This Is What Happens When A Russiagate Skeptic Debates A Professional Russiagater

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via,

Have you ever wondered why mainstream media outlets, despite being so fond of dramatic panel debates on other hot-button issues, never have critics of the Russiagate narrative on to debate those who advance it? Well, in a recent Real News interview we received an extremely clear answer to that question, and it was so epic it deserves its own article.

Real News host and producer Aaron Maté has recently emerged as one of the most articulate critics of the establishment Russia narrative and the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory, and has published in The Nation some of the clearest arguments against both that I’ve yet seen. Luke Harding is a journalist for The Guardian where he has been writing prolifically in promotion of the Russiagate narrative, and is the author of New York Times bestseller Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win.

In theory, it would be hard to find two journalists more qualified to debate each side of this important issue. In practice, it was a one-sided thrashing that The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill accurately described as “brutal”.

The term Gish gallop, named after a Young Earth creationist who was notoriously fond of employing it, refers to a fallacious debate tactic in which a bunch of individually weak arguments are strung together in rapid-fire succession in order to create the illusion of a solid argument and overwhelm the opposition’s ability to refute them all in the time allotted. Throughout the discussion the Gish gallop appeared to be the only tool that Luke Harding brought to the table, firing out a deluge of feeble and unsubstantiated arguments only to be stopped over and over again by Maté who kept pointing out when Harding was making a false or fallacious claim.

In this part here, for example, the following exchange takes place while Harding is already against the ropes on the back of a previous failed argument. I’m going to type this up so you can clearly see what’s happening here:

Harding: Look, I’m a journalist. I’m a storyteller. I’m not a kind of head of the CIA or the NSA. But what I can tell you is that there have been similar operations in France, most recently when President Macron was elected? -
Maté: Well actually Luke that’s not true. That’s straight up not true. After that election the French cyber-intelligence agency came out and said it could have been virtually anybody.
Harding: Yeah. But, if you’ll let me finish, there’ve been attacks on the German parliament? -
Maté: Okay, but wait Luke, do you concede that the France hack that you just claimed didn’t happen?
Harding: [pause] What?—?that it didn’t happen? Sorry?
Maté: Do you concede that the Russian hacking of the French election that you just claimed actually is not true?
Harding: [pause] Well, I mean… that it’s not true? I mean, the French report was inconclusive, but you have to look at this kind of contextually. We’ve seen attacks on other European states as well from Russia, they have very kind of advanced cyber capabilities.
Maté: Where else?
Harding: Well, Estonia. Have you heard of Estonia? It’s a state in the Baltics which was crippled by a massive cyber attack in 2008, which certainly all kind of western European and former eastern European states think was carried out by Moscow. I mean I was in Moscow at the time, when relations between the two countries were extremely bad. This is a kind of ongoing thing. Now you might say, quite legitimately, well the US does the same thing, the UK does the same thing, and I think to a certain extent that is certainly right. I think what was different last year was the attempt to kind of dump this stuff out into kind of US public space and try and influence public opinion there. That’s unusual. And of course that’s a matter of congressional inquiry and something Mueller is looking at too.
Maté: Right. But again, my problem here is that the examples that are frequently presented to substantiate claims of this massive Russian hacking operation around the world prove out to be false. So France as I mentioned; you also mentioned Germany. There was a lot of worry about Russian hacking of the German elections, but it turned out?—?and there’s plenty of articles since then that have acknowledged this? - ?that actually there was no Russian hack in Germany.

In the above exchange, Maté derailed Harding’s Gish gallop, and Harding actually admonished him for doing so, telling him “let me finish” and attempting to go on listing more flimsy examples to bolster his case as though he hadn’t just begun his Gish gallop with a completely false example.

That’s really all Harding brought to the debate. A bunch of individually weak arguments, the fact that he speaks Russian and has lived in Moscow, and the occasional straw man where he tries to imply that Maté is claiming that Vladimir Putin is an innocent girl scout. Meanwhile Maté just kept patiently dragging the debate back on track over and over again in the most polite obliteration of a man that I have ever witnessed.

The entire interview followed this basic script. Harding makes an unfounded claim, Maté holds him to the fact that it’s unfounded, Harding sputters a bit and tries to zoom things out and point to a bigger-picture analysis of broader trends to distract from the fact that he’d just made an individual claim that was baseless, then winds up implying that Maté is only skeptical of the claims because he hasn’t lived in Russia as Harding has.

