Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, January 18, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Uexpress.


Earlier this week, an Uzbek national named Sayfullo Saipov, apparently unhappy with his life here and radicalized by watching Islamic State group videos, allegedly plowed a rental truck into a busy bike path in Manhattan, mowing down as many cyclists and pedestrians as he could, killing eight and injuring at least a dozen more. That’s the sort of terrorist atrocity that seeds fear, nourishes paranoia and eats away at our sense of security. It leaves us, once again, shaken.

But the Manhattan attack isn’t the scariest assault on America that has been in the news of late. The more dangerous, though not immediately deadly, attack started a few years ago and continues: It’s the stealthy propaganda campaign mounted by Russian operatives intent on influencing our presidential politics and sowing division among our citizens.

Yes, Saipov, if he is guilty, took the lives of eight people, six of whom were, ironically, visitors from other countries; that is a devastating loss that must not be minimized. Nor should his success in fostering terror through a high-visibility assault be discounted. That’s the purpose of such atrocities.

And, yes, it’s likely that there are more Saipovs in our midst, hiding among law-abiding and patriotic Muslims, subverting Islam into a violent jihadi movement, disguising their personal demons as a religious crusade. Those jihadis are so frightening because they pretend to be ordinary immigrants pursuing the American dream; we can’t see them coming.

Still, the driver of a rented Home Depot truck didn’t interfere in an American election, intent on influencing the outcome. He doesn’t represent a powerful foreign government that wants to undermine the United States. He doesn’t have the cunning to use our own history against us, re-igniting old controversies, plucking the scabs off old wounds, agitating the ever-present anxieties of race and religion.

Increased scrutiny of popular American social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even Pinterest — has revealed that’s just what Russian operatives did. They created fake Facebook groups with names such as “Heart of Texas.” They bought online ads that mimicked those purchased by legitimate political actors. They drummed up controversies with false claims about immigrants. They spread vicious lies about Hillary Clinton to damage her campaign and boost that of her rival, Donald J. Trump.

And they didn’t just target voters on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Russian operatives made a play on the progressive side, too, creating fake Facebook groups that purported an interest in such issues as police violence and civil rights. The Russian-backed campaign was surprisingly sophisticated. While jihadis study Islamic State group videos, Russian-backed propagandists study American political psychology, learning how to best influence voters with their fabrications.

They understand the culture of American news media, as well. Russian operatives were clearly behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee. The U.S. Justice Department has evidence implicating six Russian officials in the theft of DNC emails, which were fed to U.S. news outlets. Those reports were not stunning or incendiary, but they did dominate several news cycles with petty infighting among party members — further damaging Clinton’s campaign.

This propaganda effort is part of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s cyberwarfare against the United States, which he doesn’t intend to conquer as much as destabilize. While we are busy fighting among ourselves — struggling with the animosities generated by an incompetent and possibly corrupt president, reigniting racial conflicts, tearing down civic institutions — Putin is free to pillage Eastern Europe.

He’s also free to build his influence throughout the world. Putin is spending billions to buy friends in China, South America and Africa while Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hollow out the State Department and alienate our allies.

And the cyberwar continues. Russian operatives are likely still creating fake news reports and ginning up faux controversies using social media, even as technology giants such as Facebook promise to crack down on foreign agents. Islamist terrorists have invaded our public spaces, from nightclubs to road races to bike trails. But we have invited the Russians into our homes and our heads.


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11 responses to “Russian Threat More Dangerous Than Overt Terrorism”

  1. And for that reason—Russia’s moral failure and a systemic degeneracy permeating its social structure—it should be clearer to any reasonable and clear-thinking person for a united action to be taken against Russia to teach it a lesson it will long remember and feel extreme remorse for having decided to tread the path it is on.

    Which also underscores the necessity to rebuild and redefine how the UN works—perhaps call it by a different name if necessary. By creating a body of nations who are mature enough to understand the necessity to emerge from the immature stage of “Nationalism” into a stage of maturity characterized by a sense of unity of humankind and the inconsequential aspect of borders, where reciprocity and altruism become natural responses in time of mutual assistance, and therefore rendering “Veto” an antiquated outmoded notion, then such “mature” nations can exert a strong enough counter-balance against intransigent nations like Russia which are content to remain immature social structures on the planet.

    • Just A Citizen says:

      Oh look at Aaron beating the drums of war. Per your own arguments made previously the USA is just to far gone to participate in such adventures.

      Of course, the US could stop meddling in other’s affairs, then we might have some moral ground to stand on when howling about Russia.

      • If you have trouble reading and following a train of thought unfamiliar to you, you should learn some courtesy and ask questions regarding what you don’t understand. Didn’t your mother teach you basic manners? Or perhaps she did, but you just dismissed her as irrelevant.

      • If you understood the implications of Russia meddling in the affairs of its neighbors, and destabilizing societies, you would understand the necessity to take whatever measures are necessary to teach rogue immature nations run by amoral and dissolute actors like Putin and his myrmidons Russian a lesson by taking them to the wood shed.
        And if that means the threat of war, then an immature nation like Russia can only blame itself if matters come to that. No nation should have to put up with infantile and dangerous dirty tricks, and that applies to the US as well.
        But since you have trouble following a thread of thought in a careful and thoughtful manner, all of this is lost on you. And your response confirms that. What part of this logic do you fail to understand??

    • Shelia says:

      Google is paying 97$ per hour,with weekly payouts.You can also avail this.
      On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $11752 this last four weeks..with-out any doubt it’s the most-comfortable job I have ever done .. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it
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    • Sep_Arch says:

      I got an idea! Why don’t we have our economists and corporatists head to Russia under the guise of creating a market economy, spend billions putting a compliant Russian drunk into the Kremlin, then screw the entire population, looting all natural resources and anything else not nailed down, until their GDP drops by 50% and life expectancy drops by 15 years and a series of murderous oligarchs take over all economic output…..

      Oh wait! Already accomplished. You don’t suppose they are still pissed?

      What is really funny is that our oligarchs tried so hard to get in on the looting, but the Russian versions bested our candy-ass rich with their sheer brutality and took quite a few to the cleaners……

  2. dbtheonly says:

    And now we have 26 or 27 persons gunned down in a church in Texas.

    What walls are to be built to prevent this?
    What immigrants are to be blamed?
    What vetting will prevent this?
    Who is to be bombed to prevent this?
    Why are Republicans upset only when Muslims do the killing?

    • Just A Citizen says:

      Four logical fallacies followed by one lie. Not doing to well there today db.

      • Neither are you doing well, contrary to what your mom may have told you.
        A “citizen” of the Twilight Zone, such as yourself, should not feel emboldened to make a comment on anything in a realm that is unsuitable and unfamiliar to you.

      • If you can’t articulate in a thoughtful and mature manner what you find fallacious, then you should stick to playing with your navel.
        Just saying something is a fallacy w/o giving a reason is the sign of a mind too lazy to think things through.

  3. Sep_Arch says:

    If you honestly believe this Russia Russia Russia propaganda, you are a tool. Sorry, this is an attempt to deflect any and all blame from corporate Democrats and eliminate any news stories that don’t tow the party line. It is not a mistake that Google’s new algorithms delete even as prominent a journalist as Chris Hedges from any mention. Russia is not our enemy. The corporate rich are.

    (Oh, and by the way, terrorism is not an existential threat either. If you are going to be a world power killing and maiming millions in the brute exercise of power to force everyone to comply with your corporate order, occasionally some pissed off people will slip through your defenses and cause some harm. If you want to continue to be the world’s policeman for the global rich, take your lumps and quit bitching.)

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