Credit where it’s due, and all that. You have to hand it to Vlad Putin. That guy — he put together a few fairly small teams of operatives, handed them a relatively small budget, and told them to go forth and fuck up the 2016 presidential election.
And they did.
Hell, they probably had a good time doing it. After all, it turned out to be fairly easy. It was basically a two-pronged approach. Prong One: create public doubt in the integrity of the election process itself. That would handicap the administration of the eventual winner regardless of who it was. Prong Two: exacerbate the already existing divisions within US culture. Just encourage everybody to hate everybody else just a little more. That would make the nation much more difficult to govern.
That’s it. That’s all they had to do. Easy peasy lemon breezy.
It was made even easier because they had a ready-made candidate. Seriously, if you sat down at a table to design a presidential candidate who to be a Russian intelligence asset, you’d want somebody who was:
- already corrupt as fuck
- massively ignorant about everything a president should understand
- narcissistic to a degree that it met the standard for a personality disorder
- completely devoid of personal loyalty or patriotism
- insecure enough to be easily manipulated through flattery
- resentful, impetuous, malicious, vengeful, petty, unwilling to learn, and lazy.
So, clearly, Donald Trump. Right? I don’t think Putin believed Trump had any real chance of winning. Trump didn’t need to win in order for Putin’s plan to succeed. All Putin wanted/needed to do was to foment social discord and bugger up the election system.
The easiest, least expensive, and most effective way to do those two things? Poison social media, The Russians flooded social media with lies, half-truths, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Some of the lies were so outrageous and ridiculous that only lunatics would believe them (a pedophile ring run by lesbian Hillary Clinton out of a tunnel beneath a pizza parlor — who the hell is going to believe something like…ah, right, never mind). But it didn’t matter than some of the lies were so ridiculous. You tell an outrageous lie in order to make less outrageous lies seem more probable. Folks who hear and dismiss the Pizzagate lie would be more open to believing the Benghazi lies. Or the Hillary-has-brain-damage-from-a-fall lie.
And once those lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories were out there in the social media sphere, the Russians could count on the Trump campaign to echo them, spreading them even more widely and making them seem a tad more legit.
I don’t know if the Russians expected the entire Republican Party to help out, but they did. And they did it with enthusiasm. They spread the lies, half-truths, and conspiracy theories with all the passion of spawning salmon. Not because they believed them, of course, but because it was to their advantage politically. I’d like to think the Russians were surprised to see Republicans so keen to undermine the electoral process, but I’m naive like that. I mean, surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected that, when their rat-fucking became obvious, the Republicans would not only refuse to acknowledge it, but would go so far as to threaten President Obama that if he made a public statement about it, they’d respond by calling it a partisan attack. Surely the Russians wouldn’t have expected Republicans to be that awful. Would they?
Yeah, okay, maybe.
And finally, the Russians spread as much internal division as they could, pitting Hillary’s people against Bernie’s people, against Jill’s people, even against Gary Johnson’s people for fuck’s sake (although I suspect Gary Johnson’s ‘people’ were just folks who said I don’t know who he is, but he’s not a socialist or a woman, so I’ll vote for him).
Anyway, it all worked. Trump was elected by fewer than eighty thousand votes cast in three states. Since then, almost every international action he’s taken as president has benefited Russia. He’s weakened NATO, he’s insulted and alienated our traditional allies, he’s cozied up to tyrants and excused their behavior, he’s refused to accept the advice or listen to the suggestions of acknowledged experts in foreign relations, he’s pulled out of established treaties, he’s abandoned the Kurds who did most of the killing and dying in the fight against ISIS, and he’s completely corrupted the reputation of the United States. Right now, no other nation in the world has any reason to trust the word of the U.S. government.
Again, credit where it’s due. Vlad Putin dropped a few rubles on a lottery ticket and he won. And guess what. He’s picked the same lottery numbers for the next election. And hey, with the help of Comrade Trump and the Republican Party, he’s already won. Even if Trump loses the 2020 election, even if he’s impeached and removed from office, even if everybody in the Trump administration ends up in prison, Putin has already won. Because any Democrat who wins the election will have to spend a massive amount of time and effort and money to clean up after the motherfucker.
And that serves Russian interests, Vlad fuckin’ Putin. Comrade Donald fuckin’ Trump. Jesus suffering fuck, they really did it, didn’t they.
And the same model is being deployed in the UK over Brexit, the villification of Jeremy Corbyn, and the canonisation of Boris Johnson,
The sad thing is, that model has worked for them. It’s proving difficult to disrupt that model because at its core the model depends on creating distrust of every institution designed to oppose the model.
The thing about the whole Fake News phenomena is that it’s not just about creating distrust of specific news organizations — it’s about creating distrust of the basic concept of ‘facts’.
That is the most astute assessment of the situation I have read to date.
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