Politics

Russian Bots: A comforting delusion – Justin Ward

Both are rooted in an attempt to resolve cognitive dissonance.

What Trump’s base wants most is to see their enemies punished— ex. “Lock her up” —and he never really delivered on that front. They couldn’t handle that disappointment, so an anonymous 8chan poster known only as Q constructed this whole alternate reality where all the libs were getting their due.

Obama and “Crooked Hillary” have already been indicted secretly, according to Q. In true reality show style, Trump is just waiting for the right moment to make his big reveal. So QAnon followers are told to “Trust the plan.”

#Resistance Twitter is rooted in a different delusion. They could not conceive of any way that Hillary Clinton—the greatest, most qualified candidate who has ever lived—might have legitimately lost the election, so they ascribed her failure to some outside force. Furthermore, many of them personally identified with Clinton so much that they viewed a rejection of her as a rejection of themselves.

Both QAnon and the #Resistance display a deformed version of a normal trait in a democratic citizenry: faith in institutions. They’re both convinced that their “traitor” enemies will be laid low by the justice system, whether its impeachment hearings or top-secret tribunals.

Trump’s followers claim to represent the “real America,” the heartland. They define themselves in opposition to the corrupt coastal elites. Likewise, As centrists, members of the #Resistance see themselves not only in the center politically but also smack dab in the middle of the cultural, social and moral mainstream. In their minds, they’re the standard-bearers of “normal.”

They have a hard time grappling with the fact that two decades of political polarization has rendered them marginal while elevating those currents they deem deviant.

If one has such blinders on, Trump seems like an aberration, but his presidency is the end point of a clear trajectory. The #Resistance defaults to a sort of magical thinking because it’s easier than coming to terms with reality. Rather than treating the disease or even the symptoms, they blame the illness on some Russian witchcraft.

QAnon and the right in general view Saul Alinsky as the foundational thinker of the left, and obsess over him. Far-right Russian thinker Aleksandr Dugin plays much the same role for the #Resistance (Twitter)

During and immediately after the election, the #Resistance refused to recognize that the resurgence of the far-right was both real and home-grown. Until the events in Charlottesville, there was a widespread assumption that the alt-right was predominantly, if not entirely, just a Russian psyop.

Russian bots didn’t march with torches. A Russian bot didn’t kill Heather Heyer. Russian bots aren’t shooting up Walmarts and synagogues. In fact, very little IRA content was hate speech.

Centrists’ concept of change amounts to Whig history, i.e. progress is a linear, inexorable march forward rather than a series of advances, reactions and retreats. A black president got elected. Then came marriage equality. The next logical step is woman president—not fascist game show host. Trump’s presidency doesn’t fit this progression, so it must have been brought about by some nefarious outside force.

It’s also fundamental to their self-image for them to believe that they are on the right side of history. This is simpler when it’s a dichotomy, and Trump is the wrong side. But the prospect of a third force in politics with a better claim to that role is a huge source of psychic distress, which explains the visceral reaction against Sanders.

They’re the good guys—the #Resistance—therefore whoever is against them must be the baddies. The Democratic establishment asserts the exclusive right to speak for the entire left half of the American political spectrum. Sanders is undermining the legitimate, officially sanctioned resistance just by being in the race regardless of whether he has is the best positioned to defeat Trump (He is).

They’ve accepted the premise that “radical” and “realistic” are now and forever mutually exclusive. And if you’ve spent the last 20 years decrying “purity tests” and saying every election that now just isn’t the right time to rock the boat, then how are you to make sense of the fact that someone running on a platform full of ideas you dismiss as “pie-in-the-sky” is incredibly popular?

It can’t just be that you’re wrong.

No, it’s some kind of 4D chess move by Putin. He’s just setting Bernie up to fail. As soon as he gets nominated, the Republicans are going to release their ultimate oppo dump that they got from a top Russian hacker: Some fifth grade essay he wrote about how Stalin is cool or whatever.

It speaks volumes about how cynical #Resistance folks are that they can’t imagine millions of people might post about Bernie on Twitter non-stop because they’re genuinely excited about his candidacy. Why would anyone actually care enough to do that unless it were part of some huge intelligence operation?


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