Discerning Russian Propaganda in Social Media
August 5, 2017 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Hamilton68 is a site that highlights the stories and links being pushed by known Russian propaganda sources on social media. FAQ.
posted by JHarris (84 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
My brain won't stop reading the title as "Socialist Media". Obviously I'm a child of the Cold War.
posted by hippybear at 4:31 PM on August 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


A little more background from Business Insider, by Natasha Betrand: A new website named after a Founding Father is tracking Russian propaganda in real time.

"The project is an attempt to undermine Russia's disinformation campaign in the United States and the West more broadly. Researchers are continously monitoring roughly 600 Twitter accounts "selected for their relationship to Russian-sponsored influence and disinformation campaigns.""
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:58 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Wait, hold on... Jamie Fly is co-running the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which made Hamilton68? Fly's a neocon war-mongerer. For a taster of his work here's a 2012 article arguing for an invasion of Iran.
posted by Kattullus at 5:19 PM on August 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


Somebody posted this elsewhere, and I noticed a distinct lack of, like... methodology or even analysis. I dunno. And Katullus' links make me feel even more dubious about it. Not that there can't be a broken clock scenario where the douchebag neocon is on the side of right for once, but still.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:24 PM on August 5, 2017 [10 favorites]


Yeah, looking at Fly's twitter account, the first thing they're attributing to Russian propaganda is the tag #fireMcMaster. And that's a retweet of @ReaganBattallion, for what that's worth.
posted by sagc at 5:26 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Wait, hold on... Jamie Fly is co-running the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which made Hamilton68? Fly's a neocon war-mongerer.

I mean, what did you expect?
posted by atoxyl at 5:27 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


yes this definitely won't be used to tar as traitors leftist sources who disagree with liberals
posted by indubitable at 5:28 PM on August 5, 2017 [17 favorites]


On the other hand they've listed Wikileaks, so they're on the money so far.
posted by Artw at 5:31 PM on August 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


yes this definitely won't be used to tar as traitors leftist sources who disagree with liberals

From the looks of it a lot of the accounts they're tracking are probably far right - those guys love RT etc. these days, as much as any tankie-type. But regardless nothing about this fills me with confidence and it doesn't even seem to present the data in a way that lets you see much interesting or useful?

It would be interesting to see influence tracked in a broader and (most importantly) transparent way, though.
posted by atoxyl at 5:42 PM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


I seriously wouldn't mind weather reports on the spread of ideas so I could see what the latest trendy nonsense coming is ahead of time instead of just having to live through it without being prepared. Then the next time everyone "spontaneously" decides they're just crazy about bacon for totally legit personal and not even slightly pork- producers-with-excess-inventory marketing campaign related reasons I could at least bring an umbrella.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:15 PM on August 5, 2017 [13 favorites]


Wait, hold on... Jamie Fly is co-running the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which made Hamilton68? Fly's a neocon war-mongerer.

The site claims to be a bipartisan effort, which would mean you could expect people from both sides. You might not want to pick it as your oracle for these things, but what I've seen so far has passed the smell test. One could make the claim that transparency in this would tip Russian actors off that their feeds have been discovered, although I don't think the site itself says that.

In any case, there it is, take or leave, but it is clear that we need some way of detecting Russia's involvement in these things.
posted by JHarris at 6:16 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wow, far more skepticism here than I would've expected. I don't think it is warranted. This is partly run by Clint Watts, who testified to devastating effect in the Senate Intelligence Committee.

If you read the FAQ...
These accounts were selected for their relationship to Russian-sponsored influence and disinformation campaigns, and not because of any domestic political content. The initial dashboard tracks 600 accounts that were 1) identified as participating in specific disinformation campaigns synchronized with Russia Today and Sputnik News, 2) meaningfully linked to users who self-identified as promoting pro-Russian viewpoints, and 3) bots that provide support to members of the first two categories.

We have monitored these datasets for months in order to verify their relevance to Russian disinformation programs targeting the United States. Russian influence operations targeting other audiences, such as in France and Germany, usually have different but overlapping content.
It's a specific list of accounts which does not change day to day, and they are accounts that have a long history of pushing exactly the same message at Sputnik and RT.

And to me -- of course #fireMcMaster is Russian propaganda. McMaster is currently firing the people Michael Flynn hired, and Flynn was Putin's man. McMaster is very inconvient to Putin right now.

As for Jamie Fly, he is not listed as being directly involved in the FAQ. "The Hamilton 68 dashboard is the collective research and development of Clint Watts, J.M. Berger, Andrew Weisburd and Jonathon Morgan." That Alliance for Securing Democracy Staff page is relevant only in that "This team is working with the Alliance for Securing Democracy in its effort to develop strategies to secure democracies against external assault."

