There seems to be no end to the folks making money off the Russiagate narrative. One of the latest is Kathleen Jamieson, whose new book Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President What We Don’t, Can’t, and Do Know is making the rounds.
In short, I have gone through many of Jamieson’s claims in a previous piece at Open Society here. The format of this piece consists of Jamieson’s claims from her book outlined with quotes from an interview by Jane Mayer.
In response, I highlighted these claims with hyperlinks to articles which refute or throw into doubt a great number of her assumptions. This allows the reader to make up their own mind by viewing Jameison’s consensus narrative talking points in one hand, with critical thinking notes in the other.
This took quite a bit of time to do… Yet someone still asked me to interpret the meaning for them.
So, for those who are not philosophically inclined or have a limited understanding of how logic works, here’s the deal:
Jamieson gathers several premises together in a basket. If these premises are indeed true, then according to her number crunching, our conclusion must be the Russians decided the 2016 US presidential election. Again, this is all “common sense” consensus narrative here. Jamieson assumes what many people assume as her premises.
The point here is instead of challenging her number crunching abilities in maths – which we are not interested in doing – we challenge her premises.
IF her premises are not True, Then her conclusion is False, or at least, her conclusion is not entailed by these false premises. It is not a sound argument if the premises are not true. Thus, some other argument is necessary to make this thing fly.
With me so far? OK? OK.
Ladies first… after which, I’ll respond in a general way to her argument. Here’s Jamieson’s essay from the day before yesterday:
by Kathleen Jamieson Guardian Oct 22, 2018
It’s clearer than ever: the theft and leaking of Democratic emails were key to Clinton’s election defeat
In the process of announcing the US Justice Department’s July 2018 indictment of a dozen Russian military intelligence officers for hacking Democrats’ computers and publishing the contents, US deputy attorney general Rod J Rosenstein noted that: “What impact they may have had [on the 2016 presidential election] … is a matter of speculation.”
I disagree. While the case will never be iron-clad, one can plausibly determine how these Kremlin-tied saboteurs changed the contest that put real estate developer Donald J Trump in the White House.
Doing so entails two steps:
The first requires documenting the ways in which the Russian cyber-theft of more than 150,000 emails and documents affected key players, bolstered or undercut the electoral strategies of the major party contenders, legitimized central Republican attacks, and altered the media and debate agendas.
The second involves asking how these changes in the balance of messaging and the media agenda compare to those whose effects have been documented in past campaigns.
My starting premise is the tranche by tranche posting – first through Guccifer 2 and DCLeaks and then by WikiLeaks – of content hacked by Russian operatives transformed reporters and media outlets, in the words of the Pulitzer prize-winning reporting team at the New York Times, into “a de facto instrument of Russian intelligence.”
Searching for scoops and supposed scandals in the firehose of Russian hacked content, reporters downplayed Russia–related information that disadvantaged the Republicans, infused the media agenda with anti-Clinton “news,” and decontextualized hacked content in ways problematic for the Democrats.
At the same time, the Clinton campaign, according to an Associated Press investigation, “was profoundly destabilized by the sudden exposures that regularly radiated from every hacked inbox.”
Among these disruptions was the resignation of Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the face of hacked evidence of a bias by some DNC staffers against Clinton’s opponent during the primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Additionally, after a stolen email suggested that she had shared an anticipated line of Town Hall questioning with the Clinton campaign in the primaries, CNN fired the party’s most visible Democratic woman of color, long-time CNN commentator Donna Brazile.
The July 2018 indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller confirmed WikiLeaks timed the release of hacked content from the Democratic National Committee to thwart Clinton’s efforts to consolidate the support of Sanders’ voters. “How much BAD JUDGMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion against Bernie!” – Trump on 25 July.
He was referring to an email titled “No shit” that mulled over the prospect of unmasking Sanders as an atheist. “My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist”, it read in part. According to web scholars Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris and Hal Roberts, that purloined piece was the “most widely shared email from the DNC dump … coverage that was quite prominent when measured by media inlinks”.
