Yesterday Hillary Clinton appeared onstage at the Code tech conference in California.
She took questions from two journalists who joined her onstage, as well as questions from the audience. And of course she was asked about her defeat in the 2016 election.
Anyone who follows Hillary in the news would expect that she’d respond as per her usual: the proximate causes of her loss were Jim Comey’s statements about the FBI investigation into her use of a private e-mail server, as well as Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Secretary Clinton went much further than this, however. She openly espoused conspiracy theories about Russians and the 2016 election. I call these conspiracy theories because they’re supported by no evidence whatsoever.
At Code, Hillary said, among other things:
- Wikileaks and Russia are “the same thing.”
- The Russians’ massive influence operation aimed at getting Trump elected in 2016 is just the tip of the iceberg: there’s no way they could’ve been effective without “guidance” from Americans, so there must’ve been close, real-time coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
- There’s something fishy about Cambridge Analytica’s role in providing data to the Trump campaign. For one thing, their information was too good. She heavily implied that Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway are all part of the vast conspiracy that involves the Russians.
- The at least 300 Macedonian villagers who made money off of fake news sites in 2016 were operating under the direction of the Russians.
- Hillary was a victim of biased coverage by major mainstream media, including The Washington Post and The New York Times.
- Russia had 1,000 people on Facebook spreading lies about Hillary.
There’s literally not a shred of evidence for any of these claims. It’s remarkable to see someone of Hillary Clinton’s stature peddling conjecture on this scale. And no, Donald Trump is not a person of Hillary Clinton’s stature.
In 1998, Hillary famously told Matt Lauer that a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was to blame for the Monica Lewinsky scandal. But I don’t remember her ever really going into detail and connecting specific dots. As a matter of fact, in the Lauer interview she merely asserted that a conspiracy existed, and invited the media to uncover it.
“The great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
–Hillary Clinton, Today interview, Jan. 27, 1998
Hillary went much further than that yesterday at the Code conference. She made specific accusations, apparently based on nothing except her feeling that these are the most plausible (and self-exculpatory) explanations of what happened.
To me her speculations sounded like they were inspired by the likes of Louise Mensch. Maybe it’s just a case of great minds thinking alike. But all the elements were there:
- Conspiracies of an almost unimaginable scale, crossing dozens of international borders and involving thousands of people and millions of dollars.
- Well-meaning allies (in Hillary’s telling, WaPo and NYT, who reported on her private e-mail server “like it was Pearl Harbor”) that served as unwitting “useful idiots” in the plot.
- The conspiratorial “reality” being completely at odds with what we thought we knew (according to Hillary, Trump’s apparently disorganized, chaotic campaign was actually a well-oiled machine capable of conspiring in real-time with the Russians via an as-yet-undetected method, as well as marshaling information much more quickly and efficiently than Hillary’s dream team).
- Hints that her intelligence community friends have confirmed her theories on the down-low.
As far as I can tell, this is Hillary’s form of pushback against the version of history that was extensively documented in Shattered: Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doomed by the candidate herself, her team’s overconfidence and lack of imagination and–most egregious of all–the seeming inability of any of them to articulate a reason why the candidate was running for president.
The stakes for Hillary Clinton are huge: for a person who’d spent decades dreaming of going down in history as the first female American president, she’d much rather be remembered as a victim of “information warfare” than as a deeply flawed candidate and unintuitive politician who had blown an eminently winnable election against an unpopular, scandal-prone political novice.
Will it work? I don’t think that Hillary’s pushback will get much traction among people who aren’t her big fans. One of the reasons why Shattered has made such an impact is that it makes sense based on what we witnessed in 2016. It’s not as if the campaign and the election took place behind a curtain–we all saw what happened.
The beauty of the conspiracies being promoted by Louise Mensch, and now by Hillary Clinton, is that they’ll probably never be confirmed one way or the other. Did the Macedonian village of Veles become a factory for fake election news on Vladimir Putin’s orders? It seems like a long shot (why Macedonia?), particularly because the villagers themselves haven’t been shy about talking about how and why (money) they came up with their websites. But you’ll never prove it either way..
But history doesn’t like unsupported conspiracy theories. It likes documented accounts of events. And eventually, what’s currently classified information will be released to the public. People will be able to draw their own conclusions about whether or not the FBI, CIA and NSA had a sufficient basis to conclude that the Russians interfered on Trump’s behalf in 2016, and how likely it was that they were in cahoots with Trump himself.