(And even if some war mongering neo-cons are involved, the fact that they have a bad philosophy does not necessarily make them wrong on the facts. There are a lot of doctors out there with terrible political beliefs. That does not make them wrong about what kind of bacteria is making you sick.)

I think this is a valuable tool.
posted by OnceUponATime at 6:19 PM on August 5, 2017 [40 favorites]


I'm all in favor of this. It's clear that there's a small army of Russians taking over Twitter and news comment sites. You only need to look and see that many of the tweets are during Russian working hours to realize how many trolls there are.
posted by miyabo at 6:27 PM on August 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


From the article posted by MonkeyToes:
Rosenberger also expressed concern about reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson does not plan to accept the $80 million recently allocated by Congress to the State Department to fight ISIS propaganda and Russian disinformation.

"It's pretty clear we are behind the curve here," Rosenberger said. "Our European allies have been dealing with this for quite some time."

Tillerson is reportedly concerned that the funds will anger Moscow — a worry that Rosenberger said was "misplaced" and offers "insight into the naïveté with which they're approaching this issue."
Wouldn't want to anger Moscow!
posted by Kevin Street at 6:32 PM on August 5, 2017 [13 favorites]


Every power in the world, even minor ones, has propaganda campaigns and obviously those include use of the internet. Every one of them outs the others and includes their political enemies on those lists as well. This is, like, preschool level geopolitics.

If you think this isn't being used against non-russian affiliated political enemies ... you should have taken some history classes, they can be really informative.

Also, they don't even hide this fact. They refer to people who believe the wrong thing, but have no Russian affiliation, as "useful idiots". There is no difference between this and the post-9/11 "anti-american", "X or the terrorists win" campaigns.
posted by Infracanophile at 6:55 PM on August 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


yes this definitely won't be used to tar as traitors leftist sources who disagree with liberals

If your sources are more concerned about people being skeptical of your claims than you are of foreign infiltration, they're likely already compromised.

The left has been terrible about following the Russia story. I can come up with explanations about why, but none of them are flattering. When the right ignores the Russia story, most of us (correctly) assume it's because they're either compromised or because they're too selfish to care about Russian involvement when they could loot the government instead. Yet for some reason, the left is innocent here.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2017 [19 favorites]


Somebody in Nigeria is likely going to end up with a lot of unwanted attention as a result of this

I found that while looking for the people in my timeline who had been talking about Hamilton68's methods... ah yes, here we go. Greenwald's take.
posted by gusandrews at 7:01 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


There is no difference between this and the post-9/11 "anti-american", "X or the terrorists win" campaigns.

Except for the part where Russia pulled off a digital Watergate, used that to attack the Democratic party (i.e., the most liberal viable party in the US), and helped elect an extreme right-wing president. And the part where they almost certainly have their hands on the Republican emails as well. And the part where every piece of this playbook is something that they've done in other countries as well.

Comparing this only to previous experiences in American history is myopathy.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 7:01 PM on August 5, 2017 [32 favorites]


Some leftists seriously can't stop thinking of Russia as communist or leftist, I think. They feel like they should want to be aligned with them as fellow resisters against capitalism or something. I'm practically full bore socialist at times and have no love for any sort of competition or system of thought that privileges wealth over humanity, but even I understand modern Russia is no enemy of unrestrained capitalism. So the weird hand waving around Russia among some people I've spoken to and otherwise would expect to be allies is really puzzling to me.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:03 PM on August 5, 2017 [20 favorites]


Greenwald's take.

Scroll down to the next article if you're still deluded about Greenwald being on the correct side of anything.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 PM on August 5, 2017 [12 favorites]


Neo-McCarthyist rubbish. This growing conspiracy theory that American democracy is under existential threat from external forces, particularly in light of over a century of ongoing and violent manipulation of foreign governments by the American deep state, is beneath contempt. For God's sake, the phone call is coming from inside the house.
posted by smithsmith at 7:15 PM on August 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


I summed this sort of thing up a while back with some friends as "The CIA and the Democrats are really pissed that the Russians have news."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:19 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


This one, Sys Rq? Talk to me about what your concerns are with Greenwald's take there.
posted by gusandrews at 7:20 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Some leftists seriously can't stop thinking of Russia as communist or leftist, I think.

lol what
posted by indubitable at 7:22 PM on August 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


I mean people I know personally who seem soft on Russia, not big swathes of the left. I've got a limited point of view on things, but from that point, I've definitely seen that sort of weird misplaced sentimentality about Russia.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:26 PM on August 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


There are definitely leftists out there who still think Russia is on the side of the angels and the accusations that they're working to elect far-right candidates across Europe and the US are merely ~centrist~liberal~propaganda~.

