Russian Bots Exploit Long-Neglected Problems and Divisions. Let’s Attack the Bot, Not the Problems!

Russian bots allegedly were deployed online in order to amplify and exploit America’s long-neglected problems. So are we going to do something about them now? Guess again.

21 thoughts on “Russian Bots Exploit Long-Neglected Problems and Divisions. Let’s Attack the Bot, Not the Problems!

  1. Nuking Russia would be the way to go, Ted (after all, foreigners posting to Facebook is prohibited under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, as most likely my posting to this thread is also prohibited), were it not for one little hitch, viz, they are equipped to nuke back. Which is why, to take a few examples, the Soviets exploded their first bomb in 1949, the Chinese theirs in 1964, and the DPRK theirs in 2006 – some might wish to refer to Newton’s Third Law….

    Perhaps it’s time for people in the United States to stop whinging about «foreign meddling» (vague enough to cover just about anything, as opposed to the «Russia hacked the election» meme, for which no evidence has been found and which has largely been abandoned, even on this forum) and take a long hard view at their own country ? This article by Nicholas J S Davies at Consortiumnews might be a good place to start….


  2. Well, lookie that – Ted is almost admitting that the Dastardly Russians (c) might have possibly, perhaps done something after all! That’s progress of a sort. Don’t forget the trolls – we had one here. Not only did he successfully pull the wool over certain gullible posers’ eyes, but he caused division in the ranks as well. Mission accomplished!

    But Ted’s still plugging the same, tired, old, false dichotomy. Yes, we’ve got problems. Yes, we should fix them, but no, securing our electoral vulnerabilities in no way precludes fixing our other problems. And of course, if the POTUS had an undersized hand in our electoral problems then that is a Very Big Problem in and of itself.

    • To CrazyH,

      I’d suggest that a web site WITHOUT “division among the ranks” of its commentators is not worth visiting.

      MSNBC was, yet again, accusing Jill Stein for HRC’s loss. (This despite the fact that Gary Johnson got three times the votes that Stein did.)

      Apparently Stein’s lost her right to run for office, much less, presumably, take votes from HRC, since she was once spotted at a dinner attended, also, by Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin (RTP).

      Stein, characteristically, stung the, characteristically, mindless interviewer who quickly conceded that the media also had a great deal to do with His Hairness getting elected. (I’ve seen estimates that he got the equivalent of $600 million of free air time because, as Les Moonves, proudly, if seditiously, proclaimed: His Hairness is “good for business.)

      But, as the interviewer opined: “We are not Russians.”
      It wasn’t clear if opinion-bending rights extend to persons of other, non-USA, countries. Apparently Great Britain persons (biological and corporate) DO have said rights. Search Cambridge Analytica England

      I’d suggest that His Hairness’s crime was to employ Cambridge Analytica (CA) to influence USA voters. I have done a fruitless, preliminary check to see if CA is registered with the US Attorney General’s office that would allow it engage in political activities within the US, as explained in the Mueller indictment of the Russian sub-devils. I assume, at worst, CA will be retroactively registered since one of its owners is the US citizen billionaire hedge-fund manager R. Mercer.

      But, of course, CA will not be investigated because the DNC wants to be able to use resources of that sort as it builds as big a reputation for election (NOT “voter”) fraud as has the GOP. (Ditto, HRC declining to join the case brought by Stein in Michigan relating to electronic voting machine “irregularities.”)

      So, CrazyH, has Mueller identified your alleged Rall Blog troll/commentator as RTP, part of the government of RTP, a citizen of the country of RTP, a person who once had dinner in the same room as RTP or a person without sufficient financial assets to engage in the political process?

    • Falco – excuse me if I don’t address all of your comments, I’ll select two.

      ” I’d suggest that a web site WITHOUT “division among the ranks” of its commentators is not worth visiting. ”

      I’ll certainly agree with that. But I will add that artificially injecting that division, and/or fanning existing flames moves the discussion from where it would ‘naturally’ be to a place which may be more beneficial to the instigator.
      Starting a fight between allied enemies is straight out of The Art of War.

