PATRICK LAWRENCE: Could the Russians Seize Congress?

The Russians have been coming, off and on, for seven-plus decades. While these conjured imaginings may be laughable, the consequences of a culture of Cold War fear are far from funny. 

The U.S. Capitol at night from the Library of Congress, 2021. (Diane Krauthamer, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News

The Russians are coming — or coming back, better put.

As the November elections draw near, let us brace for another barrage of preposterous propaganda to the effect Russians are poisoning our minds with “disinformation,” “false narratives,” and all the other misnomers deployed when facts contradict liberal authoritarian orthodoxies.

We had a rich taste of this new round of lies and innuendo in late January, when Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who served as House speaker for far too long, asserted that the F.B.I. should investigate demonstrators demanding a ceasefire in Gaza for their ties, yes indeedy, to the Kremlin.

Here is Pelosi on CNN’s State of the Union program Jan. 28:

“For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine…. I think some financing should be investigated. And I want to ask the F.B.I. to investigate that.”

O.K., we have the template: If you say something that coincides with the Russian position, you will be accused of hiding your “ties to Russia,” as the common phrase has it.

Be careful not to mention some spring day that the sky is pleasantly blue: I am here to warn you—“make no mistake” — this is exactly what “Putin,” now stripped of a first name and a title, “would like to see.”

There is invariably an ulterior point when those in power try on tomfoolery of this kind. In each case they have something they need to explain away.

In 2016, it was Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the polls, so we suffered four years of Russiagate. Pelosi felt called upon to discredit those objecting to the Israeli–U.S. genocide in Gaza.

“Thank you Congress/Biden, your aid was received!” Protest against Israeli genocide in Freedom Plaza, Washington, D.C., Nov. 4, 2023. (Diane Krauthamer, Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Now we have a new ruse. Desperate to get Congress to authorize $60.1 billion in new aid to Ukraine, Capitol Hill warmongers charge that those objecting to this bad-money-after-bad allocation are… do I have to finish the sentence?

Two weeks ago Michael McCaul, a Republican representative who wants to see the long-blocked aid bill passed, asserted in an interview with Puck News that Russian propaganda has “infected a good chunk of my party’s base.” Here is the stupid-sounding congressman from Texas, as quoted in The Washington Post,  elaborating on our now-familiar theme:

“There are some more nighttime entertainment shows that seem to spin, like, I see the Russian propaganda in some of it — and it’s almost identical on our airwaves. These people that read various conspiracy-theory outlets that are just not accurate, and they actually model Russian propaganda.”

McCaul in 2023. (U.S. House Office of Photography, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

I read in the Post that McCaul’s staff abruptly cut short the interview when Julia Ioffe, a professional Russophobe who has bounced around from one publication to another for years, asked him to name a few names.

So was this latest ball of baloney set in motion.

A week after McCaul’s Puck News interview, Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican who, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, swings a bigger stick, escalated matters when, reacting to McCaul’s statements, reported that this grave Russian penetration was evident in the upper reaches of the American government, as again reported in The Washington Post:

“Oh, it is absolutely true. We see directly coming from Russia attempts to mask communications that are anti–Ukraine and pro–Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor.”

Masked communications uttered on the House floor: Hold the thought, as I will shortly return to it.

The VOA Rendition 

The taker of the cake — so far, anyway — arrived last week from Voice of America, the Central Intelligence Agency front posing as a radio broadcaster, under the headline, “How Russia’s disinformation campaign seeps into U.S. views.” Same theme: The Rrrrrussians are poisoning America’s otherwise pristine discourse in an effort to block authorization of the assistance bill, which also includes aid to Israel ($14.1 billion) and Taiwan ($4 billion).

To drive home its point, VOA quotes a lobbyist named Scott Cullinane, who works for something called Razom, which means “together” in the Ukrainian language. Razom is a non-governmental organization “formed in 2014 to support Ukrainians in their quest for freedom.” That is, Razom’s founding coincided with the coup in Kiev the U.S. orchestrated in February 2014.

Feb. 18, 2014: Protesters throwing pieces of brick pavement at Ukrainian troops obscured by the smoke of burning tires in Kiev. (Mstyslav Chernov, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Razom works with a variety of Ukrainian NGOs to advance this cause and sounds to me like a player in the old civil-society-subterfuge game, though one cannot be sure because, on its website and in its annual reports, it does not say, per usual in these sorts of cases, who funds it.

Here is a little of VOA’s report on Cullinane’s recent doings on Capitol Hill:

“On a near daily basis, Scott Cullinane talks with members of Congress about Russia’s war in Ukraine. As a lobbyist for the nonprofit Razom, part of his job is to convince them of Ukraine’s need for greater U.S. support to survive.

