As a matter of personal choice, I am more of a reader than a video watcher, actually, a dedicated newspaper reader. Apparently, that’s a dead giveaway that I’m over forty and supporting a dying industry, according to a talk that one of the senior editorial and opinion writers for Cox Newspapers gave at the Motorola “Retirees” club recently.
I don’t understand why lots of people actually get their news from Facebook or Twitter. To me, that’s like going into a bar and looking for a long-term relationship. The odds might be good, but the goods very well might be odd.
To hear the POTUS actually denigrate the best newspapers in the world as “Fake News” just tears at my soul. That one sentence might have driven away some of the potential readers of this blog, but here goes, anyhow.
Last week’s Saturday-Sunday edition of the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday New York Times included, as usual, absolutely some of the best news available. The Journal’s front page and “Review” section is not to be missed; likewise, the Time’s front page and “Review” sections. The NYT’s coverage of the Russian Interference in the recent elections should be required reading in every Civics course in American High Schools and Universities. Every single head of all the US Intelligence Services testified at a recent hearing and uniformly agreed that the Russian interference took place. Specifically, James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense, Mike Pompeo, Head of the CIA, and H.R. McMaster, National Security Advisor for the President, all testified as well. McMaster stated that “Disinformation, subversion, and espionage” took place. In addition, he said “evidence of a Russian effort to interfere” is “now incontrovertible.”
As of Friday, the President and his close advisors were holding back on acknowledging the Russian role or talking about a larger strategy to deter future attacks. The word “Hoax” has been a consistent description used by the President regarding the Russian interference. Interestingly, Sarah Sanders held a press conference early this week (after those Intel hearings) and suddenly posited that the President was doing more than anyone else to pressure the Russians. Most of us who watched this magic trick of a U-Turn from her podium could only gulp. The President has yet to respond to the nearly unanimous (98-2) vote in the Senate to impose additional sanctions on the Russians. The President has yet to act on that!
Additional information has been provided by the Intelligence Agencies to describe the Russian approaches. This information was augmented last week by thirteen indictments by the Mueller Special Counsel Investigation team. The basic effort began in 2014 with a group called the “Internet Research Agency,” based in St. Petersburg, Russia, including around eighty people. They focused on emotional hot-buttons including Race and Religion to encourage divisive positions and populated and promoted Facebook pages with what appeared to be American-based comments. Within two years, some of these (FB) groups had grown to over one-hundred thousand “followers.” These groups had diverse positions, including recommending voting for people, voting against people, and not voting at all.
By 2015, the Russians began to purchase ads on Facebook (often paying in Rubles!) and other media sites including Twitter to reinforce these positions. In addition, using hacked/stolen identities from real people, they posted fake comments attributed to those “ghost people.” A year later, in 2016, the same Russians organized actual political rallies in the US, and large groups of Americans attended and were energized.
Everything in the section above is correct, confirmed by the US Intelligence Agencies. It’s scary, and disconcerting. To be told by POTUS that all this stuff is “a hoax” is even more unnerving.
Following the tragic Park City, FL school shooting, almost immediately Russian trolls began a program inciting division, with an overall strategy to divide the American people. Is our population really so naïve, or uninformed, to be entrapped by these tools? Shouldn’t we expect more of the dominant social media companies?
Hopefully your 2018 will be safe, healthy, and fulfilling.
J.K. (Jim) George
Author, Reunion and Contact Sport
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