Saturday, February 17, 2018

Was your vote in November of 2016 influenced by Russian meddling?

Not even the Republicans I know would answer yes.  I heard comments from some the week before the election that indicated Trump's loss was fait accompli.  Does anyone remember hearing that?

As I recall there were very, very few people who were undecided about who to vote for a year before November 2016 (when all those GOP debates with 20 candidates, like Michele Bachmann and Carly Fiorina, were happening).

I saw essentially no ads on social media -- I have my adblocker aggressively deployed, and anyway, this was long before Facebook adjusted their algorithms to embed more of them in the side panel and in the timeline -- and the premise that anyone could influence political opinion, or have their own influenced, by Facebook posts or Tweets is something I just find laughable.  Especially given that it was Trump who emerged as the nominee, a notion most Republicans simply weren't accepting as late as spring of 2016.

The memes, bots, group pages, etc. developed and foisted on a gullible American populace by the 13 Russians and three orgs -- the ones indicted by Robert Mueller's team yesterday -- hardened political opinions.  They did not change them.  I believe the most influence they could have possibly had was on suppressing voter turnout with the various firehoses of negativity spewing all around.  But even that does not explain why black voters stayed home.

In sum: the Russians tried to influence the election.  They did not succeed.  Even the indictments themselves do not connect those dots.  The AP likened what the Russkies did to a burglar jiggling your doorknob.  In this analogy, the suspect gets arrested and charged with attempted burglary. But he didn't steal anything (fortunately).

Ask yourself this: if we are so concerned about the government spying on us online, wiretapping our phones, etc. then why didn't one of our vaunted federal law enforcement agencies intervene and stop the Russians?  Did they fall down on the job, as with the FBI not acting to stop the Parkland high school shooter?

You might recall a certain high volume of shit that George W. Bush deservedly collected for failing to respond appropriately to a presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack US" about five weeks before 9/11.

Yes, Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for election meddling ... in December of 2016.   If you accept the premise that the Russians hacked influenced the election in some significant way (but like Bigfoot, there's still no solid proof) ... wouldn't you also have to conclude that Obama's DOJ or FBI or CIA or someone in his administration should have moved faster to stop them?

Such as before November of 2016?

And if the Russians have been doing this stuff since 2014, then why weren't they arrested, charged, and indicted years ago?  Did our government look the other way because of not wanting to rock the boat diplomatically with Putin?   "Diplomatic immunity"?  (Say it in the voice of the South African from Lethal Weapon 2.)

I don't know the answers here.  Maybe they were no more interested in starting a New Cold War than the rest of us.  But what's been going on in Syria and the Middle East and other places around the world, where the US and Russia are fighting hot proxy wars against each other and have been for some time, seems to undermine that logic.

What does seem improbable to me is that 13 spies and three organizations defeated a $1.2 billion dollar effort waged in favor of Hillary Clinton's election.  That they overcame David Brock's million-dollar Correct the Record troll army.  That they created a narrative of the greatest country in the world -- where 78% of Americans live from one paycheck to the next; where the minimum wage has not kept pace with the lowest inflation rate over the past two decades (but Hillary Clinton only supported an increase to $12/hour, and not $15); and where 31 million Americans remain uninsured (but even California Democrats fight against single payer and Medicare for All).

I don't believe those things can be blamed on the Russians.  Or for that matter, Jill Stein.

But you keep on being you, Donkeys.

1 comment:

Robert Nagle said...

I really don't know the answer. I too agree that it's unclear how much impact the Russian trolls had on the election (probably marginal).

Better election/campaign laws might help -- it might produce better record-keeping, although all records can be fabricated/circumvented.

But the ads were selectively deployed and often there is no archive -- so it's hard to know how often these ads were shown.

Some blame goes to FB, for not allowing unlike/dislike feedback, so magnifying certain populist messages.

But really, advertising, trolling and robotweets are everywhere. You have to be pretty naive not to be able to distinguish between this spam and legitimate news and advocacy.

Ironically social norms make it easier to enable this FB spam. I have several obnoxious conservative "friends" on Facebook which I would almost never want to do anything with. On the other hand, I knew them from high school or other places, so I am reluctant to unfriend them completely. As a result most of my political posts on FB receive half-informed pro-Trump responses. Most of my real friends have learned not to take their opinions seriously, but who knows -- it could be feeding pro Trump sentiment among friends who are politically undecided.

I am ambivalent about FB, but it performs several functions very well. I'm not about to leave it anytime soon.