“Yet for its advocates, the questionable veracity of the Russiagate story seems much less important than what has become its real purpose—elite virtue-signaling. Buy into a storyline that turns FBI and CIA bureaucrats and their hand-puppets in the press into heroes while legitimizing the use of a vast surveillance apparatus for partisan purposes, and you’re in. Dissent, and you’re out, or worse—you’re defending Trump…In other words, there’s the truth, and then there’s what’s even more important—sticking it to Trump. Choose wrong, even inadvertently, …no matter how many times you deplore Trump, and you’ll be labeled a Trumpkin.”
—Lee Smith in his essay, “Who Believes in Russiagate?”
“What unites [critics of Russiagate on the Left and the Right] obviously isn’t politics—rather, it’s the recognition that the Russiagate campaign represents an attack on American political and social institutions, an attack on our liberties, an attack on us. Russiagate is a conspiracy theory, weaponized by political operatives, much of the press, as well as high-level intelligence and law enforcement bureaucrats to legitimize an American election and protect their own interests, which coincide with those of the country’s larger professional and bureaucratic elite.”
You might wonder why I chose to highlight the first quote rather than the second. The second tells me nothing I don’t know, or that readers of Ethics Alarms don’t know: I’ve made it a theme here since early in 2017. I learned something from the first quote, however. This is the phenomenon I have been experiencing on Facebook, where periodically pointing out unfair and intellectually dishonest attacks on President Trump and pointing out the news media’s horrific bias increasingly get me labelled as a Trump supporter, apologist or enabler. Meanwhile, I recently had a follow-up exchange with NPR over my objections to Prof. Butler’s “Oh, come on!” outburst when I was correctly pointing out what was ethically dubious about late accusations of sexual harassment against political figures. Oh, no, I was told. He wasn’t saying “Oh come on!” because I misrepresented sexual harassment law. He was saying that because he thought I was making excuses for Trump.
Except that my point would have been the same no matter who I had used as an example—Bill Clinton, Al Franken, any number of powerful men from whom women who might have originally been welcoming to unasked-for sexual contact, but who were made the targets of accusations by those same women years or decades later because of peer pressure and shifts of public opinion. So what was I being told? I was being told that even valid and justified defenses that would be accepted on behalf of other male politicians and celebrities would not be accepted if they were offered in defense of Trump. It doesn’t matter if Trump is being treated unfairly: he alone does not deserve the same ethical treatment of anything else, and anyone who attempts to extend equal treatment, objectivity and equity to this President and will be marked as a pariah. This will assist in silencing critics of the virtual conspiracy, and stripping the President of the common armor of reciprocity, respect and equal treatment.
It’s clear to me now.
It’s a despicable, ugly thing.
And I reject it utterly