As more and more links between the Russian Federation’s dictatorship and Republican nominee Donald J. Trump are exposed, it might not come as a surprise to you that it appears the Kremlin has been hiring internet trolls to flood social media with pro-Trump posts.
Part of a Russian strategy known as dezinformatsiya, it’s a classic disinformation campaign working to sow discord and provoke conflict, to exacerbate divisions and amplify rivalries among the allies of those that would threaten Moscow. This strategy has also been picked up by the Hillary Clinton campaign during the height of her primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders. Cyberwar, disinformation, and lies, it seems, is just another part of politics these days.
Freelance reporter and now New Yorker staff writer Adrien Chen had been tracking Russian online trolls for a piece published last year. But when he recently checked his sources again, he discovered something interesting:
“I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on, but they’re all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.”
He found in his research that the point of the Kremlin’s machinations “was to weave propaganda seamlessly into what appeared to be the nonpolitical musings of an everyday person. Russia’s information war might be thought of as the biggest trolling operation in history…And its target is nothing less than the utility of the Internet as a democratic space.”
It’s just more evidence that the Kremlin is working hard to ensure a Donald J. Trump electoral victory, for several reasons.
- The Kremlin already has agents friendly to its interests implanted within the Donald J. Trump camp, like campaign manger Paul Manafort and foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
- Trump has already declared his desire to be “friendly” with Russia, which would manifest itself as turning a blind eye to the Kremlin’s overseas plots and reducing the likelihood that Russia’s aggressive expansionism in Eastern Europe and the Middle East will be challenged.
- Trump has declared his intention to pursue an isolationist foreign policy and the withdrawal of American overseas influence, creating a power vacuum that will certainly be filled by either Moscow or Beijing.
- Trump is an impulsive narcissist with little savvy and could be easily manipulated into supporting the interests of Russia.
- Trump has already declared his intention to pursue a protofascistic domestic policy that includes muffling the press, repressing free speech, increasing the power of law enforcement and undermining democracy, which conveniently removes an existential threat to Vladimir Putin’s own dictatorial regime.
So the next time that you find yourself facing the urge to get into an argument with an egg-icon Trump fan on Twitter or with some outrageously offensive commentator, save your energy. It’s probably just a teenager in a St. Petersburg basement.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.