Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Center for American Progress's "Moscow Project" is another escalation of liberal Russophobia

The Center for American Progress has launched a pretty odious new initiative:
The Moscow Project is dedicated to investigating the extent, nature, and purpose of Trump’s ties to the Kremlin—but we need your help. By scouring the internet to investigate allegations, donating to fund our research, or sharing our findings on Twitter and Facebook, you can help uncover the truth about Trump and Russia.
I'm on record insisting that I'd be fine with some basic Congressional investigation into actual conflicts of interest in the Trump Administration relating to Russia - as long as we can be bothered to investigate the same thing with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Goldman Sachs, and all of the other obvious candidates as well. But this, of course, falls far short of that, since Tanden's CAP cares much more about some conflicts of interest than others, for obvious reasons.

And even on the narrow grounds of a limited investigation of Russian "ties", this is absolutely absurd. CAP is not going to dig up anything even approaching interesting or actionable information by crowdsourcing research to amateur Googlers. The only kind of information here that could possibly matter is information you obtain with wiretaps and hard drive seizures and subpoenas. Sorry Neera, it's not sitting on Wikipedia.

What makes this effort so monstrous is that CAP knows all of this perfectly well. The point of The Moscow Project isn't to gather intelligence; the point is to foment paranoia by investing a deputized public into their kabuki "investigation", to use Russophobia to build opposition against Trump, and of course, to fundraise off of all of this. The CAP sees this as a chance to score political points and win donations, but as I wrote back in August, they're playing an increasingly dangerous game:
Liberals may be comfortable with shrugging off racism against the Russian people as a trivial or necessary evil, but they are playing with fire. The social and psychological forces that animate any form of racism are hard to rein in once they've been unleashed, and they can easily metastasize into forms of bigotry that are even more widespread and oppressive.
It's hard to escape the impression that this is exactly what is happening. Even the name of this initiative casually implicates an entire city in whatever sinister machinations liberals think are going on here; it's now impossible to distinguish the way liberals say "Moscow" from the way right-wingers say "Chicago" or "The Middle East". The project only works by completely untethering public interest in Russia from material facts and stoking a suspicion that something is sinister about these Russians, something that we haven't quite figured out yet but that maybe you can figure out, if you spend enough time worrying about it.