Fake views

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HILLARY Clinton has described as “inexplicable and shameful” a decision by the UK government of Boris Johnson not to release a parliamentary report into Russian interference in British elections and particularly the 2016 referendum vote to quit the EU.

London has said the report will be published after the Dec. 12 general election. However, given the febrile atmosphere around one of the UK’s most bitterly-fought campaigns in a generation, it seems more than likely that one of the members of the all-party Intelligence and Security committee will leak the contents.

Meanwhile Johnson’s opponents will accuse him of covering up findings, which they will claim prove Moscow’s interference in the decisions of the British electorate. This would destroy his key argument that the Brexit vote was unequivocal and should be respected.

Clinton’s BBC interviews in which she launched her intervention are being hailed by politicians opposed to the country’s EU withdrawal. However, they choose to overlook the fact that Clinton’s own claims that Russian electoral interference caused her to lose the presidential battle to Donald Trump have been largely rejected by US investigators.

It has to be certain that Moscow seeks to promote overseas politicians whose policies they deem to best represent Russian interests. Around the world, Washington itself has done no less and has indeed been party to the overthrow of governments generally for their left-wing agenda. But the argument now, that the Kremlin has managed to have a decisive impact on elections in the world’s two leading democracies, is quite startling and deserves deep analysis.

If the Russians had found a way to actually manipulate the vote counts or hack electronic voting machines, then for sure this interference would be appalling. But that is not what Clinton and others are saying. Their accusation is that by distributing biased messages using hundreds of thousands of fake social media identities, Moscow has fooled electorates into voting the way they have. Given that companies spend billions on advertising in the hope that they will influence people to buy their products, this is superficially a reasonable argument.

But voters at election time are not acting as consumers. They are choosing politicians who best represent their views. A minority of electorates will always vote tribally. Power is generally won and lost by the “swing voters” who choose after examining the arguments. Moscow or any other outside country can try and peddle particular views but it is surely the case that voters already know the local issues. At best, foreign interference in campaigns will have a marginal impact.

The case advanced by Clinton and others is therefore extremely weak. But it does say a great deal about their own view of the electorates which have spurned them; Clinton herself described Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. Her comments reflect the contempt in which the Western liberal elite holds voters who have rejected their long post-war hold on power. Unable to accept that the popular tide has turned against them, they choose to characterize their electorates as fools who have allowed themselves to be duped by malign, controlling foreign propaganda. Clinton, along with members of the British establishment dedicated to EU membership, cannot accept that they lost their arguments on their own terms. Instead they advance the fake view that the vote against them was somehow rigged.


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