Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 27, 2019

New Study: "Russian Trolls" Did Not "Sow Discord" - They Influenced No One

The U.S. has claimed that the Russia government tried to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and Twitter.

Russia supposedly did this through people who worked the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia. The IRA people ran virtual persona on U.S. social networks which pretended to have certain political opinions. It also spent on advertising supposedly to influence the election. U.S. intelligence claimed that the purpose of the alleged Russian influence campaign was to "sow discord" within the United States.

But the IRA had nothing to do with the Russian government. It had no interests in politics. And a new study confirms that the idea that it was "sowing discord" is blatant nonsense.


IRA influencer

The Mueller investigation indicted 13 Russian persons and three Russian legal entities over the alleged influence campaign. But, as we wrote at that time, there was more to it than the media reported:

The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no "Russian influence" campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.

The IRA hired people in Leningrad for little money and asked them to open accounts on U.S. social media. The virtual persona they created and ran were to attract as many persons to those accounts as possible. They did that by posting funny dog pictures or by taking strong political positions. They were 'influencers' who sold their customers' products to the people they attracted.

The sole purpose was the same as in any commercial media. Create content to attract 'eyeballs', then sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

As Point 95 of the Mueller indictment said:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the [financial] accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

The was no Russian government campaign to influence the 2016 election. There was only a Russian commercial media enterprise that used sock-puppet accounts with quirky content to attract viewers and sold advertisement space to U.S. companies.

The IRA also bought advertisement to attract more people to its accounts. But the amount it spent was tiny. The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined. The IRA spend a total of $100,000 to promote its own accounts. But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time. It is statistically impossible that the mostly apolitical IRA spending had any effect on the election.

That the IRA ran a marketing machine and not a political operation was also obvious when one analyzed the content that those sock puppet accounts posted. Most of it was apolitical. Where it was political it covered both sides. Some IRA accounts posted pro-Trump content, others posted anti-Trump stuff. Some were pro-Clinton others against her. 

U.S. intelligence services tried to explain that away by claiming that the Russians wanted to "sow discord". There is zero evidence that this was really the case. It is simply an explanation that was made up because they failed to find a better one.

The real answer to the question why different IRA accounts posted on different sides of the political spectrum is that the IRA wanted to maximize its income. One has to cover both sides if one wants to optimize the number of eyeballs one attracts. 

FOX News is not pro-Trump because it wants to sow discord. Nor is CNN anti-Trump to serve that purpose. Both are in the business of attracting viewers to - in the end - sell advertisements. People flock to the TV station that fit to the opinion they already have. Both stations promote by and large similar products.

The virtual IRA persona worked in a similar ways. They took political positions to attract people who already had a similar one. One persona did that for the left, another one for the right. Neither changed the opinions of their followers.

A recently published study which looked at Twitter users who followed IRA sock puppet accounts and their content confirms that. It found that the IRA sock puppets had no influence on the opinions of their followers.

The study by U.S. and Danish researchers is headlined Assessing the Russian Internet Research Agency’s impact on the political attitudes and behaviors of American Twitter users in late 2017. It found:

Using Bayesian regression tree models, we find no evidence that interaction with IRA accounts substantially impacted distinctive measures of political attitudes and behaviors over a 1-mo period. We also find that interaction with IRA accounts were most common among respondents with strong ideological homophily within their Twitter network, high interest in politics, and high frequency of Twitter usage. Together, these findings suggest that Russian trolls might have failed to sow discord because they mostly interacted with those who were already highly polarized.

Most hardcore Republicans watch FOX New, most hardcore Democrats watch CNN. Neither TV station changes the core opinions of their viewers. They reinforce them.

The "Russian trolls" were virtual persona created to cover -in total- a wide spectrum. Some persona played hardcore Republican, other played hardcore Democrats. They created and posted content that fit to the role they played. Each attracted followers with opinions similar to those the virtual persona pretended to have. No opinion was changed through those contacts. No discord was sown.

The IRA then sold advertisement space to vendors to monetize all eyeballs its virtual personas attracted.

The U.S. intelligence agencies pretended that the commercial IRA was a political agency. It helped them to sell animosity against Russia and to pretend that Trump was somehow colluding with Putin.

But it all never made any sense.

Posted by b on November 27, 2019 at 18:33 UTC | Permalink

Comments

thanks b... of course it didn't matter, as when you have ignored 9-11 and everything else, you may as well buy into russia influencing the election with some commercial enterprise like the ira... it's shocking actually, to see how many otherwise intelligent people can be bamboozled so easily via the cia with swamp media in tow... again - emptywheel is a good case in point.. complete drivel about russia stole my sandwich on a 24-7 basis.. they have their heads up their asses so far, there is no light able to shine in...

Posted by: james | Nov 27 2019 18:52 utc | 1

as for twitter and facebook - two other nsa snoop dog outlets - there may be some value in these two creations, mostly with the intel agencies, but it is slim pickins' for most everyone else... the sooner they go the way of the dodo bird, the better..

Posted by: james | Nov 27 2019 18:54 utc | 2

Excellent report.
Thanks.

Now that you've shown that the IRA was not a "Russian influence campaign", I hope you will refute the claims that were made on last Sunday's 60 Minutes
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/russian-hackers-2016-election-democratic-congressional-campaign-committee-60-minutes-2019-11-24/

Title --How Russian intelligence officers interfered in the 2016 election, CBS

Alot of people still think 60 Minutes is a credible news source, but their wild and unsubstantiated claims in this segment really cast doubt on whether they can trusted or not.

