An interesting thing happened to my perspective, over the past couple of weeks. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, wreathing myself in the virtual equivalent of sackcloth (Facebook posts) and ashes (Tweets), I’ve slowed down and started paying attention to recurrent themes after the election.
One theme, in particular, stood out — The Russian influence over the election.
Okay, people, here’s the weird thing: We’ve known that the Russians were “meddling” in our election politics for many months. President Obama warned about a Cold War-style ‘cyber arms race’ with Russia back in September – and even before that, there were ongoing concerns about Russian influence in the election (including hacks on the DNC in June). Nobody paid much mind, really, even when Donald Trump publicly asked Russia to produce emails of his opponent. Yeah, we’ve known about it. But for some reason, nobody paid much mind.
Now, we come to find out that there’s been a veritable firehose of disinformation / fake news – okay, let’s call it what it is: propaganda consistent with Russian patterns that’s flooded the social media scene and effectively eclipsed actual, real-world news. To quote the Washington Post:
On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.
Okay, so what? you may ask. Big deal. But consider:
The Daily Beast debunked a particularly widely read piece in an article that reached 1,700 Facebook accounts and was read online more than 30,000 times. But the PropOrNot researchers found that the version supported by Russian propaganda reached 90,000 Facebook accounts and was read more than 8 million times. The researchers said the true Daily Beast story was like “shouting into a hurricane” of false stories supported by the Russians.
That means Russian-backed propaganda has been seen — in just one instance — over 266 times for every one view of the real article.
Here’s a link to the list of “fake news” — ahem — propaganda sites from PropOrNot.com. You will probably recognize at least some of them, as a one-time “trusted source” for yourself. I actually do. And that’s disconcerting, to say the least.
Which means that our brains have been hacked.
Our minds, our hearts, our election, our country have been compromised by a hostile entity that within my lifetime was seen as a mortal foe.
And they may have been up to no good during the primaries, as well. Which made the GOP into one of the biggest
b*tches patsies of the Kremlin, of all time. I mean, seriously. If that’s true (and I don’t doubt it could be), they really got taken for a ride.
And meanwhile, the “discussions” we’ve been having with each other in ever camp — intra-party, inter-party, and across the full political spectrum, have been a relentless shit-show. Many, many conversations have not been productive, tons of them have been anything but civil, and countless exchanges have been downright abusive… and everything in between. We’ve come apart at the seams as a formerly civil society, in no small part because people who are a whole lot smarter than a lot of us, and who know our weaknesses even better than we know our strengths, made a hell of a lot more effort to
trick and mislead fuck with us, than we made the effort to stay responsibly informed.
“So, what part of this is good?” you may be asking…
Well, consider this: The only way that Trump and his illk (double “L” is intentional”) could get into their position, is by cheating — by teaming up with a bunch of crafty Russians with the firepower to pull this off. He couldn’t do it himself. And he couldn’t do it honestly. He couldn’t possibly win by playing by the rules, so he broke them. No, he didn’t even break them. He moved the whole dynamic into a parallel universe where the rules supposedly didn’t even exist. And we fell for it. Many of us, anyway.
Now, lest you get your libbral knickers all self-righteously a-twist and start feeling smug about how Trump’s camp never would have prevailed on a level playing field, don’t forget that plenty of prior elections have been fraught with questionable results, themselves. I can’t recall there ever being an election, where allegations of fraud weren’t leveled. And the results in 2008, when it seemed to so many of us that Hillary was commanded by the DNC to step down, so Obama could take the lead, just made her presumptimve “in the bag” victory that much more satisfying in 2016.
Not having that happen… well, that stings. Again.
This time around, it’s different, though. Because an outside nation has gotten involved, from all the evidence. A slew of bogus websites have strewn clickbait “news” across Facebook (a company which couldn’t even see fit to block the ones which were known to be fake — not a difficult thing for them to do, by the way). And an All-American army of naive millions have gleefully passed along the propaganda, an eager extension of Putin’s reach into the hearts and minds of conspiracy-theory-loving “information consumers” who couldn’t be bothered to fact-check. On Twitter, Russian trolls (who are easy to spot because their foul-mouthed accounts are full of nothing but Trump promotions), unleashed campaigns for and against, whipping unsuspecting tweeps into a frenzy. All the while, the different sides have escalated their vitriol against one another.
