Putin and Me

So, Wikileaks, eh?

Doubtless you have heard of the trove of Democratic Party emails Wikileaks have released just prior to the Democratic Party National Convention. Here’s a small sampling of the headlines:

Wikileaks Proves Primary Was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy

WikiLeaks email trove plunges Democrats into crisis on eve of Convention

‘RIGGED’: Trump slams DNC for ‘vicious plan to destroy’ Bernie exposed in WikiLeaks emails

Wikileaks emails: Democratic officials ‘plotted to expose Bernie Sanders’ as an atheist

Newest WikiLeaks email dump proves DNC officials colluded to secure Clinton nomination

Wikileaks email dump suggests DNC favored Clinton over Sanders – understatement of the year award winning headline, that one.

Wasserman Schultz resigning as party leader

WikiLeaks Just Published Tons of Credit Card and Social Security Numbers

Guess which one was the Russia Today headline?

Now, a lot of the leaked material is not shockingly new, although it does prove that Democratic Party insiders have been acting in a shockingly cavalier manner with respect to the candidate they decided they didn’t want from the outset. That is to say, I’m not surprised at the revelations, but a lack of surprise does not mean one should simply go ‘That’s how it is, these days, when it comes to politics…’ This is no way to run a party. Well, no ethical way…1

Let’s also leave to one side WikiLeaks continuing inability to redact the personal information of people not central to the purpose of the leak. Rather, let’s look at the identity of the leaker, Guccifer 2.0. According to both Motherboard and The Washington Post the hacker is likely not a singular person, but a group of Russian hackers (and probably hackers employed by the Russian State). The evidence for this is in part circumstantial; Cyrillic keyboard bindings; metadata which references former KGB heads; Russian-type smileys, and part historical; the Democratic National Committee was hacked by the Russians earlier this year, and this seems more of the same. Yet it paints, overall, a plausible picture; it seems reasonable to at least consider the possibility that either WikiLeaks has been played by Russian security forces, or WikiLeaks is doing the bidding of the Kremlin.

The latter theory is fascinating in its own right, because Assange (and WikiLeaks generally) has an interesting relationship with Russia (as this article goes some way to showing.). But perhaps more interesting is the relationship between the Russian Establishment and one Donald Trump, Republican nominee for President of the United States of America.

Trump’s policy platform has always been weird, insomuch that he doesn’t seem to have much of one. That’s seems like a novel concept for a potential president of a superpower. ‘Vote for me and get me! I’ll stand for whatever takes my fancy this week!’ However, where Trump seems curiously invested is things like NATO (and how the US shouldn’t necessarily support it’s NATO allies), and his budding romance with Russia’s resident Bond villain, Vladimir Putin. Trump talks up how great Putin is a lot. Moreso than he does other despots. There seems to be a good reason as to why, too; Trump’s business empire is rather reliant on Russian money (which seems to be one argument as to why Trump refuses to release his tax returns) now that the big banks in America have decided that Trump isn’t too big to fall after all.

Could Trump be Russia’s politician? I’m not suggesting that Trump is a plant, or some brainwashed candidate, sent in by a foreign power in a Denzel Washington/Frank Sinatra way. Rather, there are vested interests at stake. Trump needs a positive relationship with Russia, because that’s necessary to keep his varied business interests afloat. It explains Trump’s attitudes towards Russia, and Russian interests.

Russia also would, I think, prefer to be able to engage in politicking and military manoeuvring near its borders without the USA baring its teeth, rattling its sabre, and doing whatever else that chimeric monster might use as a display of force. Russia, for example, might like to ‘take back’ the Baltic States, and, because said states are members of NATO, the USA would be obliged to come to their support. Helping out a candidate whose policy platform seems pro-Russia seems like a no-brainer.

Which is to say that there is a case for saying that the leaked DNC emails are not just a Russian plot, but one that works in favour of the Republicans not by accident, but by design, and may or may not have been aided consciously by WikiLeaks. This might be a headless conspiracy.2 This doesn’t need to be a plot masterminded by Vlad. Russian security services (which I am told are notoriously competitive with one another) might well be working to please the Russian Premier, whilst WikiLeaks’ cosy relationship with Russia simply meant they were the easiest vector to get the information out, all of which benefited a potential president of the USA who would look upon Russia with favour.

Or, this could be a plot with a set of singular villains, a stew of Putin, Trump, and Assange, working to prevent yet another Democratic administration. Each of those three men have their own vested reasons to oppose ‘yet another Democrat’ in the the White House.

Whatever the case, the story of the DNC email leaks is likely to get messy for everyone.

The Russia Today headline was, of course, “‘RIGGED’: Trump slams DNC for ‘vicious plan to destroy’ Bernie exposed in WikiLeaks emails”.

