, she says, a Russian hacker group called “Crackas With Attitudes”) to an unnamed number of FBI agents in the New York field office (“moles“). And that’s just for starters.
Others are doing the same. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters, upon seeing the strange behavior of Republican Intel Committee chair Devin Nunes, asked “what kind of dossier” the Kremlin has on Nunes.
Dem-friendly pollster Matt McDermott wondered why reporters Michael Tracey and Zaid Jilani aren’t on board with the conspiracy stories (they might be “unwitting” agents!) and noted, without irony, that Russian bots mysteriously appear every time he tweets negatively about them.
Think about that last one. Does McDermott think Tracey and Jilani call their handlers at the sight of a scary Matt McDermott tweet and have the FSB send waves of Russian bots at him on command? Or does he think it’s an automated process? What goes through the heads of such people?
I’ve written a few articles on the Russia subject that have been very tame, basically arguing that it might be a good idea to wait for evidence of collusion before those of us in the media jump in the story with both feet. But even I’ve gotten the treatment.
I’ve been “outed” as a possible paid Putin plant by the infamous “PropOrNot” group, which is supposedly dedicated to rooting out Russian “agents of influence.” You might remember PropOrNot as the illustrious research team the Washington Post once relied on for a report that accused 200 alternative websites of being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
Politicians are getting into the act, too. It was one thing when Rand Paul balked at OKing the expansion of NATO to Montenegro, and John McCain didn’t hesitate to say that “the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.”
So even people who themselves have been accused of being Russian plants are now accusing people of being Russian plants. As the Russians would say, it’s enough to make your bashka hurt.
The paranoia is matched only by its ignorance and stupidity:
Even the bizarre admission by FBI director (and sudden darling of the same Democrats who hated him months ago) James Comey that he didn’t know anything about Russia’s biggest company didn’t seem to trouble Americans very much. Here’s the key exchange, from a House hearing in which Jackie Speier quizzed Comey:
SPEIER: Now, do we know who Gazprom-Media is? Do you know anything about Gazprom, director?
COMEY: I don’t.
SPEIER: Well, it’s a – it’s an oil company.
(Incidentally, Gazprom – primarily a natural-gas giant – is not really an oil company. So both Comey and Speier got it wrong.)
As Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg noted, this exchange was terrifying to Russians. The leader of an investigation into Russian espionage not knowing what Gazprom is would be like an FSB chief not having heard of Exxon-Mobil. It’s bizarre, to say the least.
And it may lead to some very bad things, from entrenching the status quo…
Moreover, even those who detest Trump with every fiber of their being must see the dangerous endgame implicit in this entire line of thinking. If the Democrats succeed in spreading the idea that straying from the DNC-approved candidate – in either the past or the future – is/was an act of “unwitting” cooperation with the evil Putin regime, then the entire idea of legitimate dissent is going to be in trouble.
Imagine it’s four years from now (if indeed that’s when we have our next election). A Democratic candidate stands before the stump, and announces that a consortium of intelligence experts has concluded that Putin is backing the hippie/anti-war/anti-corporate opposition candidate.
… to war.
But if you’re not worried about accusing non-believers of being spies, or pegging legitimate dissent as treason, there’s a third problem that should scare everyone.
Last week saw Donna Brazile and Dick Cheney both declare Russia’s apparent hack of DNC emails an “act of war.” This coupling seemed at first like political end times: as Bill Murray would say, “dogs and cats, living together.”
But there’s been remarkable unanimity among would-be enemies in the Republican and Democrat camps on this question. Suddenly everyone from Speier to McCain to Kamala Harris to Ben Cardin have decried Russia’s alleged behavior during the election as real or metaphorical acts of war: a “political Pearl Harbor,” as Cardin put it. …
But when it comes to Trump-Putin collusion, we’re still waiting for the confirmation. As Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters put it, the proof is increasingly understood to be the thing we find later, as in, “If we do the investigations, we will find the connections.”
This seems especially relevant right now for some reason.
I suppose I will now need to redouble my efforts on pushing the ROG (Russian Occupation Government) meme, which is apparently so all encompassing that an American Tomahawk strike ordered by Putler’s puppet Trump on a military base with Russian advisors is, in fact, a “manufactured Cold War 2.0 which will lead to a peace deal that includes lifting sanctions on Russia” according to the top voted comment on the relevant thread at the /r/politics subreddit.
Truly, there are no limits to the reach of ROG’s tentacles.