Progressives in America have discovered a great way to deal with the complexities and nuances of a system that has been deteriorating ever since it was built. Instead of putting in the work to understand the problems of a crumbling democracy and its institutions, why not blame the Russians?
All things considered over the course of history, which I know is a lot to consider, blaming foreign boogeymen is not that bad of a strategy. The only problem is that it’s a long con that simply can’t last forever. Eventually the stories will become too unbelievable; although the American public’s capacity to believe nonsense is certainly giving this idea a run for its money.
The system in question, our beloved democracy, has never really been that great. That said, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that we are capable of some pretty awesome things. I believe, for example, that over the course of a few more centuries we might come close to resembling a society that doesn’t have abject hatred of minorities and poor people. But that should be enough wishful thinking for my first opinion piece as editor of the section.
The issue at hand of course, is GameStop. Might be old news by now. Things come and go pretty quickly these days. But while the stock price may have fallen from its heroic heights, let us never forget the thrills us regular people had watching an outdated hard-copy game store’s stock soar above the ranks of true titans of industry and international finance. We saw people streaming out from every corner of the internet celebrating a gambit to punish hedge fund short sellers and expose a system which seems to have just a few quirks that don’t make a whole lot of sense.
But as soon as we saw historic stock prices for GameStop and a few other companies, we also began to see the system start lumbering up to correct itself. We saw simultaneously comical and sinister breaches of trust from trading apps such as Robinhood try to step in to slow the madness. But we also saw something that I expect to see more of as we embark on four years of a Kamala Harris, Joe Biden presidency and at least two years of a democratic controlled house and senate.
I am wholly unoriginal in pointing out that both the media and popular cultural icons are quick on the draw for blaming things on the Russians. The latest example of this is America’s beloved talk show hosts who are still out there, every night, recycling jokes that anyone can read on Twitter, and sharing their milquetoast thoughts on the course of events. Last weekend, Jimmy Kimmel took his station at the helm of popular discourse to claim that some of the independent investors involved in the GameStop stock surge may have been “Russian disruptors.”
Perhaps he was so used to peddling this line in regards to Trump winning the 2016 election that he figured it would fit right into another story where the popular understanding of something is smashed and reordered. I am sure we all have fond memories of 2016 and won’t be too quick to forget them. But let the record stand that Donald Trump won the election entirely within the law of the electoral college, not because of Russian interference. Perhaps if the DNC fielded a less outrightly evil candidate they would have had better luck. And perhaps if the stock market wasn’t a fickel, unpredictable casino then a hedge fund wouldn’t need a $2.8 billion bailout from some friends.
These two issues are becoming islands in a sea of events which are products of a system that has opted for an arranged marriage between the political establishment and the winds of commerce. We have simply accepted that large businesses are a part of our political economy. While I know it’s tough to imagine a more equitable solution, can we at least agree that a government catering to large corporations may not have the best outcomes for regular people? Additionally, when so much of our world is based on a market which, by the laws of human nature, is unpredictable, not to mention that it has crashed nearly every decade, perhaps we’ll have a few weird things happen. But instead of getting to the root of why these things happen and what they mean for our country, I reckon it is easier to just blame the Russians.