Posted by: plantman | Nov 27 2019 18:58 utc | 3

Every single mainstream media organization refers to Russian interference in the 2016 election as though it were a proven fact. When the government makes an unfounded assertion, it is reported one time as "government sources say" but every time thereafter it is referenced as fact. If you find an alternative source that contradicts the government lie and try to post it to social media, you will be tagged with a "Warning" that claims your story is "fake news". Orwellian doesn't begin to describe it.

Posted by: Charles Dunaway | Nov 27 2019 19:18 utc | 4

Once MSM propagandists broadcast 'Russian meddling' hundreds of thousands of times, their audience becomes impervious to the simplest of logic and barest of facts.

Science.

Posted by: jeestun | Nov 27 2019 19:26 utc | 5

"Most hardcore Republicans watch FOX New, most hardcore Democrats watch CNN."

No, most hard core Democrats are repulsed by CNN.

The Democrats who watch CNN, and believe it, this goes for NPP, the NY Times, the New Yorker, and MSNBC, are Democratic Party loyalists. There's a big difference.

The first is set of people largely loyal to the party of FDR, and the other is a group of corporatists--largely loyal to big businesses like JP-Morgan Chase, Amazon, and many military contractors.

Posted by: Jay | Nov 27 2019 19:27 utc | 6

I watched a bit belatedly the 60 Minutes affair on the link provided. As the video was unusually very slow to appear, I read the text and then started looking around for when it was posted. Unbelievable. New stuff? I wrongly thought this had to be an old, superannuated piece. @emptywheel the producer or just the muse? This sort of nails down the coffin lid on a free media for me. And for you. We're in a very bad place.

Posted by: Lawrence Magnuson | Nov 27 2019 19:45 utc | 7

Leningrad, really?

Posted by: Mina | Nov 27 2019 19:47 utc | 8

Oh Mina, you caught me. It was Leningrad for most of my life. That is why I continue to think of it as that. I have now corrected the piece.

Posted by: b | Nov 27 2019 20:00 utc | 9

Lawrence Magnuson #7

Did you refer to Marcy Wheeler who scribbles the emptywheel blog. That gal is all rim and no spokes. The entire site is obsessive fantasising, Russia hating, Trump loathing to attract eyeballs and sell patreon donations.

Marcy couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time.

Posted by: uncle tungsten | Nov 27 2019 20:04 utc | 10

@b: Sorry b, but I don't buy it. Running a commercial scheme by posting *highly* political memes in a *foreign* country, such as promoting secession of Texas and California or inciting race tension, simply isn't a wise idea. Even if it weren't meant political, it still was political. Cat memes would have been a different story.

Posted by: Cliff | Nov 27 2019 20:17 utc | 11

Thanks for providing that study with greater visibility, b! However, I think it well past time to very closely examine the Why behind the demonizing of three related things: Russia, China and the practice of putting people ahead of profits whether via socialism, welfare state social-democracy, religious communalism, or nationalist driven state capitalism. Such an examination clearly warrants its own thread, which for now will have to be the most recent open thread. Please don't post follow-up comments to my proposal here and muddy this thread, thanks!

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 27 2019 20:29 utc | 12

Cliff @11 clearly falls off by failing to note b's and the study's major point--the Russian Government in now way meddled in the 2016 election as the commercial entity that didn't either has zero links to said government.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 27 2019 20:32 utc | 13

It is funny how Cliff @11 apparently believes that commercial exploitation is innocent, but efforts at political influence are sinister.

This disorder is part and parcel of the disease that is destroying western culture. The total loss of perspective is also one of the key symptoms of the hysteria that is clearly still gripping the West.

I wonder if this is something that the West can ever possibly recover from? I figured by now the hysteria would have burned itself out, but here it still seems to be going strong.

Posted by: William Gruff | Nov 27 2019 20:32 utc | 14

uh cliff, what "highly political memes". 100k spent on pictures of kermit the frog hand puppets or "buff bernie" is not highly political, and even if they were, they influenced nobody. it's all horseshit.

Posted by: pretzelattack | Nov 27 2019 20:33 utc | 15

Cliff@11
It might not have been wise but it is obviously what happened.The important point is that there is not the slightest suggestion of there being any evidence that the Russian state was involved.
To put the matter in context: hundreds of other sets of influencers did what the IRA did but because none of them could be associated in any way with Russia their, collectively order of magnitude more important efforts, most of them pushing Clinton who was thought to be a clear favourite, but their work goes unanalysed.
Not that there is any evidence of the IRA's connection with the Kremlin except that it is located not in Moscow but Petrograd, where Putin is from. And that the hustler running the organisation is said to have supplied sandwiches to meetings in the Kremlin- hence the media's coinage"Putin's Chef!"
b in this post is hammering yet one more nail into the coffin of Russiagate, there can't be much more room on the lid for more. And there isn't much room left in the coffin either-it already contains half of the Democratic Party, several presidential candidates, poor old Marcy wheeler and the entire Mainstream Media. High time it was six feet under.

Posted by: bevin | Nov 27 2019 20:42 utc | 16

Fun to see that my 7 predecessors did not notice. The "USSR" must look very far from where they live (compared to the local hysterical fear of it).

Posted by: Mina | Nov 27 2019 20:48 utc | 17

Oh Noes!

