Feb 19, 2018
Robert Mueller’s indictments of 13 Russians and three Russian companies woke up the news media on a slow Friday afternoon.
Is it another nail in a coffin that Mueller is preparing for Trump? Maybe yes, maybe no – but it certainly showed that Russian interests worked to influence the 2016 U.S. election.
All told, according to the indictments, the Russians issued about 80,000 different pieces of content, which may have reached 126 million Americans, most via social media.
In the 37 pages of the indictment, the 13 Russian citizens and 3 companies are accused of using stolen and fake American identities to set up hundreds of social media accounts and credit cards, using those cards to purchase advertising. Their campaign ads attacked Clinton and supported Trump, but they didn’t report the source of their funds to the Federal Election Commission, required of groups who support candidates.
They helped what the indictment calls “unwitting” members of the Trump campaign, offering to set up rallies for them in Florida, in some cases offering them money. Many of the rants that Trump used in the campaign came from seeds planted in some of the Russians’ social media accounts – “crooked Hillary,” for example, or “Hillary4Prison.”
Over 140,000 people signed on as supporters of the Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, thinking it was the Tennessee Republican Party. No, it was the Russians. Using the name, Miners for Trump, they paid for ads on Facebook calling for rallies of coal miners in Pennsylvania.
The Russian campaign ran anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim ads. One of its operatives set up social media accounts aimed at convincing black people not to vote. The same operative set up other accounts tailored to please whites who hold racist ideas. Another created ads featuring a Jesus who declares that a vote for Hillary is a vote for the devil.
According to Brian Fallon, spokesman for the Clinton campaign, “The creative instincts [of the Russian campaign] and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the U.S. political operatives who do this for a living.”
“I’m amazed at what a widespread campaign it was,” said Republican campaign strategist Doug Heye, “the size of this was probably bigger than Jeb Bush’s primary campaign.”
In fact, what the Russians did was not really exceptional. It was only one page taken out of the CIA’s Dirty Tricks playbook.
The Russians have long accused the U.S. of interfering in their elections, most recently when Clinton was Secretary of State. And the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad accused the U.S. of using similar methods in a campaign aimed at discrediting that regime – not to mention that the U.S. sent money and weapons to military forces in Syria attempting to topple it.
So no, there are no clean hands in the U.S. kitchen.
Interference in another country’s affairs? What was it, if not interference, when the U.S. went into Afghanistan? What was it in Iraq? What if not interference – and by much more brutal methods than social media ads?
As for this country, the media and both parties are raising a big uproar today about “democracy” – the Russians are supposed to be attacking “our democracy”!
What democracy? The Russians were able to do what they did because this is how political campaigns are carried out by the two big parties. The Russians could stay under the radar doing all this because they didn’t do anything different than what goes on usually.
All it takes is money. Russian money could buy influence because much bigger money in this country buys much bigger influence – every day, not just on election day. In the 2016 presidential campaigns, 2.4 billion dollars was spent.
Working people have long been excluded from the political process. It’s been a century since the working class even just had a presidential candidate who spoke for them and who was heard around the country – Eugene Debs. And Debs was sent to prison for speeches he made during a campaign.
So please don’t talk about “democracy” when the large majority of the people have no political voice in this country.