Posted by Curt on 27 December, 2018 at 10:27 am. 28 comments already!


It turns out the Russians aren’t the only ones who know how to employ the Internet for political dirty tricks. As The New York Times reported in a front-page story on December 20, Russian bots were part of what the newspaper called a “secret experiment” in Alabama during the special Senate election won by Democrat Doug Jones in December 2017.

The tale involves a cyber-security firm that has played a role in hyping the claim that foreign intervention “influenced” the 2016 presidential election. It sought to duplicate the scheme in order to help Jones defeat Roy Moore. Although the Times dismisses the effort as “too small to have a significant impact on the race,” it acknowledged that the scheme, which involved fake Facebook and Twitter accounts, was patterned after the Russian meddling in American elections the year before.

The “false flag” accounts were intended to portray Republicans who were disgusted with Moore’s candidacy after the conservative gadfly was accused of inappropriately pursuing underage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s. The goal was to energize Democrats and depress GOP turnout.

Democrats Mimic Russian Tactics

What is most interesting about this “experiment” is that among its architects was the head of a firm that “wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.” The Times obtained a report on the effort led by Jonathon Morgan of the New Knowledge cyber security firm. It detailed their efforts to mislead Alabama voters and thus aid Jones.

Both the Times and supporters of Jones are correct when they assert that this plot didn’t influence the outcome of the Alabama election even though the Democrat wound up winning by less than 22,000 votes out of more than 1.3 million votes cast. But there are two significant conclusions that can be drawn from the newspaper’s exhaustive account of the Democrats’ attempt to mimic Russian tactics.

First, the attempt to minimize the Alabama experiment’s effects while claiming that the larger-scale version of the plot was a major factor in allowing President Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton simply falls flat.

The other is that the narrative being spread by the Democratic Party and the mainstream media, about Republicans being uniquely hostile to democracy and engaged in a consistent pattern of behavior involving elections cheating of one sort or another, is false. What happened in Alabama demonstrates that both parties are equally willing to do anything to unfairly hobble their opponents.

Clinton Was Her Own Worst Enemy, Not Russian Bots

The problem with many assumptions about 2016 is that there is no evidence significant numbers of voters were persuaded to think ill of Hillary Clinton only because of obscure posts by Russian bot accounts. Those false flag efforts were merely seconding the message voters got from many other sources that highlighted Clinton’s shortcomings, misleading statements about her emails, and other issues, including in many instances the mainstream media.

In an election where the outcome turned out to be close, one can always point to any issue or factor as decisive. But to believe that the leaking of Democratic National Committee Chair John Podesta’s emails — which had little or nothing that was damaging to Clinton’s reputation — obscured stories about the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump was heard boasting of what amounted to sexual assault is ludicrous.

Just as absurd is the notion that Russian bots persuaded voters to think ill of Clinton or, as another Times report published earlier in the week, persuaded African-American voters to stay home rather than turn out and vote for Democrats in the numbers they mustered in 2008 and 2012 when Barack Obama was on the ballot. It is interesting that the meddlers thought the black vote could be influenced in this manner.

But the Russians could have spent every dime they expended on their illegal efforts on a campaign focused on increasing black turnout for Clinton — a cause on which Democrats did spend vast sums — and it wouldn’t have re-created the excitement and pride Obama generated among African-Americans, or caused them to think it worth the effort to turn out simply because the former secretary of state was entitled to their votes.

Republicans Didn’t Need Twitter to Think Badly of Moore

The same point can be made about what happened in Alabama. Mainstream Republicans didn’t need fake Facebook or Twitter accounts to make them think ill of Moore, whom the party had always considered something of an embarrassment. The embrace of his candidacy by helped him pull off an upset in the Republican primary over the lackluster GOP placeholder Luther Strange.

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