We've Only Seen the Beginning of Foreign Meddling

While the president and his party of Democracy Killers continue to pursue their own special brand of domestic election meddling via voter suppression, gerrymandering, eradicating campaign finance regulations, media manipulation and consolidation, and various other fuckery, foreign election meddling continues apace. And of course the two are not mutually exclusive, as Republican indifference to foreign interference to their benefit allows the latter to proliferate.

One of the ways that Russia's interference manifests between election cycles is the relentless exploitation of differences between an increasingly polarized populace. It's no secret that Russian trolls are working very hard to create a massive fissure between the U.S. left and right, which becomes an irreparable break.

Which is why the juxtaposition of these two stories I happened to read back-to-back this morning is so chilling (emphases mine):

1. Oliver Roeder at FiveThirtyEight: Why We're Sharing 3 Million Russian Troll Tweets.
FiveThirtyEight has obtained nearly 3 million tweets from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency. To our knowledge, it's the fullest empirical record to date of Russian trolls' actions on social media, showing a relentless and systematic onslaught.

...The data set is the work of two professors at Clemson University: Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren. Using advanced social media tracking software, they pulled the tweets from thousands of accounts that Twitter has acknowledged as being associated with the IRA. The professors shared their data with FiveThirtyEight in the hope that other researchers, and the broader public, will explore it and share what they find. "So far it's only had two brains looking at it," Linvill said of their trove of tweets. "More brains might find God-knows-what."

...Even a simple timeline of these tweets can begin to tell a story of how the trolls operated. For instance, there was a flurry of trolling activity on Oct. 6, 2016. As the Washington Post first pointed out using the Clemson researchers' findings, that may have been related to what happened on Oct. 7, 2016, when WikiLeaks released embarrassing emails from the Clinton campaign. There was another big spike in the summer of 2017, when the Internet Research Agency appeared to have shifted its focus to a specific type of troll — one the researchers call the "Right Troll" — that mimicked stereotypical Trump supporters.

...Right Troll and Left Troll are the meat of the agency's trolling campaign. Right Trolls behave like "bread-and-butter MAGA Americans, only all they do is talk about politics all day long," Linvill said. Left Trolls often adopt the personae of Black Lives Matter activists, typically expressing support for Bernie Sanders and derision for Hillary Clinton, along with "clearly trying to divide the Democratic Party and lower voter turnout."

..."Russia's attempts to distract, divide, and demoralize has been called a form of political war," the authors conclude in their paper. "This analysis has given insight into the methods the IRA used to engage in this war."

..."There were more tweets in the year after the election than there were in the year before the election," Warren said. "I want to shout this from the rooftops. This is not just an election thing. It's a continuing intervention in the political conversation in America."

"They are trying to divide our country," Linvill added.
2. Isaac Stanley-Becker at the Washington Post: 'We Are Q': A Deranged Conspiracy Cult Leaps from the Internet to the Crowd at Trump's 'MAGA' Tour.
Believers in "QAnon," as the conspiracy theory is known, were front and center at the Florida State Fairgrounds Expo Hall, where Trump came to stump for Republican candidates. As the president spoke, a sign rose from the audience. "We are Q," it read. Another poster displayed text arranged in a "Q" pattern: "Where we go one we go all."

The symbol appeared on clothing, too. A man and a woman wore matching white T-shirts with the YouTube logo encircled in a blue "Q." The video-sharing website came under criticism this week for unwittingly becoming a platform for baseless claims, first promoted on Twitter and Reddit by QAnon believers, that certain Hollywood celebrities are pedophiles. A search for one of those celebrity's names on Monday returned videos purporting to show his victims sharing their stories.

The prominence of the "Q" symbol turned parts of the audience into a tableau of delusion and paranoia — and offered evidence that QAnon, an outgrowth of the #Pizzagate conspiracy theory that led a gunman to open fire in a D.C. restaurant last year, has leaped from Internet message boards to the president's "Make America Great Again" tour through America.

"Pray Trump mentions Q!" one user wrote on 8chan. He didn't need to. As hazy corners of the Internet buzzed about the president's speech, his appearance became a real-life show of force for the community that has mostly operated behind the veil of anonymity on subreddits.

Reading the piece on Russian disinfo trolling, which ends by noting it's still continuing, followed by the piece on the QAnon cult, was jarring.

We are not anywhere near the end of this thing. We are, in fact, at the beginning.

Even if Donald Trump gets ousted, even if Mike Pence follows him out the door, even if the Democrats retake the majority and Nancy Pelosi is made Queen Empress of the United States of Feminism, this isn't going away.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus