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Russiagate, Lies, and Sufficient Evidence: A Critical View on a Matter with Political Stakes

“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything based on insufficient evidence.”1

In this essay I will discuss the various epistemological issues that surround the topic of Russiagate. While the nature of the matter is deep and complex with developments unfolding while this essay was written2, I will attempt to simplify the matter by identifying critically the underlying issues as briefly as possible. The attempt to do so critically in such a matter does not seem to be common throughout the current academic discourse, unless it consists of some attempts to justify Trumpism and succumbing to rationales that are farthest from critical. While the task of academia concerning Russiagate calls for a critical assessment of the matter, instead, while a war is wagged against it by the delirium of Trump-induced politics, academia has for the most part responded with an uncritical acceptance of a discourse largely imposed by liberal media and the US government3. Although sensible at times of conflict, academia’s uncritical allegiance to such discourse through a form of the enemy of my enemy is my friend logic, does not alleviate the issue in any sensible way and only exasperates the current political climate. To narrow the focus, I will frame the discussion specifically around the The Intelligence Community Assessment report released on 6 January 2017, due to its questionable method of deriving evidence of crucial political importance and how it was disclosed to the public. In framing the discussion around this report, I will attempt to identify the distinctions between lying and misleading according to Jennifer Saul’s. definitions. After doing so, I will discuss the topic of moral responsibility in relation to the question concerning whose responsibility is it for misleading or becoming successfully mislead: that of the US government, the US media, or an uncritical public? Lastly, the repercussions of letting the current uncritical climate surrounding the issue of Russiagate to unfold will be posited as a problem. In conclusion, I will argue that a radical transformation of how sufficient evidence is gathered by the American State and communicated to its people, is an imperative, if Americans want to avoid their country succumbing into a State with values that are antithetical to the ones that it preaches.

Context of Events

On 6 January 2017, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released the report The Intelligence Community Assessment providing a method to assess the likelihood of Russian interference in US Presidential Election of 2016 in terms of a probability scale based on the “judgment of likelihood” of the intelligence community. Thus, it could be said that the report was based on judgments, estimations and opinion of the US intelligence agencies rather than on sufficient evidence. Despite this procedure of assessment, the DNI was pragmatic enough to point out that the report does not entail concrete evidence of Russian interference, but rather, an assessment that concludes with high likelihood of such interference. As the report admittedly states, even in the case of ‘high confidence’ probability derived from the assessment gathered by the intelligence community, it “does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong”4. Despite the report’s questionable method of deriving evidence of crucial political importance based on probabilities and judgments rather than concrete facts and evidence, it might at least be worth granting that the report explicitly suggests not to confuse the former with the later. Therefore, despite what claims one derives based on this report, the report itself contains a self-critical disclaimer that acknowledges an insufficiency, on which the absolute certainty of the claim that Russia interfered in the US Presidential Election of 2016 can be made.

Although some praise has been given to this specific instance where some adherence to sufficient evidence is seen in this report, a more critical and skeptical evaluation of how the Russiagate issue is investigated and reported by the US intelligence community, will be returned to below. The discussion that follows will concern how this specific report was used as a reference to produce miscued rhetorical statements on both ends: media that used it as proof of Russia’s interference in the US Presidential Election as an absolute certainty, and media that used the probability assessment in the report as a ground on which Russian interference in US elections can be challenged and denied.