You mean the russian click bait add spam farm, that looks and behaves like an add spam farm, which everyone with a functioning brain in their skulls said is an add spam farm... might just turn out to behave like an actual add spam farm?

Well, colour me amazed.

..it's like no one remembered geocities pop up storms or something.

Posted by: S.O. | Nov 27 2019 20:54 utc | 18

The US media is still trying to breathe some life into a case which should have been declared dead on arrival, beltway politics must carry on its partisan shows, with the corporate media trying to whip audiences into a frenzy, over the most ridiculous plots in order to ignore that the body politic is corrupt beyond redemption and is as dead as US democracy.

Is Trump a Putin stooge? Let's 'investigate' or continually mu(e)ll over this possibility even more! Meanwhile, the stooges in Washington we are instructed to call 'our representatives' remain bipartisan in pursuing the dictatorial goals of class elites, no matter which CEO is temporarily managing affairs for the Fortune 500.

Who needs Russian meddling in an electoral process that means next to nothing when it comes to affecting in the slightest the homegrown depravity of our oligarchy?

We still have plenty of Dem Party hacks telling us in the most convoluted language what to think about a report vomited out by a professional liar (See: Mueller Iraq War Crimes for but one example of Mueller's long and sordid career) and we are suppose to believe any of this? Oh and let's see we are suppose to care that an orange-haired, spray tanned criminal buffoon won the Kabuki (s)election in Potemkin Empire against the insanely corrupted and proven War Criminal Donkey Queen Bee? You just have to wonder how much per word these pundits are paid to pump out their bilge?

The entire "Russiagate" smokescreen is a perfect example of how propaganda works. Accuse your "enemy" of the very thing you have been doing in plain sight so that when accusations are levied against you it will be harder to make them stick- keep that external enemy front and center so that the real enemy within remains hidden.

To believe that the Mueller report ever was anything than a wax show piece in a stale play one must put aside all the obvious items such as- 1) Zero evidence; 2) US elections are already rigged by the US elites before a single vote is cast; 3) The US has been tampering in just about every countries elections for decades overtly and covertly; AND 4) Recent attempts BY THE US to ACTUALLY tamper in Russian elections through the ever-handy NED.

There is no other country that intervenes in the political affairs of foreign states so directly, regularly and shamelessly as the United States. American foreign policy is one massive intervention in the politics of other countries, running the gamut from propaganda, destabilization, financing of opposition parties, electoral fraud and coups to military bombardment and occupation.

Professor Dov Levin of Carnegie Mellon University assembled a database documenting as many as 81 occasions between 1946 and 2000 when Washington interfered in elections in other countries.

There is zero solid evidence that Russia "meddled" in the US elections. It is all speculation and innuendo. Even if one were to blindly assume that the stories were accurate, whatever Russia may or may not have done pales in comparison to the operations of US intelligence agencies all over the world, including within the United States itself, not to mention the billions of dollars spent by the corporate and financial elite to manipulate US elections and determine their outcome.

The claim, moreover, that Russian Twitter and Facebook posts are responsible for social discontent and "disruptions in the democracy" of the United States—one of the most unequal countries in the world—is beyond ludicrous.

Posted by: Allen | Nov 27 2019 20:57 utc | 19

I didn't believe that the Russians interfered with the election anyway, but this exposition of the raw data used by the intell. services as a basis for promulgating the fiction, is fascinating and hilarious if the consequencies hadn't been so dire. The basis is so utterly mundane and so "American" if you forgive my saying so, I mean the IRA was just trying to make money. I suppose the intell. services knew this, knew they were peddling lies as Pompeo says they are taught to do. All for what? Not just to hurt Trump. No, to feed a McCarthyite fear to keep the endless wars going. Evil.

Posted by: Andrea Sutton | Nov 27 2019 21:39 utc | 20

The "Russia Stole Our Election" story is wearing thin? Fortunately a UK stink tank has discovered a "Gun Gap" to scare us with:


British ground forces would be "comprehensively outgunned" in a conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe, according to a defence think-tank.


Research by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) found that the Army, as well as Nato allies, has a "critical shortage" of artillery and ammunition.

The research comes ahead of a meeting of Nato leaders in London next week to mark the 70th anniversary of the alliance.

I know we are supposed to believe that US is so wonderful and exceptional that Russia, China, Iran, etc. all want to conquer it. But why would they want to? What would they do with a place like Detroit, Camden, and all the rest of the broken down infrastructure?

Posted by: Trailer Trash | Nov 27 2019 21:57 utc | 21

I meant to add that there is an easy solution to the scary new Gun Gap: don't attack Russia (or anywhere else).

Posted by: Trailer Trash | Nov 27 2019 22:00 utc | 22

"British ground forces would be "comprehensively outgunned" in a conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe"

So fucking what, if that were actually true? UK is a group of islands in NW Europe, it's not Poland, and UK hasn't any business to have troops in Eastern Europe to begin with; meanwhile, the European part of Russia is very much a big chunk of Eastern Europe; odds are that they'd have their military ready to defend and fight there. These useless hacks should come back only once they can claim that the British forces would be outgunned in a conflict with Russia in Essex; that would be worrying.

Posted by: Clueless Joe | Nov 27 2019 22:02 utc | 23

Mina @ 8, B @ 9:

St Petersburg is the main city and capital of the administrative region known as Leningrad Oblast so the name "Leningrad" is still current!

Posted by: Jen | Nov 27 2019 22:07 utc | 24

But there is a sense in which Russia may have subtly influenced the election.

