Nothing is so passionately embraced by American elites as a rollicking good red scare. These cynical crazes erupt especially after long wars (none longer than the War on Terror) when citizens start to ask for a larger slice of the economic pie in exchange for their sacrifices; hence, the Red Scare after World War I and the McCarthy scourge after World War II. Authorities thereby divert attention from their poor performance, smear opponents, quell dissent, stuff coffers of wealthy patrons, control the news narrative, and rein in civil liberties. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, terrorist alerts filled in ably enough as substitute diversionary devices but the classics are hard to surpass.

The news media can be counted on to stoke a swiftly resurrected Cold War hysteria. The anointed culprit is Russia, with China somewhere in the shadows. Why them? Because anyone the US can’t push around is deemed a mortal enemy against whom anything you can get away with goes. Nations spy on their enemies, according to an accurate adage, and collect information on their friends. Everybody is at it, nonstop. What should come as a surprise is that Russia, with a fraction of the surveillance capabilities the US wields, should be depicted as possessing magical power to alter US elections, unnoticed and unopposed.

Is any pundit be so bold as to inquire just when the US was reduced to, in Nixon’s infamous phrase, a “pitiful, helpless giant” by mere keyboard wizardry? Has it occurred to objective observers to ask if a foreign agency can rig elections then why can’t American agencies do so too? After all, whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed what anyone paying attention already knew, that US surveillance operates without restraint. James Clapper, then Director of National Intelligence, lied freely under oath to Congress in 2013 about NSA spying on Americans.

President Obama correctly noted about the fuss that, “Frankly, both offensively and defensively we have more capacity.” So why can’t the US with the world’s most sophisticated apparatuses not fend off cyberattacks? Not one indignant commentator brought up these obvious questions. US Intelligence agencies, after all, boast a rich and proven history of meddling in foreign elections.

Contrary to the blizzard of accusations, the Directorate of National Intelligence and Department of Homeland Security in October jointly stated they lacked evidence of Russian complicity in the leak of documents to WikiLeaks, saying at most that leaks were “consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.” The Washington Post claimed some 200 news sites “wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda,” though all one needed to do to qualify as ‘unwitting’ purveyor” is disagree with the slant of mainstream news. The Post reporter hilariously described as ‘independent” the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an ardent cold warrior haven within which comparatively sober member Henry Kissinger is no doubt regarded as a bleeding heart. The Post story conferred upon ProporNot, a suspicious anonymous group, the status of arbiter of who is and isn’t some sort of spy or dupe.

The New York Times, not to be outdone, featured a sensational hacking story that could not suit the Clinton camp better if it had been scribbled by Hillary herself. The tale even manages to smear the Sanders campaign for one instance of “improper access to her campaign data,” while Hlllary’s campaign supposedly ran a clean show, except that WikiLeaks revealed they did not. Nabbing a cyberattacker, the New York Times shyly admits, “is more art than science” and it is “often impossible to name an attacker with complete certainty,” but goes on to assert they can anyway. The spectacle of liberals gleefully lining up to exploit red scare tactics to serve their own ends has been a sad sight to behold.

Do only Russians try to rig elections? Republicans might have explaining to do as to why results favour them when electronic paperless machines are used. Julian Assange and former British ambassador Craig Murray attest that WikiLeaks material resulted from a leak, not a hack, but the media brushes denials aside. (Murray, a critic of US policy, recently was denied a US visa.) And why would clever Russian agents be so stupid as to use the name of a founder of Soviet security services to label a hacking procedure?

Ray McGovern, William Binney, former senator Mike Gravel and other veteran intelligence dissidents retorted in a joint statement that in light of the NSA’s “extensive trace capability” the servers “were, in fact, not hacked . . .The evidence that should be there is absent; otherwise, it would surely be brought forward, since this could be done without any danger to sources and methods. Thus, we conclude that the emails were leaked by an insider — as was the case with Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning “.

They cannot help but observe that “it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone — Russian or not — attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.”

The media remorselessly is swamped with allegations spun as facts anyway. What we are watching is a self-serving trope that Clinton Democrats, intelligence agencies, defence industries, diehard cold warriors and anti-Trump conservatives can join hands in promoting against Putin, Wikileaks, and anyone a hair to the left of Clinton. The stratagem, if successful, would enable the Democratic Party to draw all the wrong lessons from its loss. More likely, this lurid yarn will fade, like the Iraqi WMD fable, with no official apology or retraction.

The writers are authors of No Clean Hands and Parables of Permanent War.