The Burden Of Proof Is On The 'Russiagaters'

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via,

I saw a Twitter thread between two journalists the other day which completely summarized my experience of debating the establishment Russia narrative on online forums lately. Aaron Maté‏, who is in my opinion one of the clearest voices out there on American Russia hysteria, was approached with an argument by a journalist named Jonathan M Katz. Maté‏ engaged the argument by asking for evidence of the claims Katz was making, only to be given the runaround.

I’m going to copy the back-and-forth into the text here for anyone who doesn’t feel like scrolling through a Twitter thread, not because I am interested in the petty rehashing of a meaningless Twitter spat, but because it’s such a perfect example of what I want to talk about here.

Katz: Are you aware of what Russian agents did during the 2016 presidential election, by chance?

Maté‏: I’m aware of what Mueller has accused Russian agents of — are we supposed to just reflexively believe the assertions of prosecutors & intelligence officials now, or is it ok to wait for the evidence? (as I did in the tweet you’re replying to)

Katz: Why are you even asking this question if you’re just going to discard the reams of evidence that have supplied by investigators, spies, and journalists over the last two years?

Maté‏: Why are you avoiding answering the Q I asked? If I can guess, it’s cause doing so would mean acknowledging your position requires taking gov’t claims on faith. Re: “reams of evidence”, I’ve actually written about it extensively, and disagree that it’s convincing.

Katz: Yeah I’m familiar with your work. You’re asking for someone to summarize two years of reporting, grand jury indictments, reports from independent analysts, give agencies both American and foreign, and on and on just so you can handwave and draw some vague equivalencies.

Maté‏: No, actually I’ve asked 2 Qs in this thread, both of which have been avoided: 1) what evidence convinces you that Russia will attack the midterms 2) are we supposed to reflexively believe the assertions of prosecutors & intel officials now, or is it ok to wait for the evidence?

Katz: See this is what you do. You pretend like all of the evidence produced by journalists, independent analysts and foreign governments doesn’t exist so you can accuse anyone who doesn’t buy this SF Cohen Putinist bullshit you’re selling of being a deep state shill.

Maté‏: Except I haven’t said anything about anyone being a “deep state shill”, here or anywhere else. So that’s your embellishment. I’m simply asking whether we should accept IC/prosecutor claims on faith. Mueller does lay out a case, that’s true, but no evidence yet.

Katz: No. You should not accept a prosecutor’s claims on faith. You should read independent analyses, evidence gathered by journalists and other agencies, and compare all it to what is known on the public record. And you could if you wanted to.

Katz continued to evade and deflect until eventually exiting the conversation. Meanwhile another journalist, The Intercept‘s Sam Biddle, interjected that the debate was “a big waste of” Katz’s time and called Maté‏ an “inverse louise mensch”, all for maintaining the posture of skepticism and asking for evidence. Maté‏ invited Katz and Biddle to debate their positions on The Real News, to which Biddle replied, “No thank you, but I have some advice: If everyone has gotten it wrong, you should figure out who really did it! If not Russia, find out who really hacked the DNC, find out who really spearphished American election officials. Even OJ pretended to search for the real killer.”

Biddle then, as you would expect, blocked Maté‏ on Twitter.

If you were to spend an entire day debating Russiagate online (and I am in no way suggesting that you should), it is highly unlikely that you would see anything from the proponents of the establishment Russia narrative other than the textbook fallacious debate tactics exhibited by Katz and Biddle in that thread. It had the entire spectrum:

Gish gallop— The tactic of providing a stack of individually weak arguments to create the illusion of one solid argument, illustrated when Katz cited unspecified “reams of evidence” resulting from “two years of reporting, grand jury indictments, reports from independent analysts, give agencies both American and foreign.” He even claimed he shouldn’t have to go through that evidence point-by-point because there’s too much of it, which is like a poor man’s Gish gallop fallacy.

Argumentum ad populum— The “it’s true because so many agree that it is true” argument that Katz attempted to imply in invoking all the “journalists, independent analysts and foreign governments” who assert that Russia interfered in a meaningful way in America’s 2016 elections and intends to interfere in the midterms.

Ad hominem— Biddle’s “inverse louise mensch”. You have no argument, so you insult the other party instead.

Attempting to shift the burden of proof — Biddle’s suggestion that Maté‏ needs to prove that someone else other than the Russian government did the things Russia is accused of doing. Biddle is implying that the establishment Russia narrative should be assumed true until somebody has proved it to be false, a tactic known as an appeal to ignorance.