Likewise Russian-hacked content worked in Trump’s favor with white Evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics, the latter a key voting block in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee – large cities within the three closely decided states that gave the mercurial tycoon the votes that spelled an electoral college victory.
In a hacked email exchange released by WikiLeaks, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri, who is herself Catholic, seemed dismissive of both evangelical Christians and conservative Catholic Republicans. “Emails reveal top Clinton aide mocked evangelicals and Catholics” read a headline in the evangelical publication Christianity Today. A half million member conservative group called CatholicVote demanded Palmieri’s resignation.
In a similar vein, hacked content helped Trump legitimize three key accusations: the general election was being rigged by the Democrats, the mainstream media could not be trusted because it was in league with Clinton, and the former first lady’s own campaign team questioned her fitness for office.
On the first front, by using content released by WikiLeaks to allege Clinton had not won the primaries “fair and square,” the Republican nominee contended that the only way he wouldn’t win “by massive landslides” would be if the election was rigged. Moreover, he and his allies used the revelation about Brazile to underscore their claim that the mainstream media were in the tank for Clinton.
Likewise, in their last debate, Trump responded to a Clinton attack on his qualifications by citing WikiLeaks to say that her campaign chairman “John Podesta said some horrible things about you and boy was he right.”
When the Access Hollywood tape threatened to sink the Trump candidacy, the media’s use of hacked content buoyed it. On 7 October 2016, two days before the second presidential debate, the lewd admissions memorialized on that hot mic recording prompted pundits to wonder whether Trump was confessing to sexual assault.
As highly placed Republicans considered whether to move vice presidential nominee Mike Pence to the top of the ticket, a revelation found in Bob Woodward’s Fear, Russian hacking disseminated on WikiLeaks saved the day for Trump by redirecting the media agenda. Displaced in the process was the announcement earlier that day by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security the Russians were behind the hacking of the Democratic accounts.
By posting segments of speeches Hillary Clinton delivered behind closed doors, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange shifted the media focus from Trump’s proclivities and the reasons the Russians might be happy to see him win, to an examination of the vulnerabilities of both major party nominees.
Accordingly, Trump champion and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani argued on influential Sunday interview shows on 9 October Trump’s bragging about his celebrity entitlement and Clinton’s hacked closed-door remarks each revealed flawed candidates.
In the days that followed, reporters exhausted their interest in Trump’s boast he kissed attractive women without their consent and could get away with anything including grabbing their genitals.
By contrast, a Google Trends search confirms successive disclosures from WikiLeaks garnered attention throughout the last month of the campaign. From 3 October to 20 October, a period after Trump’s poor and Clinton’s strong performance in the first debate and before FBI director James Comey’s re-opening of the Clinton server investigation on 28 October, our Annenberg surveys show a significant drop in perceptions Clinton was qualified to be president. A likely explanation is a news agenda filled with scandal-framed press coverage of the hacked content posted on WikiLeaks.
In the same month, the moderators in the last two general election debates transformed hacked content into questions hostile to Clinton’s candidacy and consistent with persistent Republican attacks. At issue in the second debate on 9 October were rambling thoughts the former secretary of state expressed in a closed-door talk to the National Multifamily Housing Council. In it, she cited Abraham Lincoln’s actions as an illustration of the need “to balance the public and private efforts that are necessary to be successful politically,” and noted the then popular Steven Spielberg film showed Lincoln doing just that:
“You just have to sort of figure out how to – getting back to that word, “balance” – how to balance the public and the private efforts that are necessary to be successful, politically, and that’s not just a comment about today … [and then 120 words about Lincoln]. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back-room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”
Citing only the last sentence from that segment, in front of an audience of 66.5 million viewers, debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked: “Is it acceptable for a politician to be “two-faced?”
Stolen material was stripped from its context as well in the final debate on 19 October when, before more than 71.6 million viewers, moderator Chris Wallace truncated a key sentence of Clinton’s from the same hacked tranche to claim: “We’ve learned from WikiLeaks, that you said this. And I want to quote, ‘My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.’” Had the Russians not published the hacked Democratic material with WikiLeaks’ help, neither debate question could have drawn legitimacy from Clinton’s own privately spoken words.
