Where is the Evidence?

“Last week, following the brazen attempt by Russia to assassinate one of its former spies and his daughter in Britain with a chemical weapon, 27 countries expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats.”

Thus William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (sic), begins “Putin Has Overplayed His Hand,” an op-ed that the New York Times published, as part of its ferocious retro (one might say “Germanic”) propaganda drive to sharpen the mass appetite for war (of some kind) against Russia.

That drive has been especially vigorous (one might say “hysterical”) since Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his re-election, and without ever breaking off the pleasantries to rage at Putin’s brutal thrusts worldwide—most notably his “meddling” in our excellent elections: “American intelligence officials say they are certain that he meddled in the 2016 American election on behalf of Mr. Trump and is trying to meddle again in the 2018 election, as well as in many European elections.”

That well-worn charge recurs in a Times editorial from March 21—”Why Is Trump So Afraid of Russia?”—which, typically, treats that spooky allegation, not merely as established fact, but as a flagrant crime, like Pussy Riot’s infamous “performance” of group buggery at the Moscow Zoological Museum. Whereas Obama also had congratulated Putin post-election, in 2012, the Times forgives that phone call, because “circumstances [now] are very different,” what with Putin’s “brazen meddling” in our last election, as the Times’ Nicholas Fandos (or his editor) put in on January 29th.

This view of Putin’s recent villainy is rather mystifying (one might say “psychotic”), since “brazen” is a word that has no application whatsoever to the crimes at issue here. “Brazen” wrongs are perpetrated right out in the open, in your face, with no attempt to hide the evidence, or to deny them. Thus “brazen” is a fit descriptor for (say) Nero’s sex life, Hitler’s blitzkriegs, Israel’s settlements and Donald Trump’s business practices—and not at all for either one of those alleged crimes by Russia, since Russia has indignantly denied them both, and, if guilty of them, managed to hide every single scrap of evidence in either case, as no “brazen” culprit would.

And so whatever Putin did, assuming he did anything, is nowhere near as brazen as the New York Times’ misuse of “brazen”—a verbal tic as startling as the propaganda overall, this drive having all along been based on what would seem to be (can such things be?) sheer fantasy, as William J. Burns (inadvertently) reminds us in his Times op-ed. Calling for a still more punitive “diplomacy” to counter the “dark arts” that Putin has deployed against us (and his people), Burns recalls the moment when the world’s “open societies” first joined hands to thwart Putin’s “muscular revanchism”: “We have demonstrated our ability to work in concert on painful sanctions after Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

Now, this is where I’m asking for your help; for while it’s quite true that the West first started its collective diplomatic punishment of Russia over “Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” I’m having trouble finding any evidence that any such “invasion” ever happened. Nor—speaking of Putin’s “muscular revanchism”—can I find any evidence that Russia “seized Crimea” over the objections of its people, or of his “repression” of them since (a term the New York Times et al. apply routinely to Crimea). Since both stories would, of course, be major news, I’m wondering why there seems to be no journalistic trace of that “invasion,” or any news about, and/or domestic protests of, the ongoing “repression” in Crimea.

So I’m now asking you, in all humility, to help me out. As I’m sure you’ll recall, I’ve looked, and looked, yet finally found no evidence that Putin “meddled” in the last US election (by fiddling with the voting and/or
vote-count and/or voter rolls, and/or by hacking the DNC emails, and/or John Podesta’s, and/or by releasing an effective flood of anti-Hillary pre-election propaganda, and/or whatever else). And lately I’ve been just as vigilant in search of any evidence that Putin was behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter (who, although at first reportedly near death, is now reported to be making a miraculous recovery). Of course,
this does not mean that no such evidence exists, but only that I’ve looked and haven’t found it.

As covert operations, both election theft and murder are “deniable” by those who’ve ordered them, and so, as in both cases here, we notice them (are persuaded that they happened) only after they (allegedly) take place. That surely cannot be the case with the invasion, or the seizure, of one country by another, larger country—huge, brutal moves that simply can’t be hidden, even in the dark, especially with US surveillance satellites
throughout the skies above.

And so there has to be some coverage of the former, and some protest of the latter, that I’ve somehow overlooked. I mean, I’m only human,and with limited resources; so the failure here is probably my own—and
I’d much rather think that I have simply missed all signs of those two “brazen” Russian wrongs than that our government just made the whole thing up, in covert partnership with “our free press.”

So please feel free to see what you can find, and then to share your findings with me.

Mark Crispin Miller is professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Read other articles by Mark Crispin.