I’d like to talk about this last one a bit, because it underpins the entire CIA/CNN Russia narrative.

As we’ve discussed previously, in a post-Iraq invasion world the confident-sounding assertions of spies, government officials and media pundits is not sufficient evidence for the public to rationally support claims that are being used to escalate dangerous cold war tensions with a nuclear superpower. The western empire has every motive in the world to lie about the behaviors of a noncompliant government, and has an extensive and well-documented history of doing exactly that. Hard, verifiable, publicly available proof is required. Assertions are not evidence.

But even if there wasn’t an extensive and recent history of disastrous US-led escalations premised on lies advanced by spies, government officials and media pundits, the burden of proof would still be on those making the claim, because that’s how logic works. Whether you’re talking about law, philosophy or debate, the burden of proof is always on the party making the claim. A group of spies, government officials and media pundits saying that something happened in an assertive tone of voice is not the same thing as proof. That side of the Russiagate debate is the side making the claim, so the burden of proof is on them. Until proof is made publicly available, there is no logical reason for the public to accept the CIA/CNN Russia narrative as fact, because the burden of proof has not been met.

This concept is important to understand on the scale of individual debates on the subject during political discourse, and it is important to understand on the grand scale of the entire Russia narrative as well. All the skeptical side of the debate needs to do is stand back and demand that the burden of proof be met, but this often gets distorted in discourse on the subject. The Sam Biddles of the world all too frequently attempt to confuse the situation by asserting that it is the skeptics who must provide an alternative version of events and somehow produce irrefutable proof about the behaviors of highly opaque government agencies. This is fallacious, and it is backwards.

There are many Russiagate skeptics who have been doing copious amounts of research to come up with other theories about what could have happened in 2016, and that’s fine. But in a way this can actually make the debate more confused, because instead of leaning back and insisting that the burden of proof be met, you are leaning in and trying to convince everyone of your alternative theory. Russiagaters love this more than anything, because you’ve shifted the burden of proof for them. Now you’re the one making the claims, so they can lean back and come up with reasons to be skeptical of your argument. Empire loyalists like Sam Biddle would like nothing more than to get skeptics like Aaron Maté‏ falling all over themselves trying to prove a negative, but that’s not how the burden of proof works, and there’s no good reason to play into it.

Until hard, verifiable proof of Russian election interference and/or collusion with the Trump campaign is made publicly available, we are winning this debate as long as we continue pointing out that this proof doesn’t exist. All you have to do to beat a Russiagater in a debate is point this out. They’ll cite assertions made by the US intelligence community, but assertions are not proof. They’ll cite the assertions made in the recent Mueller indictment as proof, but all the indictment contains is more assertions. The only reason Russiagaters confuse assertions for proof is because the mass media treats them as such, but there’s no reason to play along with that delusion.

There is no good reason to play along with escalations between nuclear superpowers when their premise consists of nothing but narrative and assertions. It is right to demand that those escalations cease until the public who is affected by them has had a full, informed say. Until the burden of proof has been met, that has not even begun to happen.

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pods powow Mon, 07/23/2018 - 16:19 Permalink

I stay out of political arguments exactly because of shit like this.  Media reports?  What media? Those getting fed stories by the spooks, or those who ARE spooks?  Or the Rita Katz of the world. Who write shit for spooks to tell the media.

Fuck that. I'd rather do something productive then try and get some idiot over on MY side. 

In reply to by powow

Zerogenous_Zone pods Mon, 07/23/2018 - 16:28 Permalink

agree wholeheartedly...


educated problem solvers need healthy debate to challenge their solutions (to ensure they are constructed strongly and not weakened by self-perceived biases)...


i challenge many of my theorems daily, based upon new information (or disinformation or misinformation) dolled out by many sources...this makes my standing and knowledge of the subject at hand layered with strength...


the weird thing...many don't like spirited debate of ideas...


hmmm...wonder why that is?  public/private indoctrination of drinking the kool aid and NOT challenging the powers that be...



In reply to by pods

LaugherNYC Zerogenous_Zone Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:23 Permalink

"many don't like spirited debate of ideas..."

This is so true. Some of these include people who just hate Trump, regardless of the facts. They believe he is a fraud, a cheat, a petty tyrant, and they despise him. They don't want to engage in debate, because they would be defending a feeling, an emotion. The allegations are enough for them, because they confirm the basis for their emotion. They don't want to debate, because they know they will lose on the facts that have been proven, and they also hate Trump so much they hate anyone who supports him - even though they intellectually know they are wrong to do so.