For Trump, open borders signaled unrestricted trade as well as immigrants and refugees streaming in to wreck havoc on innocent citizens. Throughout the campaign, the Democratic nominee had rejected Trump’s allegation she favored any such thing. The words she spoke in private did not diverge from that public position. Missing in Wallace’s question was the rest of the original sentence, which in its entirety read: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” When Trump tied the statement to immigration and Clinton stated it was instead about energy, he accused her of lying.
Importantly, our surveys show viewers of either of these two debates were more likely than non-viewers to report a difference between Clinton’s public and private sentiments, an assessment consistent with the one presupposed by both the moderators’ and Trump’s use of the hacked content in those two encounters. These negative post-debate perceptions predicted a reduced likelihood that a respondent would envisage voting for the Democratic nominee.
It is now clearer than ever, abetted by Assange’s WikiLeaks and by harried US reporters, the Russian cyber-theft and release of tens of thousands of Democratic emails and documents bolstered the electoral strategy of Trump and undercut Clinton’s, legitimized central Republican attacks and altered the media and debate agendas.
In past campaigns, smaller changes than these in the media agenda moved more than the 78,000 votes that in 2016 decided the electoral college. It is therefore very likely without Russian interventions, Donald J Trump would not be the US’s 45th president. That is a reality with which our democracy in general and our press in particular have yet to fully contend.
- Kathleen Hall Jamieson is the Elizabeth Ware Packard professor in the Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania, director of its Annenberg Policy Center, and author of Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped elect a President (Oxford University Press, 2018) from which this analysis is drawn.
Response: Open Society is made up of regular people with no special claims to anything other than being skeptical.
One problem with Jamieson’s analysis is she buys into an assumption: because the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) ads targeted divisive issues such as race and sexuality, the intent was definitely to mount a pro-Trump campaign or at least, it had a pro-Trump effect.
Does discussing identity politics make you more likely to vote for Trump or Clinton? Does seeing an ad for Black Lives Matter or a gay pride parade?
Because the Russian ads were based in identity issues, I believe it is wrong to assume these ads were intended to or did help either candidate over the other.
Even the assumption these ads caused division amongst Americans is problematic. We’ve already done that to ourselves. Why would a handful of ads make a difference?
A handful? Yes.
Keep in mind, the Trump and Clinton campaigns spent $81 million for advertising on Facebook, while the Russians on the order of $46 thousand.
For the mathematically challenged in the audience, that’s about 1600 times more spent by Trump/ Clinton than by this IRA. Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch revealed these figures during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s hearing.
I’m guessing whatever effect these IRA ads had, this is dwarfed by the advertising dollars spent by the candidates themselves in the Facebook medium.
It is also not clear this IRA is an arm of the Russian government. A case can be made the IRA is simply a for-hire commercial internet ad company. Capitalists who get paid to troll. Not for Mother Russia. For anyone with money.
So there’s that. The ads are not significant in number and their ties to Putin sketchy.
And there’s Macedonia. Why doesn’t Jamieson do a book about Macedonians? We know Macedonia is the fake news capital of the world. They intentionally wrote fake articles about Hillary Clinton which got passed all around social media during the election and influenced people. Where’s the outcry to bomb the King of Macedonia? King What’s-His-Face! Isn’t he a scary enough villain for the narrative?
Is it that King-What’s-His-Face’s people were just hustling stupid Americans for money? That’s capitalism. What if the IRA did the same thing? Trolled for dollars. We know the Macedonians wrote pro-Trump fake news articles.
Where is the outrage? Viral. Social media. Reached brazillions of people.
Because it really isn’t about the fake stories or being pro-Trump, is it?
It’s about being Russian. That’s why Macedonians don’t qualify.
Shattered, the insider account of the Clinton campaign, reports that “in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss.” Instead, one source recounted, aides were ordered “to make sure all these narratives get spun the right way.” Within 24 hours of Clinton’s concession speech, top officials gathered “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up.… Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”
Which leads us to another of the big assumptions Kathleen Jamieson makes: the Russians hacked the DNC and released their information to WikiLeaks.
This is problematic for many reasons.
