Why are Russian Election Hackers a Problem?

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There’s a lot of news about Russians hacking the American election.  By publishing e-mails from the Democratic campaign, they have manipulated and in the end delivered the victory to Donald Trump.

Except, I don’t think that’s the whole truth.  I think that trying to blame “the Russians” is a big mistake and might even lead to a second term for Trump.  Here’s why.

First, hacking and publishing e-mails and more or less fake stories is nothing new.  We just used to call it spying and propaganda.  Despite what hack researchers will have you believe, just rebranding something to match modern technology, doesn’t make it something new.  Russians “hacking” the American election is just business as usual and not one inch different from what Americans (or Europeans or Chinese or Arabs) are doing to every-fricking-where.  Everybody is trying to gather intelligence about opponents/partners, and to push them to having a friendlier leadership.

Second, the hacking was not what made 50% of Americans vote for Trump.  Some maybe.  A few most likely. But a lot of Americans voted for Trump because they found hime a better pick than the opposition.  Hillary was massively unlikeable.  Trump too, but not massively more so, judging from the election result.  If we pretend that the elections are what caused Trump to become president, we might technically be right1), but we are ignoring the super-sayan mecha elephant army in the room: very close to 50% wanted another president.  Some voted Trump because they thought he would be the better leader.  Some because they preferred Bernie Sanders and would rather see anybody but Hillary win.  Some because of misogynism.  Going la-la-la and pretending it was the Russians’s fault is not going to make these very real and most likely much larger issues go away.

The third reason, which I am frankly surprised I haven’t seen in any media, is that everybody seems to think that the hacking is the issue, and not what was hacked and released.  I have not seem the Democrats try playing the leaks down as false.  If I were in charge and thought I had a chance of getting the point thru, I would try to sell the leaks as fake.  Even better if they actually were.  There was some mention that fake e-mails might be mixed in with the real leaked ones, but I have not seen much follow-up on that.  All points towards the e-mails being entirely or mostly representing the truth.  Can Russian hackers be blamed for leaking the actual truth?

The follow-up from the Democratic party was less “we’re sorry for being dicks and will start becoming less of a jerk” but rather “we’ll double down on security.”  The Democrats were not sorry for what they did, they were sorry they got caught.  Of course, any political party will try to win, and I am certainly one to understand the value of an off-the-record communication channel, and use that all the time.  But this is not even the point being raised by the Democrats – it would of course be very hollow coming from an organization that so loves the “if you have nothing to hide, why fear ban of encryption” mantra – again, it is the fault of the Russians for leaking the information.

It is of course ironically hilarious that Donald Trump, who spent a lot of the election pointing fingers at Hillary’s insecure e-mails as a threat of being in cahoots with the Russians turned out to himself be intimately involved with them (because that was a very well-hidden secret nobody could have or did garner from any information publicly years before the election).  But if we pretend this is the fault of Russian spying, we are just ignoring real issues and setting ourselves up for at 2020 repeat.

  1. And that is, of course, the best kind of right. []

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