Politics in America

“Implying that American public opinion can be ‘tainted’ by exposure to foreign influence contains disturbing — and distinctly archaic — undertones of a call to national purity”

…if the American media and a large part of the American public believe that the election was invalid simply because Russians wanted Mr. Trump to win, we are giving Russia outsize influence over American elections, now and in the future.

But let us assume that Russian interference was not only purposeful but successful in helping Mr. Trump secure victory. That would mean that the information obtained by Russians and released by WikiLeaks — and reported on widely, including by this newspaper — swayed enough Americans to throw the election. Why is this wrong? The answer is also far from obvious.

Some have said that Russian interference “tainted” the election. That suggests that there can be such a thing as a “pure” election, or even “pure” public opinion, since it is voters’ opinions that Russia is believed to have affected. Implying that American public opinion can be “tainted” by exposure to foreign influence contains disturbing — and distinctly archaic — undertones of a call to national purity.

Masha Gessen, “How the Truth Got Hacked”, The New York Times (18 December 2016), SR4.