(I don't know if Greenwald himself is one of those, but he's definitely, like, adjacent to that bullshit.)
posted by tobascodagama at 7:33 PM on August 5, 2017 [19 favorites]


I mean people I know personally who seem soft on Russia, not big swathes of the left. I've got a limited point of view on things, but from that point, I've definitely seen that sort of weird misplaced sentimentality about Russia.

A disgusting smear on par with those that attempted to paint the early-2000s anti-war movement as pro-Saddam. It's not "sentimental" to suggest that hawkish escalation to a war footing with another nuclear power is a terrible idea.
posted by smithsmith at 7:35 PM on August 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


Um, yeah, okay. Tell me how to be a Real American again please. Give me a break.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:47 PM on August 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


I think the trouble is that there are people on the left who actively admire Russia, like, they will tell you this if you ask. And I know they exist because I've met them. They view Russia as a counterweight to the US and admire Putin for that reason. As a gay person, this gives me the giant creeps.

You can think that ginning up some kind of war with Russia is a terrible idea while also thinking Putin's pretty terrible and the behavior of the Russian government in Eastern Europe is awful. You can also think that both the US and Russia are large, unpleasant powers with evil plans for hegemony. But because we live in a side-taking society, if you say this then everyone accuses you of loving Russia, or hating Russia and loving the US. If anything is reminiscent of the cold war, it's the fact that saying "neither Washington nor Moscow", the only ethical stance, was absolutely intolerable to almost everyone.
posted by Frowner at 7:52 PM on August 5, 2017 [41 favorites]


I know it's not going to work, but I'm going to say it anyway. Greenwald and plenty of other people skeptical of this bullshit aren't saying Russia didn't leak any emails at a strategic time or haven't intentionally financially compromised Trump. They're saying "Of course they did, everyone does this all the time. The US does it globally at an astounding scale and they are good at it. The people who know this is a pretty normal situation are using it to drum up a witch-hunt and people are falling for it"

As a non-American ... I find it hilarious and wonderfully hypocritical to complain about it. You fuckers have manipulated every election where I live for my entire life, for your own interests with no concern about us. The idea that you have some kind of moral high ground against Russia is laughable, even if you recognize that country is an oligopoly and Putin is a scary son of a bitch.
posted by Infracanophile at 7:53 PM on August 5, 2017 [27 favorites]


I was only made a Real American in 2003 when Lawrence v Texas was decided.
posted by hippybear at 7:56 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


As a non-American ... I find it hilarious and wonderfully hypocritical to complain about it. You fuckers have manipulated every election where I live for my entire life, for your own interests with no concern about us. The idea that you have some kind of moral high ground against Russia is laughable, even if you recognize that country is an oligopoly and Putin is a scary son of a bitch.

And I'm sure you just rolled over and took the propaganda when it was happening to you. After all you wouldn't want to be hypocrites by actually taking a stand.
posted by dilaudid at 8:26 PM on August 5, 2017 [29 favorites]


Huh? It's not the taking the stand that is hypocritical. It's being a country that is powerful enough to influence the elections of other countries, and has done so in many ways across many decades, and is now complaining about being influenced itself.

I don't know how the citizens of Infracanophile's country responded to the propaganda. Or whatever other influence the US might have exercised on their country. But unless their country had enough influence over other countries to exert their will in foreign elections, then taking a stand has nothing to do with hypocrisy.
posted by hippybear at 8:40 PM on August 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


When an arsonist's house is burning down it's not hypocritical for her to panic and try to put it out.
posted by dilaudid at 8:44 PM on August 5, 2017 [24 favorites]


dilaudid: are you saying that Infracanophile and their country rolled over on the propaganda and thus would have been hypocritical if they took a stand against the propaganda?

I'm genuinely confused. Is Infracanophile's country the arsonist with the house burning down? So they're not hypocritical to take a stand?

I'm genuinely trying to follow your thread of thought here, but it's eluding me. Can you explain it to me like I'm 10 years old?
posted by hippybear at 8:49 PM on August 5, 2017


The United States is the arsonist. Just because they've done exactly what Russia is doing right now doesn't mean we should pretend like it's not happening out of fear of hypocrisy.
posted by dilaudid at 8:51 PM on August 5, 2017 [15 favorites]


And I'm sure you just rolled over and took the propaganda when it was happening to you. After all you wouldn't want to be hypocrites by actually taking a stand.

Can you help me understand the object "you" of this sentence which you commented in response to a comment by Infracanophile?
posted by hippybear at 8:54 PM on August 5, 2017


And to me -- of course #fireMcMaster is Russian propaganda. McMaster is currently firing the people Michael Flynn hired, and Flynn was Putin's man. McMaster is very inconvient to Putin right now.

