Traditional Russian wooden nesting dolls called Matreska displayed in a shop in Moscow, Russia. | AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin via Beta.

“The Russian hack” and a couple of daunting tales about democracy

Russia might have hacked the DNC emails, but what the emails show is that when Trump claimed “the system is rigged,” just may have been right -- and the liberals seem not to be ready to deal with it.

The Democratic Party in the United States did well when they accepted, albeit grudgingly, the results of the November 2016 elections, especially when Obama took care to ensure a smooth transition of power to president-elect Trump. Embarrassing as it may have been for the Democrats, they were not going to let the entire executive power of the most powerful country in the world slip to Trump without some sort of contestation. After all, Trump was constantly considered by his political opponents as “a dangerous clown,” “a racist” having a “bigoted agenda,” and a score of other similar labels.

The question for the Democrats and their supporters became then how to justify a defeat to a “racist clown.” Leaving no stone unturned in their search for an answer, the mainstream liberals very soon found the responsible ones for their terrible defeat. Of course, it was not the mainstream liberal democrats themselves that were going to take the responsibility for this. Let’s admit it, it is not easy to belong to the traditional Democratic Party machinery and accept a loss to “a racist,” “a bigot,” and a “dangerous clown” so easily.

So they found the main culprit responsible for their defeat – Russia. According to sources first cited by liberal media, which then spread throughout the mainstream media and by now appear as if they embody some truth, Russia hacked the US elections to help make Donald Trump President of the United States.

Russia was so involved apparently, that Obama claimed that the hacking was “a pretty hierarchical operation,” alluding that this was not some sort of a game geeky hackers play, but it was ordered and organized by the higher echelons of the Russian Sistema.

The phraseology used here, like “hacking” and “Russian hack,” is quite deliberate so as to make the contestation more efficient. The story of election “hacking” that Democrats attempted o proliferate with the aim of making their loss and Trump’s victory dubious in reality has nothing to do with “hacking” in our traditional understanding of hacking. Somebody would think that Russian hackers were sitting in front of computers and manipulating the casting of the votes or the ballot counting. But this was of course not the case. When one would go beyond the titles branding headlines of “Russian election hacking,” one would find that actually this has more to do with the WikiLeaks’ exposure of email conversations among the leadership of the Democratic National Committee, DNC. It is suspected that, after having hacked some DNC emails, Russia leaked them to Wikileaks, which then posted them for the public to see. Beyond their private conversations which should be of no use or interest to the public, they also revealed some quite embarrassing information regarding the DNC’s unethical, if not undemocratic, handling of the primaries – something very useful and of high importance to the general public.

The leaked emails showed how those at the top of the DNC breached their pledge of neutrality when it came to the two running candidates in the Democratic Primaries, Clinton and Sanders. It was shown that  many DNC staffers openly rooted for Clinton to prevail over Sanders, giving some strong suggestions that the DNC derided the Sanders campaign.

The embarrassing leaked emails also showed that when the chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned over the allegations about the DNC’s activities in sabotaging Sanders as one of their candidates, she was replaced by Donna Brazile, who continued to play favorites with Clinton. Brazile’s story is even more interesting and telling about the lack of transparency and unfairness in the electoral process since it goes beyond the DNC itself, although it starts there. At the time when the DNC put Brazile in charge, Brazile was also working as a CNN commentator. Without wanting to make a moral judgement about her outright conflict of interest here, Brazile indeed shared CNN questions with Clinton campaign prior to her public appearance, breaching journalistic ethics as a journalist, and breaching the DNC neutrality as chair of DNC.

The leaked emails also showed how those at the top of the DNC had the power to run the stories they wanted through what are supposed to be free and independent media. If Sanders would make a comment the top DNC officials didn’t like, the latter easily considered calling and arranging meetings with top mainstream media editors to either complain or “improve” relations. They would also have the freedom (read: power) to ask media what questions they should ask Clinton’s opponent(s), so that Clinton would more easily move up to the hierarchy of power. The leaked emails showed that some important mainstream media would even pre-check their op-eds with those at the top of the DNC before running them online – filtering stuff the public should or should not see.

Now, when assessing what went wrong when losing to a dangerous “clown,” the democrats did not find any of these preposterous acts within their structures problematic. A formula that was playing fairly well on Trump’s side with his infamous “the system is rigged” rhetoric. The Democrats and their mainstream liberal supporters downplayed the public’s attention over the details of what is really happening to their system. They forgot that when the system is really rigged, it does not make the statement false just because a clown says it. So goes the story with the “Russian hack.” The fact that the Russians must have facilitated the leaking of those emails, it does not make the content of those emails (exposing widespread corruption throughout the system) false. The voters must have already felt that for some time now, and tired of producing 20 times more compared to the 1970s with the same real income today, a “dangerous (rich) clown” became their choice over the traditional Republican or Democratic rich elites.

The story about how the Democrats and their mainstream liberal supporters are attempting to find the responsibility of defeat outside their own circles is quite daunting. This is because it appears that they are looking more into how to protect the traditional elites and the status quo instead of giving way to new candidates who are proposing radical change – not necessarily because of their radical thinking, but because of radical circumstances which in the end brought a “dangerous clown” to power. Considering how and where the Democrats are looking for responsibility for their defeat, I am not as optimistic as Slavoj Žižek with Trump’s victory – he claimed that Trump’s victory “opens up space for radical reshuffling of the entire system.” However, judging by how the Democrats and the mainstream liberals are trying to handle their defeat to Trump, they may move further to the right, and further to insanity – just to win the elections. The jury is still out.

Finally, the story about the “Russian hack” pushed mainly by Democrats and those in the mainstream liberal circles does not bode well for the future of democracy in the US, and in the world,  as we know it. Being aware of the potential for the country’s elections to be hacked from abroad, the US may as well, and will surely, protect itself in the future. The problem remains, however, that if the Russians were capable of influencing the election outcome through direct hacking, information warfare via fake news, and/or similar strategies, how is the American public going to be ensured that the elections will not be “hacked” through similar strategies from powerful domestic interest groups? Who is really voting, even when one is casting the ballot him/herself? The same question remains relevant for the other leading democracies in Europe. Very daunting prospects in front of us indeed.

Shpend Kursani is a PhD researcher in the Department of Social and Political Sciences at the European University Institute, where he researches post-1945 cases of contested states.

28 December 2016 - 10:44

Shpend Kursani

28/12/2016 - 10:44



Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.