      Re: Russian Troll. I can’t believe anyone could possibly fall for Prolecenter. His avatar was the great seal of the USSR, he told us all about how Stalin was actually a nice guy, and how the DPRK is a great place to live. He claimed to be a ‘North American Liberal” – but approved of Duterte shooting drug dealers in the head and dismissed gay rights as unimportant. He styled himself as a socialist yet never talked about socialism, instead parroting RT talking points, and always, always, always praising Russia while damning the US. He backed up his assertions with links to Global Research for crying out loud.

      He appeared right about the time the alleged trolls allegedly started allegedly trolling alleged political sites; and disappeared a couple months before the election.

      To top it all off, he claimed to be a “Marxist-Leninist.” The only people who claim that are either Dastardly Russians [TM] or naive college students who’ve never actually read Marx.

      All I can do is point out the obvious dots – I leave it to the reader to connect them.

      • I suppose Global Research and RT were among the 200 “forbidden” web sites named by the CIA subsidiary “The Washington Post.”

        I should think “always praising Russia” would induce the average American to vote FOR HRC who promised to obliterate it.

        Your troll was as savvy a political campaigner as he/she was a socialist (NOT, according to you) … disappearing a couple of months BEFORE the election. We can only assume Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin has reopened the Siberian Gulag sites to punish such exquisitely lame “meddlers” in the world’s only exceptional elections.

      • > Your troll was as savvy …

        … enough to pull the wool over several posters’ eyes.

        I suppose that would be easier if the poster didn’t realize that RT and Global Research are flagrant propaganda outlets. (And actually, the DOJ has forced RT to register as a foreign agent.)

      • To CrazyH:

        Please DO show how, exactly, our very own, alleged, Russian troll “pulled the wool” over the eyes of posters here. But, to save some effort, you first need to prove that said alleged troll was neither a US citizen nor registered with the DOJ***. Because, according to the “we are not Russians” model, if alleged troll was either, then, alleged troll was well within alleged troll’s rights to pull as much wool as alleged troll desired, whether or not you approve.

        RT and Global Research are simply NON-US media outlets. That they appear “different” to those raised within the US establishment media system says more about the US media than it does about any media outside the US.

        Any actual brainwashing of US citizens that has occurred over the decades has been accomplished MUCH more by US media, itself, than by all outside “influences” combined.

        You, and about 65 million Hillary bots, desperately need to absorb the message of “Manufacturing Consent” (Herman & Chomsky). It is summarized in this video:
        “Totalitarian Culture in a ‘Free’ Society”
        *** the notion that an institution directed, in recent years, by the likes of E. Meese, J. Ashcroft, A. Gonzales, E. Holder, L. Lynch and J. Sessions, intends to provide justice for the average American is completely absurd on its face.

      • «Please DO show how, exactly, our very own, alleged, Russian troll “pulled the wool” over the eyes of posters here.» But falco, falco, it’s OBVIOUS that those dastardly Russians were responsible for the outcome of the late US presidential elections (quite a ROI, just saying), just as it is OBVIOUS that their equally dastardly counterparts, the Chinese, are responsible for the US trade deficits around the world. After all, these countries have arbitrarily placed themselves in the midst of the US bases surrounding them, which is more than enough to prove hostile intent in any reasonable court of law….

        Its predecessors were admittedly no slouchers, but nothing quite matches the current US administration’s whinging with respect to the unfairness of the world at large, and in particular, that of the post-war institutions designed and set up by that very country….


    • @CH: let me take you up on two points:

      the Dastardly Russians (c) might have possibly, perhaps done something after all

      Apart from Ted, there are three commentators/journalists/researchers right now who I consider particularly insightful on this matter: Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone), Glenn Greenwald (intercept), and Aaron Maté (Real News) – I won’t give multiple links so as to not trigger spam countermeasures.
      They all had recent columns/interviews well worth reading/watching addressing this phase of the “emerging consensus”. They all were quite clear that they wouldn’t be surprised that Russian secret services hatch plots, but as a matter of principle, this all remains purely speculation unless evidence is provided. This principle flies very much in the face of the current conviction that “Russiagate is a somethingburger”.

      So there are numerous troll farms in Eastern Europe and China were tech savvy people with low comparative wages are leveraged to sell astroturf campaigns, promote movies on imdb, play multiplayer games to score virtual items to sell to Western gamers, etc.

      We are not shocked – as in Casablanca – about what is going on at the periphery of the capitalist world system. Loretta Napoleoni had an interesting report about the first troops to be airlifted into Iraq in 2003 in the midst of abandoned warehouses which were stocked with sugarpills labelled Viagra for shipped to online customers all over the world. That’s simply the shadow cast by the integrated late stage capitalist system.

