Democracy

The Rights and Wrongs of Electoral Interference

Russia's interference in the 2016 election was wrong. But the reasons why are harder to pin down than you might think. Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Despite widespread controversy over other aspects of the Mueller Report, the one thing most commentators agree on is that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election, and that its interference was morally wrong. The least controversial part of the Report is its detailed summary of Russia's extensive efforts on this score. As Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein notes, "[t]he bottom line is, there was overwhelming evidence that Russian operatives hacked American computers and defrauded American citizens, and that is only the tip of the iceberg of a comprehensive Russian strategy to influence elections, promote social discord, and undermine America, just like they do in many other countries."

I agree with the conventional wisdom that Russia's intervention in the 2016 election was morally reprehensible. But the morality of electoral interference is not as straightforward as most people think. Not all efforts to influence electoral outcomes in countries other than one's own are morally wrong. And when they are, it is generally for reasons other than the fact that the people attempting to exercise influence are foreigners.

Many discussions of electoral interference implicitly assume that elections should be decided by a nation's voters without any influence from foreigners and their ideas. But such a position makes little sense. The origin of an idea says nothing about its validity. As the great  libertarian economist F.A. Hayek put it, "The growth of ideas is an international process… It is no real argument to say that an idea is un-American, un-British, or un-German, nor is a mistaken or vicious ideal better for having been conceived by one of our compatriots." If ideas developed or conveyed by foreigners influence American voters for the better, we should be happy to see that happen. Indeed, the United States was founded on Enlightenment ideals largely developed in Europe by French and British thinkers.

In some cases, attempts to influence foreign elections are not only morally permissible, but even praiseworthy. Imagine that the nation of Ruritania is holding a referendum on whether to institute slavery. The "yes" forces are better organized and have better messaging than the "no" side, and appear likely to win.

The government of neighboring Freedonia finances a public relations campaign aimed at Ruritanian voters in order to persuade them to vote "no." The Freedonian PR campaign is better managed than the efforts of Ruritania's indigenous antislavery movement, and it has a decisive impact on the outcome, enabling the antislavery side to prevail. It seems fairly obvious that Freedonia's actions were laudable. Without them, large numbers of people would have suffered the horrific injustice of being enslaved.

This example is not entirely hypothetical. The abolitionist movement in the 19th century United States was significantly influenced by the antislavery movement in Britain, which worked to turn American (and European) public opinion against slavery.

As critics of the US like to point out, we have our own considerable history of trying to influence foreign elections. Not all of this activity was justified. But some of it surely was. For example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the US made extensive efforts to influence French and Italian voters to reject their nation's respective Communist parties. There was good reason for this. Had the communists prevailed, they would have tried to use the power of government to impose brutal totalitarian regimes modeled on that of the Soviet Union under Stalin. They would also have backed Stalin on the international scene. Liberal democratic forces in the US and Europe were entirely justified in working to prevent this.

As a general rule, liberal democratic governments try to stay neutral in each others' elections. But the best justification for this practice is prudential. If, for example, the US tries to help the Canadian Conservative Party unseat Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in upcoming October 2019 Canadian election, the other parties and their supporters will be angry, and Canadian-American relations would be poisoned if Trudeau gets reelected (or another Liberal wins in the future).

In most situations, it makes sense to maintain good relations with all the major parties in other liberal democracies, especially since the differences between them are usually not so great that the cause of liberal democracy in the world will be severely undermined by one defeating the other. But in unusual cases where this is not true (as with the Communists in 1940s Europe), this pragmatic presumption against intervention might not apply.

Sometimes, the problem with electoral interference is not the intervention as such, but the tactics used. For example, the Russian government was likely behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Hacking private computer servers is a violation of property rights and privacy, and is certainly morally reprehensible. But the nature of the wrong does not depend on the identity of the perpetrator. If American citizens had done the same thing, it would have been equally reprehensible.

The Russians also relied heavily on deception and misinformation intended to exploit voter ignorance and bias. This too was wrong. At least as a general rule, there should be a moral presumption against deceiving voters. But, once again, it's not clear that it's worse when done by foreigners than by citizens of the country being influenced.

As a practical matter, deception, manipulation, and exploitation of voter ignorance by American politicians and interest groups has a far greater impact on our elections than anything done by foreign powers. President Trump uses deception on an epic scale, including with respect to many of the key themes of his 2016 campaign. More conventional politicians differ from Trump more in degree than kind. Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, was the proud winner of the 2013 Politifact Lie of the Year Award (Trump won the 2015 award) for his famous statement that, under Obamacare, "if you like your health care plan you can keep it." That deception (and others like it) were crucial to passage of his most significant legislative initiative. It probably had a greater impact than any single deception of Trump's—or any spread by Russian agents.

Sadly, lying and manipulation of public ignorance are not the sole province of Russian agents. They are standard political tactics of native politicians in both the US and many other countries. So long as most voters know little about public policy, are susceptible to a variety of biases, and do a poor job of sifting truth from falsehood, politicians will have strong incentives to lie.

The point of all this is not to excuse Russian deception by  "whataboutist"  invocation of lying by US politicians. Far from it. Rather, it is to highlight the fact that the nature of the wrong here does not depend on the nationality of the perpetrator.

In some cases, as political philosopher Jason Brennan points out, lying to voters might even be justified. If deception is the only way to prevent Ruritanian voters from backing a referendum instituting slavery, lying is surely a lesser evil than the alternative—if that is truly the only way to prevent the pro-slavery side from winning. Here too, the morality (or lack thereof) of the lies in question does not depend on whether they are spread by Ruritanians or by foreigners. It depends on the magnitude of the injustice they are trying to avert, the likelihood of success in that endeavor, and whether or not there is a more honest way to achieve the same result.

The use of manipulation and deception to influence elections is usefully analogized to espionage. The morality of spying is heavily dependent on the justice of the cause involved. While there should be some presumption against it, that presumption can be overcome if espionage is necessary to help avert a greater evil. Spying on the Nazis for the US was morally justified, while the reverse was very much not. The same goes for the use of deception to influence electoral outcomes.

This gets us to what may be the most reprehensible aspect of the Russian intervention. The hacking, trolling, and lying was in the service of a deeply unjust cause: promoting the interests of a brutal authoritarian regime and furthering Russian President Vladimir Putin's global campaign against liberty and democracy—an agenda described in detail in this Reason article by Cathy Young. That motive makes the Russian effort particularly reprehensible. But, again, the reason why it deserves condemnation has little to do with the nationality of the people involved. Americans who did similar things in service of a similar agenda would also deserve condemnation.

In sum, there is nothing inherently wrong with people trying to influence electoral outcomes in nations other than their own. Americans can try to persuade Canadians to vote for or against Justin Trudeau's government. Canadians can try to persuade us to vote for or against Trump. And so on. Right now, many in the United States and Europe are making arguments for or against Britain's Brexit policies, often with a view to trying to influence British opinion. In the past, both Barack Obama (who opposed Brexit) and Donald Trump (who supports it), have stated their views on the subject in ways obviously calculated to try to affect British attitudes. There is nothing inherently wrong with that either, though it may well have been both ineffective and pragmatically unwise.

Electoral interference is often wrong if it involves activities like hacking and deception. But the reason why such activities are reprehensible has little to do with the nationalities of the people involved. And the moral presumption against deception can be overcome in cases where it is essential to averting a greater evil.

Americans are justified in condemning Russian interference in the 2016 election. But the reasons why are not as straightforward as many might think.

UPDATE: Political blogger James Joyner responds to this post here. He argues that "the dispute over Russian interference in the 2016 US election (and in other Western elections since) isn't about the importation of ideas or attempts at moral suasion but rather nefarious methods." I think it is about both. The use of nefarious methods is an important issue, but many are angry at least in part because the perpetrators were foreigners and they believe non-Americans shoulrend not exercise influence over US elections.

He also claims that, while the "pure morality" of foreign and domestic actors' use of such "nefarious methods" is identical, the "reaction" would be different because the former is a violation of criminal law, while the latter is "arguably an act of war…. morally no different from an armed invasion."  In actual fact, many of the Russians' activities were also a violation of criminal law, as shown by the fact that the special counsel secured indictments against numerous Russian citizens (though, of course, the likelihood of successfully prosecuting them is low). I am skeptical, however, that the Russian interference qualifies as an "act of war."  It was wrong and (in many instances) illegal. But it was not the moral or legal equivalent of a full-scale armed attack.

Joyner suggests that Obama's claim that the Affordable Care Act would allow people to keep their preexisting health insurance if they wanted to "wasn't a lie at all. It was a slogan, implicitly a promise and one that I believe… was made in earnest." I think it pretty obviously was a lie, in the sense that it was a factual claim that Obama almost certainly knew to be false at the time he made it. For reasons I summarized here, the fundamental structure of Obamacare required replacement of numerous preexisting health insurance plans with ones that complied with ACA standards. That guaranteed that anyone who liked those plans would not be able to keep them. Obama surely knew that. He is a smart and knowledgeable policymaker. Yet, he told the lie and kept on repeating it for as long as it was politically advantageous to do so.

