Saturday, December 10, 2016

It All Depends Whose Ox is Gored

Recent news stories claim that Russia attempted to influence the U.S. election in favor of Donald Trump. How accurate the claim is I don't know. What seems clear is that the reaction of Americans is that doing that is wrong, cheating, meddling in our affairs. That is why, during the election, the story was popular with Trump's opponents. I expect it still is.

During the build-up to the Brexit vote, Barack Obama gave a talk in the U.K. in which he strongly hinted that if Britain pulled out of the E.U., leaving it free to negotiate its own trade agreements with other countries, the U.S. would not be eager to join such an agreement--“The UK is going to be in the back of the queue.” Pretty obviously, it was an attempt to influence the vote on the referendum. 

I am not sure if its actual effect was in the intended direction or the opposite direction. My impression at the time was that, while most Americans saw nothing wrong with Obama's talk, many in Britain resented the attempt to influence their voting. 

Which explains the title of this post.


At 1:40 PM, December 10, 2016, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mostly unrelated but of possible interest to you: first step towards polycentric law in the UK?

At 4:13 PM, December 10, 2016, Blogger Shaddox said...

I think that the difference is that Russia allegedly selectively leaked hacked documents, whereas your example is simply Obama making presumably credible threats about how the USA would react diplomatically to Brexit. In other words, it's less about the intention to influence a vote and more about the means of influence.

At 5:36 PM, December 10, 2016, Blogger jdgalt said...

Obama openly campaigned against the re-election of Israel's Netanyahu. That may be a more similar example than the Brexit vote, as well as easier to prove.

At 2:38 AM, December 11, 2016, Anonymous Gallego said...

As Shaddox mentions above, I too think there's a huge difference between making an open statement and what Russia does (providing fake news, trolling, hacking, financing extreme parties and all other kinds of propaganda)

At 10:32 AM, December 11, 2016, Blogger Quentin Langley said...

Obama crossed many lines in terms of relations between friendly, democratic societies, but the allegations against Russia are more serious, including suggestions of hacking the count. While there's no evidence to back that claim it is also the case that hackers try not to leave evidence.

We should certainly accept that if election machines were hacked that's major issue.

Releasing confidential documents from the DNC server is different again. That's arguably a favour to Americans, letting them make a more informed decision.

At 11:41 AM, December 11, 2016, Blogger montestruc said...

Truth is not slander, nor could this be called blackmail unless someone has evidence of Russians trying to blackmail Democrats.

While hacking American computer systems is unlawful by American law, I doubt it is by Russian law. Nor was Obama's threat at all credible.

At 11:44 AM, December 11, 2016, Blogger montestruc said...

If election machines were hacked sure, but hacking of DNC computer systems? Like the NSA is not hacking Russian political parties?

What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

At 4:14 AM, December 12, 2016, Blogger gurugeorge said...

Living through the event in realtime, my impression was that there was a particular week when the barrage of negativity became so relentless as to begin to appear ludicrous. You had all the gurning great & good, the entertainment industry, the media, the politicians, all in lockstep, and that very fact began to appear suspicious. (Barack's comments were part of this - and yes they were considered cheekily intrusive.)

That weekend was the first time the polls seemed to show Leave ahead.

And then shortly after that, a nice lady politician was murdered by a looney, and it took the media's attention for a while. At that point, it became impolitic to admit one's support for Leave, and the polls showed Remain ahead again.

But my distinct impression is that people are generally sick of having the same notables paraded in front of them endorsing this and that. I think it's getting to the stage where having Beyonce or whoever shill for your campaign is an instant death sentence.

At 10:58 AM, December 13, 2016, Anonymous Max said...

The main reason why the story is popular is that "Putin prefers Trump" works as a criticism of Trump, even among Republicans. The Putin endorsement is only beneficial to Trump if it's kept a secret, so naturally Democrats tried to make as much noise about it as possible, while Republicans downplayed it.

At 11:50 AM, December 14, 2016, Blogger Joshua Kronengold said...

I see several of your commenters are positive on Russian spies releasing DNC hacked data.

Would they be as positive about also seeing RNC hacked data? After all, the Russians got both, but for some reason, they only released one.

I find it difficult to reconcile this positivity around spying on a political party and Watergate, where the scandal of spying on a political party lead to a Presidential resignation and had that not happened would have lead to an impeachment and universal agreement that the scandal was a disgrace (to the point that at least 30 years of Presidential scandals borrowed its name, and the suffix is still synonymous with scandal).

At 12:16 PM, December 14, 2016, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joshua: That was an illegal break in for spying purposes by people working for the incumbent President against his opponent.

I don't think the U.S. is in a good position to complain about other countries hacking into emails in the U.S. after admitting to wiretapping Merkel's telephone. Or about other countries trying to influence a U.S. election after the U.S. President's unsuccessful attempt to influence a U.K. referendum.

At 5:46 AM, December 15, 2016, Anonymous Stephen Morris said...

The allegations against Russia are that they are the source of Hillary's emails and that they had a significant effect on people's voting choices. There is no 'fake news' to consider and no suggestion of Russia hacking into voting machines or otherwise compromising the electoral process. Just the emails, which have been verified by everyone involved as 'real news'.

No matter who the whistleblower is, I find the idea that 'exposing criminal activity is not consistent with democratic values' questionable at best. I want to know how un/qualified my elected representatives are, preferably before I elect them.

The manner in which their flaws are exposed is of secondary concern, and can be assessed in isolation post-fact without regard to their effect on the election. There is no question of the emails' validity, nor of the DNC's attempts to rig the Primary for HRC. If this information was gained legally, it has no bearing on the result of the election.

As a UK resident I met Obama's intervention in the Brexit debate with derision, along with those of other political leaders. However, had he released previously secret information that was likely to affect the outcome of the debate, I would have been thankful. However, our referendum was not a choice between candidates but between political directions, so the comparisons aren't exact.

At 12:49 PM, December 16, 2016, Blogger Trumpit said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7:17 AM, January 04, 2017, Blogger Bravin Neff said...

It matters *how* the ox is gored, if you have any semblance of non-cosequentialist leanings. In the calculus of oughts and ought-nots, the results aren't just the basis of value, the how is too.

North Korea's dear leader Kim Jung Un publicly endorsed Donald Trump prior to the election, possibly to influence American voters he had sway over (please assume such people exist). This amounts to using argument. Is that as bad as hacking private communication?

At 4:34 PM, January 04, 2017, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree that accessing private communications is different from endorsing someone. But, as I pointed out in response to an earlier comment, the U.S. is in a poor position to complain about other countries accessing private communications given that U.S. agencies routinely do so--up to and including tapping the cell phone of the prime minister of a U.S. ally.

At 8:52 PM, January 05, 2017, Blogger Bravin Neff said...

Its a fair point that the US has espionage to atone for, and complaints from the US absent any recognition of this fact smacks of hypocrisy.


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