In my last post, I discussed Hillary Clinton’s observation that the Russian propaganda operation during the 2016 election demonstrated knowledge of the American electorate and how to “weaponize” hacked information in an effective manner, suggesting help from some American political personnel. I went a step further, raising the clumsiness and poor targeting of the propaganda aimed at progressives compared to their very effective targeting of the right wing in to argue that assistance the Russians received came from conservatives, who were skilled at talking to the right but not the left.
On further reflection, I’ve decided that it’s more complicated than that. The propaganda effort targeting progressives consisted of two parts – one broadcast-scale and effective at speaking to progressives, and one targeted and borderline ridiculous. Starting just before the Democratic convention, the national media began to run story after story based on the hacked DNC and Podesta emails. This operations demonstrated a knowledge of progressives’ grievances and political norms. It was the other end, the fake news targeting progressive web sites, that was amateurish and poorly targeted. This distinction is noteworthy because the distribution ends of the two operations – the presentation of propaganda to American audiences – were run by different groups. The release of the email stories in the mainstream media was a Wikileaks operation, and we know that there are politially-knowledgeable left-wing Americans involved with them. The fake news operation, on the other hand, was run out of Eastern Europe, probably by Russian military intelligence itself. It is this end of things that displays a lack of understanding of their target audience.