For any well informed American - and in my opinion finding such is more likely than say spotting a Sasquatch - the varied political presentations of say RT may have the insidious effect of injecting bits of reality-oriented counter news to the ubiquitous lame bought propaganda from American mass media.

And the Putin-effect over the last two decades too may be quite insidious: after all, in the realm dominated by political banality, lies, stupidity and bad acting, an articulate, and in practical terms effective, political leader of a major country is a rather extraordinary phenomenon. Such things are possible, discover wayward Americans! But what explains its near complete absence in our exceptional indispensable nation?

Putin and Russia: the success that haunts us.


Posted by: Robert Snefjella | Nov 27 2019 22:10 utc | 25

Trailer Trash @21: Re Russia has us outgunned ...

It seems to me that it is a good thing they have figured that out before deciding to attack Russia in E. Europe. You know they have been thinking about it, they can almost taste it. And it will be a disaster.

Posted by: Bemildred | Nov 27 2019 22:29 utc | 26

I talked to the maid who cleaned Trump's room in Moscow after he pissed in the bed Obama slept in. She says he did it. She is now working on the submarine used by Putin to have sex with Tulsi Gabbart off the coast of Hawaii. She routinely makes up the bed and cleans the wardroom after they have sex.

All of this can be found if one searches for the facts. CNN is reporting on this daily, it must be true.

Posted by: dltravers | Nov 27 2019 22:31 utc | 27

No surprise that Wikipedia has a page entitled "Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections" that begins with the words "The Russian government interfered in (...)", as if it is a proven fact.

Posted by: Brendan | Nov 27 2019 22:46 utc | 28

Obama's D-Party set up what the following article describes which I provide as a marker of that party's leadership's immoral mindset. Imagine what BigLie Media would do if this was done in Russia or China! We'd read/hear/see all about it 24/7/365.

Posted by: karlof1 | Nov 27 2019 22:51 utc | 29

b neglected to mention a few things:

1) USA interferes in other countries elections all the time. Recent and very stark examples: Bolivia and Venezuela.

2) USA's broken, money-based electoral system practically invites "interference"/"meddling" by powerful interests and skews the results toward candidates that will serve powerful interests that can afford to support the electoral farce that provides an illusion of democracy.

3) Pro-Israel Zionists and Zionist organizations, like Haim Saban, Sheldon Adelson, and AIPAC, contribute huge sums to the duopoly that controls US politics. Their contribution is vastly greater than a few facebook ads.

4) The vast majority of the "Russian oligarchs" that are supposed to have influenced Trump are Jewish with closer ties to Israel than Russia.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 27 2019 23:13 utc | 30

Bevin @ 17
Evgeny Progozhin - supposedly behind IRA - was - and maybe still is - VVP’s chef. I think it is probably him who started that joke about his being a “hot-dog salesman” in St P. But he was much more than that.

More importantly he was the man who re-introduced fine restaurants to St Petersburg. In the nineties he opened several very good restaurants in a city which hadn’t seen a decent meal since the Revolution - a bit like England before it joined the Common Market. He was a great perfectionist with a tremendous eye for detail. His difficulty was in finding staff in a city which had no history of training staff beyond the very low levels demanded by the Intourist hotels - and as soon as he trained them they were poached by would-be rivals, so often he gave the top places to French and English specialists.

The very best of his restaurants was the Old Customs House on the University Embankment. I haven’t been there for a couple of years but in its hey-day it could match any restaurant in Europe.

He would also fly his staff to other Russian cities to lay on banquets for the President. He then went into mass catering and by the sounds of it different fields altogether. An admirable man, one of those who helped Russia into the 21st Century.

Posted by: Montreal | Nov 27 2019 23:19 utc | 31

uncle tungsten #10

"Marcy couldn't fart and chew gum at the same time."

Y'know I don't think I can do that either :-). I suppose it takes practice.

Posted by: Mike | Nov 27 2019 23:32 utc | 32

The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion …. The IRA spend … only some $45,000 …. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time.

Actually that’s 0.000007 IRA dollars, or all of 0.0007 cents, per election dollar.

Doesn’t look so minor now, does it?

Posted by: David G | Nov 27 2019 23:47 utc | 33

Let's compare the IRA's lame content to what is being emitted by the thousands of 'bots in Bolivia.

Posted by: DougDiggler | Nov 27 2019 23:52 utc | 34

Montreal@31
I stand, salivating, corrected. I will be in Montreal next month, where would Evgeny eat?

More freedom in Ukraine (Thanks Obama):
"UKRAINIAN courts were today condemned for upholding a ban on the only newspaper opposing the country’s “oligarch-nazi regime.”

"Founded in 1897, Rabochaya Gazeta was banned earlier this year under Ukraine’s reactionary anti-communist laws after it published articles quoting Karl Marx.

"The newspaper actively opposed the glorification of nazi war-criminals by the Ukrainian government. It demanded an end to the civil war launched by Kiev in the Donbass after the 2014 military coup and the seizure of power by the country’s neo-nazis, oligarchs and organised criminals.

"The Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) warned that the political course of the new government had not changed, with a continued hatred of the newspaper for “telling the truth to its readers.”

"It said the ban was the precursor for legislation that would “completely destroy freedom of speech and introduce total censorship of the media.”