But as lawmakers debated a $95 billion package that includes about $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, Cullinane noticed an increase in narratives alleging Ukrainian corruption. What stood out is that these were the same talking points promoted by Russian disinformation.

So, when The Washington Post published an investigation into an extensive and coordinated Russian campaign to influence U.S. public opinion to deny Ukraine the aid, Cullinane says he was not surprised.

‘This problem has been festering and growing for years,’ he told VOA. ‘I believe that Russia’s best chance for victory is not on the battlefield, but through information operations targeted on Western capitals, including Washington.’”

Straight off the top, there has been no Washington Post “investigation.” The Post simply quoted two paranoid congressmen without bothering to question, never mind investigate, the veracity of their assertions.

Beyond this, the question of Ukrainian corruption is another case of the sky being blue. There is no “alleging” the Kiev regime’s corruption: It is thoroughly documented by, among other authorities, Transparency International, which ranks Ukraine among the world’s most corrupt nations.

You see what is going on here?  This is an echo chamber, ever treasured by the propagandists.

Puck News, a web publication of no great account, puts out a warmongering reporter’s interview with a warmongering congressman, The Washington Post reports it, another congressman seconds the assertions of the first, the Post reports that, and then VOA joins the proceedings to report that well-established, beyond-dispute facts are Russian disinformation.

And the echoes multiply, like the circles in a pond when a rock is tossed in. Here is how Tagesspiegel, a Berlin daily whose Russophobia dates to its founding during the U.S. occupation after World War II, reported on the assistance bill immediately after the VOA report:

“The controversy about the aid, which has already passed the U.S. Senate, is reflected in numerous posts on social media and articles on news sites. As The Washington Post reports, one actor has played a decisive role in this: the Russian government.”

When propaganda is king, you have to conclude, what goes around keeps going around.

It is well enough to laugh at this silly business, transparently calculated as it is.  Except that this kind of chicanery has a long history, and we learn from it that the Russians have been coming, off and on, for seven-plus decades. The consequences of these conjured imaginings, we also learn, are very other than funny.

When I decided to write the book that came out last autumn as Journalists and Their Shadows, exploring the past was essential to the project. If we want to understand our “press mess,” I call the current crisis in our media, we had better understand how it got this way.

President Harry Truman in 1948. (National Archives)

In the course of my researches into the exuberant anti–Communism of the early Cold War years, I came upon a lengthy takeout Look magazine published on Aug. 3, 1948, under the headline, “Could the Reds Seize Detroit?” This piece was exemplary of its time.

“Detroit is the industrial heart of America,” the writer began. “Today, a sickle is being sharpened to plunge into that heart…. The Reds are going boldly about their business.”

Before he finishes, James Metcalfe — let this byline be recorded — has Motor City besieged in “an all-out initial blow in the best blitzkrieg fashion.” The presentation featured masked Communists murdering police officers and telephone operators, seizing airports, blowing up bridges, power grids, rail lines, and highways.

“Caught in the madness of the moment, emboldened by the darkness, intoxicated by an unbridled license to kill and loot, mobs would swarm the streets.” Communist mobs, naturally.

It is easy to read this now with some combination of derision and contempt. Do we have any grounds to do so? Are we doing things so differently now?

There were dangers implicit in the Look piece. It published Metcalfe’s paranoic fantasy a year and a few months after President Harry Truman gave his famous “scare hell out of the American people” speech to Congress in March 1947. Look was in essence recruiting the public as the Truman administration launched the Cold War crusade.

Representatives McCaul and Turner are on a recruitment drive of the very same kind. They are not lying to one another in any kind of effort to clean up Congress. Do not wait for them to lift a finger on that score. They are lying to you and me in what amounts to a scare-hell operation.

And the danger this time is the same as the danger last time. It is the cultivation of a climate of fear wherein the American public is to acquiesce as the new Cold War proceeds and all manner of laws and constitutional rights are abused.

Last Friday the House reauthorized, for two more years, the law known as Section 702, which allows the intelligence cabal to surveille Americans’ digital communications — without warrants and on U.S. soil — if they claim to be targeting foreigners suspected of subversive activities.

What does this have to do with the way the paranoids on Capitol Hill, reporters at The Washington Post, and professional propagandists at VOA are currently carrying on about assistance to Ukraine?

Nothing. And everything.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for The International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows, available from Clarity Press or via Amazon.  Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

32 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Could the Russians Seize Congress?

  1. Jonathan Winters
    April 17, 2024 at 19:03

    “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!”