A range of news sources have reported or assumed that based on the January 2017 report, 17 agencies reported that Russia interfered in U.S elections including NBC News5, MSNBC6, Fox News7 and The Guardian8. While the Director of National Intelligence does speak on behalf of 17 intelligence agencies, the work that led to the assessment about Russian interference came from only four of the 17 — the CIA, FBI, ODNI and NSA9. However, the actual matter was that only CIA, NSA, FBI and ODNI where the only 4 agencies that made this report, not 17, but regardless the miscued facts “either way“ the liberal and anti-Trump media claimed “Russia conclusion is still valid”10. Prominent figures such as Hillary Clinton have also used this report to rhetorically miscue the fact that only 4 agencies made the assessment of the report, not 17:

Read the declassified report by the intelligence community that came out in early January…Seventeen agencies, all in agreement – which I know from my experience as a senator and secretary of state is hard to get – they concluded with ‘high confidence’ that the Russians ran an extensive information war against my campaign to influence voters in the election.11

While the January 2017 does express ‘high confidence’ that Russia attempted to undermine her campaign, the conclusion comes from 4 intelligence agencies, not 17. Moreover, the specific detail about the epistemological uncertainty of an evaluation based on judgments and probabilities mentioned in the report itself has not been picked up by the media nor mentioned by Hillary Clinton. Given the way in which the U.S Media and figures such as Hillary Clinton used the report of 6 January 2017 to derive a misleading claim, the question that will now be turned to concerns whose moral responsibility is—whether intentionally or unintentionally—for making misleading claims? Is it the public’s responsibility for becoming mislead, the media responsibility for creating intentionally or unintentionally misleading claims, or a responsibility of the U.S intelligence agencies whose January 2017 report, although based on sensible procedures, was easily transformed into a basis on which misleading claims were produced?

Were the Government Agencies, the Media and Clinton Lying or Misleading?

Before answering the question concerning moral responsibility, it would first be helpful to use Jennifer Saul’s distinctions between the definition of lying and misleading. Saul’s most refined definition of lying as it is elaborately built-up throughout the argumentation in her work, consists of the following:

A person lies iff (1) They say that P; (2) They believe P to be false; (3) They take themself to be in a warranting context; (4) They are not speaking metaphorically, hyperbolically, or ironically; (5) They are not a victim of linguistic error or malapropism.12

While her definition of misleading relative to lying is defined as follows:

  • ‘Misleading’, unlike ‘lying’, is a success term. A has not misled B unless B believes A. A can, however, lie to B even if B does not believe A. In order to pinpoint the issue correctly, successful lying is what should be compared to misleading; and lying should be compared to attempting to mislead.
  • Lying, unlike misleading, must be deliberate. I cannot accidentally lie to you, but I can accidentally mislead you. There is absolutely no puzzle about why lying should be morally worse than accidental misleading—deliberately doing something bad is uncontroversially morally worse than accidentally doing something bad. My focus, then, is on the puzzling cases: those in which we contrast lying with deliberate misleading.13

With the distinctions and definitions between lying and misleading in place, it is now possible to translate these delineations onto the matter in question. To begin with, it would make sense to start with the origin of the matter on Russian interference with the January 2017 report. At first, it seems that it is hard to categorize the intelligence community as deliberately attempting to lie in accordance to the definition that Saul gives. Even if hypothetically considering the scenario where all evidence on Russian interference was deliberately fabricated by the intelligence community as an attempt to justify an attack on Russia for example, it would satisfy points 1-4, but what would remain unsatisfied, is point 5: “They are not a victim of linguistic error or malapropism”. If in the case of the January 2017 report, the “linguistic error or malapropism” can be equated to the questionable method of assessment—based on opinions and probabilities of the intelligence community—then in such case, it would not be altogether sensible to say that the intelligence community was lying. Rather, the intelligence community in the January 2017 report could be considered to have fairly carried out the assessment procedures that were necessary to evaluate the judgments of the community; if anything, the intelligence community could be accused of misleading, of which, quite a few instances can be provided14. However, given Saul’s definition of misleading also states that “lying should be compared to attempting to mislead”, if the intelligence community deliberately attempted to mislead the public through a questionable method of assessment, it could therefore be considered lying. Since the motivations and intentions of the intelligence community would potentially never be known to the public, it seems that it is not possible to fully determine whether the US intelligence community was lying or misleading. The only question that is possible and necessary to ask is a moral one: should the intelligence community have the moral responsibility over how its report was used by the media to produce misleading public opinions? This question will be returned to below after the case of media is entertained.