Also, McMaster said sympathetic things about Susan Rice re "unmasking", which he recognizes as a totally normal part of how intelligence works. The far right would rather remain outraged about it.
posted by Jpfed at 8:58 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Yeah, there are weirdly, openly pro-Russia people on the left, but I'm bothered by how many people infer that so-and-so is pro-Russia just because they sound too critical of the US. Remember that other site that identified pro-Russian propaganda, and it turned out that the criteria for being on the list included "criticizing US foreign policy?" Yeah, criticizing US foreign policy serves Russia's interests, but it doesn't exclusively benefit them.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:06 PM on August 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


The US has done and probably is doing as bad or worse. I as an American wish we didn't/weren't. Still, I would also like my country to not be captured by Russian interests. This doesn't make me a hypocrite. I can dislike both things, but having no ability to change those things, I'm going to be more concerned about the one that has the most direct effect on me and my own livelihood. To Greenwald, any American who expresses concern about the fact that the President invited Russia to hack our election and then they did is a hypocrite because of things that their elected leaders did in secret, or that Americans would only learn years or decades later.

Unless Greenwald has a credible plan to stop spies from doing spy shit, he needs to allow for people to be concerned with their own well-being and that of their country without labeling them as hypocrites based on things they generally don't get to see happening.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:12 PM on August 5, 2017 [40 favorites]


Some leftists seriously can't stop thinking of Russia as communist or leftist, I think

I don't think it's that, for the most part. What you do see is people who take a flat-out "enemy of U.S. imperialism is my friend" stance, and take it enthusiastically, no matter whose side that's putting them on. I don't generally have a lot of respect for this person, for a few reasons. But there's also a whole range of "neither Washington nor Moscow" positions, as Frowner put it, and I'm also pretty not into attempts to lump all those in with the former category.
posted by atoxyl at 10:02 PM on August 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


Anyway regardless of whether you trust the people behind this and their methodology it seems like a lot of the information gleaned in the aggregate is not incredibly informative? It could really use more tools to look at the data in different ways.
posted by atoxyl at 10:15 PM on August 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's funny favoriting comments from people in one thread while adamantly disagreeing with their points in other threads. I've been on this site for a while now and I still love it when I find myself sharing an opinion with someone I normally think of as a "metafilter enemy". (Not literally, more like a mefi frenemy, a mefinemy.)

The US has done some messed up stuff. I remember when I first started taking "real" history classes. Arbenz, Mosaddeq, Allende, to a certain degree Castro, Iraq/Iran, Mujahadeen etc etc. We've really shaken up the world for our own motives. Real people have suffered.

Part of this is context. WWII ends, China falls, Berlin Airlift, Russia gets the bomb, The Korean War... The late 1940s, early 1950s were terrifying. It's easy for us to laugh old nuclear war safety videos, but that would have been maddening to live through.

So yes, America did some terrible things and continues to do terrible things I'm sure. Here's where I draw the line though: What's the Alternative? Not the Utopian ideal alternative, if the US didn't exist as a superpower, what would the alternative be?

Would the world be a better place if China were the lone superpower? Was the USSR a better leader? Would we have been in a better place if the Ottoman Empire were the dominant power?

I'm not even going to delve into the Third Reich, but thank goodness the US ascended during WWII. Thank goodness the US was there to check Stalin. Is there any reality where a unipolar Russian world would be a better situation?

At some point one needs to put cultural relativism aside and say, America isn't perfect, but it's a better alternative to our other options. I don't think it's fair to equivocate with a government that actively killed tens of millions of people as the USSR or Communist China has done. If we didn't have a military as large as the next 7 largest combined, what sort of terrible things would be happening.

My point is, yes the US has done unsavory things, but do not pretend we're morally on par with Putin's Russia. That guy assassinates journalists and poisons/imprisons his enemies. There's a good chance we're dealing with Trump because of him. We're incredibly lucky to be able to quibble about people like Glenn Greenwald because we don't live in Russia. America is a better world leader than Russia would have been.

If something better comes along, it'll be because the US kept the world stable enough for that alternative. Hopefully when the Star Trek federation emerges, we can all agree to put aside our differences and work together.

*I'm not dismissing the suffering of people harmed by the US. Their lives are not worth less because of where they are from. I am saying that numerically, there is less suffering overall because America has been the dominant postwar power.
posted by Telf at 12:56 AM on August 6, 2017 [23 favorites]


not even slightly pork- producers-with-excess-inventory marketing campaign

But the McRib is back.
posted by floam at 2:20 AM on August 6, 2017


Ugh, I'm actually reading that Greenwald piece linked up thread now...

One finds evidence of this alliance long before the emergence of Trump. Victoria Nuland, for instance, served as one of Dick Cheney’s top foreign policy advisers during the Bush years. Married to one of the most influential neocons, Robert Kagan, Nuland then seamlessly shifted into the Obama State Department and then became a top foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign.