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/workers-newspaper-ban-upheld-ukraine

Posted by: bevin | Nov 28 2019 2:02 utc | 35

Fresh Air has an interview with Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch of Fusion GPS posted on their page. There seems to be a full court press on to solidify the 'consensus' narrative, with stories on BBC and other main US news outlets, including many on NPR, 'explaining' various aspects of the Russophobic/Sinophibic view of the world, and attacking as 'conspiracy theories' that are proven false (mainly by way of reciting innuendo and accusations by anonymous sources and professional liars) any counter narratives.

In my experience, even if people retain some skepticism, they assume the main points of the narrative as proven fact to the extent that it is nearly impossible to have a reasoned discussion about the basic assumptions of the narrative.

I see that Chrystia Freeland has been appointed deputy prime minister of Canada.

Posted by: the pessimist | Nov 28 2019 2:06 utc | 36

I am amazed.......... that one and all haven't noticed the inability of the USG to
deal with any.... and I mean any.... issues affecting the people of the USA.

Lead in Drinking Water.....

Farm Bankruptcies.....

Failed Corn & soybean crops.....

Medical prescription costs going through the roof.

Key medicines no longer available to combat serious infections....

Boeings that are designed to crash....

INDY

Posted by: Dr George W. Oprisko | Nov 28 2019 2:21 utc | 37

Examining direct state-actor involvement would be one thing. But this 'study' is little more than a sui generis, slow motion ethnic slur. What about Russian-American US citizens in Boston who happen to tweet benign and banal messages about nothing in particular? Can we get cooties from them as well? Does it come thru the WIFI?

The sizable Russian-American population has been absolutely stoic during this whole protracted episode. I can think of many other groups who'd be screaming bloody murder.

As for the IRA indictments, they were a sham from top to bottom. Here's the Powerline blog:

“One hates to be in the position of rooting for the Russians, but the Mueller Switch Project is so distasteful that it is hard not to enjoy the prospect of Mueller having to deal with an actual adversary in court. Meanwhile, this is probably the first time in the history of litigation that a plaintiff (here, prosecutor) has told a court that it may not have obtained good service of process on a defendant that has appeared to defend the case on the merits. Mueller to Court: We didn’t really mean it, Judge! We had no idea they might actually show up!”

None other than Michael Moore is another IRA victim. So much for Trump-Russia.

https://fullspectrumdominoes.wordpress.com/2019/06/28/7864/

Posted by: FSD | Nov 28 2019 2:32 utc | 38

#21

"I know we are supposed to believe that US is so wonderful and exceptional that Russia, China, Iran, etc. all want to conquer it. But why would they want to? What would they do with a place like Detroit, Camden, and all the rest of the broken down infrastructure?"

Also, the greatest political system ever conceived in mankind according the Americans somehow can just simply crumble in the face of a tiny bit of alleged foreign money.

Posted by: JW | Nov 28 2019 3:01 utc | 39

The proverb " A dog will return to its vomit" obviously applies to New Yorker writers too.
Jane Mayer, author of a famously gushing fanmag feature on Christopher Steele is at it again.
https://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/59965-focus-the-inside-story-of-christopher-steeles-trump-dossier

Posted by: bevin | Nov 28 2019 3:12 utc | 40

Jane Mayer used to write good journalism. Her book "Dark Money" from a couple of years ago was an eye-opener. What happened to her?

I guess the same question could be asked about Marcy Wheeler.

And what happened to Democracy Now and Amy Goodman?

Posted by: lysias | Nov 28 2019 3:28 utc | 41

The real sin of Russia, is not, of course, the nonsense election meddling, but its resistance against the US culture of open free markets, its threat of closing its markets to the US, its national doctrine against the Full Spectrum Dominance and US-led neo-liberal order. Its sin is economic nationalism. Its sin is taking shares of Christopher Steele's in Gazprom by force, who had them by tax fraud in the first place. Its sin is allowing Government of Russia holding more than half of the shares of Gazprom. Its sin is becoming self-reliant in oil and gas (and recently food thanks to sanctions), backed with a substantial military force. A huge country that can industrialize its resources and that can defend itself and deter any aggression on her soil. A recipe for nightmare for neo-liberals.

Since the Americans voted for a president who is against the neo-liberal order and promotes nationalism, they are on fire and afraid they are going to have to take it by four more years.

Posted by: Innocent Civilian | Nov 28 2019 3:36 utc | 42

And what happened to bevin?

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 28 2019 3:38 utc | 43

by: Jackrabbit @ 30 and Dr. George W. Oprisko @37 <== B probably left out, those things you called his hand on, because B wanted to reserve an opportunity for you to post a comment?
? by JW @ 39.. asking why "every one wants into America" can get a leg <=broken? or a wife and kids rendered.

what seems important to the USA has little relevance or meaning to the Average American?
The USA has become so sophisticated and developed goals so global that most Americans don't recognize it.
The USA is the engine that has become disconnected from the train it was connected to.

Posted by: snake | Nov 28 2019 3:59 utc | 44

@24lysias

Add to the list--Digby. The decline of all these "journalists" is mind-boggling. Almost as if on cue... Is the pay that much better?

Posted by: Joanne | Nov 28 2019 7:17 utc | 45

Agree that there isn't much evidence that the Internet Research Agency affected the US election. For what it's worth, the most plausible case I have seen put forward is that of journalist Jefferson Morley, who was interviewed on Aaron Mate's Pushback program. He emphasized the (potential) effect of the ads on turnout. Presumably the authors of the PNAS study were not able to examine this possibility. In any event, there is no question that this issue has been severely overhyped by those pushing the TrumpRussia conspiracy theory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gVyDGMXReE

Posted by: Dave | Nov 28 2019 9:02 utc | 46

Leningrad remains an important name. Somehow I find it difficult to refer to the siege of Leningrad during WWII as the siege of Saint Petersberg. Those horrible 900 days will always be known as the siege of Leningrad.

