By CCN.com: Following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s comprehensive report into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. has issued a comprehensive 120-page rejoinder, accusing the U.S. of “Russophobia.” Written in typically stinging style, the response, which is entitled “The Russiagate Hysteria: A Case Of Severe Russophobia”, accuses the Obama administration of violating diplomatic conventions and going out of their way to frustrate any proposed normalization of Russian-American relations.
Two-thirds of this response is dedicated to merely chronicling instances of alleged anti-Russian propaganda. It makes little effort to actually engage with the substance of the Mueller report, which is in keeping with the Russians’ reputation for treating international diplomacy like a Reddit message board. This entire “response”, in fact, is one long troll by a country that is struggling to hide its smirk while faking righteous outrage at being accused of activities that it has a well-documented history of engaging in.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Russia used a tactic from its own playbook, shifting the conversation away from itself while accusing the other entity of spreading anti-Russian hysteria. Anyone familiar with debating patterns observed on internet forums will immediately recognize how this strategy – also known as gaslighting – works. The accused deflects and places the accuser on the defensive.
In this particular response, the Russians are in peak gaslighting form, devoting 74 pages to listing instances of alleged “Russophobia” by American news media, politicians and experts. Only 18 pages at the tail end of the report are reserved for “debunking” these claims, and they only contain regurgitated official statements that have been rehashed ad infinitum. In fact, this “response” makes no effort whatsoever to debunk or engage with the detailed investigative work outlined in the Mueller report.
The entire purpose of the report, in time-tested Russian style, is to engage emotionally with readers and create a bit of doubt in their minds about the reliability of Robert Mueller’s work. For anyone who bothered to actually read the Mueller report, it quickly becomes evident that it is a well-researched investigation with meticulous documentation of all facts uncovered. Such people are not the audience of this tongue-in-cheek response.
Mueller Report Response: Throw Enough Mud and Some Will Stick
Objectively speaking, there is little chance that Mueller – a lifelong Republican – would fabricate false accusations and evidence to portray Donald Trump as the knowing or unknowing recipient of Russian assistance during the 2016 election. The Russians know this, but their response aims to raise enough accusatory dust about “Russophobia” to at least create some doubt in people’s minds.
As more revelations from the Mueller report and other ongoing investigations emerge, we can expect more of the same pearl-clutching faux indignation from the Russians — if their activities come to light. Such facetiousness on the part of the Russians has a more important function than simply keeping the world entertained by the spectacle of international relations being reduced to a schoolyard fight.
It actually helps them to gain control of the conversation by tapping into the popularity of internet meme culture, keeping the U.S. and its allies on the back foot in the battle for positive public perception. It really is just more of the same.