American spies: "Those sneaky Russians want to get their grubby asiatic fingers on our patriotic COVID cure!"

Nothing actually happened, even the spies pushing this story admit that. Yet to them this “nothing” is evidence of “something” huge and dangerous.

Another ridiculous spy-fed story has hit the wire: We’re being told that Cozy Bear — the Russian hacker group that supposedly hacked the 2016 election and gave us Donald Trump — is now prowling the internet for America’s COVID-19 vaccine secrets. And the Russians aren’t alone. China and Iran are in on it too. The New Axis of Evil is at it again! 

From the New York Times

A couple of thoughts on this breaking development. 

First about Cozy Bear: It does not exist. This evil Russian hacker “group” is a fiction — a fiction made up by Crowdstrike, a privatized spy security firm, in order to drum up business and increase its valuation. I repeat: Cozy Bear does not exist. I wrote about this three years ago in an investigation for The Baffler following the 2016 election. 

The thing about these security firms is that they frequently tailor their findings to meet the demands of the market. And they do this by practicing a very cynical profit-driven forensic science. They reverse-engineer things to produce results: First they decide on the guilty party (the Russians or the Chinese or the Iranians) and then they find the evidence that confirms this assumption. 

As I’ve pointed out in the past, claims about cyber attacks and hacks are a perfect vehicle for spy-fed xenophobic and nationalistic propaganda. These attacks all happen within computer systems. The physical evidence showing that “they happened” boils down to a bit of data in some log file somewhere. That data can be faked. It can be invented. And it can be interpreted in pretty much any way the people doing the interpreting want. Best of all, there’s no real way for people to physically verify what happened. There’s no bullet hole or a crater to look at and sniff. There’s no video evidence. You have to take spies at their word. You have to trust that they’re telling you the truth.

This COVID vaccine hacking story is a perfect example. Nothing actually happened, even the spies pushing this story ultimately admit that. Yet to them this “nothing” is evidence of “something” — something huge and dangerous.

The virtual nature of cyber attacks makes them incredibly potent as a propaganda weapon — a weapon has been deployed against America’s domestic media landscape by American intelligence agencies ever since computers became a thing. Hell, it was even used to whip up support for bombing Yugoslavia back in 1999. “We gotta bomb those ‘crackers’ over there or their computer virus will come to our democracy and sink your Windows 95 solitaire game!”

Which brings us to the larger context behind this bullshit story…

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