I’m guilty. I jumped into several conversations about this over the weekend on social media. I reacted to it. By reacting, I mean responding emotionally before thinking about it. I won’t get into the arguments or the myriad of ways I and my fellow Democrats have been reacting to this story. If you don’t know what story I’m talking about, I apologize, but I’m not getting into the painful details of it here.
Also I can say that I listened to all 61 minutes of the podcast in question before opining. Only you can answer that question for yourself.
The point is, Democrats have been duped into in-fighting again and the media have been playing along, goading us all into one of those endless intra-party fights that benefits almost no one. I’m imagining the IRA (Internet Research Agency) crowd is high-fiving right now. So I am sharing a portion of an article by Heather Cox Richardson because she lays it all out in a way that is helpful and she offers a way for us a way to gain some insight into what is happening. If you appreciate an honest, information-based, voice with a broader perspective of what’s going on, hard to find these days, you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her bio is below the excerpt.
“The story is not important because it says anything about the Democratic presidential candidates for 2020. It is important because it is a textbook example of precisely what the Senate Intelligence Committee warned about in their October 8 report on Russia’s use of social media to undermine American democracy.
“Somehow this extraordinary non-story is getting way more oxygen than the fact that today top officials in the Department of Housing and Urban Development admitted they broke the law to withhold money from Puerto Rico intended to help it rebuild after Hurricane Maria. It is getting more oxygen than the fact that outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry is ignoring a congressional subpoena for documents about the Ukraine scandal because he considers the impeachment illegitimate.
“The Senate Intelligence Committee discovered that the IRA did not stop after 2016. Instead, it ramped up its activities. Their goal is to keep Americans arguing and confused, despite the fact that polls show that we are overwhelmingly in agreement with each other on even hot button issues… As bots and trolls push extreme positions, the news skews. So, for example, today we have a manufactured fight between two non-candidates, rather than a focus on the ethnic cleansing of our former allies in Syria, apparently suffering from war crimes like the use of chemical weapons.
“I saw first-hand how convincing the bots and trolls can be. I read the State Department report on the [Clinton email] investigation when it came out, and it was unequivocal: “Instances of classified information being deliberately transmitted via unclassified email were the rare exception and resulted in adjudicated security violations. There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information.” Further, while there were minor violations of handling material, none of that material was classified.
“But after I wrote about the report last night, this page was swamped with comments saying I was a Democratic apologist and highlighting the violations (which the report said were just business-as-usual). By mid-morning, major newspapers were leading with the violations rather than the exoneration. By mid-afternoon, I was mortified, assuming that I had been so tired last night I had misread the document. So I called it back up (it is quite hard to find, by the way) and reread it. I had been right the first time (and will put it in the notes so you can see it for yourself). Even though I knew what was in the original document, pressure from bots and trolls, and then media stories from people probably under similar pressure, made me doubt what I had read with my own eyes.
Read the entire article at Heather Cox Richardson’s Facebook page
Heather Cox Richardson is a political historian who uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics. She is the author, most recently, of To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party. Educated at Exeter and Harvard, and am now a professor of history at Boston College. I write books about the American past, and write articles about modern politics. The past informs my work on the present, not the other way around.