Posted by: ToivoS | Nov 28 2019 9:20 utc | 47

The accusation that the IRA wanted to sow discord is wrong in multiple pernicious ways. In a way sowing discord is a standard way to make things interesting. Conflict sells. I haven't read Matt Taibbi's book about Hate Inc. but in quite general ways conflict makes things interesting, whether it be about killing or indignation. That is why there is 'more' fighting on average in movies than in everyday life.

Another part is that there are levels of conflict and tension between countries. Things happen all the time. It is important to react appropriately. The reaction should be on the right scale. For instance if tensions are high and the opposition kills one of your spies, then it is appropriate that your spy agency handles the problem themselves without escalating. It has ways to retaliate in its arsenal. In this case struggling for influence is everyday business and even if there is a real case of promoting unrest, it can be treated as a tit for tat situation, as something you have to live with(the usual reaction when the US interferes elsewhere) or as a pretext for escalation. The hysteria around Russia is is clearly a case for the latter, a strong desire to escalate.

and another angle is that discord is a part of state systems with some form of audience participation, and when the term democracy applies, it should be a core aspect. That is why it becomes so easy to label all dissent as the result of Russians sowing discord.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Nov 28 2019 9:23 utc | 48

i don't think digby or march wheeler are selling out for money. as far as i can tell, they are devoted clinton followers and just followed her down the rabbit hole.

Posted by: pretzelattack | Nov 28 2019 14:08 utc | 50

Posted by: pretzelattack | Nov 28 2019 14:08 utc | 50

as far as i can tell, they are devoted clinton followers and just followed her down the rabbit hole.

Agreed -- they've gone full Jonestown.

Posted by: PhilK | Nov 28 2019 15:02 utc | 51

Beware the individuals in the crowd trying to turn it into a lynch mob by triggering moral hysteria.

We have such an agent right here in this thread.

Posted by: William Gruff | Nov 28 2019 15:09 utc | 52

Does anyone know whats going on with the Concord Management (or what ever it is called) trial where they are fighting the charges that they are a Kremlin operation that interfered with the election?

Posted by: jase | Nov 28 2019 16:41 utc | 53

@uncle tungsten (10) I like to think of Marcy Wheeler as a false dot-connecter. Her operating principle is to connect various dots so as to create a desired narrative. Unfortunately, she does so without supporting evidence and thus her narrative is inevitably one of erroneous or non-existent dot connections. Sadly, Wheeler and her ilk still hold considerable sway amongst true believing followers.

Posted by: Rob | Nov 28 2019 18:17 utc | 55

i find it interesting that these topics pushed by the press (not by b) only serve to cover over the novochoke mysteries. :)

Posted by: jason | Nov 28 2019 18:21 utc | 56

@Cliff #11
In a different thread, I posted an early 2017 Wired article which covered Macedonian clickbaiters which did exactly what the IRA is accused of doing - purely for money: Wired link
Secondly, John Helmer has talked about Prigozhin; specifically that there is a group which has performed all manner of internet activity for private benefit, including pumping up press coverage for both positive and negative (kompromat) activities.
The problem with the mainstream DNC story of "Russian interference" is several parts:
1) The link between the IRA and the Russian government
2) The actual impact of the ads
As b notes - the amount spent by the IRA, regardless of source, is laughably small in the context of overall 2016 political, election or presidential online spending.

Posted by: c1ue | Nov 29 2019 15:19 utc | 57

@all:

1) I certainly agree that the impact of the IRA campaign was negligible. This has always been clear.

2) The IRA boss and Putin do know each other. It is fair to describe the IRA as somewhat close to the Kremlin.

3) It is well known that the IRA has run political online campaigns inside Russia.

4) At the very least, posting memes promoting the secession of Texas and California and the like was extremely stupid. In the worst case, they really tried to achieve some political goal this way.

5) Read the presentations by Oxford University and NewKnowledge (a dubious NSA outfit I know) showing all the IRA memes. Many of them *are* highly political, including the attempted (usually failed) real-world rallies.

6) If the US were (is) doing this in other countries, all of you guys would be crying 'foul'. Let's be honest guys.

Posted by: Cliff | Nov 29 2019 15:59 utc | 58

recent NYT story:

Their content is written by a network of young Macedonians in Veles, a sleepy riverside town that was home to a collection of writers who churned out disinformation during the 2016 presidential election in the United States. Among Mr. LaCorte’s network was one writer who helped peddle a conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton had ties to a pedophile ring.

Until now, it was unclear who was behind the sites. But an investigation by The New York Times and researchers at Nisos, a security firm in Virginia, found that they are among several sites owned by Mr. LaCorte that push inflammatory items — stories, petitions and the occasional conspiracy theory — to the American public.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Nov 29 2019 16:30 utc | 59

Cliff @58 <-- Toxic mix of delusion and projection.

What the poster imagines Russia did is something the US really does do, only X10,000 or more.

That poster is precisely the kind of individual who upon hearing the sound of an unfamiliar cricket will imagine it to be the effects of a Soviet mind ray. This is a perfect example of just how bad the mass psychosis has gotten in the US.

