Blaming “Russian trolls” for anything is like blaming ghosts or evil spirits for something. There has never been any evidence whatsoever that Russians are engaged in any kind of organized trolling campaigns.
I have personally been involved in organized trolling campaigns, and had my own actions attributed to Russians. So I know personally, as a matter of fact, they just make this stuff up without any evidence at all.
It’s extremely dehumanizing to be told that you don’t actually exist, and your opinions are fake opinions created by Russians.
Furthermore: if your political movement is so weak that it gets destroyed by people making fun of you on the internet, you just suck.
This “Russian troll” stuff is always an excuse for even stricter censorship.
Linda Sarsour awoke Jan. 23, 2017, logged onto the internet and felt sick.
The weekend before, she had stood in Washington at the head of the Women’s March, a mobilization against President Donald Trump that surpassed all expectations. Crowds had begun forming before dawn, and by the time she climbed up onto the stage, they extended farther than the eye could see.
You remember this, right?
It was the pussy hat thing.
It was also when Madonna said she was going to blow up the White House.
I have thought long and hard about blowing up the White House.
— Joseph D. McBride, Esq. (@McBrideLawNYC) June 12, 2022
It was disgusting to the entire global population.
More than 4 million people around the United States had taken part, experts later estimated, placing it among the largest single-day protests in the nation’s history.
But then something shifted, seemingly overnight. What she saw on Twitter that Monday was a torrent of focused grievance that targeted her. In 15 years as an activist, largely advocating for the rights of Muslims, she had faced pushback, but this was of a different magnitude.
That morning, there were things going on that Sarsour could not imagine.
More than 4,000 miles away, organizations linked to the Russian government had assigned teams to the Women’s March. At desks in bland offices in St. Petersburg, copywriters were testing out social media messages critical of the Women’s March movement, adopting the personas of fictional Americans.
See – this is just totally made up, based on nothing. They are just lying.
They are telling you that Americans like pussy women and threats.
Do you remember that gross old bitch saying that she’s a “nasty woman”?
The New York Times is claiming without evidence that if you thought that was disgusting, you don’t even actually exist.
One message performed better with audiences than any other.
It singled out an element of the Women’s March that might, at first, have seemed like a detail: Among its four co-chairs was Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist whose hijab marked her as an observant Muslim.
Over the 18 months that followed, Russia’s troll factories and its military intelligence service put a sustained effort into discrediting the movement by circulating damning, often fabricated narratives around Sarsour.
One hundred and fifty-two different Russian accounts produced material about her. Public archives of Twitter accounts known to be Russian contain 2,642 tweets about Sarsour, many of which found large audiences, according to an analysis by Advance Democracy Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public-interest research and investigations.
That’s the only source they give for this totally outrageous claim that all Americans like that pussy hat/nasty woman/bomb the White House stuff. It’s a nonprofit with the same backers as the Times.
There is zero evidence presented – not even an explanation as to how they came to the conclusion the accounts were run by Russians. They just say it.
Many people know the story about how the Women’s March movement fractured, leaving lasting scars on the American left.
A fragile coalition to begin with, it headed into crisis over its co-chairs’ association with Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, who is widely condemned for his antisemitic statements. When this surfaced, progressive groups distanced themselves from Sarsour and her fellow march co-chairs, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland.
But there is also a story that has not been told, one that only emerged years later in academic research, of how Russia inserted itself into this moment.
What effect these intrusions had on American democracy is a question that will be with us for years. Already, social media was amplifying Americans’ political impulses, leaving behind a trail of damaged communities. Already, trust in institutions was declining, and rage was flaring up in public life. These things would have been true without Russian interference.
But to trace the Russian intrusions over the months that followed that first Women’s March is to witness a persistent effort to make all of them worse.
Okay, so. Let’s say these are all Russians. There is no evidence and it doesn’t make any sense. But say it is all Russians.
What message are they sending when they say that democracy can be completely destroyed by people posting on the internet? What does that even mean?
If democracy is that weak – and the only solution to “save democracy” is mass censorship of anyone who questions liberal agendas – it seems to me we should choose a different form of government.
The Times article goes on and on for 1,500 more words about this fantasy story. Never do they cite a specific source that you can check or explain the process that was used to figure out all these anonymous accounts were secret Russian agents. They don’t even bother to link to the “Advance Democracy” claims.
Of course, we’ve been through all this, gone over the fact that for years the Times has made these claims and consistently refused to give any evidence. But the fact the Times is coming out with new claims now suggests we’re going to see a new round of this “Russian troll” hysteria. They’ve already begun a new wave of censorship, and it looks like they’re going to include this stuff as an explanation for silencing more Americans.