Until this 2016 Russian collusion hysteria, I believe our government was not as attuned to the Russian information warfare tactics, as they should have been. Over the past couple decades, I believe the Russians have been actively involved in regaining their active measures level as before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The West has now taken notice of the Russian information warfare threat, but in typical American partisan fashion, the mainstream media and Left only want to hype the activities, by framing in terms of “Russian collusion stole the election from Hillary”. Trump and FOX are attempting to discount almost all of the information about the Russian active measures, except to try to cast it as Hillary was colluding with the Russians with the Trump dossier.
Both sides are missing the point. The Russians have been actively fomenting partisan rancor, fueling fears and conspiracy theories within many American political groups and especially trying to incite extreme fringe political factions for many years – not just during the 2016 presidential election.
A story in the Texas Tribune yesterday reported:
“Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.”
The Russians, using facebook pages, incited two opposing groups of partisans to protest in front of a mosque in Texas. Since the American government is just now realizing the scope of the Russians online information warfare activities, it will be interesting to see how large the Russians operations are and how long they have been running some of these operations.
Here’s a 65 page preliminary list the House intel released on Russian bot handles on Twitter: https://democrats-intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/exhibit_b.pdf
The Democrats are gleefully talking about the Russian- funded facebook ads meant to disparage Hillary, as ammunition against Trump, but I suspect the Congressional investigations into the Russians info war against America are just scratching the surface. I suspect the Russians ran active measures to agitate BLM, the Tea Party activism, the Jade Helm hysteria, the Sandy Hook conspiracies, the President Obama birther crap and many more. Much of the messaging is recycled. I remember in the past year seeing a map meant to incite a different conspiracy theory being retweeted and it was the same Jade Helm map that had circulated during the Jade Helm hysteria in 2015.
The Chicago Tribune reports:
“The ads released Wednesday cover only a small part of how the Russians targeted Americans on Facebook and other American-owned social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The biggest impact, several independent researchers have said, was through ordinary free posts by Russian-backed Facebook groups. Those posts reached up to 126 million Americans, Facebook said, far more than the 11.4 million who saw the ads.
These Facebook ads, like several others that had emerged in news reports over the past several weeks, had the apparent goal of needling Americans’ cultural sore spots.
The mainstream media is hyping the Russians social media footprint and alluding to the FOX News bizarre Trumpathon propaganda being connected to the Russians, but they are blind to the fact that the Russians infiltrated the American “mainstream” media, Hollywood and American academia over the past 100 years. They don’t have to work hard to spread their messaging in the mainstream media, with so many dupes and fellow travelers at the ready.
The American government is just now getting “woke” to the scope of the Russian information war being clandestinely waged against all of America’s valued institutions and the American people. Even the US military and veterans are being targeted by the Russians using social media:
“Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.
The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.”
Kind of hard to play offense in an information war, when you are years behind in even realizing you’ve been under attack and the enemy has successfully set-up shop spreading disinformation using media front operations that millions of Americans trust.
The grease that keeps the Russian active measures churning is corruption. They feed and exploit the corruption in the countries they target. The Clinton and Trump wholesale public corruption enabled the Russians to exploit our political system. It’s a sure bet the Russians have enough dirt on the Clintons and Trump to play both of them or strategically leak to keep the partisan rancor in America churning. Dealing with the widespread corruption in both political parties is a national security imperative.
Trying to shut down Russian messaging is like trying to patch a dam that has already collapsed. Educating Americans about the Russian disinformation will serve better than hysterically trying to stop all their disinformation. Sure, it’s important to identify the Russian bots and troll farms and shut them down, but “influence operations” work because they are finding messages that Americans are buying into.
Winning the hearts and minds of as many Americans as possible, to becoming good citizens committed to protecting and defending The Constitution, is the offensive strategy we need to defeat the Russian information war. The only way for America to win is to find a way to unite more Americans around American values, American institutions and most of all around The Constitution. Tall order there.