This stuff is so reminiscent of the right-wing talking point about Mueller's team is obviously corrupt because some of the lawyers on it donated to Democrats!

Of course Democrats are allowed to investigate Trump. And likewise, Republicans and centrist Democrats are allowed to investigate Russian propaganda. To say "only card carrying leftists can investigate Russia" is simple-minded tribalism. Expertise is expertise. I would hope that our leading experts on international affairs (a huge and fractally complicated field) would lend their expertise to administrations of both parties, so that foreign policy can be made based on facts and nuanced understanding, regardless of the underlying aims of that policy.

Trump has rejected that idea, of course. He will hire only Trump supporters. As a result, he can find no qualified candidates for many positions, and his government, which is our government, is barely functional. This shows what a bad idea it is to reject expertise if it does not come from someone whose ideology agrees with yours.

Thus, when it came time for Democrats to elevate Putin and Russia into a major theme of the 2016 campaign, and now that their hawkishness toward Moscow is their go-to weapon for attacking Trump, neocons have become their natural ideological allies.


Blech blech blech. The worst kind of victim blaming. Democrats did not choose to elevate Russia into a major theme of 2016 (indeed, I don't think it was a major theme at all. I felt like I was screaming into the wind completely unheard when I freaked out about what Russia was doing, and people were too busy talking about Trump's feud with this or that celebrity or "But her e-mails!")

Russia became a theme because they hacked into the DNC and John Podesta's e-mails and released them in timed bursts to make the Democrats look bad. What, Democrats were just supposed to say nothing? And when they coordinated a huge propaganda campaign against Democrats, say nothing? And then when we found out they'd tried to hack into voter registration systems in up to 39 states and succeeded in more than one, still... Say nothing?

Neocons have done far more damage to the U.S., and the world, than any other single group — by a good margin. They were the architects of the invasion of Iraq and the lies that accompanied it, the worldwide torture regime instituted after 9/11, and the general political climate that equated dissent with treason.

Don't exclude paleo-cons from any responsibility for that. Pat Buchanan and his friends were on board. They framed it as a clash of civilizations, the Christian "West" against the Muslim menace. You can hear it in Bannon's every foreign policy utterance.

Paleo-cons are not against wars. They are only against certain TYPES of wars. Wars we get into to stop a genocide or to stop an invader from annexing our allies -- not okay with paleo-cons. Like the "America First Committee" in the lead-up to World War II, who wanted us to let the Nazis do their thing, which clearly had nothing to do with us... That is how paleo-con isolationism was first discredited!

But paleo-cons don't have a problem with wars of nationalism. Like Trump thinks we need to get out of Aghanistan -- unless it has some minerals we could loot. Then it would be worth staying, to him. And he thought the war in Iraq would have been justified only if we had decided to "take the oil." Trump will happily bomb and invade other countries as long as he thinks there is wealth and power in it for us. He just doesn't want to do it in the name of democracy or for humanitarian reasons. Bannon believes we are already in the middle of a world war between Christianity and Islam and that we need to strike now while we have the advantage. None of these guys is a peace-lover.

Trump fits just fine into the tradition which gave us the Iraq war when he says "Bomb the shit out of them," and "Torture works," and "You have to take out their families," and "Take the oil" and when he goes on and on about "Radical. Islamic. Terrorism."

A neocon who opposes Trump is a neocon who has a conscience or has grown one, and to spurn the help of such people in defeating the conscience-free Trump based purely on tribalism is terribly self defeating.
posted by OnceUponATime at 4:01 AM on August 6, 2017 [19 favorites]


I feel like there's bound to be some strange bedfellows in dealing with Trump, and that we should probably expect this.

I also feel like, while the US and the West in general has pulled some shit when it comes to elections, kleptocrat Russia is genuinely scary.
posted by Merus at 4:30 AM on August 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Greenwald clearly has an agenda on Russia since he refuses to consider facts and evidence that Russia/Putin certainly interfered in the election and continue to target the US. That alone is a reason to treat anything he says with a heavy dose of skepticism. He's like the people on the right who keep moving the goalposts ("there's no evidence!" - then, after there is evidence: "this evidence is not good enough!" - rinse and repeat). At the end of the day Greenwald is supporting the right wing talking point that Russia is about a partisan fight over the election, whether he means to or not.

I have no idea if Greenwald and other people who are attacking the Russia story from the left are just useful idiots or actually aligned with the effort to undermine US institutions, but it is certainly not helping to have constant attacks on public opinion from both sides.

The Russia story is not a partisan fight over the election, it is horror that a hostile power could wreak havoc in such a short amount of time and our that institutions failed to protect themselves. It should be a huge concern to everyone that Russian propaganda and hacking influenced an election. It should be a concern regardless of outcome, and regardless of whether the US has done so in the past. It's a massive, massive issue and I think the reaction on all sides has been underwhelming and basically pathetic (Obama was just as ineffectual as everyone else in this situation).