The question concerning whether Hillary Clinton and the media was engaged in lying or misleading can be considered more straightforwardly. Given Hillary’s statement that “seventeen agencies…concluded with ‘high confidence’ that the Russians ran an extensive information war against my campaign to influence voters in the election”, we can see that unlike many other media sources, Clinton mentions that the January 2017 did say the phrase ‘high confidence’ rather than some other phrase claiming that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections is absolutely certain. In this sense, Clinton has said a truth based on the statements made by the January 2017 report; whether her words are used by the media to claim that Hillary stated that Russia is definetly proven to have interfered in U.S election, would therefore entail that the media was the one producing misleading statements, not Clinton. Whereas, in the case of Clinton saying that 17 agencies have “concluded” that “the Russians ran an extensive information war against my campaign to influence voters in the election”, when in fact only 4 agencies “concluded” such a thesis, would entail a misleading statement. The claim concerning that 17 agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in Clinton’s campaign, certainly satisfies the definition of misleading, since perhaps, Saul’s definition of lying according to point 4), cannot be fully satisfied: “They are not speaking metaphorically, hyperbolically, or ironically”. Given that the statement that 17 agencies could be considered as a rhetorical and metaphorical device to mask the fact that although only 4 agencies concluded that Russian interfered in U.S. elections, non of the 17 explicitly denied the fact. Since 13 agencies did not participate in creating the report, nor issuing any statements regarding the matter, gives some room to create a misleading metaphor based on the following logic: if 13 agencies have not explicitly denied that “the Russians” interfered in U.S elections, then they can be considered unexplicitly agreeing with the claim15. Thus giving room to make the argument that Clinton and the media were misleading rather than lying.

Responsibility for Misleading or Being Mislead

With the discussion about the government agencies, media, and Clinton concerning lying and misleading, the discussion now proceeds to the public and its responsibility regarding the outcome of it becoming mislead. The premise on which the argument that the public must be responsible for choosing to be mislead and not challenging their beliefs is first derived based on the difference between lying and misleading discussed above. Misleading is different from lying precisely because in the case of misleading, the person being mislead can be accused of not dealing with the effect of being successfully mislead. As Saul clarifies “‘Misleading’, unlike ‘lying’, is a success term”16, meaning that a person telling a lie is responsible regardless of whether they are believed, whereas a person misleads only insofar another person becomes successfully mislead. This points to a further derived claim positing that the mislead person themselves should to some degree, bare some responsibility for being successfully mislead—a view derived based on Kant’s reason for putting a moral emphasis on the person who does not challenge or suspends their beliefs:

The victim of a misleading bears partial responsibility for her false belief; because responsibility for the false belief is shared in this way, the misleading speaker is not as culpable as the liar.17

At first, it seems that the U.S intelligence community who compiled the report cannot be blamed for misleading since the report itself contains a self-critical disclaimer stating that it “does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty”. However, according to Saul’s argumentation, the U.S intelligence community can still be deemed morally responsible for how this information was used to mislead the public by employing a probability assessment rather than reporting concrete evidence. Even if misleading the public can be done accidentally, the moral responsibility can still fall on the U.S intelligence community for producing a report that became easily misleading for the public. There are also ways of legitimizing the need to deceive and mislead, for example, there can be an occasional legitimate need to commit violent acts in the case of self-defense or in defense of someone else18. If this was the case, then the intelligence community justifying the production of easily misleading statements for the sake of justifying a geopolitical act against Russia, would be very secretive and a severe violation of democratic procedures. However, as it has been demonstrated above, the 6 January 2017 report does not inherently rely on misleading claims, although certain misleading claims were derived from it by the media, which can also attribute some moral responsibility to the U.S intelligences for not considering how these claims will become miscued by the media, a point to which I will return to below. Provided that the U.S. media and government agencies are not conspiring to deliberately produce a narrative that Russia hacked U.S. Presidential Elections 2016 by misleading the public to take (A) judgments and probability assessments for (B) concrete evidence, I will first entertain and dismiss a view that attributes moral responsibility on the public based on its rational incapacity to distinguish the difference between A and B. I will attempt to show that it is ultimately the responsibility of the U.S. government for not accounting how its claims were instrumentalized for rhetorical and misleading purposes. I will trace Saul’s argument which avoids the emphasis on the moral responsibility of the public19 and instead show how this responsibility must lie on the media and reporting made by the U.S intelligence agencies.