      => Unless there is actual evidence (and what there is was published in Russian media some time ago) – sometimes a trollfarm is just a trollfarm. Business as usual in the (post-)modern world.

      But Ted’s still plugging the same, tired, old, false dichotomy. Yes, we’ve got problems. Yes, we should fix them, but no, securing our electoral vulnerabilities in no way precludes fixing our other problems.

      I think you have it exactly backwards, unfortunately. The speculative problem – Trump actively (and superfluously) involving himself in co-ordinating the media windfall that carried him through the campaign in ways that were 1) illegal even under U.S. corporate captured law and 2) sufficiently egregious compared to the the routine lawbreaking of the rich and powerful to get Pence to pick up his mantle (yay?) – is the one that is sucking up all the energies.

      The already confirmed real problems are not addressed (I haven’t read anything about re-instating the voting rights act, etc.) – even more – McCarthyism 2.0 is used to again divide and beat down the left, the strength and unity of which caught the establishment by surprise during the Sanders primary.

      This reading of the situation is why we’re not neutral about Russiagate, but actively apprehensive about its deleterious longterm effects. Not to support Trump or Putin. If anything, putting all our eggs into the Russiagate basket may actually help Trump because it makes his base close ranks – just like the “birther” charge made blacks and liberals close ranks with Obama. Otherwise Trump (or Obama) would have to actually improve the lives of voters to keep their popularity…

      • > this all remains purely speculation unless evidence is provided.

        At this point I’m no more willing to argue whether there is ‘evidence’ than I am to argue about whether there is ‘evidence’ we landed on the moon. I’ve never been to the moon to examine the alleged landing site; nor have I sat in on a scrum session with Cozy Bear.

        In either case, it is conceivably, remotely, imaginably possible that it’s all a big international hoax. Huge numbers of players all acting in concert even though they are competitors or outright enemies. Moreover without any one of those players breaking The Code of Silence. Yeah, it’s possible.

        Me, I choose the believe the experts and the evidence of my own eyes.

        But just out of curiosity, what kind of evidence are you looking for? If you were shown a hex dump of a cracked stack, would you know what you were looking at?

      • At this point I’m no more willing to argue whether there is ‘evidence’ than I am to argue about whether there is ‘evidence’ we landed on the moon.

        That’s the point of conviction that I find so fascinating and apprehensive in equal measures.

        1) The Moon Landing
        The moon landing fits right into a number of facts we would readily agree on. For starters, the documented space program before and after. I can see the ISS passing over with the naked eye ;-). An impressive amount of primary footage and even technical documents were released to the public – even though space rockets double as warhead delivery devices there was rather little secrecy.

        Arguing about 1)
        The roles are clear. I wouldn’t lament “Where can I even begin, it’s so clear to me. How could so many people be mistaken?”. I would point to the video and audio “We have liftoff”, “One small step for me” watched by billions. A “skeptic” can argue that they’re recorded in a sound studio and had Ed Wood direct the script. Fine. We’d know what we’re arguing about.

        Number of sides in 1)
        At minimum, the moon landing skeptic and I would both agree that the moon landing either took place roughly as advertised or there had to have been a massive campaign of outright forgery. It has to be one or the other.

        2) The whatever it is we have here
        Unfortunately I am not even sure what we’re arguing about here – the story keeps changing. Even in our earlier conversation, I can remember clearly that when I talked about the alleged email hack you said it wasn’t just about the hack.

        When I saw the headline “13 Russians indicted” I first thought, ok, now they’re finally releasing something. But no new facts were shared at all, turns out they were just piggy-backing on the work of some journalists in Russia who did an expose of a troll farm a while back. Now I asked why a troll farm would be more than a troll farm and you’re back to cozy bear. Nobody was indicted for the alleged DNC hack.

        Arguing about 2)
        We both have some background in computing but neither of us likely has the relevant skill set here – or for that matter expertise in video and sound engineering for fake moon landing tapes using 60s tech.

        But this is incidental since nothing was shared with the public to look over. I think that between us we’d have enough skills to navigate the reports of independent investigate journalists teamed up with network experts. At least we’d know what we are arguing about. Of course there never were reports or such team ups since nothing tangible was ever released.

