Fake news, real consequences

What’s even less reassuring is how little so many retweet-chasing experts on Russia actually know about Russia. Watch them blame the appalling treatment of homosexuals in Chechnya on “Christofascism.” Last December, a survey showed that 50 percent of Democratic voters believed that Russia tampered with vote tallies to help Donald Trump. The huge New Yorker feature on the New Cold War even admitted that the foundational story of our Kremlin panic, that the Kremlin aided WikiLeaks in obtaining Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, is based on an intelligence report that “provides more assertion than evidence.”

These stories and non-stories go viral for two reasons. Progressives are predisposed to believe they own the future, and so it is comforting to believe that their reversal of fortune over the past 18 months must be a dastardly plot from without. Russia’s super-competent interference saves their worldview from examination. They also love the role it allows them to play. Many progressives tend to feel guilty or embarrassed by activists who shout “America was never great.” They positively relish the idea that the so-called “Real American” rubes in flyover country elected a man committing treason. Now it is liberals’ turn to be tricorn-wearing patriots, wrapped in Old Glory.

It’s not hard to imagine, however, how making Russia into a great Satan can present a danger to the United States and its allies. Presidents want better relations with Russia for a good reason. Russia is a powerful nation that can throw its weight around in important regions. The need for Russian help, or at least acquiescence, can present itself in several places, and Trump or his successors need the political room to ask for it.