Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Putin's Strategy: Get Americans to Hate Each Other

The Times:
In its prepared remarks sent to Congress, Facebook said the Internet Research Agency, a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin, had posted roughly 80,000 pieces of divisive content that was shown to about 29 million people between January 2015 and August 2017. Those posts were then liked, shared and followed by others, spreading the messages to tens of millions more people. Facebook also said it had found and deleted more than 170 accounts on its photo-sharing app Instagram; those accounts had posted about 120,000 pieces of Russia-linked content. . . .

The Russia-linked posts were “an insidious attempt to drive people apart,” Colin Stretch, the general counsel for Facebook who will appear at the hearings, said in his prepared remarks. He called the posts “deeply disturbing,” and noted they focused on race, religion, gun rights, and gay and transgender issues.
The Wall Street Journal:
Russian-linked account activity went far beyond paying for polarizing ads dropped into Facebook members’ news feeds. At least 60 rallies, protests and marches were publicized or financed by eight Russia-backed Facebook accounts from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., according to a review by The Wall Street Journal, which looked at archived versions of now-deleted Facebook posts and interviewed activists, attendees and others familiar with the events, most of which were posted on Facebook. Facebook said in September that it had found 470 such accounts that it says belonged to Russians and that sought to exploit social divisions in the U.S. through provocative issue ads…

At least 22 of the 60 events actually took place, such as a May 2016 protest of an Islamic center in Houston planned by “Heart of Texas”, a Russia-created page that supported Texas secession and posted the “Blue Lives Matter” rally in Dallas two months later. On June 25, 2016, following the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla, “LGBT United” organized a candlelight vigil, where one of the victim’s brothers spoke. Both were covered by local media and attracted a dozen or more attendees.
National Review:
The Russian government didn’t really want to help Trump, and they didn’t want to help the Clinton campaign, either. (They may have felt they would get a better deal from Trump, but they certainly weren’t willing to put aside their efforts to exacerbate political and cultural tensions over that.) Russia is no true friend to either the American political right or left: “Event listings show how Russia-backed pages organized protests for and against the same issues. The page “Born Patriotic” planned 17 pro-Trump rallies on the same day in August 2016 while “Black Matters” hosted anti-Trump rallies after the election.” They wanted Americans angry, lashing out at each other, and paralyzed and weakened by our own internal political and cultural divisions. It appears many Americans helped make their task way too easy for them.
On the one hand, what a clever strategy. On the other, Americans hate each other so much without Russian help that this may have made no difference, and besides, what does Russia really gain from all their work, other than making themselves feel clever?

To me the thing worth noting is that Americans are so divided they would rather ally with Vladimir Putin against the other party than band together against a rotten dictatorship trying to ruin our democracy.


Unknown said...

Possibly part of what Putin gets out of it is credit with the FSB, which is one of his most important constituencies and sources of support. The same with activist Russian nationalists, who like to see hated foreigners get a good symbolic hiding as much as American nationalists do.

I too think the most striking thing about all this is that the supposed patriot party is happy to exploit foreign interference in our election if it means screwing the Democrats. As I have asked before, what next, Democrats celebrating if the Chinese help them with the next election?

I realize that the Russians are happy to back leftist American causes--anything that further divides Americans. Nevertheless, the fantasies of progressives aside, the current political situation has made the Democrats the party of stability--the party that is most hurt by hyperpartisanship.

pithom said...

"To me the thing worth noting is that Americans are so divided they would rather ally with Vladimir Putin against the other party than band together against a rotten dictatorship trying to ruin our democracy."

Yeah; how dare Americans not come together and repeal the First Amendment for anybody defending the bestkleader of the largest country in the world since Peter the Great? Russia is not rotten, not a dictatorship, and not trying to ruin our democracy. All that is hilarious McCarthyite propaganda. Do you realize how ridiculous and openly McCarthyite you sound?

pithom said...

What do you, exactly, suggest the US do against Russians merely exercising their freedom of speech? Assassination campaigns? Cuban-style endless sanctions regime? Declaration of war? Don't be stupid.

John said...

@pithom: I suggest that Americans stop hating each other, ignore not just what Russian trolls say but what all trolls say, and focus on making our country better.