RT, Russian Tampering in Elections, and Air America

English: Russia Today logo
English: Russia Today logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the fallacies we teach students is the "association" fallacy. Simply because I am related to a criminal or a professor does not make me either dangerous or smart. The people around me are not me. Both **guilt by association** and **honor by association** inductively assume a trait based on little direct, significant evidence.

The guilt by association fallacy is also considered a form of __argumentum ad hominem__, a form of name calling.

But, inductive reasoning is a necessary part of estimating risk. If you are a member of a crime family, I might assume some risk exists if I become your friend. It's not a direct accusation that you are bad. It is an estimation of risk.

Yet, there are also genuine associative assumptions that carry weight when analyzing a person. The intelligence world has to make assumptions based on association because hard evidence is missing and deductive logical often proves insufficient for intelligence assessments.

Let us assume that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections within the United States. Russia has a long history of such actions (dating back at least to the 1950s) and the U.S. isn't exactly pure as the driven snow when it comes to other nations' electoral systems.

The U.S. established the Voice of America precisely because we wanted others to hear our versions of events. Russia helped launch Russia Today (RT) in many languages to transmit versions of events more favorable to the Russian perspective.

Since 2015, RT USA has done all it can to attack "moderate" Democrats. Generally, the network was anti-Republican, too. The 2016 election presented an interesting problem for RT editors. They began coverage by supporting Bernie Sanders and attacking Republicans. As Donald Trump rose in the polls and started to look like a genuine contender, RT decided between Trump and Clinton. They selected Trump.

Coverage of Hillary Clinton reflected the RT (Russian) bias against the former Secretary of State. Here is one such story:

And throughout 2015 and 2016, RT assembled a team of on-air talent and contributors from the progressive movement. They hired former Air America personalities. Former Democratic politicians. Leftist intellectuals.

RT now features a who's-who of the left. And yet, Democrats are trying to tell us not to trust Russia. If we cannot trust Russia, then can we trust the individuals who have decided to work for RT? Even if RT editors don't ask a reporter or writer to change viewpoints, clearly those viewpoints are considered favorable to Russia. Doesn't that concern these people?

Working for the enemy — and Russia is not our friend — implies you are okay with the actions of that enemy. Don't claim to be resisting from within; we are talking about an authoritarian, dangerous nation led by a strongman.

How can Chris Hedges, Thom Hartmann, Ed Schultz, and Cynthia McKinney ignore what RT has done over the last two years? The anti-Clinton conspiracies promoted on RT and its websites were repeated in the far-right media. The election became progressives and the alt-Right versus Hillary Clinton and mainstream thought.

Look at who works for RT. These are people accepting paychecks from Russian sources and willing to report stories Russian considers useful.



We should consider associations when we judge the people at RT. We can also judge the words they say and the articles they write. Clearly, the progressive movement has a problem of association. They cannot claim this did not hurt Hillary Clinton's chances of winning the presidency.

I opposed Donald Trump, on principle. He was and is dangerous. RT helped Trump and worked, actively, against Secretary Clinton.

Yes, nations do interfere in each other's elections and internal politics. But 2016 seems different. Russia wanted anyone but Clinton *and* wanted to demonstrate our system does not work well.

Not even Russian intelligence imagined Trump winning. But, RT managed to plant stories that entered two very active social media echo chambers on the left and right.


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