The Russian Election Interference Matter

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


Please feel free to post a comment here on the blog, or email me directly at <> with any remarks. Also, I'll very much appreciate your recommendation of "Contact Sport" and/or "Reunion" to friends and book clubs. In addition, I'd be pleased to appear at book clubs and/or radio clubs within a two-hour drive of Austin to discuss either book.

5 Responses

  1. Last Sunday's New York Times, Op-ed piece by Tom Friedman shouldn’t be missed, it was a scurrilous piece on the POTUS.
  2. JK James George
    Some additional posts that were publicly posted on Facebook: * John Jackson Excellent summary of the facts now known, but nevertheless will be called "fake news" by some. Will share. * Tom Taormina I always read your posts, Jim. While our politics are opposite, our search for the truth is in sync. Of course the Russians meddled in the 2016 election. They have been doing it for decades. Just as we have been advocating regime changes in countries that pose threats to us. In this case, however, there is mounting evidence that the former President and the Clintons were involved in the collusion. Just wish that we had due process for everyone and media that reported the news based on verifiable sources and provable intelligence. We have reached a terrible place of hate and vitriol. * Shin Onisawa And NSA has been eavesdropping everything in the world as well. * Jim Farrell I like true facts. They are the best kind! * Will Roberts So the "Russian meddling" in the election consists of Facebook posts and ads? That's it?
  3. There isn't a lot of difference between the Russian meddling and noise from both political parties, wacko web sites on both sides, and media who lie, get caught, and allow the lies to continue. I see the problem in two lights. First, few news consumers have the interest or ability to discern between FAKENEWS and reality. They just consume what they want to read/hear. Second, both political sides benefit from the vitriol and lies. They make one group hate the other so much that there is little discourse between the groups. Who cares who started or continues this? If any truth is published/released, it seems to be accidental. The NYT is guilty of using innuendo as fact. They are just as mired in FAKENEWS as other media, maybe a degree less, but certainly not guilt-free. Sadly, our political leaders, from the top down, in most cases, add to the mess. It is a very sad time for our Nation and its citizens!
  4. Relevant to the vitriol the left and right sling at each other, Google the poem "Hatred" by the Polish poet and Nobel Prize winner Wislawa Szymborska. Poland went through hell in both the Nazi occupation and the Soviet occupation that followed. She wrote from personal experience. Hatred is alive and well in the modern world.
  5. Jim, I think it may be obvious that you probably don't have a Facebook or Twitter account. I have one that I use to keep up with old school mates and family. The subversive tactics and deception you speak of that has led to indictments against Russians is repeated a million times over every day on these social media platforms by Americans. Most of the political posts, both conservative and liberal , are bogus as confirmed by Snopes. I don't know if you've ever frequented their website, but it's a great resource to determine if what you are reading is supported by facts. I find, of the posts I check, 80% to be false. These are all posted by people I know, Americans not Russians. I have to laugh out loud when we indict Russians for the same behavior carried out by millions of American citizens on a daily basis. I have called out my friends from both parties for posting false information. One was a supposed quote from VP Pence saying that people just needed more Jesus rather than health insurance. My cousin posted it. 30 seconds of investigation confirmed that the quote was a falsification. You should have read the comments and indignation of my cousin's "friends" over a comment that wasn't true and I'm sure several shared the quote on their pages to further perpetuate a lie. Another of my conservative friends posted a comment on the electoral college that said Hillary Clinton only won 37 Counties in the last election. Again, about 30 seconds of research proved the comment to be false. I called him out as well. So, what is influence? If we have a population that continually deceives itself, why wouldn't we expect our enemies to exploit it? And if people don't think that the US hasn't tried to influence politics in Russia are victims of the highest form of naivete. If our collective intelligence in this country has deteriorated to the point that we believe most any statement we hear, without taking time to determine it's validity, we get what we deserve. If you know the correct answer, you can't be deceived. I find the whole Russian affair a political sideshow. It takes our government how long to indict a few Russians for posting false information on social media? Are you kidding me? Of course they did it and they will do it again. We make ourselves vulnerable to deception due to our own lack of knowledge, not because a few Russians posted lies. In my view. we're vulnerable because we lie to ourselves every day.

Leave a comment