Stephen Cohen was on WNYC this morning exploding the new Cold War discourse of Russian-demonization. He said that progressives and Democrats have all lined up for a view of Russia and Putin as evil, that it is a dangerous belief because there are three hot points between the superpowers right now, that the intelligence agencies have produced no “public facts” to support the view that Russia hacked the Democratic Party emails, and that Donald Trump was “wise” when he said that he refused to demonize Putin and wouldn’t it be great if the two countries could cooperate not fight.
Finally Cohen, the professor of Russian history, said that we have entered a period of McCarthyism because his views are not published in the New York Times or Washington Post or on MSNBC, and younger scholars tell him that they would damage their careers if they expressed these ideas.
It’s astounding that these views are being expressed in the mainstream at last, on Brian Lehrer’s WNYC show. Hat’s off to Lehrer. Maybe this will break a dam and lead to what Cohen seeks: “open debate” of US policy towards Russia. The American people do not want a new cold war, he says, even if the Clintonite elites do.
The interview’s not up yet at WNYC, so my summary is from handwritten notes:
Cohen said the Demonizing Russia narrative began last August on the front page of the New York Times at the behest of the Clinton campaign. Paul Krugman and the New York Times have continued to this day to “slur” Donald Trump as a Kremlin agent, when there is no evidence to support such a view, and that such comments stigmatize everyone who takes a heterodox position on the new Cold War. And that younger scholars now fear speaking out because of this orthodoxy, lest they close off career opportunities.
He said that Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil is also being slurred as a friend of Putin’s. Does that mean they go clubbing together? he quipped. Does he play with Putin’s dogs? Tillerson is a friend of profits and capital, and every oil exec cultivates Putin as part of his or her job. The Senate must scrutinize Tillerson’s conflicts of interest, but he is obviously a very competent and intelligent capitalist with world experience, one of the two best names that Trump floated for Secretary of State.
There are no “public facts” to support the CIA contention that Russia hacked the DNC emails. Ultimately it is unlikely that any facts will be publicly produced. Everyone is in the habit of quoting 17 intelligence agencies. Can you even name that many agencies– no. Yes it is very likely that the emails were hacked in Russia; but that doesn’t necessarily implicate the Kremlin. There are a lot of freelance hackers there. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have said that they believe that the emails were leaked from someone in the U.S. Will this question be debated honestly or in a climate of “hysteria,” Cohen asked.
And Cohen said he is deeply concerned by the climate of opinion here because the combination of circumstances poses dangers as or more threatening than the Cuban missile crisis.
As for the new fears about false news, Cohen said that our mainstream media propagates so much bad information as to make Russian efforts seem “feeble” by comparison. What our foreign policy needs most urgently, he said, is an open discussion. That’s how democracies are supposed to work. But the New York Times and Washington Post refuse to run op-eds with his point of view.
What a breath of fresh air. Let’s have the open debate.