Republican Complicity

Hillary Clinton raises an interesting point about the Russian meddling during the 2016 election in her interview about at the Code 2017 tech conference:

Clinton: …and so the Russians — in my opinion and based on the intel and the counterintel people I’ve talked to — could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided.

Mossberg: Guided by Americans.

Clinton: Guided by Americans and guided by people who had polling and data information.

Hillary posits that the presentation and spin and internet targeting in the release of the hacked Democratic emails and the planting of fake news demonstrates a knowledge of American politics – what button to push for what groups you want to move – that suggests Americans who have been around campaigns helped to design the operation. I want to go one step further; the execution suggests right-wing or Republican campaign operatives.

As has been previously reported, web sites for Bernie Sanders were, starting in June of 2016, subjected to a “fake news tsunami.” I remember this; I was there at the time. What hasn’t been widely appreciated is just how hackish, unconvincing, and poorly-designed that tsunami was. Instead of attacks on Clinton for being too cozy with billionaires or overly-hawkish in her foreign policy, the sites were spammed with Vince Foster stories (I actually saw reference to the Rose Law Firm!), the Seth Rich story, and other InfoWars-caliber fare. The stories about the Bernie sites all point out that the webmeisters found the material ridiculous and realized what was going on right away. They were neither fooled by the stories nor approved of them. As effective as the operation was at targeting the right, they had no idea what they were doing when it came to progressive Democrats. Even in the release of the DNC and Podesta emails, they were able to score with the low-hanging fruit of publishing personal insults and Clinton’s “Public position/private position” comments in one of her speeches. They never put together an effective story that had an ideological dimension that could have appealed to progressives; it was all personal about Clinton herself. The similarity of the attacks to those from Republicans in the 1990s actually served to turn off progressives, who never liked those attacks in the first place.

This stands in sharp contrast to the much more effective message-crafting towards the right. There are certainly left-wing sources who have been friendly towards the Russian point of view and helped spread their messaging during the campaign, and who might be looked at as suspects, but they would have known how to talk to progressives. They certainly wouldn’t have tried to sell us on Whitewater and Mena Airport. Whoever was helping the Russians design their election hacking operation knew American politics all right, but knew how to speak the language of the center and the right much more than that of the left. Sound like anyone we know?

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2 Comments

  1. Oh, man, that last quote from the HuffPo article is wild. The writer was wise and shrewd to just end by quoting the “Bernie Sanders Lovers” group without further commitment and let it speak for itself. It’s so obviously the product of Google translate.

    I think you’re right, which is distressing. The disparity between the effectiveness of the right-targeting and the left-targeting is huge. That said, the HuffPo article seems to indicate that the left did fall for it to some degree and it may have swung the election. This is 100% at odds with my experience–most Hillary and GOTV volunteers I knew were Bernie primary voters. They were a disproportionately engaged group. But to play devil’s advocate against myself a little, it seems as though the Hillary fans’ claims of Bernie supporters falling prey to (or working in collusion with) Russian trolls were true for a small number of people. I

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Republican Complicity Adendum | Joe from Lowell

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