Masha Gessen: Did a Russian Troll Farm’s Inflammatory Posts Really Sway the 2016 Election for Trump?

Links to today’s show transcripts:

Masha Gessen: Did a Russian Troll Farm’s Inflammatory Posts Really Sway the 2016 Election for Trump?
The Justice Department recently indicted 13 Russians and three companies in connection with efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. The indicted are accused of orchestrating an online propaganda effort to undermine the U.S. election system. The indictment claims the Russians spread negative information online about Hillary Clinton and supportive information about Donald Trump, as well as Bernie Sanders—but some are warning against overstating what Russia accomplished. Award-winning Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen is a longtime critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her recent piece for The New Yorker is titled “The Fundamental Uncertainty of Mueller’s Russia Indictments.”

Masha Gessen: Russiagate Has Become a Conspiracy Trap Obscuring How Trump Is Damaging Nation
Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen talks about how President Trump has benefited from what she calls the “conspiracy trap” around Russia’s role in the 2016 election. She wrote last year, “Russiagate is helping him—both by distracting from real, documentable, and documented issues, and by promoting a xenophobic conspiracy theory in the cause of removing a xenophobic conspiracy theorist from office.”

“The Young Karl Marx”: Raoul Peck on New Film Examining How Marx Developed Critique of Capitalism
World-famous filmmaker Raoul Peck is releasing a film today in Los Angeles and New York on the life and times of Karl Marx. It’s called “The Young Karl Marx.” The film’s release comes as the head of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPierre, broke his silence after last week’s Florida school shooting that left 17 dead, attacking gun control advocates as communists in an address to the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. Peck speaks about his new film and the role of Marxism in organizing for gun reform.


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7 thoughts on “Masha Gessen: Did a Russian Troll Farm’s Inflammatory Posts Really Sway the 2016 Election for Trump?

  1. Eric F Coppolino

    I don’t agree that it’s as far fetched as she’s saying that those posts had an effect. We are talking about catalytic agents, not overwhelming ones. You would really need to study the environmental dynamics involved to know. We are speculating with every theory except “they had some effect.”

    1. Amy Elliott

      I’m inclined to agree with you. And, note – the thrust of the indictments is not entirely about whether they succeeded – though it’s important to analyse just how far they did – but whether they made the attempt, which is pretty much incontrovertible at this point.

      I think it’s probably true that there was mixed rather than unfettered success, and that there had to be something already present in people’s minds that could serve as a basis for the propaganda to work. It’s clear that substantial proportions of Trump supporters were: 1) racist enough to be dismayed or frightened by the existence of a Black president; 2) disenfranchised and disillusioned in general; and/or 3) adherents of the conservative value system, per Lakoff, including the evangelical wing.

      This form of catalysis works best on people who are not habitually critical thinkers, or self-aware/honest enough to understand their pressure points. Add to that the effect of internet echo chambers, and (though it’s painful to admit) all you really need are resources and persistence.

      1. Geoff Marsh

        A cogent and concise analysis, Amy, which may well be close to the actual degree of interference.

        As a British outsider, it does make me wonder why America seems so surprised by Russian interest in the outcome of its last election. It’s a globalised world, after all, and if Putin feels his nation’s interests would best be served by one candidate for President rather than another then it is must be assumed that they Russians will support that choice, as overtly or covertly as is felt appropriate.

        After all, it’s not as if America hasn’t engaged in such tactics on a much grander scale in recent years. Apart from the obvious interference in the government of Vietnam, there was the appalling intervention in Chile in 1973 when President Allende’s democratically-elected Communist government was overthrown by a military junta endorsed by the US government under Richard Nixon. Trying to influence an election? No, much worse, determined to declare an election null and void and instal the loser as incumbent. There is karma here, America.

        Besides the points you raise, Amy, my belief is that something bigger was transpiring in the world at large. Its echoes were the Brexit vote in Britain, the rise of the Front National in France and the AfD in Germany, nationalist sentiments all of which preceded Trump’s election. People seem to have tired of the duocratic process operating in all the major Western democracies – two-party systems which swap rulership on a regular basis in order to keep the status quo in balance and not swing too far in either direction. Do and undo on a regular basis with no real change of those in charge of the general direction.

        It may seem as if I am a dyed-in-the-wool Communist but I offer my thoughts and observations only for consideration. Supposing Artificial Intelligence should confirm that the way to universal equality was through a system based on communist principles, would you allow it to be adopted? Granted, the first attempt at Communism was compromised by human nature – in particular, the inherent human greed that renders absolute capitalism so appalling – but with a mega-computer implementing policies designed to render all earth’s inhabitants with what they need in exchange for what they can offer, does it not seem that such a system would bring us fairly close to the one that we aspire to through our wishes for equality on earth?

        1. Ramona

          Geoff, thought you might appreciate this article (you may already be familiar). It’s an example from Portugal of a group of people working towards a new model.

          Along with Eric’s Aquarius Solar Eclipse reading promotion there is an image with a monograph from the German philosopher Dieter Duhm, called Political Theory for a non-violent Earth. He’s one of the co-founders of Tamera, the education/research centre referenced in the essay.

  2. Geoff Marsh

    Apologies for the errors in English in the second paragraph. I blame my cat who walks across the keyboard when I don’t pay him due attention. Actually, he’s my familiar who tries to dissuade me from posting online whenever he knows that it will affect his well-being. Clever cat!

    Thank you, Amy. I don’t think there can be a Utopian outcome for capitalism. Even if, like Trump, we all owned hotels, who is going to rent bedrooms in them when we have plenty of rooms in our own hotels?

    Ramona. Thank you so much. I had no idea that Amnesty International, to which I have subscribed for many years, was founded on an incident in Portugal. That country, incidentally, is Britain’s oldest political ally, and one which, for some reason, I feel close to despite its Catholic anti-homosexual agenda. I look forward to exploring more about its political influence on the world stage.

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