Posted by: William Gruff | Nov 29 2019 16:42 utc | 60

Gruff @ 60

So, it is okay if the US does it that other countries do it? Are you insane? How about murder? If people murder then it is okay for you to murder?

Try cites to bolster your ignorant "opinions".

Posted by: Bardi | Nov 29 2019 17:02 utc | 61

if cliff.... not if cliff.... the usa has been doing this in other countries on a regular basis and then they have the gall to feed the sheeple this stupid idea that the usa is lilly white... it defies logic... your logic is equally flawed...

@19 allen... great post... you have made a few great posts here at moa recently.. thank you..

Posted by: james | Nov 29 2019 17:19 utc | 62

@c1ue
In the Concord Management trial the government wants to tell the jury about the links to Russian government. But they say they don't have to prove it, it's just for background context.

Posted by: Keith McClary | Nov 29 2019 18:53 utc | 63

And to think I used to enjoy JR's posts & input 4/5 years ago. Now its all ad hominem and FUD. I guess his hole over yonder stays empty. So much for his recruiting efforts here..

Posted by: Lozion | Nov 29 2019 21:27 utc | 64

The fundamental issue is the utterly monstrous hypocrisy of American claims of Russian meddling. Even if it was all true it wouldn't begin to compare to American meddling all over the world!!! As always, it comes down to Might Makes Right and nothing else.

Posted by: paul | Nov 29 2019 21:41 utc | 65

@ 64 lozion... i wish jr would drop this dynamic with bevin and move on.. i wish the same when i read the walter - steven johnson back and forth on another thread... moa doesn't need this shit... these folks are intelligent enough to offer insight without getting caught up in some stupid dog fight on this site..

Posted by: james | Nov 29 2019 21:48 utc | 66

Why "spend" instead of "spent"? Looks peculiar as hell.

Who wrote this?

Posted by: Carol | Nov 29 2019 22:05 utc | 67

@ carol... clearly you are new around here... the quote you cite - it is handy to share this, so i don't have to go looking for it'
""But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election."" is a typo by b.. b's main language is german.. keep that in mind the next time you opt to comment.. thanks..

Posted by: james | Nov 29 2019 22:27 utc | 68

@Cliff #58
That the IRA *might* have links to the Russian government is possible, but so is the possibility that it’s activity is not Russian government approved.
What really matters, though, is that there has been no public confirmation, only insinuations in the similar style to the WMDs of Iraq vintage.
Secondly, you did not address the point stressed in the Wired article: that clickbaiters use exactly the same memes - lifted straight from political sites even, because that’s where the money is.
If the Russian government work is so well documented, why have we yet to see anything concrete?
Especially since the C agency supposedly had a high level contact in Putin’s inner circle.
I’d also note that the US governents data apparently came from Facebook - which the ex-FB chief information security officer, Alex Stamos, has said repeatedly. The same person who “could hire former NSA people to be investigators for FB”
Given the high level and high powered people, public and private, involved - why is hard data so lacking?

Posted by: c1ue | Nov 29 2019 23:11 utc | 69

@64 Lozion

Thank you for that context. I wasn't around or paying attention back then so I don't know the history.

Now this commenter becomes nothing more than a case study - how does it all go downhill? Is it paid or is it voluntary?

I have a speculation that the trigger word he uses in his slander could simply be a test by social intervention forces to see just how far that word can be pushed to turn people into knee-jerk anger and automatic response. Recent threads here suggest that it can be pushed disturbingly far.

@66 james

I haven't understood how you and others have continued to talk to this commenter as if he were worthy of equal response - he outed himself to my observation several months before this latest episode. And as I noted recently, one remembers these things. But Lozion's comment suggests that there is a valuable past here that I'm not really familiar with, and so I guess I can understand.

In which case I sympathize for your loss of a colleague. It won't be the first good colleague gone to ruin, nor the last, but I wish it didn't seem to happen so easily.

Meanwhile, one must give food to the living, not the dead.

Posted by: Grieved | Nov 29 2019 23:55 utc | 70

james @66: i wish jr would drop this dynamic with bevin

You're suggesting that I have some bias or axe to grind wrt bevin. That's not true.

Jen saw the same problems with bevin's commentary that I did.

I explained very clearly why he was wrong and he's had no response to that. If you disagree with my analysis, please feel to tell us.

Isn't it disturbing to see Epstein being talk about as a victim like Assange? I don't think we should go ape-shit about such a wrong-headed POV, but I don't think we should just let it go either.

Previously you and Jen were wondering at bevin's strange reaction. Now you seem to be shooting the messenger.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 30 2019 0:02 utc | 71

Grieved @70: ... he outed himself to my observation several months before this latest episode.

LOL. Really? How so?

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 30 2019 0:04 utc | 72

@ Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 30 2019 0:04 utc | 72

Your comment #126 on the Open Thread pretty much does it for me.

I suggest you go look in a mirror for a bit and see if you can stand yourself

Posted by: psychohistorian | Nov 30 2019 0:23 utc | 73

psychohistorian @73: Your comment #126 ...

Well, what do you object about it?

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 30 2019 0:53 utc | 74

@70 grieved.. thanks... it is all context and we all have a different context to draw from... i try to be detached about these things, as that is not my first response!! the idea of calling someone a troll isn't really all that helpful and bevin has done this with jackrabbit repeatedly when bevin could have said nothing - as he does when questioned on his epstein position by jen and jr.. so, there is a little tit for tat going on here which i get, but overall it takes away from the enjoyment of moa which is what i don't enjoy.. thanks for understanding..

