Divided They Stand and Divided They Will Fall

The title of this post is not my belief, but apparently this has become a joke about America amongst Russia’s officials. For those who did not tune in to the senate hearings on Russia’s cyber interference, experts testified on how and why they came to the conclusion that Russian intelligence has been engaging in cyber warfare around the world. Throughout that process, they mentioned specific stories that were manufactured by RT and Sputnik as well as stories that they sought out from fringe media outlets to hype up in the hopes of creating discord. The most shocking part of the entire thing is how much time President Putin has taken to understand the culture of his adversary’s countries in order to make this operation work.

For those who believe that this entire investigation was concocted as a way to delegitimize Trump’s presidency, it turns out that Russia has been at this sick game since at least 2008 but possibly even earlier. Remember the Obama birth certificate story? Fake news promoted by Russian hackers. Remember the story about Muslims celebrating in the streets after 9/11? How about the story about snowmen being labeled as racist, or Muslims burning down a church in Germany, the police shooting in Atlanta, Clinton’s Pizzagate or the NATO office in Turkey being attacked? The byline for all of these stories has apparently been a rotation of Putin’s sycophants.

Not only was Russian intelligence creating these stories, but they were also creating fake social media accounts to like, share, comment on , and blog about these stories. These bots were unleashed simultaneously so that the story would get legs under it immediately. They would use words like “military”, “Trump”, “family”, and the most offensive to me, “God” and “Christianity” for profiles promoting stories that they knew would rile up the Tea Partyers. They hyped up stories about Occupy Wall Street to paint a picture of economic unrest in this country as well, so this has not been a one-sided effort. The Occupy Wall Street movement itself was genuine, but it was hyped up by Sputnik and RT to promote an image of a failing United States to the rest of the world. When they began working to ruin Hillary Clinton’s campaign they focused on the swing states and grew bolder in their operation.

Oddly, during the campaign they began to wait until they knew that Trump was online. They studied his horrendous Twitter habits to time the most confusing conspiracies for when he would see them and they would promote bogus stories on outlets that they knew he would be reading (i.e. Breitbart). The eerie thing is that they did not need to collude with the campaign, because they were planting seeds in the most gullible of their staff’s minds. They could also watch the news and hear Paul Manafort, Trump, Kellyanne Conway and others citing their handiwork in their interviews as examples of news that hasn’t been covered by the “biased media”. The most disturbing examples of hyped up stories had little to do with politics, but were instead designed to give all of us the perception that exceptions were the norm. Now, the media has sensationalized many things to create that illusion over the years and we cannot deny that. However, that usually has to do with getting ratings rather than Putin’s strategy of creating “unwitting agents” (or what the USSR called, “useful idiots”) and creating a conflict between these unwitting agents and Russia’s real adversary.

Essentially Putin wanted us as American citizens to be at war with our free press, so he successfully discredited it. He wanted us to be at war with our government and lose faith in their capabilities so he hacked into their computer systems. He wanted us to be at war with each other so he hyper-sensationalized social discord to magnify it and created a self-fulfilling prophesy in which the division grew at the same rate as their propaganda. He also knows our country’s culture so well that he knows most people would only be utilizing media outlets that reinforce what they already believe so we gave him a series of easy targets. The instances of violence at Black Lives Matter rallies were exaggerated by Sputnik and RT to make the far right believe that it was the norm. The instances of violence at Trump rallies were hyped up to make the far left believe that it was representative of  the majority of his supporters. The crimes committed by refugees and immigrants in Europe have either been manufactured or exaggerated on anti-immigration blogs to create a sense of paranoia. We all took the bait and Putin’s now the big man on campus. As Clinton Watts, former FBI agent and Russian intelligence expert, said, “They win because they play both sides”.

In fact, the reason why the intelligence community became suspicious was because Russia overplayed their hand by shifting the content being posted and reprogramming the same profile to be pro-liberals and then would later switch back to pro-conservatives. They miscalculated how odd that would appear when the profile had already built up a following.

For those who believe that this is over, please pay attention. This is not just about Trump’s team softening language on Russian policy. This isn’t about winning or replacing Trump or being right or even saving just our country. My parents saw in Ethiopia how drastically different a friendship with America is versus a friendship with Russia. This is about saving the world from Vladimir Putin and what he is capable of. Marco Rubio and two other senators on the panel stated that their employees, family members, and colleagues have been targeted as recently as yesterday morning. The technology experts who testified also stated that the information WikiLeaks has released is only about one percent of what the Russians have taken from American government computers. Not only can they release this information at any time, but they have also figured out how to upload information onto computers after information has been doctored. They used this tactic to place child pornography onto the computer of a candidate in a European race to make room for a nationalist. Thomas Rid’s solution? Trust mainstream media.

I am well aware that the media is not always honest, and that headlines are designed to sensationalize in this day and age of hunger for ratings. However, this blatant distrust of every word is not the way to go. The solution is not to distrust the media, but to engage with it. Instead of taking Fox News or CNN as the gospel according to Rupert Murdoch or Time Warner, educate yourself and call them out when they are wrong. Watch more than one media source, and utilize sources that don’t speak to your values because it’s healthy to get more than one perspective. America has some of the highest access to information in the world, so when you listen to a lecture from an activist Google their resume to make sure they’re not a quack. When you listen to a panel of talking heads on television, do a little research about who their colleagues are and what their agenda might be. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, just be cautious about drawing conclusions and be willing to change your mind. Rid also mentioned that Putin knows that in America’s current climate we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything is “either this or that” and there is no room for compromise or conversation. It is time for America to stop playing into this hand of extreme paranoia and to prove Putin wrong about how we stand and how we will fall.

