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In Part 5 of Paul Jay and Aaron Mate’s interactive discussion with viewers about the controversy over Trump’s visit to Helsinki they talk about what can be done to counter fear-mongering – From a live recording on July 18th, 2018

Story Transcript

AARON MATE: So as we wrap up, Paul, I want to play a couple of clips. We’re talking about now the utility of fearmongering to keep people on edge and distracted away from meaningful change, and keep them invested in this Russiagate narrative as pretty much the only political question hanging over the U.S.

I want to talk a bit about this scare right now about alleged Russian meddling in the upcoming midterm elections. It was a subject of new controversy today when Trump at a cabinet meeting was asked if the Russians are still interfering, and he quickly just said no. And then he went on to say about how tough he was on Russia. But that is now a new scandal, and he’s being-. Lindsey Graham is demanding he explain himself. And everyone is citing the recent warnings by his Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. He gave a speech on Friday- the same day, by the way, as the indictment of these Russian military intelligence officers. He gave a speech where Dan Coats talked about ‘the warning lights are blinking red, and we’ve never seen such a perilous state since before 9/11.’ Comparing right now to the days before 9/11, the period before 9/11. And this is Dan Coats in that speech.

DAN COATS: And here we are two decade- nearly two decades later. And I’m here to say the warning lights are blinking red again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.

AARON MATE: So that’s Dan Coats. And now, this prompted a huge round of alarm. Corporate media pundits talking about how Coats has talked about the warning lights, invoking 9/11, is Trump going to protect us from the Russians. And this is a major topic of concern right now, will Trump protect us from Russian meddling in the midterm elections. Nobody, and I mean nobody, ever asks has Coats mentioned any evidence, or has he even alluded to evidence, of what the Russians are supposedly, supposed to be doing to the midterm elections. Because there is none. Coats has said none. And the only thing he said in a speech about Russian, alleged Russian meddling in the midterms, was this.

DAN COATS: In regards to the upcoming midterm elections, I think there may have been some confusion between what we are seeing now compared to what we saw in 2016. Because, as the Department of Homeland Security noted, we are not yet seeing the kind of electoral interference in specific states and voter databases that we experienced in 2016. However, we fully realize that we are just one click of the keyboard away from a similar situation repeating itself. Therefore, and moreover, we are seeing aggressive attempts to manipulate social media and to spread propaganda focused on hotbutton issues that are intended to exacerbate sociopolitical divisions.

AARON MATE: So that’s Dan Coats talking about what exactly he is so concerned about when it comes to Russian meddling. He says we have not seen the type of interference yet. And by the way, it’s questionable whether there was any interference at all in 2016. But that’s a side question. And then he talks about it being one keyboard click away. And Paul, what came to mind for me was these warnings back in the ’80s that the Russians could drive tanks from Nicaragua to Texas. And he, and then he goes on to talk about the threat of social media.

And so this is what right now corporate media pundits and politicians are are literally freaking out about, hyperventilating about Trump not protecting us from. Social media activity, which, by the way- I mean, we know already from the indictments that it was probably likely a Russian click bait commercial troll farm that was buying those ads- that nobody saw, by the way, and most of them ran after the election. And then the source for these claims about these Russian bots that we’re supposed to be afraid of, it comes from this group called, from a group that doesn’t even name what the- doesn’t mean identify what the bots are, what the Russian bots are supposed to be. It just says that they’re out there. And this is what everyone is relied on to spread this fear about Russian bombs.

So, Paul, as we wrap up, I guess your thoughts and your advice for people on how to navigate this climate of fear and fearmongering going forward?

PAUL JAY: Well, let me first of all say if Russia is doing what they say they’re doing, I think they should stop doing it. OK? Russia has no business interfering in the elections of any country, and neither does the United States, and we don’t need to go on about the horrible history the United States doing these things to everyone else. But that also doesn’t justify Russia if they’re doing these things. There’s no justification, and they should stop it.

But you know what the best defense of this would be? Because right now, what are we talking about? Messaging through social media, right. Well, why- the question needs to be asked. Why are people susceptible to believe this bullshit? How come people can read the most ridiculous conspiracy stuff and think it’s true? If you want to protect the American democracy, how about invest in the public school system? How about teach history? How about give people a sense of what real geopolitics are? How about talk about this massive income inequality? Now Obama talks about-. You know, how about not appointing Goldman Sachs as your economic team at the time you had a chance to do something about it. But how about in the public school system a massive education campaign to explain the real reasons for economic inequality?

Because if people understood these things, they wouldn’t fall for the crap that’s being spread on social media. And whether it’s being spread by the Russians or by a troll farm controlled by Cambridge Analytica and Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, or, or corporate Democrats for that matter, the reason this stuff has influence is because so much of the American population has been so honestly uneducated, de-educated. People don’t know basic history, don’t know basic things about how the economic system works, and fall for the ridiculous kind of campaign promises of Trump, and maybe slightly less ridiculous but also BS campaign promises of corporate Democrats.

So the only real defense against this, because there’s no technological defense unless you want a closed social media, the only real defense is have a conscious, educated population, and that’s what we’re trying to do. So who’s standing up most to Russian interference in the elections? We are, at The Real News, because we’re trying to educate people about the reality of the world.

AARON MATE: OK. And so on that front, we’re going to end there. But I do want to take the opportunity to ask people that if you value what The Real News does, if you value the uncompromising analysis of the kind you just heard from Paul Jay, we ask you to please go to our website to support us. We can’t do this without you. We don’t take government or corporate money. And you can go to to donate there. We’re currently in the midst of our summer fundraising campaign. Anything helps, and we really, really appreciate it.

Paul Jay, senior editor on The Real News, thank you.

PAUL JAY: Thank you.

AARON MATE: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

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Paul Jay was the founder, CEO and senior editor of The Real News Network, where he oversaw the production of over 7,000 news stories. Previously, he was executive producer of CBC Newsworld's independent flagship debate show CounterSpin for its 10 years on air. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker with over 20 films under his belt, including Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows; Return to Kandahar; and Never-Endum-Referendum. He was the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and now the largest such festival in North America.