We have Russia to thank for showing us that our cyber-intelligence is not so first rate as we might have thought. Some of the major discoveries of governmental email hacking came out of AP reporters' investigations, not the FBI – which moved slowly to notify victims well after they knew. We can thank Russia for showing that America is not as savvy, desperate or innovative in knowing how to undermine elections. We never even guessed what they might be up to – too naïve, it seems.
We have Russia to thank for showing us that our social media companies were very capable of looking the other way when new users with Russian names and/or addresses, opened accounts, bought advertising and started posting “fake news” during the last presidential election. According to an article in the Boston Globe, “Facebook has acknowledged that more than 126 million users may have seen inflammatory political ads bought by a Russian company, The Internet Research Agency.”
Russia helped us to see that many users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as visitors to other websites, are not likely to question assertions or check sources before responding and/or sharing false information. Is it any consolation that the Russians did the same thing in Great Britain at the time of the Brexit vote – also very close, also could have gone the other way? Pretty much, both elections stolen out from under our feet, as we were waiting and hoping and casting our votes, heedless of the danger.
We have Russia to thank for showing us that our own politicians were ready, if not complicit, in riding the waves of bad information, rumors, and outright lies. The plutocrats of post-Communist Russia were able to connect with and enable American plutocrats to be bolder and braver, more explicit in getting what they want. And to use their leadership to inspire fiercer, more virulent language and behavior in their followers, hoping to share the spoils or avoid the targettng.
Mainly, the Russian interference revealed, but did not cause, the underlying racism of American society. Yes, significant progress has been made, but not without a “backlash” of bias and violence against people of color or different religions. America, being a patchwork of cultures and ethnic groups, has always had frictions and tensions related to assimilation or accommodation, but mostly, gradually, freedoms and rights have spread across populations. Until they haven’t. Progress is not inevitable, and can be reversed, at least in the short term.
Those clever Russians, they got us this time. Caught snoozing. But for what reason? What’s their end game? It’s not clear to me what the long-range agenda might be – except to weaken the USA and the EU, creating an atmosphere more beneficial for plutocrats to consolidate their own trans-global power. Or, is it that they want to shake the grip of American dominance that has prevailed over the last half-century? Is it “against” something, rather than for? America may not have been quite as exceptional in all ways as we might have hoped or thought, truth be told. For it's own purposes, Russia has been kind enough to hold up a mirror for us to look at ourselves – not always a pleasing image.
The potential for true greatness in America -- in freeing the creative energy of the greatest number of people in the greatest number of possible situations is not lost – yet – unless we allow the plunderers to continue, by not doing our part in holding them accountable.