The fact that, as Joyner notes, Obama eventually admitted that the statement was "not accurate" but claimed that he had intended to "deliver on that commitment" does not make the original assertion truthful. The ACA, as enacted, ensured that the commitment would not be delivered on and Obama never put forward any policies that would have changed that (nor could he have without seriously undermining the basic structure of the law).

Finally, Joyner claims that "the Russians, Chinese, and other authoritarian regimes would reject Somin's framing" and that "in the case of great powers, interest will ultimately trump law or morality if the interest is sufficiently important." That may be true. But, so what? The point of my argument is not to persuade authoritarian regimes that I am right but to assess the morality of various types of electoral interference. The question of how to force authoritarians (and others) to refrain from wrongdoing is a separate issue.

 

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  1. “The abolitionist movement in the 19th century United States was significantly influenced by the antislavery movement in Britain, which worked to turn American (and European) public opinion against slavery.”

    British backing was something of an albatross around the abolitionists’ neck as they accused of being English stooges.

    1. The initial French support for the Confederacy was to prevent Lincoln from sending the US military to oust the French occupation of Mexico. Only after the Civil War ended did France withdraw its occupying forces and Mexican King. Keep this in mind on Cinco de Mayo.

  2. “…and that its interference was morally wrong.”

    This isn’t the right way to frame the wrong. From the Russian perspective it wasn’t morally wrong. And I’m not sure you can construct a moral argument that A is not allowed to interfere in B’s politics that won’t succumb to a million exceptions. Better to just leave morals out of the interactions between large sovereigns, eh?

    1. Yeah I was struggling with his moral argument. What I seemed to be picking up was that it was OK for the Russians to interfere in 2016 to save the US from the Hillary junta; but it wouldn’t be OK to hack the Ruritanian pro-slavery party’s computer. Or maybe it was just the old fashioned “the ends justify the means” thing.

      I think I probably agree with most of the Prof’s conclusions, but the arguments are all over the place.

  3. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/22/barack-obama-brexit-uk-back-of-queue-for-trade-talks
    “Obama insisted that he was not issuing a threat, but said he was simply offering a point of view.”

  4. Wow. The elitist arrogance of this article are stunning.

    Mr. Somin seems to equate justified/unjustified right/wrong based solely on his personal likes/dislikes.

    Where is the principle to be defended regardless of whether you like or dislike the circumstances?

    1. This is Ilya afterall, the core principle is orangeman bad.

      1. This is Ilya afterall, the core principle is orangeman bad.

        Not seeing a problem with that principle. Considering that our current President is simply a puppet.

        1. . . . our current President is simply a puppet.

          Good grief! Puppet of what or whom? Trump is probably the least dogmatic, most independent President since FDR. That doesn’t mean you have to like him, but ‘puppet’ is way, way off base.

        2. Trump is far more a careening pinball than a puppet.

      2. “This is Ilya afterall, the core principle is orangeman bad.”

        If there is one thing the half-literate fans of the Volokh Conspiracy cannot abide, it is a genuine libertarian.

        You deserve to find better ideological playmates, Prof. Somin. The clingers don’t suit you.

  5. These are the facts:

    The Russians were interfering in our elections as early as 2014 & Obummy ignored it because he did not want to anger them since they are an ally of Iran & Obummy wanted to get a Nobel Prize for the horrible Iran Nuclear Treaty deal…Understand, their interference was not swaying any election results just as it did not in 2016, but they were trying to sow discord amongst Americans & even if it was no big deal, it should’ve been addressed by Obummy!

    1. Russians were interfering with our elections as early as 1920. Communist Party candidates ran in many, if not all, presidential races after that date. They were guided and assisted by the Russian government or its agencies. Mostly that has been ignored by all administrations. Americans, in their turn, have had no compunction about making known their feelings re: British, French, German, Israeli, etc etc elections. Our own president just a few years ago traveled to England to tell those folks how to vote on the Brexit question. He did the same for Israelis. On the receiving end again, why is no one concerned about Chinese interference in our recent presidential election?

      1. (1) The Chinese were in bed with the Clintons for not only Bill’s reelection, but also for HildaBeast’s NY senate run

        (2) Israel interferes a lot in our elections through AIPAC & Trump & Kushner were actuallycolluding not with Russia, but with Israel!

        1. To be fair, we interfere more in Israeli elections than they interfere in ours.

          1. I don’t know what is said at Temple.

    2. Obummy ignored it because he did not want

      First – his name is Obama. Try acting like an adult once in a while. Perhaps people will actually take your arguments seriously. And second – it wasn’t ignore. Republican leaders specifically asked him to not publicly speak of it during the election.

      Grow the fuck up.

      1. This means a lot dork someone who called the current president a “puppet”. Try looking in the mirror.

        1. Actually, In both 2012 & 2016, Obummy’s campaign turned off the CVV requirement on credit card donations & ILLEGALLY received millions in foreign donations, mostly from the Chinese…Mitt Romney’s people complained about it but nothing happened until after the election when Obummy just got a slap on the wrist from the FEC…..So, who is the puppet, Chump?

      2. LOL!!!!….I’ll call him what he is & was Dip-Shit: A FRIGGIN BUM!!!!!

        1. Please, if you won’t use his actual name, at least use “Obummer.” That portmanteau is at least with an actual word, and is both funnier and less grating.

  6. Let’s just be frank and and honest here. When foreign nationals try to influence the American voter it is fine and dandy when it helps out the Left. But, when it helps out a Republican well then it is time to fire up special counsels and make accusations of treason.

    Remember when all those foreign leaders said electing Trump would be dangerous and the mainstream media was happy to paste all of those quotes on the front page? Not a peep about collusion.

    Putin suggests that he would rather deal with Trump then Hillary and all the sudden the Left comes up with all these fake allegations of collusion and denounce “foreign involvement” in our elections.

    Same goes for Wikileaks. Assange is a poster child for freedom of the press when those leaks make W look bad. But when he puts up the DNC emails well that is apparently “bad” because they reveal some not so nice things about the Democrats (like they might have a problem with ordering too much “pizza”). (And we all know that Russia didn’t have anything to do with hacking the DNC as it was an obvious internal job…the transfer speeds were that of a USB device and not an external download through the internet.)

    So here is your guide to foreign influence in elections:

    Helps Left: GREAT, GOOD, PRINT ALL OVER.

    Helps Right: BAD, BOOH, ILLEGAL, INVESTIGATE!!!!

    And that is as far as you need to analyze it.

    1. Yup. This is exactly it. Anything that helps the left is fine according to so many self proclaimed libertarians… The funny thing is libertarians will be on the wall right next to conservatives if the leftists ever get their way! So stupid and short sighted.

      1. Libertarians have been improving America as part of the liberal-libertarian mainstream for many decades. Right-wingers, with their hard turn toward superstition-laced intolerance and backwardness, have become the odd men out.

        The odd, old, cranky, rural, white, superstitious men out.

        1. Improving. You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

          1. It possesses a different meaning for mainstream America than it does for intolerant, stale-thinking, right-wing slack-jaws.

            1. It possesses a different meaning for mainstream America than it does for intolerant, stale-thinking, right-wing slack-jaws.

              What about dull, whisker-biscuit, 85-IQ hicklibs?

              1. You get to make derogatory comments about me.

                I get to watch my preferences continue to shape American progress against your wishes and efforts.

                I am content. Winning the culture war is enjoyable. The vanquished right-wingers’ comments at this site indicate that losing is unpleasant.

                Carry on, clingers. So long as you continue to comply with the rules established by your betters, that is.

                1. The only thing you’ll be watching is the ground rushing up to you on your flight out of the chopper.

        2. I LOVE how you’re telling this to a fancy coastal city living, high IQ, agnostic! As if you’re bagging on me or something! LOL

          Some peoples brains can think rationally Rev… And I see there are MANY problems with so called progressive thinking. That just means I’m smarter than most people, not that I’m a rube.

          1. Like we expect anything else from Rev. Projection.

      2. I don’t see a lot of real libertarians commenting. The commenters are a few vocal lefties mixed in with a lot of knee-jerk Republicans, Socons and a couple of anarchists.

  7. Russia HACKING the election by providing truthful information about the DNC in 2016 was wrong because it elected Drumpf.

    All the other times Russia and other countries interfered with the elections was okay since especially as the Soviet Union they helped leftists. In fact it wasn’t even election interference since that and colluding with foreign governments are concepts invented by idiot Drumpf and never happened before 2016.

    1. Assuming it even was Russian hacking, (Our intelligence services are basically taking the DNC’s word for this, because the DNC refused them access to the servers that had been hacked, and, amazingly, the intelligence services took “no” for an answer.) it was just the Russians doing what a functioning journalistic community would have been proud to do.

      1. Brett, Mueller indicted 12 GRU officers for this hacking, are you saying he managed that with no more evidence than the DNC’s say-so?

        1. The indictments used mostly the evidence from Crowdstrike, a group that heavily caters to Democrats, as the source of their information. Crowdstrike has been wrong many times on sourcing foreign attacks. Their reports generally say what whoever is paying them wants then to say.

