When Arsenal are awarded a disputed penalty, Arsene Wenger never sees the contentious incident that provoked it; on the other hand, when a penalty is awarded against Arsenal, Wenger has a meticulous recall of the foul that led to the spot-kick, as though he’d been inches away from the tackle. Similarly, Donald Trump swore the FBI were unmistakably accurate when they added to the Clinton email saga just days before the US electorate went to the polls – ‘Bigger than Watergate’, you may recall; now that the CIA have confirmed Russians hacked into confidential Democrat files that they then leaked to the media in order to assist the President Elect’s passage to the White House, Trump won’t have any of it.
What real impact intervention by hackers might have had on the US Presidential campaign is hard to tell this near to events in October and November. In many respects, Hillary Clinton didn’t need hackers to bugger things up for her; she was more than capable of doing so on her own, whereas Trump seemed able to get away with saying whatever he liked, however obnoxious and reprehensible, and it only added to his popularity ratings. He can therefore greet the CIA announcement with scepticism and dismiss those who are worried about the ease with which America’s perceived enemies can access private information. Even notable Republican John McCain went on US TV to declare his belief in the CIA’s findings, though Obama’s 2008 opponent is practically a Socialist next to some of the party’s leading loons that Trump has recruited, so his opinion doesn’t count.
According to the CIA, the Russian hackers also targeted the Republican Party, though declined to pass on whatever they found out to WikiLeaks; I suppose one might conclude it would be handy for Moscow to have something on them for safe keeping. But it was evident from the off that Trump would be Putin’s preferred candidate for the Presidency, so if the revelations of the CIA are indeed true, perhaps there’s more to this than simply sour grapes on the part of the Democrats. That said, the priority for America right now should be less about the blame game and more about upgrading their software.
Bearing in mind the increasing sophistication of hackers that forever seem to be one step ahead of the systems in place to prevent them doing their job, it would be no great surprise if the CIA’s findings are genuine. Trump and Putin have never hidden their macho admiration for each other and yet one cannot help but feel that the Al Capone of the Kremlin, with his KGB/Stasi background, looks at his American counterpart and sees a pliable idiot who only requires a little ego-massaging to make him favourable to Moscow. There are understandable concerns that this will be the case when the two men eventually meet in person as world leaders, so the timing of the CIA’s conclusions re the hackers is as fortuitous as the timing of the FBI’s conclusions re Hillary Clinton’s emails.
These revelations come hot on the heels of last week’s condemnations of Russia’s institutionalised doping regime in sporting circles, specifically the Olympic Games. I’ve no doubt Russia does engage in dubious medical practices where their athletes are concerned; the Soviet Bloc as a whole was notorious for it, and there’s no reason to suppose practices changed when the Iron Curtain was dismantled twenty-five years ago. But the allegations against British athletes that emerged via documents leaked online several months ago, presumably from Russian hackers again, revealed that many of our great Olympians are apparently at it as well – though their tracks were covered by the fact that most of them are stricken with asthma, believe it or not, which makes their achievements all the more remarkable. Again, fortuitous timing switches the spotlight East once more.
The propaganda war between Russia and the West is, as it was during the Cold War, a game of extreme exaggeration on both sides with a grain of truth always present; and the one-upmanship of acquiring a defector retains its point-scoring prestige. A Nureyev or Philby figure was a prized weapon back in the day, and with Russian athlete Yuliya Stepanova blowing the whistle on the State doping programme of her homeland – a brave move necessitating her flight from the country to a clandestine location somewhere in Western Europe – ‘our’ side holds the current moral pawn.
It suits the West’s narrative on Russia (not to mention deflecting attention away from European and American sporting doping) to focus solely on its wrongdoing in a tournament that long ago shed its amateur ethos and pretences to fair play, just as it equally suits that narrative to condemn its involvement in Syria, even when we and the Americans are effective sponsors of what the Saudis are doing in Yemen. Trump labelled Castro a ‘ruthless dictator’ upon the death of the former Cuban leader, yet the human rights abuses attributed to Fidel’s regime are far exceeded by the crimes against humanity committed by some overseas allies of the West. But, of course, the bad guys are the ones who wear the black hats, and it is those with the white ones who select which heads will be donning this season’s ebony headgear.
© The Editor