Rarely a day goes by without western mainstream media outlets accusing an independent journalist, activist or even leading politician of having ties with a foreign power that have resulted in the material or electoral enrichment of said journalist, activist or politician.
Last week the Syrian journalist and commentator Mimi Susli’s Twitter account was accused of being a “Russian bot” in spite of the fact that Susli has made numerous filmed and live appearances and is naturally, a human being. Today, the Sunday Times of London ran a front page story suggesting that “Russian bots” have helped to campaign for popular UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
While these charges are comically absurd, what is far more interesting is the mindset which allows people who appear to take themselves seriously to lodge such absurd accusations in the first place. In the middle and late 20th century when much of Europe and North America was economically stable and jobs paid well in relation to the price of goods and housing, it was generally thought that the only people who actively spoke out against their ruling regimes were those paid by or even brainwashed by foreign regimes.
While this hypothesis was incorrect even in the 20th century, it at least carried some credibility as in a contented population, the few people who went the extra mile to highlight various injustices often did perk the attention of foreign regimes and sometimes these foreign regimes did help to materially advance the existence of said individuals. It was of course a two-way street, so much so that during the collapse of the Soviet Union, prominent Russian politicians were actively on the payroll of the US government and other semi-private sector bodies in the US. This was equally true of many right wing Latin American leaders, including Manuel Noriega who was paid handsomely for years by the CIA until he outlived his usefulness to Washington.
But in an age where young people cannot find secure employment and when the cost of living is outstripping stagnant wages, all the while the threats of terrorism, crime and drugs continue to grow, people are naturally becoming more politically aware and active. This should not surprise anyone because contented people are generally less political exorcised than those suffering from the threat of economic deprivation and social insecurity. This is one of the reasons that in developing nations, ordinary people are often more pugnaciously political than those in countries that are rich and stable. This for example is why elections in Pakistan and India are generally more vocal and colourful than those in Norway. It is a natural reflection of economic realities and little more.
It is for this reason, above and beyond the fact that more information is available to the average citizen than at any time in history, that more and more people are becoming disenchanted with a failed political status quo and are opting to support different ideologies, different political leaders and different means of sharing information.
The very political elites who turned working class people and many middle class people into a debt ridden underclass seem all too unaware that the discontent that has resulted from their policies is driving people towards independent journalists who address these problems without reservation and who often provide practicable and ethical solutions to these problems.
Jeremy Corbyn is a prime example of this as while previous leaders of his party either exacerbated or ignored the problems of economic inequality, the lack of opportunity and the decline in living standards for ordinary people, Corbyn has based much of his role as UK opposition leader on proposing workable solutions to these very problems.
If the neo-liberal status quo was serving the majority of people, Corbyn would likely have fewer supporters as his ethical foreign policy would likely not win as many votes if it was not coupled with an economic policy of straightforward problem solving.
While neo-liberal elites throughout Europe and North America turn outrageously high prices for basic goods into the biggest regressive tax in western history, people who are speaking out against these policies are speaking from a position of personal experience and human sincerity that could not pervade the collective consciousness as it has if it was the result of a robot algorithm programmed by people in a distant land.
It is only among those predisposed to put a price on everything and to disbelieve that anyone, anywhere would do something of magnitude without asking for or receiving money, that it is conceivable that people advocating for a change in the neo-liberal status quo could do so of their own voluntary initiative.
While the idea of a “Russian bot” has an amusing comical value to it, the thought process that has led to these allegations being levelled with apparent seriousness is the product of a deeply perverse psychological thought process. This perverse manner of thinking is in the words of Oscar Wilde which were frequently quoted by Jeremy Corbyn’s old colleague Tony Benn, the product of minds that “understand the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
The reality is that people’s hopes, like their fears, anxieties and misery cannot be bought or sold. They can however be solved with an economic model that is designed to sustain decent living standards rather than subjugate people to domestic economic exploitation all while blaming a country that has a system that invests national profit back into people. That country is not Russia…that country is China.