David Ferguson at Raw Story: Russians Used 'Bernie Bros' as 'Unwitting Agents' in Disinformation Campaign: Senate Intel Witness.
At Thursday afternoon's meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Retired Gen. Keith Alexander — former director of the National Security Agency — said that Russian operatives targeted both liberal and conservative voters in its disinformation campaigns during the 2016 election."Unwitting" is doing a lot of work there. Yes, in the sense that the faction of Bernie supporters who eagerly disseminated this disinformation weren't aware it was the Russians who were feeding them the info, they were indeed "unwitting agents."
Dr. Thomas Rid of Kings College London's Department of War Studies explained that polarization makes societies vulnerable to manipulation by disinformation campaigns.
Russia, Rid explained, according to CBS News, likes to use "unwitting agents" to carry out its work. WikiLeaks, Twitter, and "overeager journalists" all contributed to Russia's efforts to destabilize the U.S. by disrupting its 2016 election.
Democratic committee co-chair Sen. Mark Warner (VA) asked the panel if they had any doubt that Russia had attempted to interfere in some aspects of the 2016 election. Alexander said not only did he have no doubt, he could get very specific.
"Senator, I think what they were trying to do was drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group," said Alexander. "And then in our nation between Republicans and Democrats."
Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) reported earlier this month that during the 2016 election, their social media feeds and pro-Sanders Facebook groups were inundated with what they now believe were Russian bots spewing anti-Hillary memes including fake news stories about Clinton using a body double and murdering her ideological opponents.
But they still believed and disseminated vile garbage about Hillary Clinton that was demonstrably untrue, because they liked the feeling of destroying her. And the women who supported her.
They were primarily useful because of their own willful "unwittedness." That is, their refusal to do even the most basic research to determine whether what they shared about her was accurate.
They may've been "unwittingly" sharing Russian disinformation, but they were "wittingly" participating in pile-ons of lies about Hillary Clinton, frequently framed in misogynist tropes.
Their impenetrable delight in trying to destroy Clinton was so profound that it stopped them from even cursory scrutiny of the rank lies they were promulgating. Look too closely and the fun might end.
And the seething hatred for her that underwrote both their usefulness as Russian agents and their disinterest in scrutinizing facts continues even now, as they refuse to take a hard look at the ties of Sanders' own campaign to some of the unsavory characters in Trump's orbit.
I have surprised many a Sanders supporter by informing them that Sanders' chief strategist Tad Devine worked in collaboration with Paul Manafort for pro-Putin former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych. And kept working for him even after his rival, Viktor Yushchenko, barely survived a poisoning attempt, obliging him to "campaign with his face half paralysed and a catheter inserted into his back to inject painkillers into his spine."
Somehow, I doubt that the virulently anti-Clinton Sanders supporters would be so forgiving had Clinton's chief strategist worked for a pro-Putin politician whose opponent had this done to him:
I will note, again, that Tad Devine has not been accused of any illegal activities in association with his work for Yanukovych, unlike Paul Manafort.
But I have to believe that a seasoned political operative, who worked for a pro-Putin Ukrainian politician for many years, would be familiar with the tactics that were used in this U.S. election. I would find it extraordinary if Devine did not recognize what was happening; did not see the proliferation of anti-Clinton disinformation on social media and not even suspect that Russia was interfering on behalf of the Sanders campaign.
Surely he knew, especially as reports began to emerge about Russian interference, and yet he kept absolutely silent about it.
I am concerned by the questions that are raised by Hillary Clinton, a long-time target of Putin's ire, facing two opponents whose key campaign staff both worked for a Putin ally, and whose campaigns were given a direct assist by Russian interference that intelligence agencies have concluded was, in part, explicitly to derail her.
And if I had been a Sanders supporter, especially one who'd been an "unwitting agent" of Russia by circulating lies about Clinton, I would be very angry about that, and I would be very concerned that Sanders' campaign had some idea that it was happening and let me participate as an "unwitting agent" anyway.
I would be very alarmed by reports that Russian hackers targeted the email accounts "of at least 109 Hillary Clinton staffers" last March, in he heat of the primary, but apparently made no attempt to infiltrate the Sanders campaign.
I would feel pretty shitty that I participated in Russian-orchestrated disinformation by spreading lies about an American who has dedicated her life to public service to this country, especially now that I knew much of what I shared was utterly fucking false.
I would be asking a hell of a lot of questions right now. Especially of myself.
[Note: If your instinct is to head to comments with any variation of "But Clinton..." prepare for your comment to be deleted. "But Clinton..." is not relevant to this thread.]