          Since GRU will never show up in court, this narrative was pushed to connect Russians somehow to the campaign. It will never be explored in court no matter how weak the evidence is. The FBI never was allowed access to the servers and the DNC erased it. We even just had a Pakistan immigrant working deep for the DNC which is a much likelier source of this information as Congress assholes were giving them root access to their machines.

          But please, believe what you do because of an inflight indictment.

          The only thing easier to indict that a ham sandwich is a ham sandwich you know wont show up in court to challenge anything.

      2. No one ever mentions Imran rwan and family, the Paki Intel assets charged with IT for the DNC and most of the Ds in congress. Coupled with an unsecured Clinton server, and there is no grand effort by the Russians needed to hack anything

  8. Hurrey there is a consensus; the Russians. The US is totally hypocrite about this interference stuff. And not because they do it all the time, that we know. It’s because it pretends that it is the beacon on the hill, the holder of the truth and that gives it the duty to intervene in any country that doesn’t shares its “values”. Since the US uses its global impact it’s fair to let those who are the subject (victims) of its decisions to have a say. Because in the present situation, this country is composed by ca. 50% of deplorables (that’s not from me) who can vote, but a Syrian surgeon who gets bombed as a consequence, can’t have a word. And we talk about values. The Russian should simply advertise publicly their societal views and pay the bucks for TV adverts. That would be fun.

  9. I think this ignores a critical point.

    It is the people of the country holding the election who will have to live with the results, not those in a different country.

    Now if the likely outcome of one side winning is a human rights disaster, like slavery or genocide, then I think it’s fine. But if you just don’t think one side’s policies are wise, or will damage your interests, then it’s clearly wrong to intervene, ISTM.

    1. When Obama toadied up to some globalist resolution some European bureaucrat drew up, its the ordinary American people that would have had to live with the consequences.

      When a cabal of asexual college professors decree for the entire world that not constantly asking for consent every five seconds is rape, they’re not the ones that suffer.

      Maybe decentralization and seperation of power is a good thing in general and not just when it suits leftists.

      1. A country is a republic, which includes a social contract that sometimes you live with policies made by elites in your country.
        And your taking offense on behalf of ‘the American people’ is pretty damn elitist as well.

        The world is not a republic, and does not include that contract.

        1. “social contract ”
          Can you post it so I can see the terms?

    2. Question: Was it wrong for Hillary Clinton to loudly, publicly, and repeatedly declare her opposition to the election of Putin to a third term as President in 2011? Was it wrong for Hillary to support Putin’s opponent in the Russian election in 2011? Was it wrong for Hillary Clinton to publicly support the protests against the Putin election in 2011 and to accuse Putin of participating in election fraud? Was it wrong for Putin to be really pissed at Hillary for those actions in 2011 and seek revenge?

      1. Given that elections in Russia bear little resemblance tactual democratic elections, I don’t understand what your point is.

        1. “I don’t understand what your point is.”

          That’s a pretty common occurrence for you, isn’t it.

          1. Since your comments seldom make any sense, I guess it is.

            1. Since your comments seldom make any sense, I guess it is.

              He’s pointing out your special pleading, shitwit.

        2. Election fraud huh? And yet even likely unbiased sources show Putin is very popular with most Russians… Not saying there aren’t shenanigans, but cheating to get from 65% of the vote to 70% somehow just doesn’t strike me as being too horrible in the grand scheme of things.

          1. Arguing Putin is a democratic leader to own the libs.

            1. He IS a democratic leader… He’s just an illiberal one.

              So is Duerte, Bolsonaro, etc. From all I have read about recent events in Russia, Putin certainly has majority support… So if there was any number fudging in elections it was to achieve the above.

              Just because he doesn’t run his country like a cucked out Frenchman or whatever doesn’t mean he isn’t a democratic leader. Democracy doesn’t actually entail any particular ideology, set of views, morals, or anything else. Russia is the perfect example of this.

              1. Two points:

                1. You can’t trust opinion polls in countries where expressing the wrong opinion publicly can be a life changing experience.

                2. It’s easy to be the most popular guy running for an office when you can put anybody who looks like they might become more popular in prison.

                1. Both totally true, the thing is I have seen in passing over the years western news agencies etc who went in and did their own polls, talking to people, etc… And the result was most people still thought Putin was boss as fuck.

                  If the leftist media in the west is willing to admit that, I wouldn’t be surprised if THEY were skewing their narrative. IIRC some poll or something some westerners did found he ONLY had like 55% of support or something, vs ~70% or whatever the Russian polls were saying at the time. No matter how you slice it he’s not some widely despised despot.

                  On the election thing, he has definitely held down some of his opponents, but at the same time I still think he’d probably win a fair fight for now. Unless he declares himself dictator for life legit style, he’s probably either going to lose eventually, or step down. He already had that one period where he was out of office.

                  I just think it’s bunk how people say “YAY Democracy!” and then as soon as a guy gets elected who isn’t a cucked out progressive douche bag in some country, that’s instantly not democracy working, not democracy, he’s a dictator, etc… No. That IS democracy, the people of that country want that guy much of the time. Hungary, Philippines, Brazil, Russia, etc want somebody with some balls, who isn’t a pussy, or in some cases isn’t a globalist, and that’s who they voted for.

                  1. Gosh, vek, you sure do seem to love Russia and have some skepticism of the NATO-based, non-authoritarian democracies!

                    1. Gosh, vek, you sure do seem to love Russia and have some skepticism of the NATO-based, non-authoritarian democracies!

                      What a hilariously autistic statement.

                    2. Normal comment from the guy making death threats on an Internet political forum.

                    3. I think we should have nuked Moscow in 1945, or at least threatened to do so, vs let the commies take over half of Europe… I don’t love Russians. But Russia isn’t the USSR, and most of the NATO countries are NOT friends of true liberty anymore. They arrested over 4,000 people in the UK last year FOR THEIR SPEECH.

                      Neither Russia or any of the EU countries are perfect… Hell America is pretty fucked nowadays too! But that fact that I see Russia as simply another shitty country, as opposed to somehow singularly more horrible, than the shit countries in NATO ought not to be a crazy idea.

                      As I said, I simply find it hilarious that everybody talks up democracy as being the greatest thing in the world… Until the people make it clear they’re NOT down for certain progressive, internationalist bullshit… Then it’s horrible, not REAL democracy, etc etc etc.

                      Russian policy is garbage on lots of things, but I ALSO think their policies are better on some issues than most of the west. That doesn’t make me crazy. I can sort the good from the bad in all countries and their policies IMO, at least insofar as my preferences.

      2. Yes, yes, yes, no.

      3. From the Russian perspective: yes. If the Russians wanted to try Mrs. Clinton in a Russian court for her activities and prosecute those Russians who aided her I don’t see a problem.

    3. The elections in America directly affect all other countries. Elections in, say, Finland, not so much. What if the Russians had interfered with the German elections of 1932 and there had been no WW II? Of course elections in other countries change the balance of power in the world, and the more powerful the country, the more global influence it has. Foreigners watch our politicians, they try to influence our opinions, that is their self-interest. Do we then elect a government that is best for ourselves or best for the whole world?

  10. “The growth of ideas is an international process… It is no real argument to say that an idea is un-American, or un-German, nor is a mistaken or vicious ideal better for having been conceived by one of our compatriots.”

    The national origin of an idea does not determine whether it’s un-American or not, many core American precepts came from Israel, Greece, Rome, Britain, France, etc.

    What makes an idea un-American is the content of the idea not it’s origin. An idea that states that individual freedom should be subjugated to the efficiency of government is in-American, whether it originated in New York or Russia.

    1. Yup! America essentially had a founding charter that laid out what it’s all about… 99 percent of leftist views are the polar opposite.

      1. Enjoy your lifetime as a bitter malcontent on the wrong side of American progress and general history, vek.

        I will enjoy watching you continue to lose the culture war.

        1. The one where I supported gay marriage before Obama, have always been for legal weed… Or what exactly? I’m a libertarian. I don’t agree with all the retarded Cosmotarian ideas (open borders, etc) but I am on board with plenty of social aspects the commies like… Just not all of the extra crazy ones.

        2. He was discussing the Constitution, not the culture, you one-note imbecile bigoted halfwit

  11. If Dems are deadset against foreigners deciding policies in America does that mean we can get rid of the UN?

    1. How is the UN influencing American policies? I look forward to your detailed and in-depth analysis that isn’t remotely racist.

      1. Are you saying the UN is just a big inert building in the middle of New York that has absolutely no effect and the US has not spent a single dime or second participating in any of its resolutions or exercises? And all the historical documentation saying otherwise is fake news? Wow, can we apply this high bar of evidence to the ‘muh Russians 2016’ scandal?

      2. Lol wut?

        The UN forces all kinds of shit down our throats, and tries to force 1000 times more! Are you a retard who knows nothing about history of politics of the last few decades???

        1. What UN policies have you had to abide by?

          1. Landmines. I can’t protect my property with a minefield.

            But seriously, the reason we don’t have UN based restrictions on our freedoms is eternal vigilance, they’ve tried a few times with gun control, immigration, and climate change.