The interview ended when Harding once again implied that Maté was only skeptical of the collusion narrative because he’d never been to Russia and seen what a right-wing oppressive government it is, after which the following exchange took place:

Maté: I don’t think I’ve countered anything you’ve said about the state of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The issue under discussion today has been whether there was collusion, the topic of your book. 
Harding: Yeah, but you’re clearly a kind of collusion rejectionist, so I’m not sure what sort of evidence short of Trump and Putin in a sauna together would convince you. Clearly nothing would convince you. But anyway it’s been a pleasure.

At which point Harding abruptly logged off the video chat, leaving Maté to wrap up the show and promote Harding’s book on his own.

You should definitely watch this debate for yourself, and enjoy it, because I will be shocked if we ever see another like it. Harding’s fate will serve as a cautionary tale for the establishment hacks who’ve built their careers advancing the Russiagate conspiracy theory, and it’s highly unlikely that any of them will ever make the mistake of trying to debate anyone of Maté’s caliber again.

The reason Russiagaters speak so often in broad, sweeping terms? - saying there are too many suspicious things happening for there not to be a there there, that there’s too much smoke for there not to be fire? - ?is because when you zoom in and focus on any individual part of their conspiracy theory, it falls apart under the slightest amount of critical thinking (or as Harding calls it, “collusion rejectionism”). Russiagate only works if you allow it to remain zoomed out, where the individually weak arguments of this giant Gish gallop fallacy form the appearance of a legitimate argument.

Well, Harding did say he’s a storyteller.

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Ferrari Klassenfeind Thu, 12/28/2017 - 07:13 Permalink

I lived five years in Russia under Yeltsin. I can tell you, in Russia, you can buy everything under the son including the Holy Grail, The Arc of The Covenant and dirt on celebrities. It’ll all be quite genuine. 

Moreover, the whole Russiagate hysteria is framed in the fantasy world that Donald Trump was the first and last American to visit Russia. 

His name was Uranium One. 

In reply to by Klassenfeind

jeff montanye Alt-Right-Gurl Thu, 12/28/2017 - 22:02 Permalink

alright i'll admit it. the concept of female and nude is irresistable. but, on some level, so whatzz?

There is No God (And You Know It) | HuffPost…
Oct 6, 2005 - The same statistics also suggest that this girl's parents believe — at this very moment — that an all-powerful and all-loving God is watching over them and their family. Are they right to believe this? Is it good that they believe this? No. The entirety of atheism is contained in this response.

In reply to by Alt-Right-Gurl

Pandelis wildbad Fri, 12/29/2017 - 03:15 Permalink

poor luke ... how he changes his demenour in the segment about netanjahu ... everywhere else he is all attacking back, like dealing with an amateur ... than he changes ... he knows his boundaries, he is not a member of the tribe ...



i understand one has to make a living but i really feel sorry for these poor souls who have sold everything and stand for nothing just for a few more dollars ...

In reply to by wildbad

Endgame Napoleon AngryNinja Thu, 12/28/2017 - 20:55 Permalink

Instead of professional Twitter wrestling, there used to be debates on TV, where both sides were aired, not so much in a proper, Oxford-style format. But the media was not used as a way to deliver campaign themes, over and over, even between campaigns. Sad part is that this show is not even run by political organizations. It is run by the big corporations that own journalists. All scripts are written in the service of their economic agenda. For whatever reason, these media-owning corporations — though globalist to the core — have decided that while it is okay to put the interests of most foreign countries and their shareholders ahead of American interests, Russia is somehow out of the global club. 

In reply to by AngryNinja

Endgame Napoleon Never One Roach Thu, 12/28/2017 - 21:03 Permalink

To my knowledge, there have been zero terrorist incidents committed by Russians on US soil, no 9/11s and no terrorist smaller scale incidents, either. 

Likewise, Russians have never bombed us or attacked us in a war-like mode, Pearl Harbor-style. 

In fact, the helped us win WWII—the biggest war against the biggest evil that we ever fought—and they lost more men than we did. 


