The suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story shows how the Russian boogeyman is wielded to serve political goals and bury inconvenient facts.
(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
By Aaron Maté
Source: Aaron Maté Substack
Since 2016, US audiences have been flooded with claims that Russia has waged a “sweeping and systematic” interference campaign to influence them, and that Donald Trump and a bottomless cast of associates were somehow complicit.
No “scandal” in US history has yielded such a lengthy rap sheet of falsehoods, debunkings, and retractions. The Mueller investigation and parallel Congressional inquiries found no evidence for the all-consuming theories of a Trump-Kremlin conspiracy. Allegations of Russian government email hacking and social media operations are equally dubious, most notably on the foundational allegation that Russian intelligence stole Democratic Party emails and gave them to Wikileaks.
Even if we were to ignore the evidentiary gaps and accept each assertion about “Russian interference” at face value, the totality could in no way justify even a shred of the multi-year Russia-mania. With no shame and without end, prominent political and media voices have imbued Russian bots, memes, and hackers — real or imagined — with the power to “sow chaos” in US society, swing election results, and even become worthy of comparison to the attacks of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
Given the Iraq WMD-esque preponderance of hyperbole and outright lies in the incessant claims of Russian subterfuge, it is reasonable to conclude that the US intelligence officials and political-media actors who have spread them are waging exactly what they accuse Russia of: a politically motivated disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the general public.
The newly disclosed Twitter Files — a cache of internal communications from the social media giant — offer new evidence of one of the Russiagate disinformation campaign’s core functions: protecting the rule of domestic elites, particularly in the Democratic Party.
In two consecutive presidential elections, the Russian boogeyman has been invoked to stigmatize and silence reporting on the Democratic candidate. It began in 2016, when journalists who reported on the stolen DNC emails’ revelations about Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street speeches or the DNC’s bias against Bernie Sanders were blamed for Trump’s victory and deemed to be unwitting Kremlin dupes promoting “disinformation” – in reality, factual material that embarrassed the pre-ordained winner.
Four years later, that same playbook was deployed for Clinton’s successor at the top of Democratic ticket, Joe Biden. In the weeks before the November 2020 election, Twitter and Facebook censored the New York Post’s reporting about the contents Hunter Biden’s laptop on the grounds that the computer material could be “Russian disinformation.” The Post’s stories detailed how Hunter Biden traded on his family name to secure lucrative business abroad, and raised questions about Joe Biden’s denials of any involvement.
The US media responded to the suppression of the laptop story with indifference or even approval. In one notable case, Glenn Greenwald resigned from the outlet that he co-founded, The Intercept, after its editors attempted to censor his coverage of the laptop controversy. Even stories that had long been public — such as the unqualified Hunter receiving an $80,000-per-month Burisma board seat just months after his father’s administration helped overthrow Ukraine’s government – were effectively off-limits.
There was never a shred of evidence that Russia was behind the laptop story, but that was of no consequence. Dutiful media editors, reporters, and pundits took their cues from a group of more than 50 former intelligence officials, who issued a statement declaring that the Hunter Biden laptop story “has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation.”
These intelligence veterans’ claim was in fact a classic Russiagate disinformation operation, as the Twitter files newly underscore.