Saturday, January 7, 2017

Russian disinformation and Trump

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testified that the intelligence services have concluded with high certainty that a foreign power, Russia, interfered with the presidential electoral process in favor of Trump. There is no claim that actual vote tallies were interfered with.  It was a disinformation campaign, long ago perfected by the Soviet Union KGB, that influenced the voters.  Putin, of course was the head of that infamous organization prior to the fall of the wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Empire.

Using their pawn, Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks platform, the Russians dumped hacked Clinton emails at strategic times in the run-up to the election, planted fake news and disinformation designed to undermine Clinton.  Trump squeaked out a win, and U.S. intelligence monitored celebrations by upper level Russians.

"The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials — including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election — contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.

Obama has responded to this outrage, publicly by expelling 35 Russian diplomats, and with actions that will not be made public. 

This is a well established pattern in recent years by Putin.  He has interfered in Ukraine, now in Germany and likely France for upcoming elections.  Putin's Russia doesn't have many ways to be an empire, but disinformation is a highly developed and effective weapon against democracies. And delegitimizing democracies, influencing elections, and turning factions against each other in his targeted democracies is what he wants, and he is succeeding.  

It is how he makes Russia important - not by making Russia more powerful economically or culturally, but by weakening and destroying the rest of the world.  Strange and pathetic little man.

How much of the polarization in America is coming from these disinformation efforts?  The Alt Right news sources like Brietbart, Drudge Report, and Infowars, as well as the viral postings on social media, all of which get picked up by right wing talk radio and Fox News, has created an alternate reality for conservatives that believe that the disinformation they are being fed is showing them the real world, and convincing them that the actual news organizations - NPR, PBS, and various forms of "mainstream media" are actually distortions of the news due to a liberal bias.  

So, we live in two worlds.  A world of news and a world of Russian and Alt Right disinformation.  It is little wonder that good people voted against Hillary and for Trump.  Their world view was influenced by Putin's disinformation and the Alt-Right's paranoia.

Trump, of course, wants to make sure that nobody thinks that he won because of anything but his own glorious magnificence.  So, he denigrates the U.S. Intelligence services.

I'm not sure it is a smart idea for a president in waiting to attack the intelligence services of his own country, especially if that person my have many secrets that he is trying to hide.  Business corruption?  Sexual debauchery?  Massive debts to Russian oligarchs? Disgusting personal vendettas against helpless civilians who irritated him?

And how happy can my conservative friends be about all of this?  Haven't they spent decades warning against Soviet and Russian infamy?  Are they actually praising Putin and Assange for interfering with American elections?

The world is upside down.