The second kind love spirited debate, because they act on the basis that every allegation, rumor, or inference is true. So, they will shout right over you, and swipe away "where is the proof?" with the answer "oh, c'mon man! You KNOW that's true," when we know no such thing.

It's sad, because the lack of engagement will drive the liberals to total defeat in November if there is no bombshell from Mueller. Even if he comes up with payoffs to chippies, or some questionable real estate deal from ten years ago, the inability of the Trump haters to engage in serious, legitimate debate will cost them heavily at the polls.

In reply to by Zerogenous_Zone

Zerogenous_Zone LaugherNYC Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:38 Permalink

I live this reality daily...(and read some troll posts wondering what happened to real dissemination of facts in reasoned discourse)


just give the 'hand' and giggle...THAT pisses them off!!


even IF the indictments lead to incarceration...most of the skirting of the law came when...wait for it...they were working for the Dems (Podesta Consulting Group) or actually registered Democrats, right?


and by the way, I stopped voting for the Red or Blue team long ago...couldn't justify voting for criminals or the oft repeated 'lessor of two evils'...



In reply to by LaugherNYC

pods Gaius Frakkin'… Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:10 Permalink

You are a better man than I am. I don't wanna catch the stupid.  Never know, that shit might be contagious.

Of course, in most all my arguments, within the first minute I will have swerved into fractional reserve banking, our exponential money system, or corrupt government, so I am not really a fun man to talk to in that regard. Either they think I am nuts, or they start to think about what I said, and then get upset at what those revelations mean.

Your method sounds like how my better half and I used to argue.  The Bill Burr method.


In reply to by Gaius Frakkin'…

Herd Redirecti… powow Mon, 07/23/2018 - 16:25 Permalink

The way I heard it put best was thusly:

If you stop believing everything the Mockingbird Media (aka MSM) tells you, then Russia has already won!  So there!  You have to trust CNN now!

BTW, there is also a theory making the rounds that Seth Rich may have faked his own death.  Or at the very least, that he died under suspicious circumstances IN THE HOSPITAL, not on the street.

In reply to by powow

pods LaugherNYC Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:25 Permalink

How about a tie in?

Since the joos have controlled the media and education system, it is impossible to actually have a logical argument anymore with the other side, no matter what side you are on.

And I thought jews were a religion, not a race?  

If you are a racist, you believe your race is better at certain things than another race. Superior.  Like I am a black racist because I think that blacks, as a whole (not the big ass ones), can out jump other races.

Arguments can be fun.  But alas, I cannot have one now. Time to GTFO and play coach.

In reply to by LaugherNYC

MoreFreedom AutoLode Mon, 07/23/2018 - 19:26 Permalink

Saying Seth Rich "is and will always be the key to everything" is falling into the trap Johnstone states: you're coming up with alternatives to the DNC hack (and I agree Rich was the likely leaker - not hacker) rather than forcing the Russiagaters to prove the Russians did it.  I read the "intelligence" reports, and since the IC never had access to the computers involved, they have no idea who did it.  Their entire argument is that since Russia hacks, Russia did it.  We could say the same thing about China, Iran, Israel, North Korea and most other countries. 

One thing that is clear, is the Obama administration CHOSE to blame Russia for the hackings.  They also tried to frame Trump as colluding with Russia, via government spies infiltrating Trump's campaign and creating the dossier to create a false pretext to use the government to spy on Trump. With Downer and Halper looking for their interest in getting Hillary's emails from a hacker (and while Obama/Hillary/Comey all stated Hillary's server wasn't hacked, we recently learned it was hacked by someone who had her emails forwarded to a server in a foreign country, which would be one method used to cover up the trail as one has to get access to that server to see where it sent the emails).  I've suspected for a long time that Russia did hack Hillary's server and used the emails on it to blackmail Obama and Hillary into appeasement and flexibility (that they showed Russia) until the DNC/Podesta hacks which Hillary blamed on Russia without evidence.  Then only after Hillary lost, Obama put sanctions on Russia (apparently no need to appease them anymore, yet Putin might still be using those emails for Obama/Clinton minions still in government). 

While I also propose an alternative to their narrative, the good thing is the real evidence of what happens keeps getting exposed, which shows that it was Obama/Clinton who were the corrupt ones.   And the evidence keeps pointing toward Russia blackmailed Obama and Clinton.  And there's a lot more circumstantial evidence such as the promise of "more flexibility" Obama promised Russian president Medvedev on a hot mic, the 22 visits by the Russian ambassador to Obama's White House, the Uranium sale and all the decisions around it, the coverup of Clinton's crimes, etc.  Even Mueller is offering immunity to "witnesses" which looks suspiciously like giving the conspirators a get out of jail free card like they did for Clinton's staff.

