Sunday, December 17, 2017

Parsing McCarthyism

It seems like Russian influence runs unfettered at all levels of our government (this short video clip of Roy Moore speaking fluent Russian obviously proves nothing nefarious, but it nearly broke my mind). I want them out, and I feel a patriotic duty to call for action on this until the government shows proper diligence.

So, wait. Joseph McCarthy - who also saw Russian influence everywhere and wanted them out - was a bad guy, right?

I ask this only half-ironically, being fully aware of McCarthy's excesses. But I've been grappling with the fun house mirror, as you likely are, as well. It doesn't help that so many members of "The Resistance" have shown a fondness for branding anyone they mildly dislike as a traitorous Russian spy.

Here's the answer, courtesy of former NSA spook John Schindler, whose articles for The Observer on Trump/Russia, counter-intelligence, and history are must-reads (as is his Twitter feed). From Schindler's recent piece, "The Truth About Espionage":
"Let’s take the example of the spy-mania of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when Senator Joe McCarthy convinced millions of Americans that Washington was teeming with secret Red agents burrowed deep in our government. Although he was never more than a boozy charlatan, McCarthy was more accurate than not in a very generalized way: Our nation’s capital indeed was swiss-cheesed with Kremlin spies."

... "While it’s important that Robert Mueller and his investigators unravel the full extent of Kremlin intelligence operations against our country in 2016—particularly because there’s every indication that Moscow will do the same again in 2018 and 2020—this needs to be done with seriousness, not sensationalism. Counterintelligence work driven by politics rather than facts can prove ruinous, as Senator McCarthy demonstrated."
Yes, Russian infiltration happens. The problem is when you politicize or sensationalize it. Best to let the cynical, coffee-breathed intelligence pros handle it competently and neutrally. Don't turn it into a "scare". Don't make it a "thing". Just get it fixed - and, if necessary, exert pressure on those standing in the way of fixing it.

Just for maximal 2017-style layered irony and craziness, Schindler himself has a big rivalry going with TV counter-intelligence pundits Naveed Jamali and Malcolm Nance, who may or may not have fake qualifications and may or may not deserve the TV gigs and acclaim as much as Schindler. So what does Schindler do? Yup: he frequently insinuates that they're part of the Russian conspiracy.

This house-of-mirrors, everything-is-topsy-turvy feeling of not having firm ground beneath our feet is a chain reaction that's only been catalyzed - not finely orchestrated - by Russia. But it's dangerous to imagine yourself immune. In this clusterfuck, we're all Russian agents (willing or not).

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