In 1958, Disney produced a documentary, titled “White Wilderness,” depicting an epic migration of lemmings — a small, short-tailed vole which inhabits tundras and grasslands — culminating in the mass suicide of the lemmings as they jump together, en masse, off of cliffs and into the Arctic Ocean, where they promptly drown. Thus was born a social meme that has persisted to the present, symbolic of unthinking conformity, even unto oblivion. It is a useful meme, utilized pejoratively to describe human group-think behavior, characterized by going along with perceived majority opinion without rational assessment of the consequences. As the narrator of the documentary, Winston Hibbler, explained, “A kind of compulsion seizes each tiny rodent and, carried along by an unreasoning hysteria, each falls into step for a march that will take them to a strange destiny.”
When I first began composing this essay in my head, it occurred to me that the fateful lemming analogy was perfect for the point I wanted to make, even though the analogy has now become cliché and worn. The trouble is that the lemming mass suicide story is a complete myth. As it turns out, the Disney filmmakers filmed the lemmings in Alberta, a landlocked province and not the natural home of lemmings, which they bought in Manitoba from some Inuit children, and constructed a set to depict the lemming migration, ultimately throwing the wee little rodents off the cliff and into a river, where they did indeed drown. For this, White Wilderness won the Best Documentary Feature at the 31st Academy Awards in 1959. In light of this new (to me) information, the lemming analogy becomes particularly apropos.
I recently logged out of Facebook in a fit of pique, expressing my profound frustration at the incessant drumbeat of allegations — and that is all they are at this point — that Russia, and now Vladimir Putin himself, hacked into the DNC’s and John Podesta’s e-mails in order to cast our “democracy” into disrepute, and more specifically, to throw the election to Donald Trump. I stated in my sign-off message that “The conservatives are stupid, and the liberals are deluded.” I could have just as accurately stated the obverse, that the liberals are stupid and the conservatives deluded. My frustration is not limited to the liberals’ vapid and unsupported crying of foul that their dirty laundry was aired for all the neighbors to see, but also to Trump’s consistent and pathological demonization of Iran.
The problem is not that Clinton and her accomplices have made (up) the allegation that they “believe” Russia hacked into the e-mails which exposed her manipulation of the democratic and Democratic process. (I will use “Clinton” herein to refer to her, her husband, the Clinton Foundation, the DNC, and her lackeys such as Podesta, unless specificity is required.) The allegation alone would be normal for Clinton, whose penchant for playing fast and loose with the facts is well documented. The problem is that this allegation is far more than a statement, but a coordinated, relentless, repetitive and well-funded plan of action, and that plan is plainly — as it has been for a long time with Clinton — to take this country to war with Russia.
The allegation that Russia hacked Clinton’s e-mail is, as of this writing, entirely unsubstantiated. The CIA’s “belief” that Russia was behind the e-mail leaks, despite a lack of “‘specific intelligence’ showing Kremlin involvement,” is not fact. That the FBI has “accepted” the CIA’s “belief,” as announced by the CIA, is not a fact. That Obama “assures” us that he will, eventually, show us the evidence, is not fact. In point of fact, this allegation has been repeatedly demonstrated to be resting on rickety stilts.
As the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board opined: “Instead of briefing the House Intelligence Committee about the alleged Russian role in hacked emails made public during the campaign – which Democrats desperately seek to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss – the agency is leaking conclusions without facts to the Washington Post, New York Times and television networks. The media, naturally, are quick to report the anonymous bits of “blame Putin” information to the public.”
While exhibiting a lemming-like distaste for Wikileaks and Vladimir Putin, and a weak acceptance of the Clinton-propagated assumptions of bad faith, Sam Biddle wrote for The Intercept an otherwise scathing take-down of the Crowdstrike and FireEye reports commissioned by the DNC, noting that “CrowdStrike’s claim [is that] it was able to finger APT 28 and 29, described above as digital spies par excellence, because they were so incredibly sloppy. Would a group whose ‘tradecraft is superb’ with ‘operational security second to none’ really leave behind the name of a Soviet spy chief imprinted on a document it sent to American journalists? Would these groups really be dumb enough to leave cyrillic comments on these documents? Would these groups that ‘constantly [go] back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels’ get caught because they precisely didn’t make sure not to use IP addresses they’d been associated before? It’s very hard to buy the argument that the Democrats were hacked by one of the most sophisticated, diabolical foreign intelligence services in history, and that we know this because they screwed up over and over again.”
Most damning is the memorandum issued by the Steering Group for the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), concluding that the e-mails disclosed by Wikileaks were not hacked at all, but rather leaked. This group consists entirely of veteran intelligence professionals, including the whistleblower William Binney, former Technical Director, World Geopolitical & Military Analysis, NSA; and co-founder, SIGINT Automation Research Center. VIPS explains the difference between “hacking” and “leaking” as follows:
Leak: When someone physically takes data out of an organization and gives it to some other person or organization, as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did.
Hack: When someone in a remote location electronically penetrates operating systems, firewalls or any other cyber-protection system and then extracts data.
As the VIPS memo explains,
We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack. ***
… the NSA would know where and how any “hacked” emails from the DNC, HRC or any other servers were routed through the network. This process can sometimes require a closer look into the routing to sort out intermediate clients, but in the end sender and recipient can be traced across the network.
