'Politics'
Quick Note on the DNC Leaks
28th July 2016
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DNC Leaks = Lots of leaked electronic documents (emails and phone data) from the Democratic National Committee, the blue political party in the USA. Wikileaks posted a lot of them last year from an anonymous source.

They haven’t been talked about much by most of the media, especially in the UK, so I thought I’d give a summary discussion here.

 

What are the DNC Leaks?

The ‘DNC Leaks’ are a trove of documents released by WikiLeaks which are from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which is the top group in the Democratic Party. They were ‘stolen’, in that they weren’t meant to be released to the public and were hacked in some form. This ‘hacking’ could mean that an outsider (individual or foreign state) broke through the security to get it, or it could mean that an insider who already had access took them (as in many other whistleblower cases); as per WikiLeaks standard, the source is kept anonymous.

NB: the USA party political system is different to the UK’s – actually, the UK is the more unusual one. The President, with the ‘administration’ or ‘government’ (and also candidates in presidential elections) is separate to the legislature or parliament (Congress and the Senate), and separate to the Democratic Party. The party is the overall organisation, the president and senators are representatives from it, but the president is not in charge of the party or the senators/congresspeople.

 

What do they show?

The DNC Leaks show that the Democratic Party was strongly biased in the Clinton v Sanders campaign for Presidential nominee. The DNC is meant to be neutral (and stated many times that it was neutral), so that a democratic process of party members can choose its nominee. The evidence is very strong that they were corrupt in this.

They show that DNC members – people with high positions in the Democratic Party – were involved on the Clinton side of the campaign. This involved planting pro-Clinton stories and spinning in Clintons favour in involvement with media outlets on stories relating to the campaign, as well as helping with strategies for the Clinton campaign.

The campaign was not to the standard it should be in any case: the media was hugely biased against Bernie Sanders, for example giving him much reduced airtime and reporting negatively against him and his campaign (in an unjustified manner). Media bias is one thing; violation of the neutrality of the party is another. This was more than just a slight bias, and though there’s no way of knowing whether this bias was enough to change the outcome of the campaign, it was very close (55% to Clinton, 45% to Sanders).

For more detail, take a look yourself. A starting point I found is this Snopes article, but as all of the leaks are public there are many other online outlets analysing the leaks.

 

The Impact?

The chairperson of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, lost her position as chair of the party.  So far there doesn’t seem to be much impact, and Sanders is not fighting against Clinton, instead endorsing her and going along with it. The approach seems to be to focus on the convention (the big annual conference of the party, which is/was this week) and then on the Presidential campaign and election, which is in early November.

 

Response?

The Clinton campaign – which is bigger and more important than the DNC because of the presidential election – is unsurprisingly not doing anything positive about this. Instead, they are trying to dismiss it.

One big focus is to say that the hack was done by ‘the Russians’ as an attempt to interfere with US politics and undermine the Clinton campaign (see video of campaign spokesperson). However, there is no actual evidence for this and the basis is vague assertion that it helps Russian interest. This talking point fits with the current anti-Russian narrative – in reality Russia is not a threat to the west (source: Nato General) and it is the west being the aggressors.

It has also been described as ‘electronic terrorism’ by President Obama and Vice-President Biden (and probably others). This is not new in this case, but is part of a recent expansion of use of the concept of ‘terrorism’, which has always been somewhat absurd and has now become even more absurd. Snowden was at least described only as a traitor and a spy, not a terrorist (even though in the UK, it was treated as potential terrorism). ‘Terrorism’ is a vacuous concept that boils down to ‘things we don’t like’*. but at least usually involves some sort of violent action done for political gain. The release of documents – not even sensitive national security ones, as in other cases, but relating to the function of a political party – is clearly in the public interest to be known and is not legitimately described as terrorism in any way.

Treating the publication of information that shows flagrant breaches of democracy by a political party as ‘terrorism’ is an action far more like that of an authoritarian state than a democratic one.

No wonder Assange remains hidden inside the Ecuadorian embassy (which, as a reminder, was ruled to be a breach of his human rights and of legal process by a UN body due to the way Sweden and the UK have handled the case against him, such as issuing an arrest warrant without him being charged, refusing to interview him in the UK, and refusing to guarantee he won’t be extradited to the USA from Sweden). Good discussion of it in this article. There is a telling moment in the interview with the spokesperson (at 0:51) where she starts a sentence by saying that Assange is ‘held in’ the Ecuadorian embassy, before correcting herself to say ‘holding himself in’ the embassy; this is a good example of how language affects meaning and thought and shows some doublethink, where the spokesperson is convincing herself of an untruth inside her mind.

 

*As a brief discussion of the phrase: 1) mass attacks are described as ‘terrorism’ if done by someone with brown skin, but not when it’s by someone with white skin. School shootings are described as ‘mentally unstable’ white men, not terrorists. Whereas if somebody is brown and Islamic State claims some sort of link, they are a terrorist: the attacker in Nice was not a religious muslim, instead being a generic mass attack person who was unhappy and wanted to make a big impact in the world on their way out; the Orlando shooter was also not really an agent of ISIS (he only said Islamic State towards the end to increase media attention). 2) Terrorism can never be perpetrated by a State, even when that includes bombing attacks on civilians, illegally invading other countries (Iraq), or meddling with other countries to destabilise their leaders as with Syria and Libya (which is also illegal, the crime of aggression, and has never been about helping the citizens or spreading democracy).