The title of this post is not my belief, but apparently this has become a joke about America amongst Russia’s officials. For those who did not tune in to the senate hearings on Russia’s cyber interference, experts testified on how and why they came to the conclusion that Russian intelligence has been engaging in cyber warfare around the world. Throughout that process, they mentioned specific stories that were manufactured by RT and Sputnik as well as stories that they sought out from fringe media outlets to hype up in the hopes of creating discord. The most shocking part of the entire thing is how much time President Putin has taken to understand the culture of his adversary’s countries in order to make this operation work.

For those who believe that this entire investigation was concocted as a way to delegitimize Trump’s presidency, it turns out that Russia has been at this sick game since at least 2008 but possibly even earlier. Remember the Obama birth certificate story? Fake news promoted by Russian hackers. Remember the story about Muslims celebrating in the streets after 9/11? How about the story about snowmen being labeled as racist, or Muslims burning down a church in Germany, the police shooting in Atlanta, Clinton’s Pizzagate or the NATO office in Turkey being attacked? The byline for all of these stories has apparently been a rotation of Putin’s sycophants.

Not only was Russian intelligence creating these stories, but they were also creating fake social media accounts to like, share, comment on , and blog about these stories. These bots were unleashed simultaneously so that the story would get legs under it immediately. They would use words like “military”, “Trump”, “family”, and the most offensive to me, “God” and “Christianity” for profiles promoting stories that they knew would rile up the Tea Partyers. They hyped up stories about Occupy Wall Street to paint a picture of economic unrest in this country as well, so this has not been a one-sided effort. The Occupy Wall Street movement itself was genuine, but it was hyped up by Sputnik and RT to promote an image of a failing United States to the rest of the world. When they began working to ruin Hillary Clinton’s campaign they focused on the swing states and grew bolder in their operation.

Oddly, during the campaign they began to wait until they knew that Trump was online. They studied his horrendous Twitter habits to time the most confusing conspiracies for when he would see them and they would promote bogus stories on outlets that they knew he would be reading (i.e. Breitbart). The eerie thing is that they did not need to collude with the campaign, because they were planting seeds in the most gullible of their staff’s minds. They could also watch the news and hear Paul Manafort, Trump, Kellyanne Conway and others citing their handiwork in their interviews as examples of news that hasn’t been covered by the “biased media”. The most disturbing examples of hyped up stories had little to do with politics, but were instead designed to give all of us the perception that exceptions were the norm. Now, the media has sensationalized many things to create that illusion over the years and we cannot deny that. However, that usually has to do with getting ratings rather than Putin’s strategy of creating “unwitting agents” (or what the USSR called, “useful idiots”) and creating a conflict between these unwitting agents and Russia’s real adversary.

Essentially Putin wanted us as American citizens to be at war with our free press, so he successfully discredited it. He wanted us to be at war with our government and lose faith in their capabilities so he hacked into their computer systems. He wanted us to be at war with each other so he hyper-sensationalized social discord to magnify it and created a self-fulfilling prophesy in which the division grew at the same rate as their propaganda. He also knows our country’s culture so well that he knows most people would only be utilizing media outlets that reinforce what they already believe so we gave him a series of easy targets. The instances of violence at Black Lives Matter rallies were exaggerated by Sputnik and RT to make the far right believe that it was the norm. The instances of violence at Trump rallies were hyped up to make the far left believe that it was representative of  the majority of his supporters. The crimes committed by refugees and immigrants in Europe have either been manufactured or exaggerated on anti-immigration blogs to create a sense of paranoia. We all took the bait and Putin’s now the big man on campus. As Clinton Watts, former FBI agent and Russian intelligence expert, said, “They win because they play both sides”.

In fact, the reason why the intelligence community became suspicious was because Russia overplayed their hand by shifting the content being posted and reprogramming the same profile to be pro-liberals and then would later switch back to pro-conservatives. They miscalculated how odd that would appear when the profile had already built up a following.

For those who believe that this is over, please pay attention. This is not just about Trump’s team softening language on Russian policy. This isn’t about winning or replacing Trump or being right or even saving just our country. My parents saw in Ethiopia how drastically different a friendship with America is versus a friendship with Russia. This is about saving the world from Vladimir Putin and what he is capable of. Marco Rubio and two other senators on the panel stated that their employees, family members, and colleagues have been targeted as recently as yesterday morning. The technology experts who testified also stated that the information WikiLeaks has released is only about one percent of what the Russians have taken from American government computers. Not only can they release this information at any time, but they have also figured out how to upload information onto computers after information has been doctored. They used this tactic to place child pornography onto the computer of a candidate in a European race to make room for a nationalist. Thomas Rid’s solution? Trust mainstream media.

I am well aware that the media is not always honest, and that headlines are designed to sensationalize in this day and age of hunger for ratings. However, this blatant distrust of every word is not the way to go. The solution is not to distrust the media, but to engage with it. Instead of taking Fox News or CNN as the gospel according to Rupert Murdoch or Time Warner, educate yourself and call them out when they are wrong. Watch more than one media source, and utilize sources that don’t speak to your values because it’s healthy to get more than one perspective. America has some of the highest access to information in the world, so when you listen to a lecture from an activist Google their resume to make sure they’re not a quack. When you listen to a panel of talking heads on television, do a little research about who their colleagues are and what their agenda might be. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, just be cautious about drawing conclusions and be willing to change your mind. Rid also mentioned that Putin knows that in America’s current climate we’ve been conditioned to believe that everything is “either this or that” and there is no room for compromise or conversation. It is time for America to stop playing into this hand of extreme paranoia and to prove Putin wrong about how we stand and how we will fall.

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