    Carl Reiner and Alan Arkin in a funny Hollywood film from 1966.
    Given the current low abilities in Hollywood, probably a lot better than anything produced recently.

    • Susan Siens
      April 18, 2024 at 15:52

      As grotesque as Hollywood was when that film was made — in bed with organized crime and the government — it’s beyond grotesque now with the Department of Offense running things.

  2. Jeff Harrison
    April 17, 2024 at 14:05

    When I read this:
    “Detroit is the industrial heart of America,” the writer began. “Today, a sickle is being sharpened to plunge into that heart…. The Reds are going boldly about their business.”
    I knew that fools were writing everything for the first Red Scare. A sickle does indeed have a sharp point but that’s not what’s sharpened. The curved part is what’s sharpened. It cuts weeds; it’s not used as a sword.
    In a related question, can stupidity be removed from Congress without major surgery?

    • Jonathan Winters
      April 17, 2024 at 19:15

      It couldn’t be recent. The Elites stripped and looted Detroit a long time ago, and left the inhabitants behind to fend for themselves with a message that read “Good Luck Suckers”, and lead pipes bringing poisoned water. Who needs an ‘industrial heart’ when there are billions of Chinese willing to work for cheap?

      BTW, since this is credited as 1948, this is not the “first Red Scare”. The first Red Scare was 20 years earlier, led by racist Woodrow Wilson’s Democrats. The Socialist Debs ended up in prison, for the crime of opposing a Democrat war, and conducted the 1920 Presidential election from his cell and getting several million votes IIRC. These earlier Democrats are responsible for passing The Espionage Act during this first Red Scare. The same Act being used by current Democrats to prosecute Julian Assange.

      This beginning of the McCarthy Era was at best the second Red Scare, and with Hoover forming the FBI in between, it wouldn’t surprise me if another Red Scare could have happened in these 20 years. 1948 was the rise of McCarthyism, and the fascists all having a public yell about “Who Lost China?”

      • Susan Siens
        April 18, 2024 at 15:54

        Thank you for providing history few people seem aware of, since Americans are deeply unfamiliar with their own country.

  3. Rafi Simonton
    April 17, 2024 at 00:01

    Nice to see the neocons have finally gotten their products in a row. New and improved! Now with the most conspiracy minded Republicans and their ’50s nostalgia! No longer just the Ds pushing blame for whatever they don’t like as some sort of Russian agenda.
    Of course we the inferior demos should defer to our betters, the econ and pol elites. They know what’s best. That has always worked ever so well as examples like David Halberstam’s //The Best and The Brightest// as well as Barbara Tuchman’s //The March of Folly// have attested to in grave detail.

  4. ZimInSeattle
    April 16, 2024 at 23:30

    “Could the Russians Seize Congress?” I doubt it. The Israelis already have a death grip on it.

    • Jonathan Winters
      April 17, 2024 at 20:39

      If this site had a Like button, consider it pressed. Although, more accurately its AIPAC money, or perhaps better to say “Jewish Lobby” money of which AIPAC is prominent. In the Best Democracy Money Can Buy, and where political pros will say that “Money is the Mother’s Milk of Politics”, this is the actual power. The perceived belief among politicians and their handlers that Jewish Lobby support means political victory, and that having it against you can end your career as a public fake, uh, politician. “It is wise to study the ways of one’s adversary, don’t you think” – Tom Clancy

      Too bad we don’t have a Democracy Movement anywhere around. Might be interesting to see if a one person one vote system did any better than the current one dollar one vote system?

      Congress is for sale, and near as I can figure, always has been. Is there any era of American history where it would be unthinkable and inconceivable that a Congresscritter would take a bribe? Nope. What would be highly surprising would be if the Russians could outbid the Israelis, the American bankers, and the American defense industry to buy even a small slice. And oops, I left out the Oil Industry, and a whole street full of DC lobbyists. Democracy don’t come cheap, and these people are experienced pros at the shakedown game.

  5. C.G. Braswell
    April 16, 2024 at 22:58

    But who was Harry Hopkins?

  6. wildthange
    April 16, 2024 at 21:04

    Probably Pelosi’s was the disinformation campaign and the real deal may be keeping Hillary out for culture war as in booting her also for Obama too. But then the McConnell deal for a held up Supreme Court also was a call for witch hitting. Close margins are an easy target in electoral college term. Then it back to the Biden Ukraine tricks that Hillary had been part of. The problem then is Trump has to be turned off.
    Nixon thought something was suspicious demographically but then he became favored for extending the Vietnam War a bit longer and he was in like flint. After LBJ got into hot water bombing to get elected when the South was going south they stopped him cold trying to get out. Like Casey sabotaged secret Carter attempts to free the Embassy hostages. All; is fair in war and love of political war.

