Lies that Make Politics

An intelligence report revealed that Russia has manipulated elections worldwide through disinformation. For voters in the U.S., that is nothing new.

It is problematic for democracies when lies and other forms of propaganda influence election results. And it is especially ugly when the ones pulling the strings stay in the dark. But it is really nothing new or surprising even if Russia behind it.

The fact that Washington is now disclosing parts of an intelligence report describing Moscow’s disinformation campaign can be partly attributed to domestic issues. Congressional midterm elections will take place in just two months. And Democratic strategists fear that their candidates will fare poorly and their party could lose the majority in Congress, making it difficult for the president to act.

President Joe Biden commissioned the report after the war against Ukraine began, and it details matters that have been well-known since at least the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report says that Moscow has invested at least $300 million since 2014 to manipulate elections worldwide in favor of Moscow-friendly policies. More than two dozen countries are believed to have been affected by Russia’s actions. Above all, Russia’s moves allegedly favored right-wing and extremist right-wing candidates, including Donald Trump.

In U.S. politics, big money and covert influence are, sadly, part of everyday life. An army of lobbyists — working on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry, firearms manufacturers, the coal and petroleum industries, etc. — is adept at supplying millions of dollars to politicians, along with positions that have nothing to do with the truth. U.S. voters are constantly exposed to these lies. Even when they hear a candidate talk about clean jobs in coal mining, they don’t know who is really behind that message.

All the same, lobbying is regulated in the United States, no matter how opaque that may be to voters. Moscow has broken these rules. However, that will change little when it comes to election results in November. Some Americans have known since 2016 that Trump is Vladimir Putin’s favorite. For others, that doesn’t matter at all. And what everyone has in common is an interest in their own financial situation and their own rights. From their perspective, Russia is another planet.

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