In reply to by Never One Roach

MozartIII auricle Thu, 12/28/2017 - 21:04 Permalink

I saw the shit earlier today. Was a joke then and now. The Russia burger is vegan at best, no real meat anywhere. Mueller has been fired????  Because this has been proved 50 ways to Sunday... Nothing!


If North Korea or any country can blow the swamp out of existence, please wait for the corporate blowtards to get back. I will pay 5 trillion shell coins for this action. Payment will be made at a Pacific or Atlantic beach, you harvest your own shells. (They are really shell coins, look just like shells!!) You can take more than we agreed upon. Since you will be on the far east or west coast of the US, please defend yourselves. Get too far inland.... We're a little more than crotchety and bitter!


I as a US citizen do not view this as sedition or treason, as there are so many cases of violations of this in the US. Starting with our sworn leaders that took an oath to defend and protect the constitution... I am not able to count them all. At which point and time, we have so many treasonous people in the swamp, that it behooves its destruction by whatever means necessary by us the US people as the US Government is clearly in default of it's sworn obligations. If we the people get help due to our leaders failure to read and comprehend anything.  It is not our fault!

In reply to by auricle

Endgame Napoleon Librarian Thu, 12/28/2017 - 21:15 Permalink

Ugh, Mother Jones is not exactly a conservative publication, but this article has some amazing information about Hillary’s brothers’ global business dealings, including a lot of er, well....Russian connections or connections to people in the former USSR who were involved in questionable activities in the extreme.…

In reply to by Librarian

Goatboy Klassenfeind Thu, 12/28/2017 - 16:24 Permalink

Typical for most left wing 'whorenalists:' full of accusations but no hard evidence.

As most Americans, you obviously dont have a clue what left wing really means.

The Real News Network and Aaron Mate (interviewer) are openly and genuinely left leaning media organization.

Unlike this crooked, corporatist, opportunistic, liberal (socially liberal "conservative") clown Luke Harding whom you called "a leftist".

Laugh's on you.

In reply to by Klassenfeind

Rakshas Goatboy Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:47 Permalink

..... small point perhaps but, in fact, most so called leftists don't have the foggiest idea what either left or right wing are, not surprising really given the state of the mental spunkitorium they call college/university these years........ what a waste of a generation; sure puts all those zombie shows into perspective though...... 

In reply to by Goatboy

BigJim Rakshas Fri, 12/29/2017 - 07:45 Permalink

It's not helped by the fact that the terms have become almost meaningless.

Take the assertion that fascism is a "far right" movement. Actually, it's only "right wing" relative to old-style socialism or outright communism. This is easily established: ask anyone if regulating industry, worker protection and/or nationalising schools or healthcare are "right-" or "left-" wing policies. They will say "left" wing, and they are, of course - the very essence of "left" wing is collectivisation/State control. Then point out that the Nazis were heavily into regulating industry and had nationalised schools and healthcare, and introduced child-labour laws.

Want some fun? Explain this to a Progressive and watch their heads explode.

In reply to by Rakshas

Anteater Klassenfeind Thu, 12/28/2017 - 22:21 Permalink

For your team's position, your Junior Captain already ADMITTED

he and your Liddle Czar COLLUDED to MEET FOR PAYMENT with a





For the past four months while Liddle Czar hides out in Tel Aviv

hoping to avoid indictment for ATTEMPTED TREASON, all we get is

Trump is Innocent (TM) Trump is a Hero (TM) Trump is MAGA!(TM)

while he spends all his time at Mar-A-Lago doing business deals,

and can't be bothered to stop playing golf and go back to work.


Everyone in NYC knows Trump is DEEP INTO THE SOVIET MAFIYA

and that's who's been bailing out his bankruptcies. To claim that 

Don Jr 'never actually met with a spy', or that 'Kushner was never

actually in the room' is like saying that Janet Reno never actually

intended to burn down Waco, and it was an 'Act of G-d'. Fuck that!


But you know what, it doesn't matter. Moore was your Waterloo.

America may have had its best years under Slavery when Women

were Chattel, and only White Landowners could vote, but Moore

and Bannon have 'energized the Democrat base', as they say,

and you can Gingrich all you want, 2018 will be GOPs downfall.


And that's why Trump and GOP are positioning US for moar War.

In reply to by Klassenfeind