          2. Are you purposely trying to be obtuse? The US spends billions a year on the UN interfering in other countries and taking policies drawn up in there are templates for meddling in the US in areas from sex policy to climate change through private and public means. Thats certainly at least around the level of potential influence as releasing authentic emails from the DNC not to mention the taxpayers are directly on the hook for this type of collusion.

          3. Seriously?

            Just recently there was their Small Arms treaty bullshit. They’ve been involved in a million economic agreements. Climate change BS. Global health this, global education that, smart growth in cities (Agenda 21), etc etc etc.

            The UN decides dirty lefty shit, then gets nations to sign off on it, and enact local laws that are what they say they should be. That’s how it works. I don’t have guys in blue helmets writing me speeding tickets, but that’s not the only way to fuck with my life.

            God you’re dumb.

    2. Superstitious, bigoted right-wing slack-jaws and Putin want the same thing for America — a Trump administration.

      Better Americans can’t drive Republicans into irrelevance in national elections fast enough.

      Carry on, clingers. While the liberal-libertarian alliance completes the task of improving America against your preferences and efforts, that is.

      1. It people like Kukland that make me wish we had a ruler like Putin here…

        1. Amen to that! If the left keeps pushing the way they are, we probably will.

          1. All-talk, vanquished pussies are among my favorite faux libertarians and inconsequential clingers.

            Carry on, vek. So far as your betters permit, though.

            1. If you’re not just one of the best trolls of all time… You REALLY are completely ignorant of the world of hurt that could be unleashed if the left finally pushes the right too far, aren’t you?

              The right wing American civilian owns more firearms than every army in the world combined, times around 8 IIRC. And you think the leftists are the ones with the ability to bust out the jackboot of tyranny??? LOL

              1. Would the left push the right too far if they won the presidency, and both houses of congress, and then used the power the Constitution gives the congress to enlarge the supreme court with leftist justices?

                Is the right going to go for armed rebellion when it can’t any longer maintain minority rule through politics? Or will that just be you vek, and a few other extremists touched off by Russian trolls on the internet?

              2. Guys like me have been shoving progress down the throats of guys like you throughout my lifetime, vek.

                School prayer. Abusive policing. Abortion. Doobies. Gay marriage. Creationism in science classrooms. General treatment of blacks, women, agnostics, gays, Jews, atheists, Muslims, and others. Environmental protections. Sex education. Capital punishment. Contraception. Superstition in public life. Healthcare.

                Each time, the right-wingers yapped a bit while complying obsequiously. Sometimes, some of them muttered about ‘liberals are pushing too far’ or ”one of these days . . . ‘ or ‘this is the last straw’ or ‘Second Amendment solution’ or the like.

                America’s right-wingers are losers . . . all-talk losers.

                1. Guys like me have been shoving progress down the throats of guys like you throughout my lifetime, vek.

                  Guys like you have been taking credit for other people’s accomplishments for decades, hicklib.

                  America’s right-wingers are losers . . . all-talk losers.

                  America’s left-wingers are bitches…all-talk bitches.

                  1. He keeps using this word ‘progress’. I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

  12. Hmm. Compare and contrast.

    Installing a government in another country is considered an evil deed if done directly, by force. The tyranny of the conquest is an evil separate from the violence used to accomplish it.

    How is it better if done by subversion? How is that not a violation of the principles of the Peace of Westphalia?

  13. Let’s put the big question aside, and deal instead with one specific kind of interference, the kind which happens to be at the center of the current controversy. That is the use of private information hacked by a foreign power or person, and employed on behalf of doing something in a domestic election. That ought to be right out. Here is why:

    We have a free press in this nation. One aspect of which is that courts have decided that even secret or private information can be published without press liability, so long as the press didn’t have a hand in any crimes committed to pry the information loose. That is an important press privilege, which has time and again led to publicizing government information of notable political importance.

    But it can’t become the case that stealing information is thus excused. That has to stay a crime, and people who do it have to stay subject to punishment. We can’t use press freedom to give license to all hackers all the time.

    So back to the current facts. When foreigners steal the information, our laws against that are bypassed. Letting foreign hacking influence elections would, in effect, make mandatory the use of foreigners for election hacking espionage. Not doing it would become campaign malpractice. Holding responsible any candidates who cooperate with that is the only way to stop it.

    1. “Holding responsible any candidates who cooperate with that is the only way to stop it.”

      Cooperate how? Surely receiving stolen information and publishing it is permitted for all citizens whose rights are secured by the Constitution, yes? Or do you reserve that privilege for your definition of “the press,” adopting the absurd proposition that the freedom to publish is limited to a privileged few? If you’re going to argue it should be illegal for everyone, then ok.

      Anyway, I certainly agree we can’t “give license to all hackers all the time.” Go ahead and convict them and punish them. Exact some kind of proportional revenge against the foreign entity or individual actor, if necessary. Beyond that, what are you going to do? Start banging the war drums? Throw an embarrassing fit of McCarthyist hysteria?

      1. You ask relevant questions.

        I suggest the solution might be found by analogizing to libel the publication of private information stolen by foreigners and used by a U.S. campaign. Give the targeted candidate a power of civil action against the person responsible for the publication. Let private money damages, paid personally by whatever persons involve themselves in publication, be the principal deterrent. Encourage similar legislation at least throughout Europe, so damage suits could be pursued in most nations where Americans are likely to find online information they might be tempted to believe.

        A yet better solution could be had by repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Requiring publishers to read everything before they publish it encourages them also to compete based on both the quality of the content, and the reliability of the sourcing. Someone trying to take down a political campaign using foreign, hacked, and stolen information would then be in a position like the one Dan Rather found himself in, when he couldn’t identify the source of his documents challenging George W. Bush. Rather’s documents, and Rather himself, were ultimately discredited not because Rather’s documents could be proved inaccurate—which never happened—but because Rather could not trace them to a legitimate source.

        Maybe both approaches should be applied together. A regime where publishers must read before publishing is a regime where there are painful consequences for both inaccuracy and irresponsible sourcing. This nation needs to get back to that. Repealing Section 230 would do it.

        1. Rather’s documents, and Rather himself, were ultimately discredited not because Rather’s documents could be proved inaccurate—which never happened—but because Rather could not trace them to a legitimate source.

          Rather’s documents were inaccurate because they were faked.

          1. Red Rocks, there is no proof that Rather’s documents were fakes—none at all.

            It is easy, however, to show that the examples published purporting to illustrate that Microsoft Word produced documents identical to Rather’s did not do what was claimed for them. Although the font families in the MS documents were the same as in the Rather documents, it was purely a matter of family resemblance, not identity. The actual font designs were different. The differences were most easily discernible in the designs of the numbers. Rather’s documents featured so-called old style numbers, with parts of some numerals descending below the base line. The MS Word documents did not show that feature.

            Another, subtler, design difference was in the value which typographers call x-height. That term signifies the ratio of the size of the lower case characters to the size of the capitals. In older font designs, the lower case tends to be slightly smaller than in more recent implementations of the same fonts. Rather’s documents featured small x-heights, the MS Word documents featured the larger x-heights, typical of newer designs.

            I don’t have a cite for this because I don’t know if there is one, and I don’t need one. I was a professional typographer for years, working mainly in advertising typography. It was everyday fare to discern subtle differences in font implementations, so that previous typeset work could be patched with matching variations of the same typefaces. In the Rather case, the differences in the numeral designs leapt off the page for anyone accustomed to that sort of work.

            1. It has been proven, over and over that Rather’s documents were fakes.

              While they superficially resembled documents written at the time, they were shown to EXACTLY match the Microsoft Times New Roman font–down to spacing that was created to accommodate (then) modern printers.

              Every single thing you have written is false.

              Deliberate lies? Or the maunderings of a duped idiot?

              1. Azathoth!!, now that you mention it, I checked the spacing too, as well as it could be done using examples available on the internet. Checking spacing is usually the first thing a typographer tries when testing to discover whether two fonts are a match.

                I don’t lean on this too hard, because the only reliable way to compare spacing of different type samples is to stack originals on a light table, and I didn’t have access to originals. But with what I did have, it looked as if the word spacing on the Microsoft example had been doctored (which is easy to do) to make line endings match. If that were confirmed by comparing originals, then it could suggest that the fraudulent documents were the ones used to impeach Rather. A more forgiving explanation would be that Rather’s accusers were not typographic experts, assumed the small spacing differences that their experiments disclosed were mere irrelevant artifacts, and somewhat innocently “corrected” the differences to make their evidence look better.

                Needless to say, if you have two versions of a font, one designed with a smaller x-height than the other, then they aren’t going to space alike. I should add, also, that type spacing on digital systems is surprisingly dynamic, and notably more complex than you probably suppose—unless you yourself are a specialist in that art, which I doubt.

                I am not lying to you, nor am I an idiot, at least with regard to this subject. I was awarded a U.S. patent for the invention of an automated method to scale type spacing with changes in type size. Before desktop computers killed off the typographic industry, I was in charge of quality control at an advertising typography shop patronized by New England’s leading advertising agencies and design studios. I was then recruited by New England’s best commercial design firm to help accomplish their transition to in-house digital typography.

