‘Kompromat’ is powerful regardless of whether it is true, Portnikov says

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon) 

Analysis & Opinion, International

The Bolsheviks liked to say that Marxism-Leninism was powerful because it was true; but Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov points out that compromising information – in Russian “kompromat” – is powerful regardless of whether it is true, a reality that has been lost in many discussions about the current examples of it loosed upon the world.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

He asserts that “in the present-day world, the importance of compromising information is not in its genuineness but in that it confirms already existing suspicions.” Even those who doubt it will assume that there is no smoke without fire and that while many things such “kompromat” asserts are not true, at least some are.

That is what happened last summer and fall in the case of Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server, Portnikov says. “The majority of Americans who wanted to ‘punish’ her for the use of a private email for government correspondence very poorly understood the consequences of this use, not imagined or possible, but real.”

“But,” the Ukrainian analyst says, “Donald Trump very well understood this narrow-minded perception and used it to remarkable effect. He started a trend, which hadn’t existed, that a serious and self-respecting politician may use methods from the arsenal of marginal figures,” something his opponents gradually picked up upon concerning his sexist views on women.

However, these were only “the first blossoms” of something that was going to come into full flower with the passage of time. They made use of a situation in which real but boring facts “could not change the opinion of those who live in the world of comic strips” and who are quite content to remain there.

But if during the election campaign, Trump was the one who presented himself as the hero of these comics, now, after the election, and as a result of the kompromat being spread about him, Trump “is being forced to play the role” not of hero but of villain, a role he probably couldn’t imagine and certainly doesn’t like.

What has happened, Portnikov continues, is “what typically occurs in history: to triumph over an enemy who violates the rules, one must adopt his methods of struggle, improve upon them, and direct them against the competition with redoubled energy.”

President Barack Obama said farewell to Americans with a beautiful speech and with tears in his eyes, “but this already doesn’t work” in a world where comics rather than facts are the basis of opinion. And the story that overwhelmed his speech was the compromising story about Donald Trump and prostitutes in Moscow.

The story was so salacious that no one had to believe that it was all true in order to accept much of what was contained therein, as confirmation of his views, if he started with a negative view of the president-elect. Even if most or all of it is disproved, such an individual will say that something nonetheless was there. After all, “we read it on the Internet.”

But there is a more serious consequence: Trump is now the victim of the very same method he employed against Hillary Clinton with success last year.

And indeed, Portnikov says, it is time to talk about “the Trump effect” given that this effect “will now work against the president elect,” again regardless of whether what is being said is true or not.

In the near future, this may “really mean a crisis and the loss of power. Right now, the story with the kompromat means only one thing: any conciliatory steps of the Trump Administration toward the Kremlin will be viewed as a confirmation of the compromising information.”

And that will then lead to the notion that “Trump is a KGB agent” and that those who doubt that are “even more so.” In fact, if Trump does not behave tougher than Obama has, there are many who will make that argument against him, suggesting that this all means he is “a traitor to the national interests” of the US and that “a traitor cannot be US president.

It is possible that Trump is beginning to understand this. His key aides certainly do, as can be seen from their testimony during confirmation hearings. And that means that “if the Trump effect continues to operate, there will be an entirely new Trump coming to the White House … a Trump who will learn the art of political survival in the era of the Trump effect.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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