One of these days I'll write a spy novel and the main character will be an American president and his media mouthpiece who are openly working on behalf of the world's most powerful and vicious dictator.
That president, despite his promises to make America the greatest, most powerful nation on earth, promises that will be amplified by his own favorite television network to the point that millions of every day Americans and would-be patriots believe in him, will actually be working to advance the cause, reach, and influence of our nation's most bitter enemy.
(Listen to the podcast)
We just lived through that novel, didn't we? In reality, the president was Donald J. Trump, the news network was Fox News, and the treacherous dictator was Vladimir Putin. And it wasn't fiction.
Over the past four years, we saw repeated examples of Putin's inexplicable hold on Trump and Trump's almost fawning admiration of his Russian counterpart. And while all of this was going on, the pundits at Fox News spread Trump's lies, supported his actions no matter how questionable, and brainwashed millions of voters.
Now, Australia's former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, a former journalist, has cut to the chase on all of this, focusing on both Trump and Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News.
At a parliamentary hearing earlier this month, Turnbull said he was sickened to see what Murdoch has achieved with Trump in America, suggesting that the defeated president's relationship with Fox News was similar to the state run media in authoritarian countries.
Turnbull said Murdoch's media empire pretty much carried out propaganda work for terrorists by stoking hate for minorities, saying that Murdoch's News Corp operates like "a political party, but is unelected and unaccountable."
"Where does this end?" Turnbull asked. "Well, we saw that (at the US Capitol) on the 6th of January," he told the #MediaDiversityInquiry.
“If you don't think that is a threat to American democracy and undermining the strength and capability of our most important ally, then, you know, you are kidding yourself,” Turnbull told Australian lawmakers.
“What does Vladimir Putin want to do with his operations in America? He wants to divide America and turn Americans against each other,” said Turnbill, who has known Murdoch since 1974. “That is exactly what Murdoch has done: Divided Americans against each other and so undermined their faith in political institutions that a mob of thousands of people, many of them armed, stormed the Capitol.”
Many of us in the U.S. have been following the fate of Russian imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Nalvany, who has just ended a lengthy hunger strike in protest of Putin's oppressive activities in Russia. Nalvany is Putin's fiercest critic.
In September 2020, when Trump was asked about the poisoning of Nalvany, Trump gave a rambling response mentioning China, North Korea and Afghanistan, and then, finally, said "we haven't had any proof yet," regarding how Nalvany had been poisoned -- even though his administration had received "unequivocal evidence" that Navalny had been poisoned in Russia by the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok.
That was just one example of Trump's deference to Putin, who since 2007 tried to ingratiate himself with the Russian dictator, when he sent him a letter saying, "As you probably have heard, I am a big fan of yours."
As the Sunday Guardian reported September 13, 2020, Trump has never criticised Putin. Nor had he yet confronted Putin about intelligence reports that Russia paid bounties to the Afghans for killing American soldiers. As The New York Times reported, “To all appearances, Putin has the president of the United States in his pocket!”
The question of why Trump was so deferential to Putin throughout his presidency has never been definitively answered. In Bob Woodward's book, Rage, Dan Coates, former director of US national intelligence, said he thinks that Putin must have compromising material on Trump.
"There is no other explanation," he says.
Facts are facts.
We know Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton, and that Trump said he believed Putin when he denied doing so. We know that he fired FBI Director James Comey who was trying to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the election.
We know that throughout Trump's presidency there were multiple incidents involving racial unrest, protests, violent demonstrations, all giving Trump the opportunity to attack the Black Lives Matter movement and solidify his standing with his White supremacist supporters. Are Putin's fingerprints on any of this?
Those are just two examples among many others that have widely been reported about Trump's weird love affair with Putin, and the negative impact it's had on America.
Is it that Trump is just stupid and admires dictators who act like the tough guy he tries to portray?
Is it sexual blackmail? Russian intelligence is known for using hidden cameras to record arranged sex sessions with businessmen and diplomats in hotels. Was Trump compromised in this way?
Perhaps money is the answer. The Sunday Guardian suggests that maybe one reason why Trump fought so hard to shield his tax returns from the public was because Russian money bailed him out during his multiple bankruptcies.
Maybe it's all three -- stupidity, sex and money.
Nevertheless, Trump's presidency served to weaken America both internationally and domestically. The internal divisions that have ripped into our society are evident every day, whether it's on city streets or in the halls of Congress.
Hate and distrust have been magnified, even to the point that some people refuse to take the life-saving Covid 19 vaccinations simply because they do not trust the government.
Who benefits from all of this?
America's enemies, Russia and Vladimir Putin chief among them.
Who is largely responsible?
Donald J. Trump and the right wing media that has served as his mouthpiece.