Returning to the view that the individual bears responsibility for being mislead, we can identify the potential way in which this responsibility must be attributed not to the individual, but to the entity who does the misleading. Thus, the attack is against the view that the mislead person bears partial (if not complete20) responsibility for being misled. In defense of the mislead person, Saul distinguishes the act of immediately grasping a misleading claim and the process of inferring based on a given misleading claim21. What Saul opens to consideration, is the myriad of “unconscious references” that occur in the form of inferences among individuals who end up believing in false and misleading claims. Further, Mandelbaum and Quilty-Dunn argue that based on the inherent way in which the human acquisition system works, where rather than operating like that of an “ideal…Cartesian believer…who cautiously weighs evidence and suspends judgments until the evidence compels belief unto oneself”, the human mind tends to automatically accept beliefs before proceeding to falsify them22. What this account of human psychology demonstrates is that it is not sufficient to assume that most humans are self-critical Cartesian or Kantians who fully suspend their beliefs a have the inherent ability to reason using all their faculties of reason when considering a false claim; eventually, all humans will believe falsehoods and misleading statements no matter how critical they might be due to the way in which the human belief acquisition system opperates. By accounting features of human psychology, the moral responsibility is thus translated back onto the entity who either deliberately or non-deliberately misleads others, since in making potentially misleading claims, one must consider the incorrect inferences that the public could make based on these claims, even if the method for deriving these claims was sensible and valid. In the case of the January 2017 report, this would entail that US intelligences should have considered how their overall valid assessment of judgments within the intelligence community would end up being taken for concrete evidence by the media, causing in turn, the perpetuation of mislead beliefs among the public. Given that the media is a sphere that mediates how information is reported by the government and spread throughout the public, a case can be made that it is the government’s and the media’s moral responsibility to assure that the public attains correct and valid claims23, rather than relying on the public to be the ideal critical Cartesian and Kantian thinkers.

Conclusion

To conclude, the media and the US government agencies certainly seem to have the greatest responsibility towards the appeal to truth and the consequences of produced misleading claims. Moreover, the media have the interest to mislead rather than lie since “once a lie has been revealed as such, trust collapses and further productive conversation becomes impossible” but once a misleading claim is revealed, “productive conversation remains possible, despite a reduction in trust (one ceases to trust what is implicated, while continuing to trust what is said)”24. This would therefore demonstrate why it is not the pro-Trump conservative or the anti-Trump liberal that must be morally blamed for believing false and misleading claims, but the media and the US intelligence agencies who did not account how a probability assessment would be inferred as concrete evidence by the public. Thus, the increase of false and misleading claims derived from reports made by US intelligence agencies is proportional to the rise in distrust in the government and its agencies (or “the establishment” as it is referred by some) while increasing the polarization in public opinion25. If there is reason why a liberal must be mad, then it should directed at the situation in which conservative and pro-Trump media manage to make valid counterpoints to various misleading claims made by Hillary Clinton and the liberal media. While the government must ultimately be blamed for providing insufficient evidence and operating in a secretive fashion, thus obstructing the public from being informed based on sufficient evidence. For as long as this is not in place, the US will continue experiencing political turmoils as we see a country shift even further to the right. A Ford explicates:

And yet one year into the investigation by the federal government, we still have not seen one piece of concrete evidence that Russia either colluded with the Trump campaign or interfered in the US election. What we have instead are baseless assertions, sloppy reporting (even fake news), witch-hunting, and xenophobia. Taken as a whole, Russiagate is debilitating the real resistance in the US, escalating the US war machine, and shifting the political spectrum in the country even more to the right.26