        Apparently public evidence is not necessary anymore – which is the point that scares me the most no matter what historians will one day conclude based on documents of record.

        Number of sides for 2)
        In contrast to the moon landing, in addition to conviction and denial, there are always options 3,4,5,6, ad infinitum: someone leaked, not hacked, the emails. Or someone hacked the emails, but they were not connected to the Russians. Or they were connected, but did not act on orders from above. Say that they did have orders, but they were not specific above “make mischief to get back at those imperialists creeping up on our borders”…

        It is certainly conceivable that the post-KGB whiz kids had specific orders to the effect of “hurt HRC, help Trump”. Nobody would be shocked, secret services have a track record of meddling in elections, particularly the US, so I’m not sure why we would assume any other agencies would settle for less (within their comparatively limited means).

        As a matter of principle*, you still have to provide some evidence ;-). 1) That something happened at all, 2) quantify the impact on the election, and let alone 3) that anybody on your side of the lake was in the know.

        *If we started acting on mere suspicion as if it were solid evidence, most countries would go to war with most other countries tomorrow. Even solid evidence ideally is treated differently, e.g. the Germans at least didn’t shout “Pearl Harbor!” when the Snowden documents revealed that the NSA took control of Merkel’s phone.

      • re: “Unfortunately I am not even sure what we’re arguing about here”

        So noted.

        re: “It is certainly conceivable that the post-KGB whiz kids had specific orders to the effect of “hurt HRC, help Trump”.

        ‘k, now I’m not sure what we’re arguing about here – because I am 104% certain I’ve heard quite a few arguments stating that the above is not only not conceivable, but outright absurd. Let the record show that the loyal opposition has conceded that the disputed scenario(s) is/are, in fact, reasonable.

        Let the record also show that Hillary’s email server, DNC email leaks, the hacks of the various states’ voter databases, Russian trolls and Russian bots are all separate and distinct incidents.

      • > you still have to provide some evidence ;-). 1) That something happened at all,

        I thought I made clear that I wasn’t interested in having that discussion. All right, please refute each of the 416 references to this article and I will be more than happy to re-engage.

        2) quantify the impact on the election

        Sorry, the ball’s in your court on that one. I already responded but you declined to answer my query.

        You appear to be arguing “no harm, no foul” – and I find that hard to believe. To wit: if someone tried to shoot you, and missed, would you still want to see him prosecuted? After all, “no harm, no foul.”

        My counter argument is that the attempt in and of itself is a Very Bad Thing. Note that a second evasion on the same point counts as a win for my side. 😉

      • I’ve never heard anyone doubt that a country of 144 million with a tradition of an effective spy agency can gain access to a poorly secured private mail server. Nor that a turbo-capitalist oligarchy with a cheap but well-educated work force couldn’t field troll farms or bots.

        To blame voter lists manipulation in the U.S. on outside agents is rich, given how much crap is pulled to lower the participation of people with lower income and darker skin tone. No evidence has been presented of tampering with voter registration lists (let alone by outside actors), and such lists seriously shouldn’t be exposed to the internet in the first place – link to a relevant cartoon, since this a cartooning site.

        Does anyone doubt that the gulf dictatorships have enough money lying around that they can seriously impact the U.S. election? There even is a public record of a lot of oil money flowing into lobbying and campaign contributions (not to mention family foundations).

        Still, it isn’t good practice for me to run around and point the finger to the crown prince in Riyad as the mastermind behind the collusion. And breathlessly list all the corruption cases routinely linked to the billions of arms sales, always pretending that we’re close to a tipping point where everything will implode like a house of cards. Nor place the burden of proof on those who doubt my accusations.

        Possibility is not the same as evidence.

        In my previous post I said exactly that you’ll need a clear story, not 416 references from a wiki page – most of which reference facts like:

        63: Samuelsohn, Darren (September 7, 2017). “Facebook faces backlash over Russian meddling”. Politico. Retrieved 7 September 2017.

        and even the relevant ones lead back to the same handful of facts which are very thin on evidence – and even if accepted at face value, don’t by themselves connect to a full picture unless additional leaps of faith are made. While we focus specifically and selectively on a particular country to the exclusion of all other states and private concentrations of power.

