The binary empire strikes back

In Donald Trump’s latest fiasco, in which, to virtually unanimous condemnation, he preferred Vladimir Putin’s claim that the Russians had not interfered in the 2016 U.S. election over claims from U.S. intelligence services that they in fact had[1] (he partly, but not really, recanted on his return to the White House[2]), I wish to address myself to a small portion of the Left that sympathizes with Trump’s decision, despite nearly all considered opinion, to carry on with the meeting with Trump in Helsinki even after Robert Mueller indicted Russian nationals for hacking into Democratic National Committee computer systems.[3]

This segment of the Left, I should explain, is my old turf. There are even some highly educated folks who, seeing the U.S. as entirely evil (I pretty much agree with this), embrace a flagrant false dichotomy, that anyone who opposes the U.S. is therefore good and to be supported. Enclosed with this argument is a view that mainstream media is a propaganda organ and therefore anything it says about U.S. opponents is not merely to be viewed skeptically, but flatly considered false. That mainstream media organizations are compromised is not merely a view of the far Left; most media scholars will point to corporate consolidation as at least problematic.[4] That U.S. foreign policy is evil is simply a matter of historical record. But the second halves of these claims, that all opponents of the U.S. should be considered saintly and any denigrating information published about them should be dismissed simply doesn’t follow and it is, to say the very least, dismaying to see highly educated people adopting this view.

With Trump’s visit to Helsinki, it appears that this segment of the Left has embraced a view that since Trump is discarding U.S. foreign policy, he must be doing a good thing. Again, this does not follow. It is possible to see the U.S. as wholly evil, to recognize that mainstream media organizations often serve as stenographers for U.S. policies, and yet to recognize that if Russia feels threatened by NATO encroachment, then perhaps, rather than threatening to resurrect the Soviet empire, it should stop driving its neighbors into NATO’s arms. It is indeed possible to recognize that Russia, too, might be evil, and possibly even by similar criteria to those used to judge the U.S. evil.

But this segment of the hard Left not only embraces the false dichotomy but fails to hold Putin and Russia accountable by the same standards it holds the U.S. government and the U.S. There is something deeply, troublingly wrong here.

  1. [1]Rebecca Ballhaus, “Trump Questions Finding of Russia’s 2016 Meddling as He Appears With Putin,” Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2018,; Dan Balz, “The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow,” Washington Post, July 16, 2018,; Rod Dreher, “Trump Capitulates To Putin,” American Conservative, July 16, 2018,; David M. Herszenhorn, “Putin preens while Trump settles old scores,” Politico, July 17, 2018,; Michael Scherer, “Trump’s defense of Putin finds few supporters in Congress,” Washington Post, July 16, 2018,; David Smith, “Trump ‘treasonous’ after siding with Putin on election meddling,” Guardian, July 16, 2018,; Felicia Sonmez, “Trump’s defense of Russia prompts outrage from some Republicans,” Washington Post, July 16, 2018,
  2. [2]Associated Press, “Trump says he misspoke on Russia meddling,” Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2018,; Jordan Fabian, “Trump says he accepts US intel on Russia — then adds it ‘could be other people also,’” Hill, July 17, 2018,; Vivian Salama, “Trump Reverses Course, Says Russia Meddled in 2016 Election,” Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2018,; John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez, “Trump says he accepts U.S. intelligence on Russian interference in 2016 election but denies collusion,” Washington Post, July 17, 2018,
  3. [3]Autumn Brewington et al., “The Russia Connection,” Lawfare, July 13, 2018,; Michael Crowley and Annie Karni, “Why Trump won’t cancel the Putin summit,” Politico, July 15, 2018,
  4. [4]J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995); David Croteau and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2003).; Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).

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