Saturday, December 29, 2018


If you're like me, every so often you come across something--an idea, a talk, an event--that ties all kinds of things together and makes them perfectly clear. This 47-minute video from the New York Times entitled Operation InfeKtion did that for me, putting the drip-by-drip revelations about Russian intervention to divide the US and help elect Trump into the context of Russia's, and before that the Soviet Union's multi-decade practice and perfection of the art of disinformation.

Remember Pizzagate?
Just one of many disruptive interventions. 
Photo credit: Blink O'fanay

I don't usually take the time to watch videos, but this very clear, well researched and well made piece from the Times was worth every minute. If you want to understand the origin, goals, scope and sophistication of Russia's disinformation apparatus, and how that all came together to stir up confusion and division among Amerians, denigrate Hillary Clinton and boost Trump, click here and watch the video. As I post this piece, the video has been watched by just 145,000 people. It needs to be seen by 145,000,000.

As many commentators have pointed out, the US is far from innocent when it comes to intervening in other nation's elections and internal affairs. Just note the 800 military bases that the US maintains in some 70 countries. However, that fact doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to understand what has been and is still being done to us by a very skillful, practiced and determined adversary, or to at least start to learn how to counter it.

The report reverse-engineers seven key ingredients to a successful disinformation campaign. Once you've seen the list, you'll start to see them everywhere, contributing to the miasma of misinformation and disinformation that we are immersed in. Here they are:

1. Find the cracks in the targeted society.
2. Create a big, dramatic, emotionally charged lie.
3. Wrap that lie around a kernel of truth.
4. Conceal your hand.
5. Find some "useful idiots" to back it up or propagate it.
6. If you're exposed, deny, deny, deny.
7. Play the long game.

To which I would add, in this era of social media, "Repeat, repeat, repeat on as many platforms as possible."

Russia's "meddling" in our 2016 elections may have been their most successful disinformation program, but this documentary shows that it was far from their first, and will not be the last.

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