Uh-Oh: Putin Hired Internet Trolls To Pretend To Be Pro-Trump Conservatives
How interested is the Russian government in helping Donald Trump rise to political power? Apparently, quite a lot.
In June 2015, freelance journalist Adrian Chen wrote a lengthy and explosive piece for New York Times Magazine detailing the efforts of Russia's troll factories that flood the internet with disinformation. Then, in December, when Chen was interviewed by Max Linsky of Longform, he asserted, "A very interesting thing happened. I created this list of Russian trolls when I was researching. And I check on it once in a while, still. And a lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don't know what's going on, but they're all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.”
When Linsky asked Chen who he thought "was paying for that,” Chen answered, "I don't know. I feel like it's some kind of really opaque strategy of electing Donald Trump to undermine the US or something. Like false-flag kind of thing. You know, that's how I started thinking about all this stuff after being in Russia."
The expose Chen wrote for New York Times Magazine delineated how the Kremlin uses "highly coordinated campaigns" to lead the American public astray, what the Russians call "dezinformatsiya," a decades-old "active measure" to "sow discord” among enemies of Russia.
As Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter, which translates and analyzes political, social, and economic events inside the Russian Federation, wrote:
An active measure is a time-honored KGB tactic for waging informational and psychological warfare. It is designed, as retired KGB General Oleg Kalugin once defined it, “to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs.” The most common subcategory of active measures is dezinformatsiya, or disinformation: feverish, if believable lies cooked up by Moscow Centre and planted in friendly media outlets to make democratic nations look sinister.
"A lot of them have turned into conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don't know what's going on, but they're all tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.”
Politico’s Michael Crowley wrote about how RT, the Kremlin’s English-language channel, has been quite supportive of Trump. And as Julia Ioffe, writing for Politico, pointed out, the Kremlin would be delighted with a Trump presidency, as he has threatened to weaken NATO and he is soft on Putin and Ukraine:
“Trump’s ideology is one of rejecting the destructive globalism of the last few years in favor of a healthy American isolationism,” one prominent pro-Kremlin commentator declared, adding that Trump’s saying that he will work with Putin infuriates American “globalists.”