In reply to by AutoLode

Bastiat IridiumRebel Mon, 07/23/2018 - 16:07 Permalink

The Russiagate conspiracy is exposed as a seditious fraud. The FISA warrant was attested to by a who's who of these clowns.  they swore the bogus, unvetted basis of the warrant had been validated. 

It no longer much matters what the MSM consumer, demo true believers think.  It's headed to prosecutions.  The revocation of clearances threat is opening publicity shot on the process.

In reply to by IridiumRebel

PeaceLover El Oregonian Mon, 07/23/2018 - 16:48 Permalink

No hate and anger isn't what they need they have cognitive disillusionment.

No pain needed but easy to trade against or sell thing to..
Or to convince we need a costly war.. when Russians are have a great time just wanting to be capitalists.

All you need is two maybe three testimonial (clue testimonial aren't anything but talk)and bang there you go cash in your pocket.
Like a sale indicator,

Now to be fair.. don't not confuse me for a Trump lover.

If he's right he's right.
and if Obama was right he was right.
Hard as it is to swallow my feel is trump love the USA more.
But Donald war on drugs and bigger defense missing it there buddy!

In reply to by El Oregonian

GeezerGeek PeaceLover Mon, 07/23/2018 - 18:01 Permalink

We in the USSA live in what can rightly be called a target rich environment. I believe that the corruption of not just the government (all levels) but the culture too - particularly the MSM, Hollyweird, etc. - is so immense that pulling the plug on all the bad guys would cause the country to crash. I keep hoping that it is simply a matter of picking one target at a time and crushing it before moving on to the next one. Going along, for the time being, with the "war on drugs" and lavishing $ on MIC could then be seen as a way of mollifying certain opponents until the time to attack them rolled around.

If my suspicions are correct, there just aren't enough uncompromised good guys around to tackle all the corruption at once. My big fear is that there are not enough uncompromised good guys in positions to do anything at all.  


In reply to by PeaceLover

crazybob369 AsEasyAsPi Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:04 Permalink

Actually, the quote is attributed to Goebbels although some people credit the original to Lenin. The complete quote was:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Although I can't admire the man, I can certainly admire his understanding of the totalitarian state. His views were as true then as they are now.

In reply to by AsEasyAsPi

Herd Redirecti… Insurrector Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:32 Permalink

Meddled...  What does that mean?  Because what I remember is leftists said the Russians HACKED the election, resulting in Trump winning.  And from there it became ever less Russian involvement, from Russian hacking that directly led to Trump winning, to Russian 'interference', to now Russian 'meddling'.

Let me ask you.  Did America (or Americans) meddle in Ukraine's 2014 election, that elected Petr Poroshenko, the Chocolate King?

In reply to by Insurrector

Insurrector Herd Redirecti… Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:59 Permalink

We may know soon about America's involvement in Ukraine's 2014 election - Manafort's trial begins next week.  Although I doubt Mueller is looking at that.

Manafort was thick with the Party of Regions and Viktor Yanukovych, and clearly was in touch with the Kremlin starting as early as 2005.

If you recall, Yanukovych, who was not an ideal candidate (dude didn't really speak Ukrainian), was elected in 2010, and coincidentally one of his first official acts was to legally bar Ukraine from seeking NATO membership – a move that essentially granted Russia one of its core geopolitical victories. Yanukovych amassed a huge fortune while in office for his services for getting in bed with Putin. He built an opulent palace for himself outside Kiev, complete with a private zoo, a golf course and a restaurant in the shape of a pirate ship docked in his backyard.

Do you think Russia meddled in the Ukrainian elections?  Yanukovych lost to Poroshenko - which was the better candidate?

I don't know of any evidence of meddling by the US, but it would be reasonable to assume so.

Doesn't it seem highly coincidental that Manafort was Trump's campaign manager?  You can't make this shit up!

In reply to by Herd Redirecti…

GeezerGeek Herd Redirecti… Mon, 07/23/2018 - 18:10 Permalink

Perhaps the Russians were even more ingenious than we think. Perhaps they meddled by feeding false info to the Clintonistas, knowing the Clintonistas would make fools of themselves. The meddling was done in such a way that a great wedge has been driven between American big government types and the more traditional "just leave me alone" Americans. Because the false data could never prove anything, and because the left has become less and less able to act sanely in times of distress, it was the perfect plan to split America down the middle. 