        2. “analogizing to libel the publication of private information stolen by foreigners and used by a U.S. campaign. Give the targeted candidate a power of civil action against the person responsible for the publication. ”

          So it’s like libel, except for truthful information? Information that was obtained unlawfully by someone in the chain of custody?

          So it’s more like a breach of privacy claim, but applied to the most public figures in the world and matters of the greatest imaginable public concern?

          “stolen by foreigners” Wait minute. What if it’s stolen by non-foreigners? Why should that matter? And surely this wouldn’t just be limited to political campaigns?

          1. Millennial, it matters because U.S.-resident persons are within the reach of U.S. law, to be punished for their hacking, and foreigners are not. The distinction is as necessary to deter outsourcing abroad of hacking by candidates as it is to punish the hackers themselves.

            Once again, the better barrier is probably repeal of Section 230, but both together might be warranted.

            1. It seems ridiculous to try and deter “hacking” by censoring and regulating the information that was already released, and making private parties strictly liable for its publishing. Ever hear of the Streisand effect? Also, in most cases, I don’t think that hacking leaves any trace of the perpetrator, and hackers can easily leave fake bread crumbs to trace the crime to whomever. If you have an issue that is truly sensitive or of national security importance, then it seems you just need to make that secure, and not invent ridiculous conspiracy theories about the President.

              1. What seems ridiculous to you is the legal regime which actually governed publishing in this nation from the founding up until the invention of the internet. I have proposed to modify it slightly, to take account of new phenomena the internet has delivered.

                It is becoming more evident daily that the previous legal regime—which is to say, pre-Section 230—governed publishing more efficiently, less intrusively, and more productively than have the novelties the nation has been experimenting with since.

                Under that previous regime the notion would have been absurd that campaign information stolen by a foreign adversary of the U.S. would have found widespread pre-election publication across the nation. No publisher of any consequence would have credited the story absent a detailed accounting of where the information came from, and how it came into the possession of the source. That would never have been forthcoming, and the story would have died there.

                In short, by eliminating the need for publishers to read content before publishing it, Section 230 and the internet have created this new source of electoral insecurity in the U.S. Understanding that makes the solution obvious. Repeal Section 230, and go back to the requirement that publishers read their content. That is, by far, the least disruptive (and least government intrusive) way to solve the problem.

                It ought to be unacceptable to suggest that since the problem is so hard to solve (if everyone ignores the role of Section 230) that means we should just learn to live with it, and maybe even call it a public virtue. But that is what you and many others seem to be arguing the nation should do. If you do not agree that is your position, tell me a better solution to the problem.

    2. If foreigners steal and publish our own information, I see no issues with using it. After all, it’s something we should have known to begin with and often signals a flash point for future discoveries and investigations that would have occurred eventually irrespective of foreign interference. The only issue with foreign powers revealing that info is that they may have altered the contents in their favor.

      1. Another issue, awildseaking, is stealing. Do you suggest that candidates should be in the clear to hack each others’ campaign computers without any criminal penalties for doing it? If not, please reflect that what you suggest will, as a practical matter, open the door for every campaign to bypass U.S. law by outsourcing hacking to contractors living abroad. No problem, right?

  14. Russia will take over the world leadership after Americans are dumb enough to let themselves be replaced

    1. Nah, this is China’s century no matter what happens… But they may well end up being the leading western/European nation after Europe and America are no longer European.

      1. Yeah, except that China has way too many people, and East Asians, while having a very high IQ, don’t seem to possess the same level of creative ingenuity that Europeans do.

        1. It’s the educational system, and India has the same problem, and Brazil had it 50 years ago.

          Overbroad generalization of course, but you’ll get the idea.

          Schools teach rote memorization, not application, so you’ll find people who know a lot, but don’t know what to do with it, because it doesn’t really mean anything to them – it’s just a compilation of independent facts. Creativity, on the other hand, seems to be more an aspect of combining things together in new ways. The iPhone, for example, didn’t have a single new invention when it came out, but it combined existing things together better than all predecessors.

          The real question will be: are schools that teach rote memorization 5 times worse than American schools at spurring innovation? Or does the extra number of people give China all the advantage it needs. Even better, will the Chinese culture change to an innovative one?

          For a long form explanation, read Richard Feyman’s commentary about his trip to teach in Brazil, where he gives more concrete examples.

          1. I don’t disagree with any of this, but I think that the educational system in large part stems from the genetics of the people.

            Even if all Chinese were educated in American systems, the deficit would still remain.

          2. So, for one I think it doesn’t even really matter. The sheer population in India and China will leave both of them as probably the number 1 and number 2 economies on earth eventually.

            No single western nation will be comparable. BUT the western world as a whole may well still end up being more influential than China on its own… So the question for geopolitics is will they build that sphere of influence the so desperately want? Who knows.

            As to the creativity thing… There probably is something to the schooling, however the bigger point may be that while East Asians have a higher average IQ, they have a smaller number of geniuses as per every study ever. They have an IQ distribution that clusters closer to the mean (similar to women vs men), with fewer retards and geniuses.

            There may or may not be a “creative” gene. It could just be cultural stuff/education/combined with how many geniuses there are around, since they’re the ones who really break new ground.

          3. Yeah, this is completely wrong–

            Schools teach rote memorization, not application, so you’ll find people who know a lot, but don’t know what to do with it, because it doesn’t really mean anything to them – it’s just a compilation of independent facts. Creativity, on the other hand, seems to be more an aspect of combining things together in new ways. The iPhone, for example, didn’t have a single new invention when it came out, but it combined existing things together better than all predecessors.

            The real question will be: are schools that teach rote memorization 5 times worse than American schools at spurring innovation? Or does the extra number of people give China all the advantage it needs. Even better, will the Chinese culture change to an innovative one?

            I’ll point out that the person who invented the iPhone went to a school wherein memorization was still going strong. Feynman himself went to such a school.

            We tend to forget that fact. Einstein was in one of the original iterations of it.

            The demonization of memorization is part of the march through our institutions. It has left us with entitled brats who can’t read and college graduates that studied ‘studies’ and learned nothing of value.

            The odd paucity of creativity is well documented. Gunpowder was invented in China–and was relegated, mostly, to toys. Even after figuring out some cannon applications, the invention never went further.

            In the Americas, descendants of these same peoples invented and then ABANDONED the wheel. Let that sink in. They couldn’t see any widespread use for it.

            There is something at work here, but I could not tell you what.

            1. So what’s your theory?

              1. Well, a theory would be that there is something to the idea that some people have the magical “something special” about them. Studies have shown that true super achievers tend to be very smart, with a minimum bar somewhere in the 120s or 130 or so… But that going above that doesn’t seem to make a huge difference.

                I’m not taking about $150K a year software engineers, I’m talking world changing people. Once you hit that, it’s the “something else” factor that puts them over the top. Almost all traits are being proved to be largely genetic, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that basically a minor quirk in brain chemistry in some groups vs others could almost be like a random number generator that creates out of the box thinking.

                I’ve known some really smart people that could go from point A to B to C all day long… But couldn’t think remotely outside the box, or come up with novel ideas for shit. Even a slight difference in the distribution of whatever causes that difference in people could cumulatively make a huge difference over centuries of development in one society vs another.

      2. “this is China’s century ”

        An authoritarian state has not been the dominent power since Spain and that was a time when everyone was authoritarian. No significant country will ally or cooperate with China which will limit its power.

        China has not had a crisis since it embraced a quasi-free market system. Let’s see how they come thru one first before we crown them.

        1. The UK wasn’t authoritarian by reasonable standards? Mass murder, enslaving people, taking over 1/4 of the world… Pretty authoritarian. How about the USSR being number 2 power on earth?

          People seem to be cozying up to China JUST FINE. I’m not saying China will become a sole global hegemon like the USA is today, but us returning to having a few super powers is almost guaranteed. China doesn’t NEED any outside support to be able to throw its weight around.

      3. Nah, this is China’s century no matter what happens

        I remember when it was

        Nah, this is Japan’s century no matter what happens

        At this point in time, with the changes ahead and behind us, the American Millennium has just begun.

        What shape it will take is anyone’s guess.

        China, Japan, and India are all dead cultures. The over-elaboration that plagues everything they do is a symptom of this. These cultures must totally decompose before their people can progress again on their own.

        Their time may come around again, but it will not be soon.

        And they may be consumed before it does.

        1. I dunno man…

          First, Japan was the 2nd biggest economy in the world, until China passed then. But it’s just a matter of population IMO. They just don’t seem like they’re going to mess things up badly enough to not pass us in overall GDP in the near future. Not GDP per capita perhaps, but overall.

          As for their cultures… Their cultures are more intact than western culture is in the west. We’re the ones self immolating and hating all the things that made us great. They’re on the rise, even if they are asshole authoritarians. Remember, asshole authoritarians have been the norm, especially in terms of who the most powerful nation on earth is at most points in history. Being nice is overrated.

