Did you buy into this piece of fake news? If so, you were punked by Russia

A chapter of How I Learned The Facts of Life is devoted to specifics of what the Russians did to influence the 2016 campaign in support of Trump. In the book I assume that the Russians will interfere again on Trump’s behalf, perhaps with different techniques. I mean, Putin was successful the first time. Why not do it again?

As in 2016, I can’t be fooled by fake news because I don’t enter into fake news sites where such stuff is distributed. The only way I get to hear about the nonsense is when a credible news organization reports on it.

Here’s an excellent New York Times story which tracks one recent piece of propaganda involving protestors and bibles.

The headline, “A Bible Burning, a Russian News Agency and a Story Too Good to Check Out,”by Matthew Rosenberg and tells us it’s a story too phony not to check out.

It begins:

For some of President Trump’s loudest cheerleaders, it was a story too good to check out: Black Lives Matters protesters in Portland, Ore., had burned a stack of Bibles, and then topped off the fire with American flags. There was even a video to prove it.

But President Trump’s loudest cheerleaders did not check it out. In a process I liken to the game of Telephone (Chapter 4: Malcolm Forbes and the party game Telephone), they just hurrah-ed and passed this fake story up their own “news” chain:

The story was a near-perfect fit for a central Trump campaign talking point — that with liberals and Democrats comes godless disorder — and it went viral among Republicans within hours of appearing earlier this month. The New York Post wrote about it, as did The Federalist, saying that the protesters had shown “their true colors.” Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, said of the protesters, “This is who they are.” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, tweeted that antifa had moved to “the book burning phase.”

Here are the facts about this video:

The truth was far more mundane. A few protesters among the many thousands appear to have burned a single Bible — and possibly a second — for kindling to start a bigger fire. None of the other protesters seemed to notice or care.

Yet in the rush to paint all the protesters as Bible-burning zealots, few of the politicians or commentators who weighed in on the incident took the time to look into the story’s veracity, or to figure out that it had originated with a Kremlin-backed video news agency. And now, days later, the Portland Bible burnings appear to be one of the first viral Russian disinformation hits of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Rosenberg and Barnes suggest a sharp analogy between Russian disinformation and money laundering.

The Russian technique is a kind of information laundering, akin to money laundering. Stories originate with Russian-backed news sites, some of them directly connected to Moscow’s spy agencies, officials and experts said. They are then picked up by Americans on social media or in domestic news outlets, and their origins quickly become obscured. Often, by the time a story reaches most of its American audience, there is little to indicate that it was created to fuel grievances and deepen political divisions.

Love this. I mean, it’s the Russian M.O., right?

They do laundry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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