Further, moral blame is not enough; a radical political transformation of the public is likely to also be necessary, allowing people to challenge their nationalism and American exceptionalism, and establish a fidelity to critical reason and sufficient evidence—through an embracement Clifford’s motto that “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything based on insufficient evidence”. As Mandelbaum’s and Quilty-Dunn’s pessimism suggests however, such an ambition might not be entirely possible based on the very way in which the human belief acquisition system operate, where the suspension of beliefs and judgments in light of sufficient evidence, will always reach a point of an impasse, even among the most critical individuals27. As a potential remedy to this fact, Saul suggests that when evaluating the morality of any act we should at least try to suspend our judgments regarding the agent who is carrying out the act. Whenever we attempt to evaluate the morality of any given act, we frequently become unaware about how often we also reflect “on the virtuousness of the actor”28, which is precisely what the public needs to unlearn:

My suggestion is that when we think about such cases, we often muddle together our thoughts about the morality of the acts and our thoughts about the morality of the agents—and that the latter often affects our judgements of the former29.

Provided that an average person, especially living in US is more likely to consider US more virtuous and Russia as less virtuous, then there will always be a clear tendency to favor statements made by the former than the later. But in suspending moral judgments about all actors, one can begin to assess critically how certain evidence is derived and evaluate the extent of its sufficiency, while urging the US government to provide concrete evidence (the end goal of which, might only be attained through a radical restructuring of relations between the American State and the public). In so doing, the public can avoid becoming mislead and deceived by statements perpetuated based on the lack of sufficient evidence while removing the assumption about the morality of particular acts, one can derive many mistakes based on how sufficient evidence is attained and reported. Thus, we must conceive the morality of a given act as an object independent from the judgement of the agent who commits the act. Supposing that allegedly Russia hacked US elections, then such state-sponsored attacks on American ‘democracy’ are likely to happen in the future again rather than not. If Americans truly want to justify their country’s benevolence in maintaining global ‘peace’ and responding to acts of aggression towards their country, then allegiance to belief based on sufficient evidence—in conjunction to open disclosure of such evidence—must be a priority if US actually want to live up to the ideals it preaches. Based on this ground, this will require a radical restructuring of how evidence is communicated to the public both in terms of media and the government. While the very way in which sufficient evidence becomes lost (or absent) under the hierarchies of bureaucratic government procedures and classified information—entails an attack not only on the public’s quest to derive beliefs on sufficient evidence, but an absolute assault to the ideals of human freedom, autonomy and democracy. Without transparency for the quest to truth, these values will remain nothing more than abstract ideals that mask an absence of these very ideals—or even their absolute negation:

The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy: they are deliberate exercises in doublethink.30