  7. Eddie S
    April 16, 2024 at 20:23

    What makes the idea of a Russian invasion of the US in the late 40’s was the fact that they suffered huge losses in WWII – something like 26 MILLION people including about 8 million soldiers, so they were undoubtedly pretty much decimated. That idea sounds as ridiculous as the plot of the movie ‘Red Dawn’.

    • Susan Siens
      April 18, 2024 at 15:56

      And if one knows anything about the CPUSA, one knows they never posed a threat to anybody!

  8. kathleen
    April 16, 2024 at 17:38

    The country interfering with our election is not Russia but Israel, which, among other things, has announced a $100million budget to defeat progressives. But nobody seems worried about that.

  9. mikjall
    April 16, 2024 at 15:08

    The Russians seizing Congress might be the best thing that could possibly happen to the United States. To bad it’s just a fantasy of the congenitally stupid.

  10. Carolyn L Zaremba
    April 16, 2024 at 12:33

    This is why I love Patrick Lawrence. I recommend his book, by the way.

  11. Lois Gagnon
    April 16, 2024 at 12:02

    Projection is what the US propaganda machine engages in 24/7. Accusing Russia and any other government that disobeys US demands of doing what it does to them. It’s immature and dangerous.

  12. April 16, 2024 at 11:50

    Ba afraid! The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!

    • WillD
      April 16, 2024 at 21:26

      It might be exactly what the US needs to save it from this current mob of deranged lunatics that call themselves a government – not to mention the deep state that is so deep into the evils of war, destruction, killing and general mayhem that it isn’t funny.

      The US is a very very sick country, and desperately needs help.

      But who in their right mind would want to take on the job of cleaning it up?

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    April 16, 2024 at 11:30

    Yeah…and don’t forget the Martians…they is coming too.

  14. April 16, 2024 at 11:22

    The foreign government that owns Washington is Israel.

    By militarily backing Israel on Iran, Biden has elevated Israeli interests above US National Security. Is that impeachable?

    • April 16, 2024 at 15:14

      That’s right and if the Russian gov’t _were_ to control the US Congress, it couldn’t be any worse than the current Ziohazard control.

  15. Chris G
    April 16, 2024 at 11:09

    Seems to me that the ghost of Joe McCarthy has never left the halls of Congress. Hillary Clinton surely answered his call when she and her allies in the Deep State and Mainstream Media concocted the Russia-gate hoax. The success of that operation is clearly seen in the disastrous war in Ukraine and the ongoing lawfare attacks against Donald Trump.

    It’s ironic that as the new McCarthyism takes hold, the US becomes weaker and more divided, while Russia grows ever stronger and more confident in its global diplomacy and influence.

  16. Mary Saunders
    April 16, 2024 at 11:07

    One thing this does, for some listeners, is to emphasize the contrast between an interview of Putin as against an interview of Biden. Regarding numbers of eyes on news sources, it appears there are out-movements from legacy-sources to more recently put-together sources.

  17. Christian J Chuba
    April 16, 2024 at 11:02

    We need to have Zelensky identify these traitors in our Congress followed by mass arrests. Let’s show the world what the leader of the free world is made of. (sarcasm)

  18. Drew Hunkins
    April 16, 2024 at 10:09

    “There are some more nighttime entertainment shows that seem to spin, like, I see the Russian propaganda in some of it — and it’s almost identical on our airwaves. ”

    What a complete deliberate misreading of what’s going on. They rail on Putin and Russian society every chance they get.

    • Valerie
      April 16, 2024 at 12:28

      With things like this:


      • Drew Hunkins
        April 16, 2024 at 13:50


  19. susan
    April 16, 2024 at 09:38

    I loved the movie “The Russians are Coming, the Russians are coming” – just showed how stupid the American public really is. I’ll be surprised if they don’t bring the Chinese into the political election BS this year…

    • Carolyn L Zaremba
      April 16, 2024 at 12:32

      Of course I immediately thought of this film.

    • Adam
      April 17, 2024 at 13:21

      It’s already started. hxxps://

  20. hetro
    April 16, 2024 at 08:54

    Recommended follow-up study: Could Stupidity Seize Congress?

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
    ? Albert Einstein

    • Susan Siens
      April 18, 2024 at 16:00

      I wonder how old Einstein was when he said that. As I have gotten older, I would agree with that statement more and more every day. When a species thinks it is superior to every other form of life, when it is nearly totally disconnected from the world around it, stupidity rules. We are supposed to gain wisdom as we age, but that is an extremely rare event.

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