Dr. Thomas Rid of Kings College London’s Department of War Studies explained that polarization makes societies vulnerable to manipulation by disinformation campaigns.
Russia, Rid explained, according to CBS News, likes to use “unwitting agents” to carry out its work. WikiLeaks, Twitter and “overeager journalists” all contributed to Russia’s efforts to destabilize the U.S. by disrupting its 2016 election.
Democratic committee co-chair Sen. Mark Warner (VA) asked the panel if they had any doubt that Russia had attempted to interfere in some aspects of the 2016 election. Alexander said not only did he have no doubt, he could get very specific.
“Senator, I think what they were trying to do was drive a wedge within the Democratic Party between the Clinton group and the Sanders group,” said Alexander. “And then in our nation between Republicans and Democrats.”
Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) reported earlier this month that during the 2016 election, their social media feeds and pro-Sanders Facebook groups were inundated with what they now believe were Russian bots spewing anti-Hillary memes including fake news stories about Clinton using a body double and murdering her ideological opponents. Over time the anti-Clinton online faction became known by the nickname “Bernie Bros.”
I think that many of us have already come to realize that this is true, however I think it needs to be repeated frequently so that we are all on guard the next time.
And it must also be pointed out that none of this trolling would have worked if there were not so many people desperate to accept the lies and to spread them far and wide around the internet.
I am sure that many of you watched in real time as I confronted some of this misinformation here on IM only to be labeled a "Hillary-bot" or accused of "working for my queen," or "supporting the Wall Street candidate."
And it worked. I lost thousands of visitors during the primary, and no matter how often I pointed out that people were being manipulated by false information, I was simply accused of "being in the tank for Hillary" and that was the end of the conversation.
If you look around today you can see it still happening, with people attacking the DNC and blaming them for Trump's victory, just as they have been directed to do by the Russian trolls.
Remember the Russians want to undermine our entire democracy, and the first step in doing that is to make people distrust the two parties.
So at this point we have to ask ourselves if we are part of the solution to this problem, or just another of the Russian's "useful idiots."