So, the Hamilton 68 site is not user friendly and I don't really get the presentation of the data at first glance, but I'm glad someone is doing something, and hope more people do more.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:39 AM on August 6, 2017 [15 favorites]


I find it hilarious and wonderfully hypocritical to complain about it. You fuckers have manipulated every election where I live for my entire life, for your own interests with no concern about us.

I think you have every right to be angry at the US for that. But I don't think we should have done that. Unfortunately, I have limited power to stop it--and limited information as well, because my government doesn't usually advertise its shady dealings in other countries.

One of the reasons I'm concerned about Trump, and about the extraordinary level of corruption that he shows, is how this will affect other countries. What I mean is: Trump is even more blatant about choosing sides based on personal connections and personal benefit. For me the problem isn't so much "how dare Russia meddle" but "how dare this dickbag use international politics this way." The attempts to meddle themselves are probably routine.

I'm not so concerned about Russia taking over the US; I'm concerned that the corrupt twerp in the oval office seems to base his relationships with foreign powers on whether or not they'll land him that top reality tv show spot (i.e. the presidency). Trump is the real threat, and this Russia thing is just a particularly egregious example of how.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:29 AM on August 6, 2017 [13 favorites]


Putin wants to accelerate global warming so Russia can gain easy access to new oil reserves that had been inaccessible due to arctic ice blocking access. This is for once genuinely a potentially apocalyptic geopolitical struggle we're in here. Don't shrug off the seriousness of what this alliance is intent on accomplishing.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:54 AM on August 6, 2017 [10 favorites]


I mean, don't mistake the rhetoric from them about global warming potentially being a positive for empty posturing to sow confusion. Putin really believes Russia will benefit in terms of the geopolitical power balance from global warming opening up those new routes of access to large strategic oil reserves. The problem is, the real effects of global warming and the scale of the effects isn't nearly that predictable. Some models show feedback effects and cascade failures leading to a global climate transition completely inhospitable to human life.

This is a different kind of threat--one that doesn't offer easy military solutions and that war would only potentially further exacerbate--but it's no less an urgent historical crisis than any in human history in my opinion.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:05 AM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I'm not entirely sure he has a coherent a super villain plan as that, but global warming does seem to be something the Russians are uniquely keen on, not just in denial of.

Mostly I suspect fyckingvwith other countries is what Putin does because it distracts from what a worthless job he has done of running his own.
posted by Artw at 9:06 AM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Looking past the issues of who's running this and why, and what the subtexts might be, it seems to me that there could be the core of a generally-useful tool for detecting and monitoring any disguised social media campaign - propaganda, marketing, religion, there are lots of people who want to tell you stuff without revealing why.

So, you identify one or more examples of the kind of content you're suspicious about by eye, the software builds up a graph of connectivity between accounts - followers, retweets, shared hashtags - and of content keywords, etc. That should be automatable, especially with some half-decent stats analysis on the back end to keep the noise down. The actual subject of the suspected messaging isn't important to the tool; you're trying to find the structure of the campaign first, then you can look at what fruit is on the tree. It's pattern matching. Aren't we as a tech culture doing an awful lot of work on that right now?

Last time I was actually involved in social media strategy, this sort of thing was loosely bundled into stuff around 'sentiment analysis', but there was so much snake oil and sekrit magic that when I stopped having to do it, I had no interest in following the god-awful martech warriors. Which is dereliction of duty on my part, as these are the tools we need to fight back.
posted by Devonian at 9:07 AM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's even supervillian level plotting from his pov, just sober-eyed Realpolitik. He figures AGW is unstoppable at this point but is betting Russia can opportunistically position itself to regain power in the bargain.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2017


Remember, we're dealing with intellects who considered MAD a sustainable basis for maintaining geopolitical order and had all their nukes wired to deadman's switches just to make sure the ending was "fair" if it came down to widespread human annihilation just a few short decades ago.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:12 AM on August 6, 2017


as a Southeast Asian, i will say that i have found it in me to both think "well well how the turnables" when it comes to American governance infrastructure being compromised by a foreign power and also find it ALARMING AS ALL HELL, especially when the other actor is another superpower (on account of the nuclear legacy at least, as well as the UN Sec. Council membership) who did probably shoot down a civilian airplane belonging to my country's national airline in a proxy war inside Ukraine. so i find that general rhetoric unimpressive.
posted by cendawanita at 9:17 AM on August 6, 2017 [23 favorites]


(it's kinda like how I value China as a development and economic partner while being genuinely concerned over what's going on in the South China Sea.)
posted by cendawanita at 9:19 AM on August 6, 2017 [11 favorites]


while the US and the West in general has pulled some shit when it comes to elections, kleptocrat Russia is genuinely scary.

