A vital and concise story at WaPo discusses Russia’s successful effects to alter and manipulate American public opinion prior to the 2016 U.S. election. The goal was to create suspicion among voters in general and infighting among Democratic voters in particular in order to defeat Hillary Clinton. Many of the negative stories we heard about Hillary, and even much of the meme that the primaries were “rigged” against Sanders, originated with Russian fake news.
The entire piece is worth reading, but within the story is this interesting passage:
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidence suggests were generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
What is particularly valuable here is the advice about how we, as resistance fighters within the nation soon to be ruled by banana Republicans, can move forward. The techniques used by Russia have worked, did work, and will continue to work.
The more something is reported negatively, the more it is believed. Repeated accusations of illegality, corruption, and treasonous behavior will have an effect–particularly because, in Trump’s case, they’re all true. Any attempt to look deeper into Trump’s malfeasance will yield, not debunking as it did with all of Russia’s fake news stories about Hillary, but further evidence of ever-uglier abnormality.
One of the reasons the Russian efforts were effective was the constant drip of new accusations, bound by an underlying concept, but in an ever-widening circle of Bacon-like separation, resulting in the impression of a dark and massive conspiracy. It began with the absurd theories around Benghazi, which morphed into a private email server, which became emails hacked from the DNC, and culminated in the near-daily release of emails from John Podesta and the Comey bombshell about emails discovered in the laptop belonging to Clinton’s adviser’s estranged husband. All of these contained the word “email”, which, by subconscious implication, reminded conspiracy theorists of something something Benghazi mumble Hillary something–even though each step in the bacon was taken specifically because all the previous steps had proven to be false.
Dwell on that for a moment. Multiple
lynch mobs investigations showed the Benghazi conspiracies to be baseless, but they led to the stories about Hillary’s private email server. Having a private server while being a federal official is not new or unusual, but it is something the public didn’t know about how business in Washington is routinely run–so it was made to look suspicious. Multiple investigations, however, proved Clinton didn’t do anything untoward or out of the ordinary in email conversations. Then Russia hacked the DNC with the assistance of Wikileaks and the conversation changed again.
Notice, from then on, nothing in the baconing actually has anything to do with Hillary. The DNC (not Clinton or her campaign) was falsely accused of “rigging” the primaries against Sanders; the Podesta emails didn’t even have to result in any firm accusations about anybody doing anything; and Comey’s bombshell only grabbed attention due to prurient interest in a laptop owned by someone brought down by a sexual scandal.
Each successive slice of bacon succeeded in creating the impression of a dark Lovecraftian beast hiding just below the waters. The lurking evil hadn’t been discovered yet, not because it wasn’t there, but because of the mad cover-up skills of the conspirators. The lack of evidence proved how good the cover-up was. The next clue would surely blow it all wide open!
What we did get is a template.
The technique worked, and it worked well–and, like the standard form of a romance novel or technothriller, it can be reused, and used to bring down the banana Republicans. I’ve given some hints above. We’ll explore it all more deeply in future installments.