This isn't news to DWT readers, but yesterday Jonathan Chait told his readers that the GOP has a pro-Putin wing. He noted it is also a pro-war crimes wing. Remember when we talked about the 63 far right members of the House who voted against a bipartisan resolution supporting NATO? Chait was upset enough about that lot but then flipped out about the 6 Republicans who "voted against a bill simply calling on the president to document evidence of Russian war crimes." Except there were 7; he didn't want to count Liz Cheney for some reason.
Chait noted that the American right has been admiring Putin and Russia as a hallmark of Trumpism. "[E]ven traditional Republican hawks like Ted Cruz expressed envy for the manly appearance of the Russian army in contrast to the 'woke, emasculated U.S. military. The war has, at least temporarily, tamped down open expressions of Russophilia. But the sentiment has instead been channeled into anti-anti-Russian rhetoric. Rather than openly endorsing Putin’s war aims, they focus their criticism on Putin’s targets: NATO, military aid for Ukraine, or the legitimacy of Ukraine’s government itself. Some right-wingers, most notably Tucker Carlson, have spread Russian propaganda about Ukrainian biolabs as a supposed weapons threat."
The deeper source of their animus against Ukraine is the fact the war has brought to the surface a conflict between authoritarianism and democracy. Putin’s goals in destroying Ukrainian sovereignty include destroying a democratic government on his border that might create a counterexample his own people can look to. The invasion has spurred an upsurge in pro-democracy sentiment in the West.
Representative Warren Davidson, an Ohio Republican, cited that very idea this week as the reason he opposed the pro-NATO resolution. His objection, he explained, was to the parts of the resolution highlighting the alliance’s commitment to “democratic principles” and strengthening “democratic institutions.”
This provision would “use NATO to interfere in one another’s domestic politics,” he complained. But Davidson seems to have deeper objections to the resistance to Putin. He has also voted against the war-crimes report, joining Representatives Tom Massie, Scott Perry, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar.
The anti-anti-Russia wing has multiple justifications for its stance. Will Saletan chronicles the arguments, which range from disdain for “socialist” allies to fear of escalation to an association between Ukraine and Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. What connects these disparate beliefs is an animus-- sympathy for Russia and contempt for its victims-- rather than a coherent agenda.
The war-crimes report is an issue that effectively strips away all those pretexts and reduces the question to a simple desire to record Russian atrocities. The refusal to accept even this step shows how deep the far right’s resentment of the resistance to Putin runs. They don’t merely oppose any steps to contain Russia’s war of aggression. They oppose even stating the truth about it.
Not everyone sees it the same way that Chait does. Fox-- and not just Tucker Carlson-- has been making sure of that... as have the members of the Putin wing of the GOP, some of whom, like feeble-minded Madison Cawthorn, say aloud what the rest of them just whisper in private.
Yesterday, Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg asserted that disinformation is the story of our age. I read it to find out in what age disinformation wasn't the story. He started by going over the Michigan congressional imbecile Lisa McClain's absurd claim that Trump caught Osama bin Laden, but most people who know McClain say that she told that to a Michigan Trump rally not because she was trying to deceive anyone but because she's one of the most ignorant and and just plain stupid people ever elected to Congress. He wrote that "McClain, a first-term member of Congress, showed that, with effort, and with a desire to feed Trump’s delusions and maintain her standing among his supporters, anything is possible. In ordinary times, McClain’s claim would have been mocked and then forgotten. But because these are not ordinary times-- these are times in which citizens of the same country live in entirely different information realities-- I put her assertion about bin Laden on a kind of watch list. In six months, I worry, we may learn that a provably false claim made by a single unserious congressional backbencher has spread into MAGA America, a place where Barack Obama is believed to be a Kenyan-born Muslim and Donald Trump is thought to be the victim of a coup."
Russians, he explained-- getting closer to his point-- "have been led to believe the lies that Ukraine is an aggressor nation and that the Russian army is winning a war against modern-day Nazis. We see it at work in Europe and the Middle East, where conspiracies about hidden hands and occult forces are adopted by those who, in the words of the historian Walter Russell Mead, lack the ability to 'see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings.' [That is a better description of Rep. McClain.] We see it weaponized by authoritarians around the globe, for whom democracy, accountability, and transparency pose mortal threats. And we see it, of course, in our own country, in which tens of millions of voters believe that Joe Biden is an illegitimate president because the man he beat in 2020 specializes in sabotaging reality for personal and political gain. This mass delusion has enormous consequences for the future of democracy. As my colleague Yoni Appelbaum has noted, 'Democracy depends on the consent of the losers.' Sophisticated, richly funded, technology-enabled disinformation campaigns are providing losers with other options.
David Axelrod told him that “It is a fundamental blow to our democracy-- and any democracy-- if people come to believe that an election clearly won by one person was illegitimate. That kind of malign fabrication is devastating for democracy. Anything that tears us apart, falsehoods that deepen distrust of institutions, anything that undermines the idea that there is such a thing as objective truth-- these are huge challenges."
He wrote that he and Axelrod "are both aware that disinformation is a virus that has infected much more than a single political party (though in my opinion, only one party in the American system has currently given itself over so comprehensively to fantasists). And we’re aware that there is only so much any citizen can do, when faced with a social media–Big Data complex that makes it easier and easier to inject falsehoods into political discourse. 'Disinformation, turbocharged by the tools social media and Big Data now afford, threatens to unravel not just our democracy but democracies everywhere,' he said."
A disagreement over what's right and what's wrong is "fundamentally different than creating stories that are wholly untrue and designed to polarize factions and achieve authoritarian goals. The lie about the Obama birth certificate, the Pizzagate conspiracy-- these are examples of what we’re talking about. Disinformation is also a fraught subject for a big-tent magazine like ours, one that believes it is best for democracy to offer a wide variety of views and opinions. We strive for nonpartisanship at The Atlantic, and we aim to publish independent thinkers and a wide variety of viewpoints. But this most recent period in American history has presented what might be called 'both-sides journalism' with serious challenges-- challenges that have prevented this magazine from publishing many pro-Trump articles. (After all, our articles must pass through a rigorous fact-checking process.)"
Yesterday I noted that Paul Gosar had promoted an appearance he had agreed to in front of another white nationalist group to celebrate Hitler's birthday. That was true. This, on the other hand, is (I think) a joke, a spoof, made to make people laugh, not to deceive them: