In the United States, we recognize the needs of persons with disabilities with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. In this spirit, for communications, we have a person versed in sign language there to facilitate communications to the hearing impaired. Most people are not lawyers, who routinely have to dissect statements carefully in order to determine whether the words used are concealing or misrepresenting something. The American voters need a staff of truth translators who can sift through the propaganda in politicians’ statements, and communicate only the facts clearly. While this is always true with understanding politician-speak, it has been on display in full force in the election season, and now especially in discussions of the Russian hacking and influence on United States elections.
The intelligence community released a report on Russian influence of the US election. The report can be accessed through this link: The report has, at the top of each page, a note to the reader…” This report is a declassified version of a highly-classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly-classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.”. In this report, the community has unanimously indicated that Russians did hack the computers of both the DNC and RNC. It also says that only information gleaned from the DNC was released in a clear effort to influence American voters by smearing Hillary Clinton. It also points out that the scope of the report did NOT include an assessment of the effectiveness of those efforts.
Looking at the republican response to this situation, please note that Speaker Paul Ryan on his website says: “Russia has a track record of working against our interests, and they clearly tried to meddle in our political system. I strongly condemn any outside interference in our elections, which we must work to prevent moving forward.” And from the same source: “We must also be clear that there is no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process. We cannot allow partisans to exploit this report in an attempt to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory. Donald Trump won this election fair and square because he heard the voices of Americans who felt forgotten.”
In his first statement, Paul Ryan is in agreement with the results of the report. In the second, he speculates on an issue that is specifically not covered in the report. Looking at each statement in the second quote: “We must also be clear that there is no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process.” While this appears to be true, it is not the only way to influence an election. Focusing on “ballot process” is a misdirection of a kind. By focusing on what was not wrong, one diverts attention from what was wrong. It is quite clear that the result of Russian activities was the constant stream of damaging media coverage by slow leaking of “new” facts that were in fact all part of the original hacking. That the RNC was also hacked, but that no information was leaked is a powerful fact that goes unremarked. Now look at “We cannot allow partisans to exploit this report in an attempt to delegitimize the president-elect’s victory”. This is an unjustified position. If one doesn’t know to what degree voters were influenced, how can you say that the election was in fact legitimate? This applies also to anyone who would say at this point that the election was not legitimate.
President-elect Donald Trump also tweeted: “Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched”. Here again, the misdirection is to the voting machines. The first sentence is unjustified speculation. Good liars know how to deceive without actually lying. What’s the difference between “not affected” and “not MEASURABLY affected”? How can anyone measure how many minds were changed? It can be totally clear that Russian strategy was to smear Hillary Clinton, but who can say what effect it had? This isn’t lying, it’s deceptive manipulation.
Until we get truth in communications translators installed, when media, pundits, and amateurs look over politicians’ statements, we have to get the analysis exactly right as we criticize, as republicans look for ANY excuse to turn off the entire message. We can’t call Paul Ryan or President-elect Trump a liar in this case. We can say that each one is being careful to give a message that unfairly influences opinions without supporting facts.