As the dust settles from the shocking conclusion of the 2016 election, it’s becoming painfully clear that the disinformation campaign orchestrated by agents of the Russian Federation was much more successful than previously thought.
New reports by independent research groups have found that the Russians used over two hundred websites to pump fake news and pro-Russian propaganda into American social media circles:
Two groups of independent researchers found that Russia employed thousands of botnets, human internet “trolls” and networks of Web sites and social media accounts to inject false content into online political talk and amplify posts from right-wing sites.
“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who co-authored a report about Russian propaganda. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”
A similar report from PropOrNot, provided to the Post, identifies more than 200 websites that routinely pushed Russian propaganda to at least 15 million Americans, and found that false stories pushed on Facebook were viewed more than 213 million times. “It was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.”
Fake news played a large role in perpetuating false narratives and conspiracy theories about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, helping to create an atmosphere of intense distrust and hyperpartisan rejection of nonconforming information. It was key to Donald Trump’s successful weathering his endless stream of scandals and efforts to tear down the image of Clinton.
It is well documented at this point that the Russians were doing everything they could to get Trump elected; trolls flooded social media with pro-Trump and pro-Putin propaganda and Russian hackers broke into the servers of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta. Part of a classic KGB tactic known as dezinformatsiya, the Russians succeeded in duping the American people.
It is incredibly ironic for Americans to complain about interference in our elections since the American government has interfered with elections or overthrown the governments of foreign nations at least forty times, but here we are.
But these revelations truly speak volumes about the American people; we’ve become incredibly gullible and viciously distrustful at the same time; truth and facts are now nothing but inconvenient obstacles to be ignored when it doesn’t suit us or match our preconceived beliefs.
No wonder millions of Americans got duped into voting for a lying con-man and serial sexual predator.
There are many reasons why the Russians gunned so hard for Trump; here is a brief list:
- Donald Trump will repeal the sanctions imposed by the Obama administration following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. These sanctions make it difficult for Putin and his fellow oligarchs to launder money out of the country.
- Trump has 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. This will give the Russian military free rein to use excessive force and commit war crimes with impunity. Thousands will die.
- 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, little interest in international affairs, and will 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.
Colin Taylor is the 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.