  1. William K. Clifford, The New World, Volume 5 (1896): pp. 327-347. 

  2. On April 18, 2019, an unclassified redacted version of the 448-page final “Muller report” was publicly released by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The political repercussions have yet to unfold. However, even in the wake of the Muller report, the release of truth to the public is largely obstructed by a myriad of incapacities of US government branches to provided sufficient evidence to its public. For example, the complete inability of of one intelligence agency to demand another intelligence agency to independently verify beliefs concerning Russia’s involvement in various activities along with the impediment of releasing evidence to the public based on classified grounds. Firstly, in the discussion on the GRU (Special Counsel concerning Russia’s Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation) officers involvement in hacking some electronic polling stations in the state of Florida, the report mentions the inadequacy that was encountered when it came to confirming and receiving this evidence from FBI and the DHS. Secondly, The Special Counsel (or “The Office” as it refers to itself in the document) substitutes this uncertainty by assuming the sufficiency of expressing trust and allegiance in the form of an “understanding” towards the agencies who have not confirmed this evidence. Thirdly, much of the information that could potentially be used to critically assess the validity of this evidence was sanitized by black strips containing labels “Investigative Technique”, “Harm to Ongoing Matter”, and “Personal Privacy” written on top: “While the investigation identified evidence that the GRU targeted these individuals and entities, the Office did not investigate further. The Office did not, for instance, obtain or examine servers or other relevant items belonging to these victims. The Office understands that the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the states have separately investigated that activity…Unit 74455 also sent spearphishing emails to public officials involved in election administration and personnel involved in voting technology. In August 2016, GRU officers targeted employees of [Personal Privacy], a voting technology company that developed software used by numerous U.S. counties to manage voter rolls, and installed malware on the company network. Similarly, in November 2016, the GRU sent spearphishing emails to over email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U.S. election. The spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer. The FBI was separately responsible for this investigation. We understand the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government. The Office did not independently verify that belief and, as explained above, did not undertake the investigative steps that would have been necessary to do so.” Quoted from the “Muller Report”, Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, released on April 18, 2019, pp.50-51. Retrieved from [https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf]. 

  3. Ford, Derek R. “US sovereignty must not be defended: Critical education against Russiagate, Educational Philosophy and Theory”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 51 (1):14-17 (2018). DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2018.1427574 

  4. DNI, “Intelligence Community Assessment”. Published 6 January 2017. Assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent US elections, p.13. Accessed on May 3rd, 2019. Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf 

  5. Goldman, Russell. “Russia’s RT: The Network Implicated in U.S. Election Meddling”, The New York Times, Jan. 7, 2017. Accessed on May 5th, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/07/world/europe/russias-rt-the-network-implicated-in-us-election-meddling.html] 

  6. Benen, Steve. “Donald Trump can’t make the Russia scandal go away”, NBC Universal, Jan. 13, 2017. Accessed on May 5th, 2019. Retrieved from [http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/donald-trump-cant-make-the-russia-scandal-go-away] 

  7. Fleitz, Fred. “Was Friday’s declassified report claiming Russian hacking of the 2016 election rigged?”, Fox News, Jan. 7, 2017. Accessed on May 5th, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/was-fridays-declassified-report-claiming-russian-hacking-of-the-2016-election-rigged] 

  8. Borger, Julian. “John McCain passes dossier alleging secret Trump-Russia contacts to FBI”, 11 Jan 2017. Accessed May 5th, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/10/fbi-chief-given-dossier-by-john-mccain-alleging-secret-trump-russia-contacts] 

  9. This misleading rhetorical statement was picked by the media. The flaw of this misleading reporting is twofold; first, is that out of the 17 intelligence agencies who were claimed by the media to confirm that there was no Russian interference, and only 4 of these agencies can be attributed to such a claim since these were the agencies who compiled and were subject to assessment in the 6 January 2017 report. Secondly, a less substantial but nevertheless sensible criticism concerning the misleading claim that 17 agencies reported that Russia interfered in U.S elections, is that this list of agencies includes organizations such as Marine Corps Intelligence (MCI) and Coast Guard Intelligence (CGI). Although these organizations are considered to be ‘intelligence agencies’, and reasonably so, it is not altogether clear how agencies such as the MCI and CGI can provide a sensible contribution in assessing Russian interference that allegedly consisted of computer hacking, election interference, collusion, instrumentalization of social media and news media. Unless Russia somehow carried out its interference using naval force, interfering with submarine communications cables, sabotaging U.S. elections through a marine attack, and so forth, then it would be more sensible to consider the judgments of MCI and CGI regarding such matters since it appertains to the area of their expertise. 