  15. Generally agree that “foreign interference” is mostly no more than the spreading of ideas. But that there can be an issue with methods or tactics, and there is also the factor of whether you have some righteous moral humanitarian cause (the slavery example) or not.

    It seems to me the default rule should be non-interference among any nations. Every nation should, generally speaking, make an attempt to mind their own business, and maintain good relations with all others.

    But the U.S. is the most prolific abuser of this default rule. I suppose one might argue the U.S. is more often justified because it champions righteous moral causes more frequently, and that may be true relatively speaking. But I don’t think our attempts to militarily plant little democracy churches on the other side of the globe has panned out too well.

    So, it seems much of the D.C. establishment disagrees with my view. I think one way to explain this disagreement by comparing a globalist ideology to a nationalist ideology.

    “The government of neighboring Freedonia finances a public relations campaign aimed at Ruritanian voters in order to persuade them to vote “no.””

    In this example, which tactics are acceptable? Military intervention? Is the answer based on the gravity of the moral cause? How do you quantify that? Is military intervention ever acceptable for reasons other than self-defense, and if so, when? Are you justified in using deception, or breaking that country’s laws?

    Does a nation generally have a right to prevent large amounts of campaign-type spending in their own country and on their information networks? I should think so.

    Hacking is certainly a hostile act, and should not be tolerated by the U.S. Frankly, though, I’m not sure the best response to this hostility should be a domestic P.R. campaign drumming for war with Russia, and engaging in farcical attempts tear down your political opponents with McCarthyism style hoaxes. All the while, cluelessly publicizing your own miserable failures and utter incompetence in cyber security. Instead, get your shit secure.

    1. This is a hard topic.

      On the one hand, it’s easy to say that any level of intervention is acceptable to stop a sufficiently bad evil. At the extreme, of country Evilania is about to finish a doomsday device and blow up the world, then mass nuclear strikes are perfectly acceptable – kill a few million to save billions.

      On the other hand, can you reliably trust the people who make the decision of “is this a sufficient evil” to be right? I suppose this is the same conundrum with capital punishment.

      Apply this to 2016: “Trump is worse than Hitler.” If you believed that, wouldn’t almost any amount of otherwise-evil intervention be acceptable, if not obligatory? We dropped nukes for less-than-Hitler, so doesn’t that perspective require at least nuclear war to prevent his election?

      That’s why this is hard.

    2. 20th century US intervention in other countries’ politics was driven more by cold-war global hegemony concerns and American business interests than righteous moral causes. Often that meant installing democracies, but sometimes it meant sabotaging them. In Guatemala in 1953 a CIA-backed operation deposed the democratically elected president and forced a single-party election of a dictator, the beginning of 40 years of civil war and junta rule. The president’s socialist leanings, it was feared, would put him in the Soviet sphere of influence, and his reforms to end punishing labor practices ran counter to the interests of the United Fruit Company.

  16. “If ideas developed or conveyed by foreigners influence American voters for the better, we should be happy to see that happen.”

    All right, whose turn was it to make sure Ilya took his meds?

    1. I guess it comes down to what “for the better” means…

  17. No foreign propaganda for me, now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to watch the BBC news on PBS.

    1. I’ll just read Reuters, thank you.

      But in all seriousness, the Bezos Post is American-owned, so you know it’s legit and puts America first.

    2. And except for a few years recently (no longer), the BBC World Service is directly funded by the Foreign Office, the equivalent of our State Department. The BBC World Service is government funded propoganda targeted at influencing American public opinion.

      The domestic BBC is funded by the TV tax, but the World Service is not.

  18. For one recent example of the head of state of one country attempting to interfere in another country’s election, consider Barack Obama and Brexit. Obama went to the U.K. and gave a speech in which he said that if the U.K. left the E.U. and tried to get a trade agreement with the U.S., it would be at the back of the line. It was obviously an attempt to get people to vote against Brexit, although it isn’t clear whether it actually had that effect.

  19. In short: It’s fine to lie, cheat, or steal so long as the goal fits within YOUR moral worrldview.

    Lol Honestly I can’t say I completely disagree. That is the way it will always work in the real world anyway, what bothers me is you seem to genuinely believe you’re supporting some objectively righteous cause or something. Pretty much everybody is against chattel slavery, but most other issues are far less clear.

    Immigration for instance. Only true open borders are moral, right? Freedom of movement and all that. People have no moral right to protect their land for their own benefit and that of their progeny? So why can’t China just send 200 million people or whatever number is needed to any country, vote to be annexed by China… And then rinse and repeat until the whole world is China?

    I would argue peoples have a moral right to deny entry to their country for ANY reason. Even dumb ones. But especially ones that actually matter like lack of assimilation, being welfare leaches, etc.

    So whose morals are right? Does it even matter? Might makes right in the end usually. The difference is I don’t try to pretend I’m objectively correct or holier than thou… Which maybe that alone actually does make me holier than thou!

  20. The problem was not so much Russia’s behavior as Trump’s responses to it. He acted and spoke (and still does) like someone who was already bought and paid for by Putin (if not under actual threat of blackmail). And of course he won’t show us his tax returns.

    We have in the past installed puppet regimes. This is the first time it’s happened the other way.

    1. No, he hasn’t. This is the kind of stuff that makes me think leftists live in underground bunkers and only come up for groceries now and then.

      Every policy that Trump has espoused, whether it be foreign relations, energy or the like, has been detrimental to Russia. So when you say stupid shit like “Trump is a puppet of Russia”, no one with a working brain cell should take you seriously.

    2. He won’t show his tax returns because the people asking for it are doing it in bad faith. No one actually cares about his “business connections,” nor will his personal tax return even necessarily show the ultimate owner or foreign source of any LLC income. People want it to embarrass him, and to have teams of unpaid “examiners” looking for some questionable deduction that they can then hound him with.

      1. And sending antifa protestors to camp in front of the homes of anyone who ever had any business connection with Donald Trump

        1. Yup, exactly.

    3. Obama acted more like a Putin asset than Trump:

      “This is my last election … After my election I have more flexibility,” Obama said

      “I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” said Medvedev, Putin’s protégé and long considered number two in Moscow’s power structure.

    4. “he won’t show us his tax returns”

      Poor capt, one of those poor souls who thinks there is a line “Received from Putin, 10 million dollars” on a tax return.

      Have you ever seen a tax return? Its a summary of income and deductions.

  21. Considering the DNC refused to allow the FBI to inspect the server tells me the hack was likely an inside job. The reasons being is it is virtually impossible to identify an external hacker if they are any good at all, an internal hack not so much. The second reason is it was politically expedient for the DNC to promote the ‘Russia hack our server’ storyline.

    1. Or maybe it would expose the Cuba folder with the plan to end Sanctions against Communist Cuba and send a smiling Barack Obama to pose in front of the Che Guevara mural in Havana

  22. This thread is a crapshow to beat them all.

    Cuddling up to Putin, crying about liberals persecuting conservatives, death threats against liberals, white supremacy, and conspiracy theories.

    1. When it comes to creating civilization, it’s pretty hard to argue that whites reign supreme.

      1. *that whites don’t reign supreme

        1. Pretty hard to argue you’ve managed to combine ignorance with confirmation bias to rationalize being being a bigoted, unamerican, softhead.

          Persia, Mameluke, Mali, Egypt, Japan, China, Brazil, Kush. And those Greeks weren’t very white, really.

          And then you dip your toe into racial eugenics: East Asians, while having a very high IQ, don’t seem to possess the same level of creative ingenuity that Europeans do. This isn’t the 1920s anymore, dude.

          We’re seeing more and more of you guys in the GOP. And more and more on the right willing to apologize or excuse your presence.

          1. The fact that the truth hurts doesn’t make it any less a truth.

            Not to mention that your premise is wrong. The ancient Greeks were in fact white. They got the olive skin over time after mixing with conquerors from North Africa.

            1. A stroll through these comments vindicates the decisions of our strongest schools to ignore the recommendation from white, male, right-wing blogs to hire more movement conservatives, faux libertarians, and partisan Republicans.

              Soon, the sifting that has created concentrations in both our successful, modern communities (educated, reasoning, accomplished citizens) and our desolate, left-behind backwaters (disaffected, bigoted, superstitious citizens) may shape our nation’s faculties in a more pronounced way.

            2. Restore, I don’t know what you are thinking of. Greeks conquered Egypt, the Greeks being Alexander the Great and his hordes, and that is why Cleopatra and the rest of the Ptolemies were Greek. But even if it had gone the other way, conquest in those days only occasionally included colonization that would affect the racial makeup of a people, conquerors mostly just cared that their tribute was paid on a regular basis.

              1. Do you know nothing of the Persians endless incursions into Greek ruled territories? Or later Muslim invasions, that reached all the way into Austria?

                The current Greeks are LARGELY the same peoples genetically, but with a lot more Middle Eastern genes cut in. Same is true in Sicily as it was conquered by Muslims.

                The Greeks were never pasty white bastards like the Irish or anything, but they’re a mixed genetic stock compared to what the ancient Greeks were.

