NPR, an icon of the “reality-based community,” is pushing a ridiculous conspiracy theory that the NRA was infiltrated by Russians and helped Moscow subvert the democratic process and elect Donald Trump president.
This sordid tale begins with a Kremlin-lackey named Alexander Torshin, who, according to NPR, has “cultivated a years-long relationship with the organization.” This crafty Russian had anticipated that Donald Trump would run against Clinton in 2016, and so decided to become a life member and openly support the organization back in 2012, paying nothing more than his minimal dues for years patiently waiting to infiltrate the United States government at some point in the future.
Because, as you might suspect, without Russia, the NRA, which hasn’t substantively changed a position on any gun-related issue in a very long time, would have been far less antagonistic towards Hillary Clinton, a candidate, who when asked which enemy she was most proud of, named the gun rights organization.
The author of this excellent piece, David Harsanyi, has a lot of fun with the theory, including an analysis of this breathless tweet from the taxpayer-funded radio network:
NRA, In New Document, Acknowledges More Than 20 Russian-Linked Contributors https://t.co/OoZn9HFHEj
— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) April 11, 2018
This document (also known as a “letter”) prompted headlines that ranged from “The NRA received donations from Russian nationals” to “NRA discloses additional contributions from Russian donors.” All of which probably sounded pretty damning to anyone who didn’t read past a headline. Those who did, on the other hand, would soon learn that Russian “nationals” meant 23 “Russian-linked” individuals — some of them Americans citizens living in Russia — who had contributed around $2,300 total, mostly in membership dues, over three years’ time. Approximately $525 of that sum came from “two individuals who made contributions to the NRA.”
And Harsanyi puts his finger directly on the pervasive hysteria about Russia among Trump enemies:
Now, you don’t have to agree with the NRA. But you should try planting one foot in reality. The idea that this kind story is worth publishing, much less framing in a conspiratorial, gotcha light, as many news outlets did, would be puzzling in any other era of journalism. Today, even though there’s no evidence of illegality (it’s unlawful for the NRA’s political shop to accept foreign contributions, not for the organization to have members in other nations), or for that matter, even any proof that substantial legal monies had changed hands, the stories still intimated wrongdoing.
It is true that an NRA spokesperson, asked about Torshin, initially claimed that he knew of only one Russian who had contributed to the organization. As it turns out, there were a couple dozen, out of millions of members and donations over the past three years. The NRA does itself no favors answering politically motivated questions in the first place. Because Wyden, who apparently subscribes to The New York Times’ notion that defending your rights just makes you seem guilty, told ABC News that he is now considering “additional oversight actions.” Why? One imagines, because the NRA didn’t come back with an answer that implicated itself in shady behavior. Which is how an open-ended smear works.
At bottom, the anti-Trump media believes that all 160 million Russians work directly for Vladimir Putin so that any Tom, Dick, or Ivan who happens to be mentioned in a story about Trump and Russia immediately becomes a direct conduit to Putin and a suspect in the collusion “case.”
It reminds me of the heady days of the John Birch Society and other right-wing nutcases who believed the Soviets had infiltrated every aspect of American society. Mistaking the dalliances of many liberals with communism during the Great Depression for evidence that they were all Soviet spies was as ludicrous as any conspiracy involving Russians today. It’s just ironic that the two ideological sides would have switched places. The stupidity of both is the only constant.