  10. Carroll, Lauren. “17 intelligence organizations or 4? Either way, Russia conclusion still valid”, Politfact. Published July 6th, 2017. Accessed on May 3rd, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/jul/06/17-intelligence-organizations-or-four-either-way-r/] 

  11. Hillary Clinton’s words in Meghann Farnsworth, “Watch Hillary Clinton’s full interview from our Code Conference”, Vox Media. Published May 31, 2017. Accessed May, 1 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.recode.net/2017/5/31/15716226/watch-live-hillary-clinton-code-conference-today] 

  12. Saul, Jennifer. Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 15. 

  13. Saul, p. 71. 

  14. To demonstrate all the ways in which the intelligence community produced many misleading claims in the 6 January 2017 report would require a lengthy elaboration beyond the confines that this paper permits. A rather entertaining commenting on the report can be accessed on Leo Goldstein’s website, Science For Humans and Freedom Institute, where along with the occasional questionable political comments, one can find fairly pragmatic and critical points that identify the numerous misleading claims that are contained in the 6 January 2017 report. Accessed 1 May 2019. Retrieved from: [https://defyccc.com/wp-content/uploads/ICA_2017_01_commented_2018_09.pdf]. Moreover, the 6 January 2017 report’s questionable focus on Russia Today, a news network controlled by the Russian government, the discussion of which, takes up a significant potion of the report. Although it is sensible to understand that with the advent of ever new ways of influencing elections by the means of rapidly evolving methods and technologies, it is not altogether clear how Russia Today is any different than other foreign state-run news agency that operates in U.S. As Ford states: “Seven out of the 20 pages of text of the public document—35 percent of the report!—is dedicated to Russia Today’s coverage of ‘divisive’ issues in the US. As evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, they highlight RT’s coverage of Occupy Wall Street, the anti-fracking movement, third-party political candidates, the surveillance state, corporate greed and corruption, and critiques of US foreign policy and wars.” (Ford, p.1) 

  15. See Carrol, Lauren. “Hillary Clinton blames high-up Russians for WikiLeaks releases”, Poynter Institute, October 19th, 2016. Accessed on May 3, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/oct/19/hillary-clinton/hillary-clinton-blames-russia-putin-wikileaks-rele/]. Carrol has made the argument that Hillary Clinton was not lying on the basis of a joint statement made by the DNI and DHS released on October 2016. “Joint Statement from the Department Of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security”, DHS: Homeland Security, October 7, 2016, Retrieved from [https://www.dhs.gov/news/2016/10/07/joint-statement-department-homeland-security-and-office-director-national]. Based on this statement, Carrol’s supposed argument is that since during in the October 2016 statement DNI was speaking on behalf of all 17 intelligence agencies, therefore making a case that Hillary Clinton was not lying, even if 17 separate agencies did not have to independently declare Russia as a perpetrator behind the hacks since DNI was speaking on their behalf. This argument remains true if based on Hillary Clinton’s claim she made on October 19th, 2016 in the third 2016 presidential debate, following the October 2016 join statement, while the January 2017 report that was compiled by only 4 agencies remained unreleased. However, Hillary Clinton has made many similar statements following the January 2017 report, which challenges her subsequent claims about 17 agencies jointly confirming that Russia interfered in US elections, since the truth following the January 2017 report is that only 4 agencies did so. Carrol is right to say that Clinton’s October 19th, 2016 claim at the time remains true, however, if one considers these statements in relation to the updated January 2017 report, or any similar statement made by Clinton following the release of report, then one has definite grounds to argue that Clinton has been lying or misleading. 

  16. Saul, p. 71. 

  17. From Saul, p.80. Saul also gives a more extensive descriptive version of view derivative of Kant’s view: ”The inferences involved in working out the referents of indexicals are mandatory in an important way: without them, the audience will not be able to arrive at a truth-evaluable content for the speaker’s utterance. If the audience gets to a false belief simply through working out what the speaker said (as in the case of a lie), they will have done so solely through mandatory inferences. But if they are merely misled, then they get to a false belief by engaging in some non-mandatory inferences. These inferences were not needed to get to a truth-evaluable content, because the audience could have carefully attended just to what was said. If they had done this, they would not have ended up with false beliefs. Thus, the audience bears partial responsibility for what occurs in a case of mere misleading. This is why lying is worse: the speaker bears all the responsibility for the outcome of the lie, but only partial responsibility for the outcome of the misleading utterance.” (Saul, p.82, emphasis my own). 