                1. Vek, you must know that neither the Achamaenid Persians nor the Ottomans were “conquerors from North Africa”.

                  1. I wasn’t just talking about North Africa, I was talking about the Greeks getting mixed with neighbors from non European areas. As far as North Africans go though, there were plenty of them that made it into Spain and even Italy. I would imagine plenty of North Africans made it into Ottoman controlled Europe as well, since the Ottomans ruled parts of NA for large chunks of time. Either way, the distinction between Arabs and North Africans is kinda not a big deal… They’re pretty similar peoples. It’s like arguing about the difference between Germans and the Dutch or something.

                    1. Also, just to be sure you don’t straw man me because of my phrasing above, I know Turks and Persians aren’t “Arab” either. Turks and Persians are both closer related to other Europeans in genetic terms and their looks etc. But they’re also not quite Europeans either. It’s splitting hairs of course, but it is what it is.

          2. Mali… LOL

            The truth of the matter is that at any given moment in time, the most advance civilization on earth has always been in the Middle East, East Asia, or Europe. Never Africa, and never the Americas until post colonization.

            Middle Easterners are in fact Caucasians. They’re just a different fork in the road vs Europeans. Modern IQs in the ME are far lower than Europe, but the truth is that nobody knows how they compared 1,000, 2,000, or 5,000 years ago. They could have been higher in the ME, or the same, we have no way of knowing.

            Using the Jews as an excellent example, European Jews who went there during the diaspora somehow within 2,000 years or less have developed IQs 20 points or so higher than ethnic Jews that remained in the ME. So intelligence can be selected for very quickly in evolutionary terms.

            Even if IQ is adaptable rather rapidly in evolutionary terms, it is very much NOT changeable in human scale terms. So just deal with the fact that Europeans and Asians have generally always been the most advanced people on earth, and barring mass scale genetic engineering will continue to be so. Facts are facts, whether you like them or not.

            The only ones that seem to always NOT WIN are Africa and the Americas.

            1. intelligence can be selected for very quickly in evolutionary terms

              Or, maybe, instead of following some unique evolutionary etiology, IQ tests aren’t measuring something solely genetic.

              Good lord, the amount of time you white supremacists spend on tangled neo-phrenological explanations for who is or was or can be white would be a clue that maybe your narrative is BS.

              1. Sarcastr0, you would be making a good point if Occam hadn’t been a white European. Notice that you never hear about Ahmed’s razor. For me, that proves you have been refuted, and the white supremacists are right!

                But actually, if you want to put Occam on the case, isn’t it the simplest explanation that these ostensible white supremacists are just Russian trolls?

                1. I’m not going to chalk up to Russia what could as easily be American evil.

                  Besides, the important detail is that the righty commenters, even some of the old timers before the Trumping of the party, aren’t calling him out as not one of theirs, or wrong, or even Russian. Instead it’s all excuses, ignoring, and some even agreeing with him.

                  Western Hegemony guy even seems trained in American law.

              2. I don’t believe IQ IS solely genetic… But unlike you, I have actually researched the science on this stuff. A lot.

                Basically every test ever done has shown that IQ is somewhere between 50% and 80% heritable. Most fall in the 60-70% range. That’s even within a single generation, and I suspect if grand parents were factored in it would be higher, as we know many traits pop back up after being latent for a generation or two.

                Either way, the observed differences between ethnic groups is an unclosable gap as per science. The fact that blacks in America and Europe have considerably higher IQs than blacks in Africa is a perfect example. The blacks here have most of the non genetic factors on their side, and their IQs go up a LOT. But there’s still a huge gap between them and whites, Asians, or Jews. No amount of environmental factors are enough to close it.

                THAT is scientifically sound. That you believe we have tens of thousands of years of divergent evolution, yet somehow our intelligence didn’t get effected by ONE PERCENT even, is completely unscientific. It is the exact opposite of what evolutionary theory would predict.

                You simply believe that because it is wishful thinking, despite that all hard evidence shows the exact opposite. Frankly, I wish that all people were equal, because that would make things much simpler… But we’re not. There’s a reason South Korea went from 3rd world to 1st world in a couple decades… It’s that their average IQ is through the roof. That’s also why Africa and many other countries with far longer exposure to western economic systems, technology, etc still wallow in failure.

                I don’t LIKE what the science says… But I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and pretend reality is something other than what it is. That kind of thinking has resulted in trillions of dollars being wasted on anti poverty programs that will never work, when if we’d accepted reality for what it was we could have done different things that would have actually helped some of these less fortunate places.

                1. Also, you ignore that people who accept that IQ data is generally accurate to reality, ALSO accept a bunch of things MERE white supremacists would NOT like.

                  Like that Jews, and then Asians, are BOTH smarter on average than ANY whites. Taking Bronze isn’t exactly flattering…

                  Then there’s the fact that such people also accept that there is a wide gap within what people generally call races. IQs fluctuate over 10+ points within Africa. And about 10+ points within Asia. And the same in Europe.

                  In Europe it’s not just a north south thing either. Italy and Spain go quite well, whereas parts of the Balkans do not. Eastern Europe in general is lower than most of the rest of Europe by several points… Funny how that perfectly explains why Eastern Europe has somehow always trailed behind other parts…

                  Heck some parts of Eastern Europe are barely higher than the average in some parts of Latin America.

                  Would an evil Nazi say that? It’s what the data shows, so I’m not going to argue with it. Why is Southern Asia taking so much longer to advance? Because they have lower IQs than Japan, Korea, China, etc.

                  The data somehow all lines up with real world results VERY well. This data explains half of the “great mysteries” about why some shit is the way it is. Given that it’s scientifically sound, lines up with observed reality, and explains things perfectly… It’s insane to just write it all off because you don’t want to believe it.

            2. Not to mention that Africans fail EVERYWHERE they exist in the world. A 75-85 IQ will do that.

              1. Before colonialism there were plenty of stable and prosperous African civilizations.

                You’ve hitched yourself to a narrative of revised history and badly used statistics, and even that is slowly losing ground.

                Glad I don’t have to share a party or philosophy with you, because you’ve chose to be one of the worst kinds of people humanity has to offer.

                1. Before colonialism there were plenty of stable and prosperous African civilizations.

                  This is true.

                  But it doesn’t refer to the colonialism you’re thinking about.

                  It refers to the initial Islamic colonization of sub-Saharan Africa–the colonization that destroyed most of the burgeoning greatness of Africa and replaced it with Islam’s standard ersatz Arab culture.

                  You’ve hitched yourself to a narrative that must pretend that history started in 1492, a history that must pretend that the slave trade was invented to sell slaves, captured by Europeans, to other Europeans. That there were no slaves until Europeans enslaved Africans.

                  You have bound yourself in chains of ignorance, and you snap at any who would hope to free you.

                2. No, there weren’t.

                3. Ummm… The greatest cultures in Africa that were created and run by Africans, as opposed to Europeans or Arabs, were basically running several thousand years behind the rest of the world.

                  They had civilizations that were more primitive than Ancient Babylon in like the 1000s AD. Sorry, not impressed.

                  Any which way, as I said elsewhere, I am open to the idea that IQs could have swung dramatically over time. European Jews jacked theirs up in just a couple millennia, if not less time, so I see no reason to discount the idea that Africans might have had higher IQs 1000 years ago than today… The Arabs certainly seem to have been sharper in the past! LOL

          3. What does ‘weren’t very white’ mean?

            Persians, Mamelukes, Egyptians, and Brazilians as well as the Greeks are all Caucasians of one type or another.

            1. You know what really confirms your point, Azathoth!!? It’s the lost civilization of Prester John. The legend says his kingdom was in Asia, but of course no trace of it has ever been found there.

              That’s because the Asia theory is mistaken. Prester John didn’t lead his followers to Asia. Instead, as recent archeological discoveries demonstrate, he went first to North Africa, and after an uncertain interval of settlement near present-day Dakar, they somehow crossed the Atlantic at its narrowest point, arriving in present-day Brazil.

              After a journey up the Amazon, he and his followers cleared an extensive opening in the rain forest. It was there that Prester John actually established his kingdom. It was an entirely self-sufficient civilization which thrived for centuries, producing enormous wealth, extraordinary art, and notable technical advances unknown to other New World civilizations. The remains of that kingdom are presently being excavated by archeologists, working amidst the tangled vines and resurgent forest which hid these wonders until their recent rediscovery.

              The important point being that Prester John and his followers were white Christians. By establishing a flourishing civilization in the Amazon—where none of the non-caucasian indigenous peoples had been able to do it—Prester John showed the innate superiority of white Christians.

              Also, like you and these other white supremacists, I’m making everything up.

    2. Don’t you mean cuddling up to Kim Jong Un? He’s done plenty of things to Russia detriment, and hasn’t done a single thing than hurts North Korea, so he’s obviously an NK stooge. You just missed his master a little too high.

      He also keeps talking about what a great guy Kim is, and only does thing that benefit NK, so it’s pretty clear that he’s an NK stooge rather than a Russian one, and the North Koreans have a long history of hacking the west (and kidnapping Japanese actors).