        The moon landing, 9/11, Watergate, etc. mainstream accounts all have a clear story, and so have even the kooks (e.g. hollywood production, controlled demolition, deep state setting up Nixon). One also is free to generally question the accuracy and spin of the mainstream account without buying into the tinfoil hat alternative (e.g. one can be less than satisfied with the 9/11 report without assuming an organized domestic conspiracy).

        Russiagate doesn’t even have a clear story (yet?). But somehow we’re not allowed to step back and say, wait, we know centers of power may do all kinds of stuff – we have impressive evidence of just what they can do from the Snowden documents (to my mind incomparably clearer than anything that has been alleged here) – but we still need evidence first.

      • «… but we still need evidence first.» But alas, Andreas, evidence is not the fuel on which the US propaganda machine – or certain posters here – run. That there is evidence for the claim that many of Mr Trump’s associates are sleazebags or that, along with many others, some people of Russian nationality – along with millions of others posted under false identities on Facebook is not, alas, evidence for the notion that «Russia hacked the elections» or destroyed US «democracy» – whatever that latter is – but those with interests in making this shell game appear real and not least, those who have been taken in by it will continue to maintain that it is. Cognitive dissonance is a bitch….


      • A5 – since you decline to answer my question, I am free to answer it myself.

        To wit: You obviously don’t believe your own argument. It doesn’t matter how much The Dastardly Russians (c) effected the election, but rather the attempt itself is a Very Bad Thing.

        Moreover, that argument is fallacious on its face – you’re perfectly happy to believe that a half-dozen independent cybersecurity agencies have been bribed with no evidence whatsoever; yet you refuse to believe that The Dastardly Russians [TM] attempted to fuck with our election process regardless of the amount of evidence publicly available. That’s called “moving the goalpost.” Demanding a ridiculously high standard of proof is called “raising the bar” (i.e. precisely how would you measure how much they effected the election? Telepathy?)

        It’s easy to say “all 416 footnotes are wrong” – but I notice that you don’t actually bother to address them other than a vague generalization. That’s the rhetorical equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and screaming “IS NOT! IS NOT!”

        I can do the same with the moon landing: “IS NOT! IS NOT!” – but it doesn’t actually prove anything.

        If, at this point, you still don’t believe in Russian hackers, trolls, and bots; if you can seriouly believe that there’s nothing wrong with Don Jr peddling influence; or that Komrade Trumpinov isn’t trying to obstruct justice then there’s really no need to continue this discussion.

        Unless, of course, you can provide some sort of proof – preferably of the same caliber you demand of the pro side.

  3. Geez, Ted, once again with the fanciful, pie-in-the-sky “solutions”! “Fix problems? Heal divisions?” Really? To do those things requires time, commitment, education, sensitivity — even money (we could throw a bit at education, for instance….) — and what are the chances of those things happening?!

    Well, none, if we decide it’s a lost cause. In your most recent column about Generation Z, you make the point that that’s what’s good about Donald Trump: that he’s SO egregiously vile, and so conveniently candid about it, that people are compelled to be “woke.”

    I confess a certain discomfort with the essentializing nature of talking about whole generations and what they do or don’t do, did or didn’t do; that aside, however, as one of the “Baby Boomers [who] aged out of flowers and free love into jobs and suburbs” — into the world of glitz, glamour, and riches that is public education — I too hope that Generation Z doesn’t devolve into Generation zzzzzzz….. But I find little comfort in counting on “being in good hands,” as though Gen Z is weirdly composed of nascent superheroes come to save us from ourselves unaided. No, aging hippie-commie-agitator that I am, I still find truth in the “banality” of being part of the problem or part of the solution. We all need to be part of Generation Woke. Or, as long as I’m dusting off platitudes, let’s save pessimism for better times.

    (And lest I be thought equally guilty of essentializing vast swathes of the population or of exacerbating divisions [“I know you are, but what I am?!”], I hope it’s clear that I do *not* mean to suggest that Ted is part of the problem — quite the contrary. I’m simply preaching to the choir that none of us is off the hook.)

    • Perhaps young people are more open and less invested in the current system, no matter the generation 😉

      (Though perhaps the currently young generation will stay less invested by virtue of not having any actual money to invest.)

      Then again, there are interesting signs of young people being more practiced at team work than I have ever seen people from my generation.

      I guess that would be just one more reason to keep making ourselves useful as we progress (regress?) agewise…

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