The mainstream Russia narrative is made entirely of such individually weak arguments. Russiagate is one giant Gish gallop. Rachel Maddow probably knows it, but her fame and wealth depend on ignoring such truths.
One of the very few interesting specks of light on this scene has been Aaron Maté and his unusual knack for convincing promulgators of the establishment Russia narrative to debate him, shining a big spotlight on just how weak the argument is. In December he famously debated “Collusion” author Luke Harding in a beatdown that was the verbal equivalent of watching a prime Mike Tyson fight Bruno Mars, and he recently had a more low-key but equally revealing interview with John Feffer of Lobelog and Foreign Policy in Focus.
Like Harding, Feffer based his debate on the assumption of a “pattern” of allegations about the Russian government and its supposed support for the 2016 Trump campaign, which taken individually are all poorly substantiated and easily debunked, but taken together create the illusion of a solid argument in a debate tactic known as a Gish gallop fallacy. Named for a Young Earth creationist who made abundant use of the tactic, a Gish gallop is designed to overwhelm the opposing side with a deluge of weak points that are difficult to dispute in their entirety in a real-time dialogue.
The mainstream Russia narrative is made entirely of such individually weak arguments. Russiagate is one giant Gish gallop.
Maté employed the same strategy as he did with Harding, stopping and pointing out the individually weak points in Feffer’s arguments like the absence of evidence for the DNC hack and the unsubstantiated claims by the Dutch intelligence community, which forced Feffer to change tactics in a very interesting way I’d like to highlight here.
Go to this transcript of the interview and do a search for the word “counter”. It starts popping up after a few exchanges, always in the same way and always from Feffer. I’ll list their occurrences here:
“I have to say that the evidence is far more compelling than the counter argument which is we don’t know, or it could be a fat guy sitting on a couch somewhere.”
“Well, you keep bringing up all these sources that you don’t really have much faith in, but frankly, what is the counter narrative? Who exactly hacked into the DNC?”
“It’s been challenged, but I find the narrative that’s been put forward to be honestly more convincing than the counter narrative.”
“So, yes, there is evidence; if you think that the evidence is robust or not is up to you. I personally think it’s far more robust than any of the counter-narratives that have been put forward, which have absolutely no bearing in reality.”
Do you see what Feffer is doing here? He is trying to shift the burden of proof off of the party that is making the claim. The whole debate could be accurately summed up as Maté sitting there pointing out the unsubstantiated nature of each of Feffer’s claims, and Feffer trying to turn it around by saying there’s no proof of Maté’s “counter narrative” either.
This is plainly fallacious. The power establishment which lied about Iraq, lied about Libya, lied about Vietnam, and is currently lying about Syria is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt that it is telling the truth about Russia and its new cold war escalations with that country. It most certainly carries the burden of proof, and it has most certainly failed to meet that burden.
The US-centralized empire has every incentive to lie in order to manufacture support for escalations which hobble the Russia-China tandem, and has an extensive history of doing so. It isn’t up to us to come up with a perfect “counter narrative” for how that happened behind the opaque wall of deep state secrecy; that’s an argument from ignorance. It isn’t up to us to prove a negative, it is up to them to prove their positive claim. Prove the DNC hack, prove that the troll farm had ties to the Russian government and an intention of disrupting the election, provide proof of any Trump-Russia collusion whatsoever. That has not happened. At all.
There is currently no convincing reason to believe that this isn’t another “Saddam has WMD”, and there is every reason not to. Iraq was an absolutely unforgivable crime against humanity, and it is everyone’s duty to prevent the US-centralized empire from ever being given that trust again. World-threatening escalations keep mountingbetween two nuclear superpowers and this evidence-free narrative is being used to justify it. In a post-Iraq invasion world, this is simply unacceptable.
The burden of proof is on the people promoting Russia conspiracy theories, and they have failed to meet this burden. Until the mountain of proof needed in a post-Iraq invasion world is provided, that’s all that really needs to be said.
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