@71 jr.. i accept your comments..i am not shooting you here either.. i wish you'd let go of the bevin question over epstein.. clearly he's not into responding to you, jen or i on this matter.. one can draw any conclusion they want on this too, which i am sure some of us are doing.. make your comment and let it go.. if people either don't respond or are unwilling to see it the same way then don't keep dragging into various open threads! that would be my suggestion here.. thanks..

Posted by: james | Nov 30 2019 1:28 utc | 75

Every nation with the capability to interfere in the elections of other nations and not get caught will do so. The US doesn't even try to hide it! "Regime change" is just business as usual. The outrage over putative Russian meddling in US elections is maximum hypocrisy, but it provided a useful distraction in 2016. The election of Trump was disturbing. Rather than examine the dysfunctional US election system, it is more convenient to blame outside interference. As a practical matter, auditing a national election is not possible. It follows that we are fools to trust results that cannot be demonstrated to be "free & fair". I do not accept the results of the 2016 election. Before Trump was anointed president, he said the system was rigged. Because he lost the popular vote, he still believes it was rigged.

It actually is rigged, in numerous ways. So it is convenient to deflect any examination of the system by blaming Russia. The system can then continue to deliver servants of the status quo for the powers that be.

What frightens these powers that be is the prospect of an honest president. This is why Obama is campaigning against Bernie. An honest person in the WH? Terrifying thought!

Posted by: jadan | Nov 30 2019 2:42 utc | 76

james @75

bevin made about 6 comments after I detailed why he was wrong.

I found that two of those comments warranted referring back to bevin's Epstein fallacies.

I don't think I'm hounding him as much as reminding readers of his views when appropriate to do so.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Nov 30 2019 6:16 utc | 77

Using social media to influence politics in another country is one thing, actively soliciting such influence from another country is another matter altogether. Do not conflate the two.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Nov 30 2019 10:19 utc | 78

@Keith McClary #63
I have been watching the Concord Management case, off and on, because one of Reed Smith's lead litigators is defending them. He is a former Justice department litigator.
The case thus far has been characterized by cartoonish competence - i.e. incompetence - on the prosecution side. It is quite clear Mueller and his Special Prosecutor never expected to be actually challenged in their allegations.
For example: Eric Dubelier - the defense attorney - has said that over 70 discovery requests made to the Justice department have been unfulfilled. Discovery is the legal process where the defense and prosecution ensure that each has all of the data being used by the other side, so that the legal arguments can proceed from an equal information basis.
On top of the apparent discovery obstruction, one of the data sets that did come from a discovery response was an offer to provide a massive trove of tweets by the alleged Russian trolls...but which had not been translated.
Maybe it is just me, but how do you allege American election misbehavior from Russian trolls when their tweets are neither in English nor are translated?
The Politico link
Over the summer this year, the judge in that case has further warned Mueller against further media mentions of Prigozhin/IRA as being prejudicial to this case.
Yet again, no concrete data has been published to date linking IRA activity with the Russian government.
Prigozhin has links to Putin, but the same could be said for every single prominent American oligarch, lobbyist, defense industry executive, oil industry executive, etc.
Does every single business activity engaged in by an American oligarch, lobbyist, defense industry executive, oil industry executive, etc constitute US Government policy?
I think not, particularly since many of these activities are competing with each other.

Posted by: c1ue | Nov 30 2019 12:52 utc | 79

I call on the voting record of Pelosi and Schiff. They have now voted twice (in succeeding years) to give the Trump administration the right to warrantless surveillance of any US citizen. If they believed Trump was a Russian agent, that would prove they are both Russian agents. By their voting, they testify that the Russian influence in the 2016 Presidential election is their own lie. donthomson1@hotmail.com

Posted by: Donald A Thomson | Nov 30 2019 19:25 utc | 80

The only documented attempt to microtarget specific voters to affect voting for a candidate or whether they'll vote at all came from Cambridge Analytica. The company served as consultants and contractors for the Trump campaign and used Facebook profiles (which FB sold to all comers). To my knowledge, no one has really tried to determine how successful CA was in moving a small, but crucial segment of voters in key swing states. A shift of only a few thousand votes in key Congressional districts would have an impact in tight elections.

The open question is why the Trump campaign would need to collaborate with the Russians in any way. There's no evidence the Russians had the capabilities of CA; nor was there any need for the Russians to buy FB ads. The Trump campaign did this themselves, and $45K is insignificant.

There were reports that Manaford shared some polling data with Russian representatives, but in light of what we know about CA, this was probably innocuous, little more than conversation.

With this background, it's pretty clear there was never Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Posted by: Posa | Dec 1 2019 15:50 utc | 81


@21 "Research by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi)" That's got to be a joke, right? "Rusi"?

Detroit and Camden - and what about London?

Posted by: Gene Poole | Dec 1 2019 17:53 utc | 82

So, no one can watch Fox because people like Tucker Carlson and others make sense?

And when CNN and MSNBC says things like Russia! Russia! Russia! and if you voted for Trump you are a victim of a cult that those are equal to Fox questioning things and reporting on them?

No. You are wrong.

Fox uses reason to report. A lot of people gravitate to reason, not because it reinforces their "belief system."

CNN/MSNBC is full of complete delusion. You don't see the same thing on Fox. You equating them as the same is false.

Posted by: restlless94110 | Dec 4 2019 5:09 utc | 83

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