But then...considering the waves of immigrants pouring into both Europe and America...perhaps Mossad, not Russia?

In reply to by Herd Redirecti…

the artist Insurrector Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:58 Permalink

Insurrector will never answer you because there is no answer, only hysteria. 

Move the goal post much? 

Even a peanut can out-think you here. Everyone and I mean Everyone with a brain knows that the Russians (and the English and the Chinese and the Arabs and the Mexicans and the Canadians etc) meddle in elections. Obama did it with Bibi, He did it with Brexit...The list is long and boring...And everyone is well familiar with it. There are headlines today about the upcoming propaganda war waging in Iran. We spent $8B in Ukraine to effect that coup. Then there is Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Guatemala.......

That is different than Trump the candidate colluding (whatever that means) with foreign agents to subvert our election laws for political gain. 

These are two completely different things. One is known. The other is a working hypothesis based on what amounts to NO EVIDENCE. 

MSM would love to conflate these two ideas mainly because it absolves them from talking about the actual collusion between Hiilary/Obama and the Russians-Iranians-Chinese-Saudis. A claim which is based on actual evidence. It absolves them from talking about an emerging picture of a sitting president utilizing the intel and law enforcement agencies to effect the outcome of a presidential election. Stepping on our process and our civil rights in one step. By far the most seditious and dangerous act that could ever be set forth in motion by one man in the history of mankind.  It absolves them from talking about how and more importantly, why Hillary lost a rigged election. It absolves them from talking about the issues that affect Americans and that Americans want solutions to Right Yesterday...

And here we are...we are at the point where shilling for the losing side no longer holds weight. The world and certainly the American body politic has moved on. The Blue wave is now a red wave and everything you throw at it just makes it more invincible. 

In reply to by Insurrector

Insurrector the artist Mon, 07/23/2018 - 18:03 Permalink

Your logic is flawed - on the one hand you say

"Everyone and I mean Everyone with a brain knows that the Russians (and the English and the Chinese and the Arabs and the Mexicans and the Canadians etc) meddle in elections"

Then you claim that collusion by Trump is only a working theory.

So where is the evidence for your "Everyone with a brain" claim?


In reply to by the artist

the artist Insurrector Mon, 07/23/2018 - 18:59 Permalink

Really, You want me to go down the list of all of our exploits in foreign policy regime change??? Just google "Billions spent in Ukraine election" or "Obama back of the queue" That will get you there. 

There are a few articles out today...go read them and stop wasting peoples time. 

Again, before thinking people jump on board your Russia claims we will need to see evidence. Not accusations or innuendo...wait...didnt you read the article? 

Go back and read it THEN comment. It will make it easier for everyone. 

Summary: Accusation is not evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and it is incumbent on YOU the accuser to make your case not for others to prove a negative. 

I didn't say it was a working theory...its less than a theory because a theory is at least based on some evidence...Russiagate is a Hypothesis...a pre-theory that is looking more and more like a big fluff sandwich based on FISA fraud by top US officials. 

In reply to by Insurrector

LaugherNYC Bill of Rights Mon, 07/23/2018 - 17:12 Permalink

Awesome to see a piece from Medium on ZH. Broadening horizons.

My BF who is a unique individual - brilliant guy, former federal prosecutor, white shoe law firm white collar securities lawyer, former SEC Enforcement attorney, who then became a Foreign Services guy, working in conflict zones - Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa etc etc. needs to read this piece. 

He is a Trump hater. As a black man, he assumes Trump hates him, as he believes Trump is a racist. He constantly pulls out his former AUSA card and his DOS creds as proving he knows more about me about everything.

When I told him Trump would be President in Sept 2-16, he laughed.

When I told him Comey would be fired, he laughed and said Trump would be impeached before his first inaugural

When I told him in Dec 2017 that McCabe would be fired, and eventually arrested and prosecuted, he laughed and said no DD-FBI would EVER be fired. He refused to pay the bet he lost on that one. 

He talks about Trump now like he is already history. That he is so guilty, he will be in jail next year. That he is a Putin sockpuppet. That Mueller has him by the balls and is squeeeezing.

It is boring watching him be wrong about everything, and yet believe he is right, and it is all fact and proven. This dementia has even damaged the sanity of a guy with immense intelligence and experience.

If all Mueller has is paying off chippies, and he actually needs to give Tony Podesta immunity in order to convict Manafort, than wtf is going on around here????

In reply to by Bill of Rights