Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 17 , 2018, 6:50 am | Overcast 53º


Diane Dimond: ​Russian Attempts at American Mind Control Continue

It is high time we accept the fact that the Russian government is engaged in a massive propaganda campaign aimed at getting Americans to fight with one another. It’s been going on for a long time.

You might have thought the Russians would back off their social-media misinformation campaign after their attempts to influence our last presidential election were exposed. But no.

Even though there are multiple investigations into last year’s Kremlin-inspired campaign to sow American dissent on a wide range of hot-button issues (presumably so voters would be convinced to reject Democratic Party candidates), the Russians are still at it. That’s according to top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are worried about the potential chaos Russian propaganda might create for future U.S. elections, like the ones taking place across the country next month and next year.

Here’s a quick primer on their insidious efforts to disrupt America’s social fabric and mold the way we think and interact with one another: Russians set up countless phony social media sites with attractive-sounding names like “Being Patriotic,” “United Muslims of America,” “Defend the 2nd” and “​Blacktivist.”

They then glommed on to existing posts in which Americans have expressed outrage about the U.S. government, race relations, gun rights, immigration or tax policies, and a number of other divisive issues. The Russian provocateurs fan the flames of our passionate discourse by embellishing the messages and disseminating them to a much wider audience than the original posts would have ever reached.

In other words, the Russians are using our own disagreements against us. I wonder how many Americans have already been swayed by Russian-instigated propaganda and don’t even realize it.

The following were among the posts designed to stoke Americans’ anger: a manufactured hoax about Muslim men in Michigan collecting welfare for up to four wives; a sponsored Facebook page with a headline that that read “BRIDGEPORT COP SHOT, HANDCUFFED BLACK TEEN AND LEFT HIM IN THE STREET FOR 6 HOURS AS HE BLED TO DEATH”; and a concocted story from the aforementioned Being Patriotic page that erroneously claims that 50,000 homeless U.S. veterans are starving in the streets while “liberals want to invite 620,000 refugees” to our country.

All those hate-filled missives are untrue, but you can bet some Internet addicts believed them and passed them on.

You see the sinister thinking behind the Kremlin’s campaign? The Russians grab an issue, twist it for maximum negative effect, and then sit back and watch Americans argue with one another until rage erupts.

Why, you might ask, would a foreign power want to do this? Because Russia realizes today’s wars are no longer fought on a battlefield with guns and tanks; they take place behind a keyboard, on a stage called the worldwide web, and the best weapon they can employ is one that erodes the common sense of their enemy.

The Russians know a divided nation is much easier to defeat than a united one.

This is not new behavior. After World War II, the Soviet Union tried to spread its socialist propaganda via Radio Moscow and a newspaper called the Daily Worker. But the audience for their pro-communist message was miniscule compared with today’s worldwide reach of the Internet.

Americans loathe censorship, and social media thrives on lively give-and-take discussions. But even executives at Facebook, Twitter and Google agree there is a problem here.

Facebook now admits that, in 2016, it accepted money for more than 3,000 ads purchased by agents connected to the Internet Research Agency. That organization has been described as, “a secretive company known for spreading Kremlin-linked propaganda” that investigators believe is “part of a highly coordinated disinformation campaign that sought to sow chaos and exploit divisive (American) social issues.”

Top officials from Facebook, Twitter and Google have been asked to testify before Congress early next month to see whether there is some way to curb the Kremlin’s continuing campaign against us.

There is no specific U.S. law against what agents of the Russian state are doing. The First Amendment allows everyone the right to express themselves. So, it is up to us, the readers, to use our critical thinking skills to identify the hyped Russian posts for what they are: a sick device designed to get us to turn on one another.

This Moscow mind manipulation is yet another important reminder not to believe everything you read on the Internet.

It seems that we come together as Americans only after a national crisis, like the senseless massacre of innocents in Las Vegas, the hurricane devastation in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. These days, we squabble about everything and say ugly things about others’ opinions. This is just what the Russians are aiming for.

Let’s stop giving it to them.

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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >