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Election Meddling: Bad if Done to USA, Bad to Complain About if Done by USA

"The glaring irony of this criticism," writes Johnson, "is that the Washington Post has been spent the past several weeks blaming Russia for interfering in the US elections." (Screenhshot)

The Washington Post (8/10/16) published what has to be one of the most naked examples of projection ever displayed by a major American paper. The Post’s editorial board, in another effort to bash Russia, lumped its President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s increasingly autocratic ruler President Recep Tayyip Erdogan into a generic “strongman” category, and warned of their paranoia:

The piece began by mocking foreign leaders who blame outside influences (the United States, for example) for interfering in their domestic affairs:

One of the enduring rules of autocracy is that a strongman must not admit something is amiss inside the kingdom. Instead, troubles come from enemies outside. This is often used to distract people from genuine woes at home, and while hardly new, it has been embraced with fresh enthusiasm by the latest generation of political strongmen. It betrays a paranoia and insecurity among those who boast of power and control.

The glaring irony of this criticism is that the Washington Post has been spent the past several weeks blaming Russia for interfering in the US elections:

  • Trump Proves He’s a Putin Lapdog (7/21/16)
  • Russia May or May Not Want President Trump, but Putin Has Made His Feelings About Clinton Very Clear (7/25/16)
  • Putin’s Suspected Meddling in a US Election Would Be a Disturbing First (7/25/16)
  • The Complete Guide to Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump’s Favorite Autocrat (7/25/16)
  • Democrats Have Found a Brand New Running Mate for Donald Trump: Vladimir Putin (7/27/16)
  • Republicans Have a Problem: Trump-Putin (7/27/16)
  • Here’s What We Know About Donald Trump and His Ties to Russia (7/29/16)
  • In Endorsing Clinton, Ex-CIA Chief Says Putin Made Trump His ‘Unwitting Agent’ (8/5/16)
  • Will Trump’s BFF Putin Stage Another Attack? (8/11/16)
  • Alleged Russian Involvement in DNC Hack Gives US a Taste of Kremlin Meddling (8/13/16)

When US media—to say nothing of the leading contender to be the next president of the US—allege that foreign elements are steering our politics, that’s rational, serious discourse. When others do it, it’s laughable, unhinged blabbering.

In its August 10 editorial, the Post scoffs at the idea that then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was involved in anti-Putin protests in 2011 and 2012:

Mr. Putin still holds to the fallacy that Hillary Clinton, while secretary of State, sparked the mass street protests against him in 2011 and 2012, conveniently overlooking the fraudulent attempt to steal that election by his party.

While there’s no evidence Secretary Clinton “sparked” the 2011 protests, the US certainly influenced them. It’s not a secret the US State Department, USAID and other US-linked organizations supported many dissident groups; it’s openly discussed on the website  of the State Department–funded National Endowment for Democracy. (Here’s an archived page describing more than 50 groups the NED boasted of supporting in 2011.)

The US government and allied NGOs routinely meddle in the affairs of other countries; that’s the entire purpose of their “pro-democracy” efforts. That’s what “soft power” means. As Reuters (12/13/11) reported at the time:

The amount of money USAID allocated to programs in Russia was nearly $55 million, according to a document on the organization’s website, including around $3 million allocated to “political competition and consensus-building.”

If the Washington Post had to argue that US meddling was the good kind of meddling, because it’s a necessary balance to Putin’s autocratic rule, this nuance would get in the way of the Post’s simplistic “paranoid strongman vs. good, clean US democracy” dichotomy, so the reader is left with the ahistoric and childish impression that the US doesn’t interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries.

In fact, the US has a long history of intervening in the affairs of countries around the world—not just Russia. In the interest of brevity, let’s skip over the long decades of gunboat diplomacy and Cold War interventionism, and focus instead on Clinton’s four-year tenure at the State Department, during which time the US:

During this time, USAID (which operates under the guidance of the State Department) was also involved in two elaborate plots to undermine the Cuban government, one involving the secret creation of a fake Twitter-like social media platform, and the other the infiltration of Cuba’s hip hop scene—both for the purposes of “stirring unrest” on the socialist island.

The US government doesn’t occasionally meddle in the domestic affairs of other countries or try to overthrow their governments—it does so as a matter of course. It’s in its DNA, its animating ethos.

To omit the endless string of examples of US interfering in other countries in an editorial about fears of US interfering in other countries is at best negligent and at worst deliberately obtuse. It’s hard to describe foreign leaders as being paranoid about US meddling and coups if you acknowledge that the US has been involved in meddling and coups for more than a century.

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson

Adam Johnson is a New York-based  journalist, a contributing analyst for, and co-host of the Citations Needed podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @adamjohnsonnyc

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