The various ways in which usually anonymous spokespeople for U.S. intelligence agencies are equivocating – saying things like “our best guess” or “our opinion” or “our estimate” etc. – shows that the emails alleged to have been “hacked” cannot be traced across the network. Given NSA’s extensive trace capability, we conclude that DNC and HRC servers alleged to have been hacked were, in fact, not hacked. ***
As for the comments to the media as to what the CIA believes, the reality is that CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in the communications arena. Thus, it remains something of a mystery why the media is being fed strange stories about hacking that have no basis in fact. In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone – Russian or not – attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.
Despite these reasoned calls for evidence, the NYT and WaPo, together with other multitudinous organs of corporate, neoliberal/neocon mouthpiece media such as Time, CNN, et al, have continued to firehose the public information spaces with their innuendo, spin and half-truths, and the American liberals are mesmerized. Liberals continue to march toward the cliff, chanting their spoon-fed mantras of “Russian hacking” and “compromised democracy,” all the while completely ignoring the fact that it was Clinton’s machinations to crater Sander’s candidacy which compromised the democratic process, not the exposure of those machinations. But, assuming for a moment that the exposure, rather than the acts exposed, were responsible for Clinton’s loss, that would appear to be a salutary consequence for Clinton’s misdeeds. Why should she not be punished for monkey-wrenching the Sanders candidacy? The liberals cannot seem to grasp that this Escher-like twisting of these concepts demonstrates just how toxic truth has become for our political machine.
One example of this vacuous repetition is typified by Max Fisher, writing for the New York Times, who uncritically writes: “This summer, when Russian hacking groups began releasing Democratic emails through third parties such as Wikileaks, many Americans suspected an effort to help Mr. Trump, who had promised to realign the United States with Russia.” Now this is about three flavors of nonsense. First, hacking has not been proven by anyone, nor has Russian involvement with any hacking. Second, the “Americans” to which Fisher refers were actually quite incensed to find that the DNC and the Clinton campaign had conspired to disadvantage the Sanders campaign, particularly the Americans supporting Sanders, and the disclosures delighted the Americans supporting Trump, who were handed clear evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty. How many untruths need to be contained in one sentence before it qualifies unreservedly as a lie? The Russian-hacking meme was easy for the Democratic cabal to pull off the shelf because Clinton had been pounding away on her anti-Russian propaganda throughout the entirety of the campaign, indeed, throughout her career in public office, both as a senator and as Secretary of State. Fisher at least admits that Russian fears of Clinton antipathy are founded in her own statements and actions, extending at least back to 2008, when she publicly stated that Putin had no soul. Of course, Fisher and the NYT cannot admit that Clinton was hip deep in the coup d’etat which overthrew the elected Ukrainian government and installed Western-controlled oligarchs and Nazi enforcers in their stead. He cannot admit that Clinton (and her boss, Obama) overthrew Qaddafi and blew up Libyan civil society in concert with the Muslim Brotherhood and “known terrorists in the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group,” nor that she was responsible for running a ratline of weapons taken from Qaddafi’s arsenals, including sarin gas, which were then transferred through Turkey to Islamist elements seeking to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.
Following a speech in September at the Brookings Institute, Clinton stated, “I have been, I remain convinced that we need a concerted effort to really up the costs on Russia and in particular on Putin. I think we have not done enough.” She has staunchly supported the most hawkish expansion of NATO, pushing the military alliance’s presence to the very border of Russia, demonizing Russia and Putin at every step. Why in the world would Russia would feel threatened by this?
All of this is to say that words have consequences, and the liberal lemmings who blindly conform their thinking (such as it is) to Clinton’s and NATO’s war-mongering memes are being thrown off the cliff by the corporate power-brokers, all to present a deceptive image that evokes unexamined, misdirected, emotive dissonance, but they are still going into the water. Like the lemmings thrown into an Albertan river by Disney filmmakers, I do not think that liberals are actually suicidal, but it certainly looks that way on film. Do liberals really want to chant their way to war with a nuclear-armed Russia?
NOTE ON TRUMP: Not much is known about how Donald Trump will perform when he ascends to the office. But we have enough information to make some educated guesses, and the conclusions are not comforting. His statements regarding Iran, for instance, are just as stupid, just as misinformed, just as sanguine as Clinton’s push for war with Russia. This despite the fact that Iran has no modern history of offensive war outside its borders. This despite the fact that every intelligence agency in the U.S., and Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, agree that Iran has not been pursuing a nuclear weapons program. This despite the fact that the money the U.S. “gave” to Iran ($1.7 billion) was actually Iran’s money in the first place, money that had been seized by the U.S. following the 1979 Iranian revolution. Trump has called this payment and the nuclear agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated,” and has promised to scuttle it. This type of ignorance on the part of the POTUS is alarming and appalling. I suspect there will be plenty to write about as this moron commences his destruction.
NOTE ON SOURCES: Much of the sources I have cited in this essay are mainstream media outlets. These corporate media outlets are famously inconsistent, and I certainly prefer more incisive and less propagandistic sources for my own edification, but it is helpful when writing an essay such as this to utilize sources that are routinely relied upon by those who will undoubtedly attack it. So, for instance, citing to a Haaretz article on Mossad’s conclusion that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons takes away the spurious claim of bias.