It’s no wonder Russia was so successful. There is great power in appealing to people’s feelings that their government isn’t listening to them, that they are disempowered. The Russians used these feelings to promote Trump and also to sow discord and division among liberals by promoting Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders.
A great example of just one way this was done (and is done) was shared today by former FBI Special Agent of the Counterintelligence Division and now CNN analyst and Editor at Just Security, Asha Rangappa.
Here's what an "interview request" looks like from radio Sputnik. A bunch of leading questions with seemingly preordained conclusions. 🤔 pic.twitter.com/NNIKC1sIrb
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) September 29, 2017
Here’s the part I’m focused on, where they claim that to censure Russian propaganda is to deny freedom of speech and subvert the role of the 4th estate by asking if the license should “only be given to those who support the state policy?” Then further by moving the goal post now that the viewer is hooked, because the left especially will be drawn to the idea that of course we don’t only support the state policy all ideas must be permitted, by asking should the Voice of America be banned in Russia?
The Voice of America, while funded by the U.S. government, whose goal is “to broadcast accurate, balanced, and comprehensive news and information to an international audience”, is not being used to sow discord among the Russians or promote a Russian candidate who will give the U.S. an international advantage.
Additionally, the U.S. has not been found by international intelligence communities to have interfered with the Russian elections like the Russians have been found guilty of doing to the United States, so these questions are based on a house of cards of faulty premises.
But these kinds of propaganda tricks work, even if there is someone there to try to point out the issues with the questions. Because people feel so disenfranchised right now, and have ever since the government responded to the Bush market crash by bailing out the big guys on the little guys’ back.
Their propaganda talking points are well thought out to feed the resentment of both the left and right. This could easily explain why and how the Russians targeted not only Trump-likely far right people on Facebook, but also Jill Stein and some Bernie Sanders supporters.
We know, for instance, that $100,000 was spent on Facebook linked to a Russian propaganda operation during the 2016 election cycle. We know, just as an example, Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today spent $274,100 on Twitter advertisements in San Fransisco and promoted 1,823 tweets. We know Russia used Facebook to organize pro-Trump rallies.
Twitter suspended Russia-linked accounts Thursday.
“Lawmakers in both parties suspect social networks may have played a big role in Moscow’s attempts to spread propaganda, sow political discord in the United States and help elect President Donald Trump. Moscow denies any such activity, and Trump has denied any collusion.
Twitter said it had identified and removed 22 accounts directly linked to about 500 fake Facebook pages or profiles tied to Russia and that it unearthed an additional 179 accounts that were otherwise related.” Reuters reported.
Politico reported that Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Stein, Sanders and Trump, “At least one touted Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, who Clinton says ‘may well have thrown the election to Trump.'”
Republicans are trying to claim that since the Russians promoted Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, they weren’t trying to just help Trump. That, of course, is ridiculous. There is no indication that Stein or Sanders knew the Russians were using them, a pattern has not been established of constant secret contact among their campaigns, and of course they were not offering the Kremlin anything, unlike the Russia-minded policy the Republicans adopted at their convention, and how easy Trump is to manipulate.
The Russians are more sophisticated than to try to alter the vote tallies after people voted. Their attack on the United States centered around creating and furthering divides. So they used Stein and Sanders to push the left away from Clinton, which helped Trump.
It should be noted that the Russians initially had little hope of Trump actually winning; they were trying to undermine Clinton so that she had less political capital with which to fight them and try to strengthen western democracy as she was set to do with things like her fight against Citizens United, I’d guess.
This is powerful, heady, advanced stuff. It works. People on the left want to feel like they’re smart enough to value opposing opinions and to stand up to the government, so they are drawn to appearances of “fairness” like the Russian talking points in the interview questions.
There’s a saying that if you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention. There needs to be a warning about what to do with that anger and how not to be manipulated by it.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.