So Russia Was A Thing That Happened, Huh

Content warning: I’m going to talk a brief bit about the Q conspiracy, and US Politics, particularly 2016 and the 45th president of the United States!

One of the lines I hear, usually from people I’m not overflowing with respect towards at the best of times, is that ‘Qanon and Russiagate are two sides of the same coin,’ with the notion that believing that Russia interfered with the 2016 US election is roughly equivalent and equally fanciful to the idea that there’s a super secret group of higher-than-known levels of security clearance that is being shared in cryptic crossword puzzles on a board for child pornographers?

The unstated, implicit idea that follows on this is, it seems, that Q is fake and so is the idea that Russia interfered with the American election. And that strikes me as extremely weird.

Look, when it comes to magic tricks, the whole point of how you do them is you present people with a scenario where what they expect, what they assume, couldn’t have happened, because you did something else. It’s a matter of the impossible and the expected. Typically speaking, you can dissolve any given magical trick by asking the questions of the likelihood of what you saw happened versus the likelihood of how much effort the magician is willing to go through.

That is: Anything that looks impossible can be boiled down into asking how it could be done, and if it’s impossible for the alternatives. Would I have bothered to glue a coin to a card box a month ago and practice with it for a month? Of course I did.

So I guess up front I need to underscore, in case you somehow think this is ambiguous: No, Q is not a conspiracy theory with a ‘grain of truth’ at the heart of it. The heart of the Q conspiracy is that Donald Trump was doing secret invisible war with an all-powerful conspiratorial cabal that reaches from the basic perimeter of all news media to every major world leader, but crucially, not Trump himself. This is total horseshit. It is not ‘true, in a way,’ or ‘true if you think of it, like-‘ and framing the Q conspiracy with this sort of pantspissing ‘well, I would like to use this fun conspiracy nonsense as an avenue to talk about how late capitalism is like a conspiracy theory’ is just feeding into the entire idea space. No.

This nonsense is for rejecting, not for a fucking pivot. It is a reenergisation of Christian antisemetic culture war bullshit, it is the evil that lies at the heart of my childhood, with new pants and a tripcode. The conspiracy theory is not ‘true, if,’ or ‘true, but.’ The fact a conspiracy theory can point to truths and say ‘hey, what about that?’ does not make the true thing part of the conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory is the unfalsifiable collected of assertions that overlays itself on reality, built around a grifter and a school of grifters, preying on people who each are choosing to accept and indulge the monsters in their own midst because they like the way the grifters are making them feel. It is not a ‘non-violent movement’ that looks forward to the day of the rope, it is just a movement whose violent atmosphere has not evinced yet.

And uh, January 6 happened.

Point is: Q is just fucking false.

Now, counterpoint.

Oh, and thanks, Wikipedia for an all-purpose generic image of Russia with hopefully the correct flag unless something’s changed in the past week, but which pointedly does not involve invoking bears, ushankas or hammers and sickles. That’s one of the areas this conversation immediately swerves off into the woods.

Okay, what’s this Russia thing?

First, there isn’t a clearly defined like, name. Some people call it ‘Russiagate’ and sometimes there were people calling it the ‘Wikileaks’ thing, or ‘Mueller time’ or whatever. Terrible branding, terrible content as I’m sure they say. Anyway, the idea is that Russia, the nation, attacked the United States’ election system in 2016, in an attempt to ‘influence’ the election. Some evidence of this conspiracy theory tends to be the way that Donald Trump literally called on Russia to do things, and then they did it. Or the way that Donald Trump becoming the nominee resulted in the removal of Anti-Russia language from the Republican party platform. Or the dozens of hackers indicted for their part in distributing disinformation throughout the election. Or the way Donald Trump had two conspiracies going during the election, one of which was with Russia to keep the dealings of his attempts to buy a Trump Tower Moscow a secret (and the other, well, that resulted in campaign finance charges and jail time, and whatever, it doesn’t count and rich people never suffer).

Anyway, notice how the things I mentioned are all publically known, true things that happened? Don’t require satan worshipping or long-lost video of Hillary Clinton eating a baby?

Look, the degree to which the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian spies is pretty unknown to me, personally, at this point. There’s a senate report on it, by Republicans, which says, yeah, that happened.

These things aren’t fucking equivalent.

Is this why Trump won? Probably not, there’s a lot of factors going into it. It certainly doesn’t help matters when a known adversary with access to famously hackable systems is doing what it can to erode trust in things like ‘consensus reality.’

But let’s look at it to see how extraordinary the claim is.

  • Is there an advantage to messing with America?
  • Is there a ramification to messing with America?
  • Does Russia have a history of doing stuff like this?

Yes, there is advantage to messing with America. America is the world’s bully. You have all the money and all the guns. You burn piles of money like our economies on the regular for silly reasons. Every country in the world has to care about what you’re doing, and if you’re spending time grabbing your own ass you can’t mess with other people as effectively as you do.

Is there ramifications? Well, not really? Because what are you going to do? Ramp up sanctions? They’re not going to impact the people who are explicitly in positions of power to make these choices and loot the country. The toolbox is pretty limited for punishing actors, especially when you spend all that ‘bombing people’ energy exclusively on brown people.

And does Russia have a history of doing this? Oh my god yes, Russia has been trying to mess with American politics since World War 2. Do you think they decided to stop? Why would they? What was it going to lose them?

I get it. People who watch MSNBC were mad about something in the news, and it’s easy to hate those people. They were talking about Russia, Russia, Russia, so it would be super nice if they were talking about complete nonsense from top to bottom. But maybe, in this case, it’s possible that the state actor with a history of trying to manipulate American elections that materially benefitted from the election of Donald Trump, actually did what it’s being accused of doing.