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How Trump and his allies have worked on Russian propaganda – Mother Jones

Trump with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in the Oval Office on May 10Alexander Shcherbak/TASS/Zuma

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The concept is straight out of the Soviet playbook: plant false information and use it to influence the attitudes of the people and government of another country. East “active measures” The Cold War-era technique appears to have been resurrected with alarming success by the Kremlin in its attack on the 2016 presidential election, and has been repeated in the tactics used by President Donald Trump and his associates, according to Clan WattsSenior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

“Part of the reason active measures have worked in this US election is that the commander in chief has used Russian active measures on occasion against his opponents,” Watts, a former FBI agent, said recently. tried to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Key to this equation have been RT and Sputnik International, two Russian state-sponsored media outlets. Both reach only relatively small audiences in the US (RT is estimated to reach about 8 million people via cable TV), but his impact has been greatly magnified online, with his stories published on what Watts calls “grey” conspiracy sites like Breitbart News and InfoWars. Twitter bots and other social media accounts further amplify the stories. And in several cases, Trump or his associates have directly quoted false Russian propaganda in a speech or interview. Here are some examples:

A false report of a terrorist attack on a NATO base in Turkey: last July, rt and Sputnik each reported a fire at the Incirlik base, framing it as possible sabotage. Pro-Russian and pro-Trump Twitter accounts spread and magnified the false reports, but the report was not picked up by major news organizations because it was not true, as Watts explained. in a piece for the Daily Beast. However, in mid-August, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, escalated the story to a terrorist attack. complaining on CNN that the American media was not covering it adequately. Debunked politifact Manafort’s claims, noting that the Turkish authorities had reported small peaceful demonstrations outside the base, but no actual attack on the base.

The Benghazi Fake Email Case: On October 10, Wikileaks released a batch of hacked emails from campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account. Around 5 p.m. ET that day, Sputnik News published a story About Leaked Clinton Campaign Emails With the Headline Confidant Hillary: Benghazi Was ‘Preventable’; Negligent State Department.” About an hour later, Trump told supporters at a rally in Pennsylvania that Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal had called the Benghazi attack “almost certainly preventable.” out a while ago,” Trump said. Those words they weren’t actually Blumenthal’s and Sputnik later deleted the story, but by then the headline had spread far and wide.

False claims of widespread voter fraud: RT has been trying to delegitimize the US electoral process since 2012 by calling the US voting system fraudulent, according to the declassified version of the report that the Director of National Intelligence released last January. In his Senate testimony, Watts called this the “number one issue” pushed by the Russian media. In October 2016, a Kremlin-controlled think tank circulated a strategy paper that said Russia should end its pro-Trump propaganda “and instead intensify its messaging on voter fraud to undermine the legitimacy of the country.” of the US electoral system and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine his presidency,” according to a Reuters investigation.

That same month, Trump pushed hard on the issue that the election was rigged; the october 17 trump tweeted “Of course there is large-scale voter fraud on and before Election Day.” The sources of his indicated campaign were discredited by political factwhich noted that Trump had also tweeted in 2012 about the dead voters who gave Obama the victory.

The Swedish attack that wasn’t: Trump’s strategy of running on false information didn’t stop when he won the election, and it hasn’t been limited to Russian-owned media properties: He has also used Fox News reporting in a similar way. in February, Trump seemed to imply at a rally in Florida that the night before there had been a terrorist attack in Sweden. Sweden itself had no idea what he meant and the Swedish Embassy reached out for clarification. Twitter users, including many Swedes, ridiculed Trump’s statement, with references ranging from IKEA to the Swedish chef character from the “Muppets.” Trump later said that he was referring to a Fox News story about violence allegedly perpetrated by refugees. that report, which aired the night before Trump’s rally, did not mention a specific terror-related attack; focused on reports that rape and gun violence had increased since Sweden began receiving a record number of refugees in 2015.

Wiretapping claims fueled by a Fox News personality: In March, despite the fact that Trump’s claim about Obama’s wiretapping at Trump Tower had been directly debunked by top US intelligence officials, the president took advantage of a Fox News analyst statement Andrew Napolitano that British spies had tapped Trump’s phone at the request of former President Obama. Fox News later disavowed Napolitano’s statement. trump continued repeat his conviction that he had been intercepteddespite US and British intelligence officials insisting there is no basis for the claims.

The murder of DNC staff member Seth Rich: Trump allies recently pushed another story that started as a conspiracy theory online and was pushed by the Russian media. Fox’s Sean Hannity aired several segments focusing on the unsubstantiated claim that Rich was behind the Clinton campaign email leaks and was later killed for his actions, even though police have said he was likely killed in an attempted robbery. When the claims were completely debunked, Fox retracted the story of your website, but not before you have been released by Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Even after Fox pulled the story, Gingrich told the Washington Post“I think it’s worth looking at.”

In his testimony before the Senate, Watts noted that Trump is vulnerable to further manipulation by the Russians, warning that Russia-linked Twitter accounts are actively trying to implicate the president by sending him conspiracy theories. “Until we get a firm footing on fact and fiction in our own country, get some agreement on the facts,” Watts said, “we’re going to be in big trouble.”


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