Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate (…sort of) for Russia

by Chris Zappone

trumppress.JPGConsider this: relations between the US and Russia are drifting toward a Cold War frostiness.

Russia, like in the Soviet times, uses Western issues and causes against the West. (See RT, Sputnik, the war against neoliberalism, the war against NATO and the EU).

Now we see the runaway “success” of a candidate who knows precious little about foreign policy. He markets himself as a provincial know-nothing on most international affairs.

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But there is one issue he and his military adviser and his campaign have been consistent about since the start: better relations with Moscow.

The deal-making Trump has received the endorsement of Vladimir Putin and even Twitter is filled with Trump-backing bot armies in the Russian style. (See earlier post).

“Given Putin’s behind the scenes dabblings in the affairs of other countries, Trump is just the sort of man he’d want to prop up to destabilize the West,” writes conservative blogger Erick Erickson, in his observations about the very Astro-turf nature of Trump’s online support.

Erickson recounts how his radio show was bombarded with callers to complain about what he had “just said” on the radio about Trump, when Erickson himself was out of the studio and on vacation.

Something fishy indeed.

What is going on here?

The possibility of Russian trolls behind Trump is suggested by a lot of anecdotal evidence, and by the fact that Russia is busy at work messing with European politics, that Russia is actively pumping out lies designed to confuse, and more broadly a tendency in the cycle of history between the US and Russia.

On specific, Russia-facing issues, there is the question of whether Trump could be thought of as a Manchurian Candidate.

There is no suggestion Trump has a formal arrangement with Putin.

But like so many ideas and terms from the Cold War, the idea of a Manchurian Candidate, a candidate who is a puppet of hostile powers (at least on one glaring issue – Russia), needs modified for these times.

Such a candidate wouldn’t be the brainwashed product of a Communist conspiracy. These days a Manchurian Candidate would be casual and consensual. Less about ideology and much more about shared interests in a globalized world of elites. It would be more about a quid pro quo of influence for support.

It’s clear Russia is using the internet for information war against the West. Troll and Twitter armies are used to shape reality. We live in the age of social cyber attacks.

Western governments and leaders are only dimly aware of the new game, and its ramifications. After all, wasn’t cyberspace supposed to be implicitly ruled by the Western values? The answer from Russia, that we’re learning in Western politics, is no.

The internet and social media technology is being employed in novel ways by Russia to undermine Western governments.

In this way, any Russian troll support for Trump may be less about the outcome of the election and more about delegitimizing the US electoral process, and the nation.

Contributing to the gravity of the situation is the fact that no department of Western governments polices or defends against social media used by outside forces to meddle in open, domestic elections, let alone open societies.

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Scene from The Manchurian Candidate

If I had to predict, I would say that when the Trump moment passes – and Trump has already wildly offended much of the American public with his statements and actions – I can’t help but think loyalty (specifically Trump’s) but generally everyone’s will once again become an issue in US public life.

I’m not suggesting a rerun of the McCarthy Era is under way. But like economic inequality, borders, the health of the middle-class, the notion of national loyalty was another thing that faded from view in much of the West during the period of unbridled globalization.

I imagine that national loyalty could once again become a live political issue in domestic politics, helped by the free flow of capital across borders, fear of decline, and of course, meddling Russian trolls.

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