Russiagaters Are The Very Worst Kind Of Conspiracy Theorists

Caitlin Johnstone
6 min readDec 3, 2017


“Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.”
~ Chris Martenson

I couldn’t believe it the first time a Russiagater unironically called me a conspiracy theorist for doubting the establishment Russia narrative. Now it’s a routine occurrence. That’s how thoroughly lacking in self-awareness these people are.

Turns out most Russiagaters are completely unaware that they are in fact conspiracy theorists by definition. Nobody who publicly doubts the official 9/11 story can escape that label for even a moment, but when a narrative with similar types of circumstantial evidence is backed by the full might of the mainstream media it’s possible to construct an echo chamber for yourself in such a way that it never even occurs to you that you are engaging in a conspiracy theory. You can insulate yourself so much that you’ll even find yourself sincerely accusing people who don’t subscribe to your pet conspiracy theory of being conspiracy theorists.

I have no problem with conspiracy theories and imbue that term with no pejorative implications, myself. Just like with anything else, there are good and bad ways to go about conspiracy theory. Generally speaking, Russiagaters just happen to go about it in the very worst possible way.

Conspiracy theory, when held in an open palm, can be a healthy way to hold the spotlight of scrutiny on power. Many of what were once called conspiracy theories are now known conspiracy facts, like the secret petrodollar agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia referenced in the quote at the beginning of this article. But rather than cynicism toward all of America’s power structures, Russiagaters uphold the lying, torturing, government-toppling CIA as a paragon of truth and virtue and collaborate with the same establishment loyalists who helped tilt the scales of the Democratic primary. Their theory does not scrutinize power; it protects it. Rather than holding their conspiracy theory lightly, they have turned it into a frenzied, uncritical cult. They are, as one reader so aptly put it, one comet away from Heaven’s Gate.

Take what happened yesterday, for example. The New York Times published an article revealing emails which suggest that Trump may have been lying when he claimed that Michael Flynn acted of his own accord when negotiating de-escalations with Russia during transition, which in and of itself is a reaonable thing to inquire about. Trump lies constantly to make himself look better, and he may indeed have lied to shift the public scrutiny off himself and onto Flynn in the McCarthyite feeding frenzy which was already well underway when he took office. But take a look at how Russiagaters twisted one line in the article to deceive their massive audiences into believing it meant something that it explicitly did not:

Look how many thousands of shares were received of this tweet by Brian Krassenstein, one of the most toxic and dishonest voices making a career out of Russiagate with 318,000 followers. And this one by MSNBC’s fake intelligence expert Malcolm Nance, who unapologetically lied about WikiLeaks doctoring their releases last year and has been lying about them ever since:

The paragraph that these men are referring to reads as follows, from which they are focusing on the final sentence:

On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr. Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.

The paragraph immediately following the sentence that they are fixating on, however, immediately shows that there is no factual basis for their claims:

It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White House lawyer said on Friday that she meant only that the Democrats were portraying it that way.

To further clarify things, the author of the article later published the context of the email excerpt he’d placed in the article, which makes it abundantly clear that not only was the sentence Russiagaters were focusing on not saying what they assert, but that he himself had been irresponsible in only publishing the small bit of text he published while claiming it was ambiguous:

A statement which unequivocally and explicitly begins with a take on what “Obama is doing” is very clearly a speculation about Obama’s actions and intentions; claiming that it was “unclear” if McFarland was acknowledging that Russia had actually thrown the US election to Trump was incompetence on Schmidt’s part at best. There is in the context of the email very plainly no reason to believe that McFarland was doing anything other than what the White House lawyer referenced in the article said she was doing.

Even before this clarification there was never at any time any rational reason for high-profile Russiagaters to be running around making such claims, but that didn’t stop everyone from fringe kooks like “Caroline O.” (253,000 followers) to senior Atlantic editor Adam Serwer (115,000 followers) from making them. Note the share counts:

You will recall that The Atlantic is the same outlet which recently got caught selectively editing DMs between Donald Trump Jr and WikiLeaks in order to make it look like WikiLeaks was trying to cover up a loyalty to Russia.

To Serwer’s credit he did end up acknowledging that his initial report was less solid than he’d initially made it appear, but look at the share counts on these acknowledgements compared to the original:

This is extremely typical of the way these frenzied, conspiratorial Russiagate claims go instantly viral only to be swiftly invalidated, but the corrections get orders of magnitude fewer views. This leaves people like me getting so many arguments in our social media notifications from Russiagaters making invalid, long-debunked claims about their pet Russia conspiracy that it would take more time than I have in the day to refute individually.

Glenn Greenwald has been pointing at this phenomenon for months. Here he is a couple weeks ago highlighting the way a poorly-written Buzzfeed article which seemed to feed into the Russian election meddling narrative actually contained no such information, but the initial frenzied claims got exponentially more traction than their withdrawal:

None of these Russiagate promulgators ever circle back around to acknowledge the failed arguments they’d been responsible for previously. The lies get lost in the shuffle and quickly forgotten as the feeding frenzy moves on to its next poorly substantiated “bombshell” story, and nobody ever learns anything.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot more accusations of being a Kremlin agent and questions about my motives and agendas in response to my writings and far fewer actual arguments against the content of my writing, as well as demands that I stop arguing with this Russiagate thing and move on to writing about other matters. I’ll tell you what: I’ll stop writing about the Russiagate lies when they stop happening, how’s that sound? If you foam-brained pussyhat-wearing cultists are going to keep using lies to inadvertently manufacture support for America’s new cold war escalations, the least I can do is try to throw a monkey wrench in it.

If Russiagate was legit, the people responsible for selling it to us wouldn’t have to come up with new lies about it constantly. There are many very real dangers of the Trump administration that we can focus on without fanning the flames of world-threatening tensions between two nuclear superpowers based on lies, and the longer we spend fighting over this crap the more of those dangers manifest unnoticed.

Russiagaters are the very worst kind of conspiracy theorist, and as long as they’re imperiling my world with their complicity in the manipulations of the US power establishment I’m going to keep fighting them. Get used to it.


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