Today it is the official story of the news media story that two years ago trolls inside Russia manipulated Americans on Facebook to support Trump in 2016. In this political narrative operatives pretending to be Americans persuaded people to support conservatives using a combination of fake news and trolling. This is a myth and easily disproved, but first a review.
2016 Election In Review
The story begins at the Internet Research Agency (Gravset) in St. Petersburg Russia in 2013. Gravset A.K.A Trolls from Olgino is a Russian company in the enterprise of online influence operations. In the official report issued by the intelligence community (CIA, FBI, NSA), the Russians are accused of systemic hacking and trolling of the internet to influence the election. The report also investigates the underlying intentions and motivations of the Russian government. The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is a declassified version of a much longer study. You should be aware that much of the study stems from classified intelligence and is impossible to independently verify. It is up to you to decide if the story is credible. In the official story the Russian government is accused of these activities.
Vladimir Putin ordered the influence campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign. Putin favored Trump because his policies favored Russian policies in Syria and the Ukraine. To discredit Clinton the Russian military intelligence service hacked the Democratic National Committee servers and state election databases beginning in 2015. The Republicans servers were also hacked but not exploited. The Russian government used DCLeaks and Wikileaks to victimize opponents using the credibility of the platform. Meanwhile Russia Today switched tactics and praised the American election to boost its credibility. In the meantime the Internet Research Agency troll farm was tasked with influencing social media and this returns us to the original question, was all the trolling a hoax?
The official story is that the Internet Research Agency manipulated public opinion in the election by trolling opponents. They opened up countless fake accounts on Youtube, Facebook, FB Messenger, and Twitter. They then used the channels to distribute inflammatory fake news to the public to influence public opinion.
The only problem with the official story is that it is surprisingly hard to change someone’s political opinions and you probably already know this. When was the last time that your uncle changed your mind about anything over Thanksgiving? I’m confident that the number is practically zero, but that is not evidence for anything.
What About The Psychology of Morality
There is plenty of evidence that everyone alive is subconsciously deeply loyal to a set of beliefs. These beliefs form a pillar of moral values that people develop and nurture from their childhood into adulthood. These beliefs define your moral values from a liberal Democrat to a conservative Republican. You are likely not even consciously aware of their existence because you are an emotional animal at heart and reason is overrated. You have likely already decided intuitively whether you think I’m right. You just need to rationalize it.
This assertion is from the University of Virginia researcher Jonathan Haidt in The Righteous Mind. In this book Jonathan asserts that the Scottish philosopher David Hume was right all along when he said that reason is the slave of passion.
Again, you likely already know this from your arguments with your uncle. It is practically impossible to persuade someone based on reason. We humans are in fact very difficult to convince with reason on any topics. Why do I even bother?
But fake news was never about reason. Any troll worth his money knows that it’s all about channeling the emotion of rage and fear like a shaped charge. You are the lawyer of your own existence and are always seeking to justify your decisions. To demonstrate this I want you to answer two questions.
This will probably get my series cancelled.
Is it wrong to have sex with your sister?
Is it okay to crap on your neighbor’s lawn?
Can’t say why? That is the problem, people don’t reason. Well we do but only after they reach the conclusion.
Still not convinced? You don’t have to believe Jonathan. His research is not proof of interference, but take a shot for yourself at identifying the fake story.
◻️ Protests in New York City call for Sharia Law
◻️ Trump-”I can do my job without any intelligence whatsoever.”
Don’t sweat it, because they both are fake. The protest in New York was real, but there is no evidence that any protesters ever demanded Sharia Law. The second one is an imaginary quote, though at times Trump’s fake quotes can be tricky to discriminate.
The Russians bloggers Anton Nosik, Rustem Adagamov, and Dmitry Aleshkovskiy have said that trolling won’t change public opinion. The end purpose of fake news is the theft of advertising money from legitimate news sources in the form of ad clicks. You can study the modern paradigm of advertising from my last post. The politician Leonid Volkov has claimed that trolling can distance the public from the online political conversation and lower participation in the process.