      …… but they must have gotten to you too, which is why you keep saying Russia, when it’s obviously North Korea.

      Or maybe Trump is just a flatterer to strongmen who are nice to him. I wonder if he has some kind of long history of working with dictators around the globe on real estate projects where we could observe his demeanor and find out if that’s the case…..wouldn’t that be nice?

      1. Funny, I never said Trump was a stooge of Russia. In fact, I’d rather agree with your final paragraph.

        You sure did take out that strawman though.

        1. He does make something of a point though. Trump might be in the pocket of Russia, but his stupidity, incompetence, weakness and immaturity cloud the analysis.

  23. […] —– The Volokh Conspiracy, “The Rights and Wrongs of Electoral Interference“ […]

  24. A people should be free to organize themselves as they see fit. It is not the role of others to interfere.

    1. Only in a state of national isolation can that happen. The US conducted its own elections, free from any kind of foreign input or influence, up until it became a world power and started getting involved in international affairs.

  25. I don’t mind electoral interference, as long as the interferors identify themselves as outsiders. The right of a people to choose their own nation’s future is what democracy is all about. If you value the information that some Russians present to you, and alter your vote based on that information, I have no problem with that. The problem comes when the Russians pose as Americans, for the voter cannot put their concerns and ideas in the proper context, not as those of your countryman but as those of a foreigner. While he may have interests tied up with your nation’s future course, they are not as valuable as the interests of your fellow countryman. If this was not true, why would these outsiders bother with the charade?

    1. The problem comes when the Russians pose as Americans, for the voter cannot put their concerns and ideas in the proper context, not as those of your countryman but as those of a foreigner.

      Just stop. Nothing you’re alluding to here had any discernable impact on the election whatsoever.

      1. “Nothing you’re alluding to here had any discernable impact on the election whatsoever” — by that standard, there was nothing wrong with Watergate, since it didn’t affect Nixon’s (landslide) re-election.

        1. What a hilariously stupid analogy.

  26. Mostly agree. It’s easier to believe that foreigners stole your country’s essence, than that your neighbors freely gave it away.

    That said, the commenter ‘Frog Legs’ makes an important point above: the identity of the speaker matters for how we evaluate the speech. So, when a speaker uses a false identity, that is a moral wrong.

    1. LOL

      That assumes you think Donald Trump is against our countries “essence.” Which is ridiculous. For all his flaws, Donald Trump is far more American than anybody the Democrats has put up in decades. He’s pretty much the quintessential middle of the road American. Anybody who says otherwise is fooling themselves and/or ignorant of history.

      1. Donald Trump: pretty much the quintessential middle of the road American. Anybody who says otherwise is fooling themselves and/or ignorant of history.

        Do…you know who Donald Trump is?

        Also, odd choice to invoke history. Well, maybe not that odd if you assume middle of the road America is a 1950s that never was.

        1. Seriously?

          He’s moderately fiscal conservative, but okay with some entitlement spending. He likes the military. He’s cool with guns, but only to a point. He’s a lot pro business, but also kind of cares about working people a touch.

          I could go on. He’s a squishy, middle of the road, 20th century American politician. On basically every subject. The fact that our country has veered sharply to the left almost overnight is the only reason that a Moderate Democrat from 1990 is considered a Nazi today. LOL

  27. I haven’t read this yet, but given the author and subject, I’m sure it will be the best laugh I’ll have tomorrow. Thanks, Somin’s TDS!

    1. Glad you stopped by to explain which tribe you are in and then move on.

      It’s not so much about Trump this time. I find it pretty bad ends-justify-the-means reasoning myself. But wow are the comments telling.
      Y’all on the Trump side have a white supremacist problem and it’s not getting better.

  28. Surprisingly, most comments here seem predicated on a relatively benign view of the harm to be expected from foreign election meddling. Maybe complacent commenters should recast their comments, using a view to what will happen when foreigners deploy national technical resources to create high-quality false evidence to back elaborate detrimental hoaxes about candidates. Maybe such commenters should reflect on how anyone will get any election information, after false foreign claims become so commonplace and convincing on the internet that it becomes a useless poisoned well. Indeed, maybe everyone should reflect on the likelihood that a hostile foreign power could accomplish the utter destruction of the internet, not by technical means, but merely by deploying Gresham’s law to massively corrupt political information.

    More generally, all the questions about internet vulnerabilities to foreign political meddling point toward a need to consider anew the almost universally ignored reality that publishing and speech are not the same, and can’t be successfully governed by identical laws and customs.

    1. OK, I’ve mapped out ILYA SOMIN’s legal analysis on this topic. It is a truth table with 3 columns and 8 rows. It depends on who is interfering (actor means person or country), their reason for interfering, and their interference tactics.

      actor, reason, tactic — adjective
      ______________________________
      good, good, good — admirable
      good, good, bad — understandable
      good, bad, good — forgivable
      good, bad, bad — next question
      bad, good, good — next question
      bad, good, bad — reprehensible
      bad, bad, good — reprehensible
      bad, bad , bad — reprehensible

  29. “”if you like your health care plan you can keep it”, like “tax cuts will pay for themselves”, is a forecast. Forecasts, as a category, can’t be lies; something framed as a forecast has an implicit caveat, that forecasts may be wrong. A lie would be “a report from the RAND corporation says you can keep your plan” when the report says no such thing.

    1. A statement involving something that happens in the future cannot be a lie, got it. If you pay me and I promise to do something for you and end up not doing it. I didn’t lie. It doesn’t matter whether I never intended to from the start since you blanket proclaimed the previous statements to not be lies regardless of not being able to read the minds of those making them.

      You should a press conference telling the native rights groups the government never lied to the indians, they just repeatedly made forecasts. Actually you know what you might have a point there.

    2. Forecasts, as a category, can be lies if you know in advance that the forecast has no chance of being correct. As was, for instance, the case concerning Obama’s statement about people getting to keep their health care plans.

      There wasn’t anything particularly contingent about people losing their plans under Obamacare; It outlawed keeping them outside circumstances the law made objectively implausible.

  30. […] * In the wake of the Mueller Report, Ilya Somin pushes back against conventional wisdom and takes this position: “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  31. […] * In the wake of the Mueller Report, Ilya Somin pushes back against conventional wisdom and takes this position: “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  32. […] * In the wake of the Mueller Report, Ilya Somin pushes back against conventional wisdom and takes this position: “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  33. […] * In the wake of the Mueller Report, Ilya Somin pushes back against conventional wisdom and takes this position: “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  34. […] reason.com/2019/04/26/the-rights-and-wrongs-of-electoral-interference/ […]

  35. […] * In the wake of the Mueller Report, Ilya Somin pushes back against conventional wisdom and takes this position: “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  36. […] “Not all foreign interference in elections is unjustified. Far from it, in fact.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] * Fair use in the copyright context is an infamously amorphous concept — so the Fourth […]

  37. OK. I got it now.
    Hollywood actors donating a gazillion dollars to a socialist candidate in an Alabama election is a total and completely reprehensible act, and should be illegal.
    Perfect, I agree. No political donations, and no endorsements, from any person, place, or thing outside the jurisdiction holding the election.

  38. “elections should be decided by a nation’s voters without any influence from foreigners and their ideas”

    That’s exactly how elections should work you imbecile. All nations have a right to self determination. Your strawman about slavery is pathetic because there isn’t a strong argument in favor of slavery at this point. You’re an anti diversity globalist. You don’t like the values of other peoples and you support state sanctioned propaganda aimed at interfering with the will of that nation’s people to further your own interests.

    Fun fact: libertarian (read liberal) immigration policies that encourage legal and free movement of peoples completely eliminates the need for your authoritarian regime. If Americans don’t like 2A and the Constitution and the electoral college, they can leave at any time. The idea that foreign (and often times hostile) powers should engage in informational warfare because they don’t like our values is sickening and extremely un-libertarian of you.

  39. Russian interference had zero to do with the results. How many votes did Podesta’s leaked e-mails cost? Not many, if any.

    It was Clinton’s homemade server that got her investigated, not anything the Russians exposed. Comey’s ego, not Russia, hurt her the most.

  40. Let’s try this, Ilya–

    Nations interfere with the internal workings of other nations as much as they can to further their own interests all the time.

    Acting as if what happened in the 2016 elections is somehow special is only being done because the most perfect, most qualified candidate for the office of President ever lost to Donald Trump.

    And it just can’t be her fault.

  41. I once knew a politician in state-wide office who was quite unpopular. An ally in the legislature was having a tough re-election campaign. The politician said to him: “I’ll come into your district and campiagn for you, or against you, whichever you think will help.”

  42. Like many others here, I just don’t buy the silly argument that Russian influence in our election was immoral or wrong. We do it. Everybody does it. It doesn’t break any laws and it would be impossible to enforce such laws without trampling on freedom of speech.

    Actual interference in an election through voter fraud and the like is another matter entirely.

    So basically this whole Mueller investigation was just a political witch hunt which is now continuing with the nonsense of “obstruction of justice.” I say that as somebody who despises Trump but does not believe in political witch hunts or coups.

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