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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 4:36 pm | Fair with Haze 64º

 
 
 
 

Diane Dimond: DOJ Warns Voters to Beware of Political Propaganda Planted By America’s Enemies

You've probably seen a spunky witness or lawyer on a TV courtroom drama spout out an unacceptable line and the judge caution the jury, "Disregard the testimony you just heard." This effort has been likened to trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. After all, you can't unhear a comment, right? But it is the court's way of trying to ensure prejudicial content doesn't play a part in the jury verdict.

As we approach the midterm elections, I'm asking everyone to try to disregard all the prejudiced and politically soaked social media you've been exposed to. Let's vote with our common sense and not with information absorbed from subliminal and destructive messages planted by enemies of this country.

The Department of Justice has made it clear that the Russians — and, to a lesser extent, China and Iran — are still engaging in information warfare campaigns to try to pit Americans against one another. The feds say the election meddling we saw in the 2016 presidential election is alive and well and operating again on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The recent Department of Justice criminal indictment of Russian citizen Elena Khusyaynova is a case in point. She is charged with conducting a conspiracy to defraud the United States via an operation called "Project Lakhta." With a $35 million budget at her discretion, federal investigators say, she directed a team of Moscow-based operatives who set up phony social media accounts that looked as though they belonged to Americans interested in politics. Khusyaynova's cyber army was instructed to flood the Internet with misinformation about hot-button political issues to stoke civil unrest in the United States.  The topics included, to quote the DOJ statement, "Immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women's March and the NFL national anthem debate."

And the Russians obviously take advantage of whatever the U.S. media are hammering upon as the latest outrage. Moscow went into hyperdrive following the various reports of police shootings of African-American men; the white supremacist's shooting of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, S.C.; the sniper's mass killing of concert goers in Las Vegas; and after all sorts of White House policy decisions.

Did you happen to see or hear about the post that declared President Trump "deserves a Nobel Peace Prize" for agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un? Or another that predicted Trump "might not even be president" by the time the meeting came about — a hint at impeachment or assassination? Those highly promoted messages were, according to the indictment, figments of some Russian computer geek's imagination.

Did you read or hear "news" describing the late Sen. John McCain as "an old geezer who has lost it"? Or the comment that called special prosecutor Robert Mueller "a puppet of the establishment," and later, the conflicting pro-Muller message, "If Trump fires Robert Mueller, we have to take to the streets in protest. Our democracy is at stake!"? Project Lakhta also planted this message about our upcoming election: "Just a friendly reminder to get involved in the 2018 midterms. They hate you. They hate your morals." Even if you don't stop to thoroughly read such propaganda, these repetitive messages can have a profound subliminal impact.

It is an insidious game Russia is playing. Its willy-nilly targets defy a category because it isn't focused on smearing only Democrats or Republicans, liberal or conservative views. No, its goal is to spearhead as much American discontent, anger and outright violence as it possibly can. Why, you ask? Because a nation divided is a weakened nation. I repeat: A nation divided is a weakened nation. It's an old Cold War tactic but so much easier and effective now with worldwide social media.

The Russians are delighted to mess with our minds, to light incendiary sparks in our public discourse. Sadly, judging from the current schisms in America, it seems we are falling right into their trap. Today we see politicians calling for civil disobedience, activists angrily confronting and threatening public servants, and livid citizens sending pipe bombs to political figures. Where did all this white-hot outrage come from? Does it have Russian roots?

As we head into the election booth, we need to be honest with ourselves. How did you come to the political conclusions that you hold? Did the constant stream of foreign distortion influence you to embrace reactionary viewpoints? Did you get caught up in the swirl of hateful rhetoric? Is today's seething divisiveness what America will be going forward?

These are deep thoughts, and searching our souls won't be easy. It may be as hard as putting toothpaste back in the tube, but every American must realize we no longer fight wars only on battlefields. Our country is mired in an information war, the likes of which we have never seen before. We either counter it with our sheer will to make things better or we continue to let it weaken us as a nation.

Diane Dimond is the author of Thinking Outside the Crime and Justice Box. Contact her at [email protected], follow her on Twitter: @DiDimond, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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