" A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand"
"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:"
King James Verson Bible Matthew 12:22-28
Russia is trying to weaken and destroy our democracies and they are doing a fine job. Russia still has great power. They have a very large and capable military, a major nuclear force, and a will to dominate the west.
Through disinformation and propaganda they spread stories and lies to anger our citizens and turn them against one another. Their efforts are a cheap and easy way to spread falsehoods and weaken western democracies. And they are succeeding.
The level of trust American now have for one another and for governmental agencies and media are now extremely low. Russia and Putin are very happy about this.
Russia spreads crazy stories in a variety of ways. They email these stories to yellow rag blogs who are happy to post the misinformation, and embellish it. This gets the blogger attention, and clicks, which help their national exposure and their bottom line. They have no journalistic training, ethics, or oversight. The various blogs pick up conspiracy theories, embellish them, and keep on spreading falsehoods.
It is very hard to combat this. It is like playing whack a mole - you smash one rumor and ten more pop up.
Even intelligent people end up believing some of this malarkey. SAD.
How They Do It
In the run-up to the presidential election, BrandeisNOW asked faculty to provide analysis and insight into some of the most pressing issues facing the country. This is part of the series.
Over the last decade, the growth of social media has gone hand in hand with the increasing use of those platforms for the coordinated dissemination of disinformation.
Russian pseudo-state operations such as the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg and financed by allies of Putin, are of particular concern. They have been linked to dozens of international campaigns using “troll farms” of employees posting with fake accounts in addition to networks of automated bots to push disinformation on social media.
These campaigns have been global in reach, including efforts in both South America and Africa. The countries of the former Soviet Bloc have been intensely targeted, especially Ukraine in the wake of the Russian-supported insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
The United States has been the target of what can appear to be a bizarre cacophony of campaigns.
In addition to extensive campaigns supporting Donald Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential elections, campaigns at various points focused on: a hoax about poisoned Thanksgiving turkeys, an invented chemical plant explosion, anti-vaccination propaganda, electoral college reform, anti-Muslim immigration, Black Lives Matter, and even the organization of anti-Trump protests once he was in office.
For the most part, these campaigns have co-opted existing organizations and content and repurposed and amplified their message.
The campaigns exploit existing political fault lines like race and regionalism to increase polarization and disaffection with the political system. The complete lack of a coherent message across these campaigns is jarring until one realizes that the goal of the campaigns is not necessarily to convince anyone of anything, but rather to generate noise.
We can see this in action when we look at the internal propaganda of the Putin regime on specific topics like the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over Ukraine in 2014 in which a plethora of completely contradictory – and largely obviously fictional – explanations were pushed simultaneously.
The proliferation of noise encourages the public to disbelieve everything and undermines the basic assumption that there is an objective truth that we can more or less trust media outlets to tell us.
Democracy does not function without trust – in institutions, in the press, in fellow citizens. Russian disinformation campaigns have found social media a fertile field for destroying that trust.
Steven Wilson is an assistant professor of politics whose research focuses on Russia, cybersecurity, and the role of social media in shaping collective action, authoritarian resilience and de-democratization.
Quotes below from the Commission on Security and cooperation in Europe
Click to read an excellent US State Department report on Russian Disinformation - Why and how they do it.
Subversion (from the Latin word subvertere, 'overthrow') refers to a process by which the values and principles of a system in place are contradicted or reversed, in an attempt to transform the established social order and its structures of power, authority, hierarchy, and social norms. Subversion can be described as an attack on the public morale and, "the will to resist intervention are the products of combined political and social or class loyalties which are usually attached to national symbols. Following penetration, and parallel with the forced disintegration of political and social institutions of the state, these loyalties may be detached and transferred to the political or ideological cause of the aggressor". Subversion is used as a tool to achieve political goals because it generally carries less risk, cost, and difficulty as opposed to open belligerency. Furthermore, it is a relatively cheap form of warfare that does not require large amounts of training.
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