And I can’t help but wonder how much Russia had to do with the Hillary hatred that boiled in the depths of the hearts — and on the tips of the tongues — of all those Bernie supporters.
So, again, how is this good? Because — contrary to the common belief that Hillary is a total loser and couldn’t win, if she tried — it shows that she’s actually such a formidable opponent (and a shoe-in for the job of CEO of America), that Trump was helpless to do it alone. And the only way he could do it, was with a little lying-cheating-stealing help from his friends over yonder.
That puts things in a whole new light.
I, myself, have thought, if Hillary can’t beat a self-proclaimed serial sexual assaulter who’s said he’s more attracted to his daughter than his wife (the paper removed that quote, btw, maybe ’cause it wasn’t nice), who brags about not paying any taxes, incites racial violence at his rallies, is a poster-child for ISIS recruitment, promotes nuclear proliferation, talked about “walking” (out) on our NATO allies, whose idea of good policy is imprisoning his opponent (whom he stalks on-stage during a debate)
and deporting the very people he employs to the other side of a wall he thinks he’s going to build, and was endorsed by a North Korean dictator who shoots, poisons, and burns alive his foes as punishment, who the hell CAN she beat?
But maybe the answer is, in fact, “Trump.”
Maybe the answer would have been “Anybody and everybody”. Absent the influence of a highly sophisticated program of hacking and psychological meddling, maybe, just maybe she could have beaten anybody else who stepped up to challenge her. We’ll never know, because the playing field, this time around, was about as even as the golf course in the movie “Caddy Shack” after Bill Murray’s character went after the gopher with all the explosives.
So, for all those who are #StillWithHer, that’s actually something. And it should give the whole country pause. Likewise, it should give us pause, that Trump was so distrusting of the American people, that he HAD to make sure we were lied to, deceived, misled, misdirected, and whipped into a frenzy of fight-flight haze that pumped us full of cortisol, which suppresses the immune system and damages (and kills) the brain cells responsible for remembering what just happened. The only way he could prevail over the American people, was to literally make us sick… waging a clandestine campaign of psychological and physiological warfare on us, lie to us, cheat us of the truth, and bully us into his brand of submission.
Whether it actually works or not, is anybody’s guess. I’m sure we’ll find out.
We’ll find out a lot of things. Yes, MI, WI, and PA all seemed destined for Trump, but people are actually doing something about following up to make sure. Forget about Florida in 2000 (if you can). We’re actually getting a recount in Wisconsin, thanks at least in part to Jill Stein, a third-party candidate who may or may not being doing this for the noble cause of election legitimacy. And we might just get recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well. People have contributed over $5 million (of the requested $7 million) to make it happen, and the number keeps rising.
So, there is hope.
Most of all, the hope I take away from this — no matter what happens — is that even though we’re a fickle bunch who will oh-so-eagerly turn against each other in times of distress and disappointment… even though we turn into a rude and vicious mob at the drop of a hat, “liking” lies and passing them along with chortling glee… even though the candidate who could have requested recounts in WI, MI, and PA at no additional charge to us (but left us, her constituents, to foot the multi-million dollar bill and push the initiative forward)… even though we apparently can’t tell truth from lies, anymore, and prize our democracy so little that we run around calling for
capitulation unity before the Electoral College has even voted, never once realizing that when we surrender to this sort of evil, we’re complicit in it… this hardly would have happened, if a world-class psychological warfare program weren’t unleashed upon us over the course of months, maybe even years.
And the people who did this know that the only way they can actually beat us is by cutting out our hearts and turning our prodigious energy and influence against each other.
When we’re united against a common foe, we Americans have a habit of winning (for better or for worse). But when we turn against ourselves… God help us. And heaven help the rest of the world.
If only we knew that as well as the KGB.