I don't have a strong opinion on the dashboard yet, and this is not whataboutism: Just want to point out for historical accuracy that past US manipulations have been genuinely scary for some non-USians, even leading to genocide in some cases. E.g. Indoesia, East Timor.
posted by Coventry at 9:24 AM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


You know what's a great way to ensure that the US keeps interfering with other countries' elections forever? Letting another imperial power get away with taking over the US via election interference.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:45 AM on August 6, 2017 [13 favorites]


> I don't have a strong opinion on the dashboard yet, and this is not whataboutism: Just want to point out for historical accuracy that past US manipulations have been genuinely scary for some non-USians, even leading to genocide in some cases. E.g. Indoesia, East Timor.

Absolutely. The correct response for a thinking adult who cares whether or not the world descends into chaos and escalating armed conflict is to oppose all such activities, not to celebrate them as America's just deserts for past sins.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:03 AM on August 6, 2017 [16 favorites]


They're saying "Of course they did, everyone does this all the time. The US does it globally at an astounding scale and they are good at it. The people who know this is a pretty normal situation are using it to drum up a witch-hunt and people are falling for it"

I think those people miss the point that our brief is not against Russia, because, of course, they're going to fuck with us. It is against Trump, because treason.
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


I think it makes total sense to put this on Trump completely. But I'll disagree that this is what the politicians and pundits are saying, a lot of them are really pushing some idea of a new, serious Russian threat that won Trump the election and even here it's largely about kompromat and who among those who disagree with US policy are tools of Russian propaganda. The threat is Trump and the culture and political system that allowed him to be a viable candidate, never mind actually winning.

Also, the idea that the people playing down the influence Russia had are the ones being supported by Russia is just plain stupid. Putin and Surkov are good at this. They plainly see that the hysteria about people being compromised and Russia being the masters of covert manipulation is a good outcome. This is even more obvious if you believe that they have leverage over Trump and his family.

Read more about Surkov, Adam Curtis has some good documentaries about him as a starting point, at the very least his ideal goal would be to support both sides of this argument with the main focus being on those who are anti-russia because that's the side that boosts the global opinion of Russian power *and* sows confusion and chaos in the US. That's just to start, that's much more simple than what is regularly done inside Russia.

I doubt anything is even necessary anyway, it's always better just to let the worst aspects of your enemy do what they do and not risk getting caught trying to speed things up. The cultural divide and rising tensions in the US have been building for a long time.
posted by Infracanophile at 7:43 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


One of the things about this debate that frustrates me is that people are acting like this is a big ol[ made-up conspiracy crazy talk when this shit is following the textbook strategies employed since the 1900s by Russia, the USSR, and then Russia again. They aren't covert about it--I mean, the individual operations are covert but they're extremely open and very proud about their use of these tactics.

Even if you want to dismiss the work done during the Cold War as fantasies constructed by anti-communists then at least pay attention to the real actual research produced in the past 20 years by journalists who have literally died because they investigated and reported on Russia's use of active measures. Everything we've seen in our election is just a repeat of shit they've already done across Eastern Europe. The only difference now is that they're applying it to us. And with a whole lot of success. Western Europe has been less susceptible so far, thank God.

Also, the idea that the people playing down the influence Russia had are the ones being supported by Russia is just plain stupid. Putin and Surkov are good at this. They plainly see that the hysteria about people being compromised and Russia being the masters of covert manipulation is a good outcome. This is even more obvious if you believe that they have leverage over Trump and his family.

Repeating for emphasis. Working in the gray area is part of what makes these tactics so effective. Take existing divides and exacerbate them. Spread news articles and encourage opinions that prevent your opponents from uniting against you. Even if Trump hadn't been elected this election would've been a win for the damage it did to political norms and the social faultlines it blew wide open.
posted by schroedinger at 10:10 PM on August 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


Modern art was CIA 'weapon'
Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:15 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I remember reading about that. More regime-change efforts like that, please. I am extremely about the notion of a cabal of humanities and arts devotees within our intelligence agencies whose goals are centered on securing as much money as possible to fund the creation and dissemination of cutting edge literature, music, theater, and art.
posted by schroedinger at 10:39 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Uh...that wasn't the goal...
Why did the CIA support them? Because in the propaganda war with the Soviet Union, this new artistic movement could be held up as proof of the creativity, the intellectual freedom, and the cultural power of the US. Russian art, strapped into the communist ideological straitjacket, could not compete.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:42 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Of course that wasn't the goal. Hence joking about a "cabal of humanities and arts devotees" convincing The Man to defeat the Commies by throwing money at art.