Notes

  1. Although I am constantly surprised by the requirement US politicians need to be seen as theistic, and preferably Christian. Get your act together, USA. That’s a really weird requirement, especially since there’s no real evidence Christians make better people.
  2. Headless in that it might be a bunch of actors, working in secret, towards a set of goals which happen to be shared with other actors working on similar projects unbeknownst to each other.

A failure to communicate

Earlier this year I set myself a task: write a Monday blogpost each week without fail. For the last three weeks I have failed utterly to post anything on a Monday, but it’s not because I didn’t try. Over the last three weeks I have drafted posts on social media bullying, the dreaded ‘New Zealand “Twitterati”‘ problem and the like, only to sigh come Monday afternoon, close my MMD editor and go on with my week feeling slightly let down by myself and the world.

But no more! By admitting to my stumbling block, I hope to move on and get back to regular blogging. Those posts will likely stay in the draft folder until such time the issues they pertain to reoccur. Instead, let’s talk about Ben Carson, you know, the neurosurgeon?

Ben Carson is running to be the Republican nominee for President of the U.S.A. Carson’s campaign has come a cropper over the last few days for two somewhat unrelated reasons. The first is that some of the details of his well-publicised life story of a murderous-thug-turned-Christian-brain-surgeon cannot be verified/might be false. The second is that Carson believes the pyramids are not royal tombs but, rather, grain silos built by Joseph (of “Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat” fame). Not just that, but Carson has position his sensible belief in triangular grain repositories in opposition to the scientific consensus that aliens built the pyramids.

Let’s just unpack that for a second. Ben Carson thinks scientists and historians and the like believe in some version of the Ancient Astronaut hypothesis – the claim ancient gods were visitors from space (cue the theme to “Stargate”) – and we all know that can’t be true. As such, Carson has gone with the authoritative words of the Old Testament, which apparently tells us the true purpose of the pyramids. I mean, why not; if scientists are going to believe such weird things, you might as well turn to the gods for answers…

Except, of course – as most of you are screaming internally – scientists, historians and archaeologists believe no such thing. The history of Egypt is well attested to, at least these days.1 Just about everyone believes that the pyramids are not just royal tombs, but we’re fairly sure hoe they were built, why they were built and the like. Whilst there is still a fair amount of debate as to, say, whether there are hidden chambers within certain pyramids and the like, no one really believes they are spacecraft landing platforms, or radio telescopes…

So, where does Carson get his ideas from? Well, the fringe. Authors like Erich von Däniken, Graham Hancock and the like have all advanced radically different versions of prehistory in popular texts. Not just that, but they often present their theories as being the “real” history, and orthodox history as being the product of a conspiracy.

It’s interesting that Carson gets his ideas of the academic consensus from the fringes. It’s not surprising, however; the Republicans seem to get all their ideas of orthodoxy from the fringes. The climate is not changing; a fringe scientist proved it! We can’t really offset climate change even if it is occurring; Bjørn Lomborg wrote a book! People believe weird things about the pyramids; look at historian Erich von Däniken’s views!

Yet Carson – who thinks himself very sensible and very clever – is also getting his sensible views from the fringe, because, despite what he claims, the Old Testament makes no claims about the pyramids being grain silos. Whilst some historical figures associated the pyramids with the (probably apocryphal) story of Joseph setting up grain silos for the seven years of famine in Egypt, not even modern Christian historians believe that to be the case now. Carson is getting his views on Ancient Egypt from somewhere, but it’s not the Bible.

Where we get our information from is important; I’m of the belief that almost all knowledge is social – we very rarely learn the truth of something from solitary inspection or introspection – and so situating someone’s belief in their social context is important for an understanding of that belief. Ben Carson believes scientists think the pyramids were built by aliens. Ben Carson, then, believes weird things about science. Not just that, but Ben Carson tells people the Bible claims things it does not. Ben Carson, then, believes a bunch of fringe beliefs but seems to think these beliefs aren’t attested to be orthodox academics because of some conspiracy.

Yet, you know what’s truly disturbing about all of this? Trump doesn’t seem to be any better. Oh, his fringe beliefs are much more mainstream, but equally as unjustified.2 Either man could be the Republican nominee for President. We just have to hope that the academic consensus that neither man will garner a plurality of votes across all the important demographics in the U.S.A. isn’t the kind of belief Carson (or Trump) would endorse.

Notes

  1. Just over a century ago this was not the case. Thank the non-existent gods for the Rosetta Stone.
  2. It’s worth pointing out that their fringe beliefs are not necessarily telling factors against them as candidates. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of U.S. citizens are purported to believe in the “Ancient Astronaut” thesis. A larger number believe that the Great Flood out of Genesis actually occurred.