Another is Craig Murray says he knows who gave the information to Wikileaks and it was not Russia. Here Murray states:
“Neither of the leaks came from the Russians. The source had legal access to the information. The documents came from inside leaks, not hacks.’
He said the leakers were motivated by ‘disgust at the corruption of the Clinton Foundation and the tilting of the primary election playing field against Bernie Sanders.’
Murray said he retrieved the package from a source during a clandestine meeting in a wooded area near American University, in northwest D.C. He said the individual he met with was not the original person who obtained the information, but an intermediary.”
Murray is a former UK Ambassador and is known to work with Wikileaks.
A really good question is why are the media in the United States seemingly ignorant of Murray’s statement? Are the US media really ignorant or do they select what information does not get released to the public here?
So the provenance of these emails is stated to have been leaked by someone inside the DNC, and this provenance declared by someone who claims to have handed these emails to Julian Assange himself.
Another is the question did the “leaking” or “hacking” itself cause people to bail on Hillary Clinton? The security breach at the DNC (be it a leak or a hack?) Was the “hack” the real problem or was it the content of the emails?
To be blunt, did the information contained therein cause people not to vote for Hillary?
Jamieson places fault on the Russians. This assumes an external locus of control. Foreigners. Russians!!!
Not only is it plausible these emails were not hacked by the Russian government/ Putin, we also know this damaging information about Clinton was known and discussed by Americans. Publicly.
These Americans exposed Clinton buying the DNC and rigging the Democratic primary election so Bernie Sanders could not win.
Here’s Donna Brazile’s statement.
Here’s a notice from Bernie Sanders pointing out fund improprieties in the Clinton campaign during the primaries.
Hillary had access to
No one has disputed the veracity of the DNC emails released by Wikileaks. Their veracity is independently confirmed by Americans prominently involved in the campaign, Sanders and Brazille.
If you need an even bigger smoking gun, the attorney for the DNC stated in court the DNC did nothing wrong. As a private entity, they are entitled to pick their candidate “over cigars and whiskey in a back room.”
The judge agreed. The DNC committed fraud. Everyone agreed. The DNC charter says they hold fair primaries without prejudice for or against any specific candidate. Judge says don’t have to follow their own charter.
The DNC held a presidential primary election with no meaning. Hillary Rodham Clinton was the choice no matter what voters said. For example:
Sanders won all 55 counties in the West Virginia primary. Yet HRC received 19 delegates to Sanders’ 18. There were many such scale tippings, this is only one example. Groups such as Election Justice USA catalog many more such events.
The bigger issue here is what happens when voters ascribe an internal locus of control? Meaning, what if the DNC and Clinton herself are at fault here rather than whomever released the emails?
After learning about the impossibility of Sanders actually becoming the Democratic party nominee, millions of people refused to vote for Hillary Clinton due to her rigging the election.
Is this the Russians’ fault? They didn’t rig the election. Hillary Clinton did.
In short, I have gone through many of Jamieson’s claims. You can review challenges to her claims at the hyperlinks provided here.
Her claims cannot hold water under this scrutiny. She retains all the assumptions made by the NYTimes and Washington Post and MSNBC and so on, assumptions which have been debunked or for which there is no compelling public evidence.
As Bob Woodward makes plain “in two years of investigating for my new book, Fear, I found no evidence of collusion or espionage between Trump and Russia. I looked for it ‘hard’ and yet turned up nothing.“
Therefore, all the number crunching in the world done by Jamieson is useless; when faced with such counter evidence, her house crumbles. The evidence she bases her analysis on is simply unsound.
We know both the US and Russia regularly interfere with each other’s elections, as well as those of countries around the world. The baseline for meddling is “one of every nine competitive national level executive elections between 1946 and 2000.”
Therefore, a more significant effect than the usual baseline meddling needs to be demonstrated to be relevant. As Bill Binney stated, “In other words, it means, the Russian GRU is hacking everybody to get information. But that’s what we are doing too! So he’s charging them for hacking, which means we should expect our spies to all be charged with similar crimes by all the other countries in the world because we do more spying and hacking than anybody!”
~ O Society October 24, 2018