In 2014, the Putin regime invaded Ukraine’s Crimea. In 2016, the same regime invaded the United States. The former took place as a conventional military operation; the latter was a spectacular case of cyberwarfare, including disinformation that it was happening at all and promulgation of a lot of talking points still devoutly repeated by many. It was a vast social-media influencing project that took many forms as it sought to sow discord and confusion, even attempting to dissuade Black voters from voting.
Additionally, Russian intelligence targeted voter rolls in all 50 states, which is not thought to have had consequences, but demonstrated the reach and ambition of online interference. This weekend, British investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr said on Twitter, “We failed to acknowledge Russia had staged a military attack on the West. We called it ’meddling.’ We used words like ‘interference.’ It wasn’t. It was warfare. We’ve been under military attack for eight years now.”
As she notes, Putin’s minions were not only directing their attention to the United States, and included pro-Brexit efforts and support for France’s far-right racist National Front party. The US interference – you could call it cyberwarfare, or informational invasion – took many forms. Stunningly, a number of left-wing news sources and pundits devoted themselves to denying the reality of the intervention and calling those who were hostile to the Putin regime cold-war red-scare right-wingers, as if contemporary Russia was a glorious socialist republic rather than a country ruled by a dictatorial ex-KGB agent with a record of murdering journalists, imprisoning dissenters, embezzling tens of billions and leading a global neofascist white supremacist revival. In discrediting the news stories and attacking critics of the Russian government, they provided crucial cover for Trump. [Continue reading…]