The notion that Russia “controls” the US is absurd. That this conspiracy theory has taken root in the US says a lot about the public’s grip on reality.
In the wake of “Russia Gate,” a conspiracy theory claiming that the Russian Federation meddled in America’s 2016 elections and “owns” a growing number of US politicians including the current US President, a wave of hysteria has swept Americans.
With the help of the corporate media, Americans are beginning to see “Russian influence” behind anything that seems to oppose mainstream US foreign and domestic policy.
Some polls have claimed that as many as 56% in America believe Russia meddled in the 2016 elections despite a subsequent investigation spanning over 2 years failing to produce any evidence of such meddling.
What has Americans buying into a baseless conspiracy theory?
The motivation driving many Americans to believe Russia meddled in America’s 2016 elections is a strong desire to disbelieve their candidate of choice simply lost because they were less appealing.
Former US President Barrack Obama elicited a similar reaction from opponents who, for years, claimed he was not a US citizen, demanding to see his birth certificate and at various junctures claiming he was a “secret Muslim,” CNN would report, who had infiltrated the US government and was deliberately providing support for global terrorism.
Of course, there was a kernel of truth within claims the Obama administration supported terrorists. The US was certainly funding and arming terrorists from Libya to Syria and beyond during the Obama administration, including groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the US had been providing support for these organizations decades before Obama came to office.
Obama simply picked up where his predecessors left off. In many ways, the absurd narrative crafted by Obama’s opponents was a shrewd strategy meant to isolate growing public awareness of the continuous US policy of sponsoring extremists by claiming it was only an “Obama” policy.
Of course, if Obama really was a “secret Muslim” unilaterally providing material support to terrorist organizations the US was serious about defeating, the notion that he spent 8 years doing so only to retire comfortably without any charges brought against him saying nothing of impeachment or imprisonment illustrates just how absurd this conspiracy theory was all along.
Similarly, America’s long-standing and ever-evolving tensions with Russia have reached a critical juncture where Russia is now able to reassert itself in ways unseen since the Soviet Union, and in some cases, in ways even the Soviet Union could not. Now more than ever, US special interests need a means of reasserting themselves and seek to do so by undermining Russia in everyway imaginable.
Stirring pubic hatred toward Russia because it threatens the ambitions of a small handful of special interests on Wall Street and in Washington would not be a tenable strategy. Stirring public hatred toward Russia because of a perceived “attack” Russia carried out against US elections is much more tenable.
Coupled with anti-Trump sentiment and a desire to use any and all claims to undermine him, notions of “Russian meddling” and Trump being a “puppet” to Russian President Vladimir Putin fit into an ideological agenda that in no way needs to be factual or plausible to be appealing.
As we’ll see, nothing could be more implausible than the notion of “Russian meddling” or a US president or Congress member being a “puppet” of Putin.
Implausibility Par Excellence
If money is power, then it stands to reason that those with the most wealth are also those with the most power and influence.
Globally, the United States, despite representing only 4% of the entire global population, possesses 30% of all global wealth.
The US possesses the largest economy on the planet and has a GDP over 10 times larger than the Russian Federation.
Within the US itself, wealth is concentrated in the hands of just 20% of the population. 1% possesses 43% of the nation’s wealth, 19% possesses another 53% and the remaining 80% of the population possesses just 7% of America’s total wealth.
If money is power, that 1% dwelling on Wall Street and in possession of an interconnected multi-trillion dollar, multinational corporate-financier combine owning energy, defense manufacturing, banking and the media, surely has vastly more influence over Washington (including the White House) than Russia ever could dream of having.
There has been no explanation, plausible or implausible, as to how Russia could manage to exert more power and influence over any aspect of US policy than interests on Wall Street in possession of the greatest concentration of wealth and power on the planet, a concentration an entire order of magnitude greater than Russia’s.
Just as basic facts exposed the conspiracy theories implicating Obama as a “secret Muslim” and a unilateral “terrorist sympathizer,” basic facts expose the absurdity of this most recent conspiracy theory regarding inexplicable influence Russia somehow exercises over and beyond US special interests.
More absurd still is the notion that even years after Russia allegedly installed a puppet into the White House, not only has no evidence, charges or convictions been leveled to substantiate these claims, the US establishment, from Wall Street to the US intelligence community to the Department of Justice and even the opposition Democrats, appear powerless to stop this conspiracy. Democrats even authorized defense spending for a president they have repeatedly claimed is a “puppet” of Russia.
Just as in the case of conspiracy theories surrounding Obama, this more recent narrative is meant only to manipulate the public and isolate continuous US impropriety within a single presidential administration where it can be safely disposed of in 4-8 years’ time.
Quite obviously even as leading Democrats make the most absurd claims regarding Trump and other politicians targeted as “puppets” of Russia, they continue “business as usual” passing budgets and advancing policies these “puppets” have direct access to, influence over or directly benefit from.
In Nazi Germany, opposition to Adolf Hitler whom many German officers and politicians perceived as a traitor (though not in league with foreign interests) took huge risks and lost their lives trying to remove Hitler from power. This is what an opposition does when they genuinely believe their nation faces an existential threat from within.
What Americans entertaining Russian-centric conspiracy theories are doing is manipulating the public, taking advantage of the public’s hysteria to gain attention, views and even income, but otherwise taking no genuine risks to confront the threat they claim America faces.
At this point it is difficult to tell who is cynically taking advantage of this conspiracy theory and the hysteria it is generating and who genuinely believes in it. The US has become a nation indulging in political narratives so divergent from reality it threatens to undermine the basic fundamentals a nation needs to sustain itself.
Successful domestic and foreign policy cannot be debated or arrived at in a climate of hysteria triggered by a complex web of increasingly absurd conspiracy theories.
Whether these theories involve a president claimed not to be a US citizen or involve claims a nation with less than 1/10 America’s GDP is able to capture and control its political leadership effortlessly and with absolute stealth, if the American public and policymakers are consumed with discussing them instead of reality, the nation cannot move forward, but only deeper into delusion and denial.
As individuals, if we find ourselves out of touch with reality, it almost always impacts our daily lives negatively. Our ability to work, interact with others socially or even take care of our most basic needs are affected. Our ability to defend ourselves against those that would exploit our vulnerable mental state would also be negatively affected.
If an entire nation finds itself out of touch with reality, how could the negative impact not be many times worse?
Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.