Obviously in the real world things are far more mercenary.* But seriously--if you've decided the best way to propaganda it up is to funnel a bunch of no-strings-attached money into experimental art and music and whatnot, well, I'm not gonna complain. More of that kind of propaganda, please. Propaganda away!


*though from other articles I've read that of course I can't find now the guys in charge of this actually were big fans of art
posted by schroedinger at 2:03 AM on August 7, 2017 [5 favorites]


Not the best way, just one of many ways. I'm sure if message boards, blogs, and tweets were available, the CIA would have availed itself of them. As I'm sure it's doing now. Probably less ham-fistedly than the Kremlin.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 2:20 AM on August 7, 2017


I notice that #confessyourunpopularopinion is listed in the top hashtags. That kind of thing is super popular among reactionary bigots. "I think $minority_group is inferior. THERE, I SAID IT." Then they pat each other on the back for being un-PC truth-tellers.
posted by brundlefly at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that hashtag was a cesspool.
posted by Artw at 2:22 PM on August 7, 2017




The conspiracy expands:

Netanyahu helped Putin hack America

Bernie Sanders is a knowing chaos agent paid by Russia

Wow! Sensational stuff. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that people are using this Russia stuff to tar two prominent Jewish leaders as conniving manipulators of America.
posted by indubitable at 4:41 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


I BELIEVE IN MY HEART
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:58 PM on August 7, 2017


Standard warning against paying attention to Louise Mensch.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on August 7, 2017 [10 favorites]


Really, this just confirms my suspicion that Mensch's whole schtick is intended to discredit critics of the regime. First by getting them to spread ridiculous "fake news" of their own about the SUPER DOUBLE SECRET MARSHALL OF THE CONGRESSIONAL POLICE FORCE IS ON HIS WAY TO ARREST TRUMP FOR TREASON RIGHT NOWWWWWWWWW variety and now, apparently, by inviting certain people (who clearly haven't been paying enough attention to have caught on to Mensch's little game) to assert that all criticism of Russia's election meddling is actually veiled anti-Semitism. Because Russia just loves the Jews, am I right?
posted by tobascodagama at 6:03 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


If Mensch didn't exist, leftier-than-thou leftists would have invented her. I don't know anyone who pays attention to her now, and even the few people I know who paid attention to her before were have acknowledged that she's a crank. There are a lot of ways we can talk about Russia's ongoing campaign to exert their influence in the US that can lead to a productive discussion, but shooting fish in the Louise Mensch barrel isn't among them.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:48 AM on August 8, 2017 [2 favorites]


I don't know anyone who pays attention to her now, and even the few people I know who paid attention to her before were have acknowledged that she's a crank.

There is no media figure who's such a crank that they don't have at least one person who hangs on their every word.
posted by JHarris at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2017


No doubt, but there's very little daylight between fisking her latest horseshit and nutpicking some rando from Twitter, so I don't see what the point of constantly bringing her up is. I'll certainly join in the pointing and laughing, but the general topic of Russia's intervention is serious enough that it deserves a more serious discussion.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:19 AM on August 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


Telf,
At some point one needs to put cultural relativism aside and say, America isn't perfect, but it's a better alternative to our other options. I don't think it's fair to equivocate with a government that actively killed tens of millions of people as the USSR or Communist China has done. If we didn't have a military as large as the next 7 largest combined, what sort of terrible things would be happening.
The US has actively killed tens of millions of people, too. We are engaged in the ongoing killing of hundreds of thousands of people. (That's directly, with guns and bombs and drones. Indirectly, via the machinery of capitalism, we're engaged in the ongoing killing of millions more. Every year.) You just apparently don't care because they're not ours.

I'm a USian too. Me, I think we're an illegitimate country and the world would've been better off if the entire nation had been strangled at birth. But i think that about all the global superpowers.
posted by adrienneleigh at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


I've got several friends who link to Mensch quite a bit. It baffles me.
posted by brundlefly at 12:33 AM on August 11, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yep. My most radically centrist friends seem to post Mensch shit on FB at least once a week. Nothing I do or say seems to matter, so I gave up a long time ago.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:45 AM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


Ha, from my group it's the alt-left people. I don't know how her "Bernie is a Russian agent" theory jibes with their adoration of him, but people see what they want to see in the personalities they like, I guess.
posted by schroedinger at 2:26 AM on August 11, 2017


also lol @ "radical centrism", do people seriously identify that way? Like, not tongue-in-cheek?
posted by schroedinger at 2:28 AM on August 11, 2017 [1 favorite]


No, of course not. Nobody identifies as "alt-left" either--that one's a residue of the always delightful horseshoe theory of moral equivalence.

(I'm surprised any real Lefties listen to Mensch at all--she's roundly savaged on the regula in Left discourse.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:03 AM on August 11, 2017 [3 favorites]




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