It is high time we accept the fact that the Russian government is engaged in a massive propaganda campaign aimed at getting Americans to fight with each other. It’s been going on for a long time.
After Russian attempts to influence our past presidential election were exposed, you might have thought they would back off their social media disinformation campaign. But no.
Even though there are multiple investigations into last year’s Kremlin-inspired campaign to sow American dissent on a wide range of hot-button issues (presumably so voters would be convinced to reject Democratic Party candidates), the Russians are still at it. That’s according to top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are worried about the potential chaos Russian propaganda might have on future U.S. elections, like the ones taking place across the country next month and next year.
Here’s a quick primer on their insidious efforts to disrupt America’s social fabric, and mold the way we think and interact with each other: Agents of the Kremlin set up countless phony social media sites with attractive-sounding names like “Being Patriotic,” “United Muslims of America,” “Defend the 2nd” and “Blacktivist.” They then glom on to existing posts in which Americans have expressed outrage about the U.S. government, race relations, gun rights, immigration or tax policies and any number of other divisive issues.
The Russian provocateurs fan the flames of our passionate discourse by embellishing the messages and disseminating them to a much wider audience than the original postings would have ever reached. In other words, the Russians are using our own disagreements against us. I wonder how many Americans have already been swayed by Russia-instigated propaganda and don’t even realize it.
Among the Russia-generated posts designed to stoke American anger: A manufactured hoax about Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for up to four wives. A Russia-sponsored Facebook page with a headline that read, “Bridgeport cop shot, handcuffed black teen and left him in the street for 6 hours as he bled to death.” And a concocted story from the aforementioned Being Patriotic site erroneously claiming that 50,000 homeless U.S. veterans are starving in the streets, while “liberals want to invite 620,000 refugees to our country.”
All those stories are untrue, but you can bet some internet addicts believed the hate-filled missives and passed them on.
You see the sinister thinking behind the Kremlin’s campaign here? Grab an issue, twist it for maximum negative effect, then sit back and watch Americans argue with each other until rage erupts.
Why, you might ask, would a foreign power want to do this? Because Russia realizes today’s wars are no longer fought on a battlefield with guns and tanks. They take place behind a keyboard, on a stage called the worldwide web and the best weapon they can employ is one that erodes the common sense of their enemy. The Russians know a divided nation is much easier to defeat than a united one.
This is not new behavior. After World War II, the (then) Soviet Union tried to spread its socialist propaganda via Radio Moscow and a newspaper called The Daily Worker. But back then the audience for their pro-communist message was miniscule when compared with today’s worldwide reach of the internet.
Americans loathe censorship, and social media thrives on lively give-and-take discussions. But even executives at Facebook, Twitter and Google agree there is a problem here. Facebook now admits that in 2016, it accepted money for more than 3,000 ads purchased by agents connected to the Internet Research Agency. That group has been described as “a secretive company known for spreading Kremlin-linked propaganda … part of a highly coordinated disinformation campaign that sought to sow chaos and exploit divisive (American) social issues.”
Top officials from Facebook, Twitter and Google are set to testify before Congress early next month to see if there is some way to curb the Kremlin’s continuing campaign against us.
There is no specific U.S. law against what agents of the Russian state are doing. Our First Amendment allows everyone the right to express his or her self. So it is up to us, the readers, to use our critical thinking skills to identify the hyped Russian posts for what they are – a sick device deigned to get us to turn on each other. This Moscow mind manipulation is yet another important reminder not to believe everything you read on the internet.
It seems that we come together as Americans only after a national crisis like the senseless massacre of innocents in Las Vegas, and the hurricane devastation in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. We squabble about everything these days and say ugly things about other’s opinions. This is just what the Russians are aiming for.
Let’s stop giving it to them.
www.DianeDimond.com; email to Diane@DianeDimond.com.