  18. Saul, p. 84-85. 

  19. According to the traditional view, lying is always morally worse than misleading. In the chapter “IV. Is Lying Worse than Merely Misleading?” of Lying, Misleading, and What Is Said however, Saul attempts to challenge this traditional view. Although an argument that certain misleading claims are morally worse than mere lies can certainly be made in many cases as Saul does, it is not altogether apparent if many such cases can be found in political matters. Morally assessing false and misleading claims would require a lengthy elaboration beyond which this essay permits, however, a brief if not rhetorical demonstration of what politics entails when lies become a common place, can be currently observed as on April 26th 2019, Donald Trump has surpassed 10’000 false or misleading stated claims since his first day as President of US. See Glenn Kessler, Meg Kelly, Salvador Rizzo and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “In 828 days, President Trump has made 10,111 false or misleading claims”, ‌Washington Post, May 19, 2017. Accessed on May 3, 2019. Retrieved from [https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claims-database/]. In light of these developments, the question then concerns whether the public must be deemed responsible for not challenging misleading claims that are made by either US intelligence agencies, the media, Clinton, or even Trump. 

  20. Saul distinguishes her reading from MacIntyre’s of the following Kant’s statement: “my duty is to assert [in our terms, say] only what is true and the mistaken inferences which others may draw from what I say or what I do are … not my responsibility, but theirs.” Saul claims that Kant’s view is that it is always the other’s moral responsibility to make correct inferences, whereas in MacIntyre’s case, the “…” is substituted with “in some cases at least”. Meaning that for Saul, Kant’s view entails that it is always the other’s moral responsibility to make correct inferences, whereas for MacIntyre, Kant’s view entails that is so only ‌in some cases. See (Saul p. 74, fn. 10). One page 96 however, Saul mentions the full quote without an ellipsis (…). 

  21. Saul, p. 81-2. 

  22. Mandelbaum, Eric and Quilty-Dunn, Jake. “Believing without Reason, or: Why Liberals Shouldn’t Watch Fox News” (The Harvard Review of Philosophy, Volume 22, Fall 2015), p. 42-52. DOI: 10.5840/harvardreview201522 

  23. Saul also gives another argument in support of the view that making the mislead person morally responsible for being mislead, cannot altogether dismiss the more significant moral responsibility originating from the entities producing misleading statements—or statements that can potentially become misleading down the line, in this case, the media and the government accordingly. To further demonstrate why the mislead person cannot be fully responsible for becoming mislead, Saul gives the example of the “careful victim” who in avoiding poorly lit and dangerous areas gets mugged nevertheless; and the “reckless victim”, who consciously walks through poorly lit areas and also gets mugged (Saul, p. 83). In both cases, “being partly responsible for a wrong done to one does nothing to alter the nature of that wrong”. Since the wrong in this case is the media and the government carrying actions that led to mislead and false beliefs among the public, the moral blame should be casted on these misleading entities rather than on the mislead public. 

  24. Saul, p. 78-9. 

  25. McIntyre, Lee. Post Truth (Cambridge:MIT Press, 2018). 

  26. The gesture of this conversation is largely based on Ford’s elaborated points of criticism. See Ford, Derek R. “US sovereignty must not be defended: Critical education against Russiagate, Educational Philosophy and Theory”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 51 (1):14-17 (2018). DOI: 10.1080/00131857.2018.1427574 

  27. Mandelbaum, Eric and Quilty-Dunn, Jake. “Believing without Reason, or: Why Liberals Shouldn’t Watch Fox News” (The Harvard Review of Philosophy, Volume 22, Fall 2015), p. 42-52. DOI: 10.5840/harvardreview201522 

  28. Saul, p. 86. 

  29. Saul, p. 87. 

  30. George Orwell, 1984,  Part II, Chapter IX. 

quill

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