Fancy Bears and Election Meddling

So much of the Russian hacking and meddling scandal has been tarred with the sticky and disgusting Trump brush. Like most things in this world, this issue is much bigger than the small-minded man himself. If Trump is found guilty in a court of law, impeached or simply exits office at the end of one or two terms — I highly doubt the plan is for Russia to roll over and say, “Mister Putin, it is finished.”

Microsoft said today that they have scored a win over Russian hackers, who were attempting to steal information from the International Republican Institute and Hudson Institute, both conservative think-tanks.

The hacking group behind the attacks are called Fancy Bear, which also happens to be the name of my favourite Moscow-based cocktail bar. Their attacks are thought to be part of a coordinated attempt to disrupt the US 2018 mid-terms, with intelligence and security agencies claiming that the plan is to “generally disrupt US democracy”.

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We know that a large amount of this comes in the form of fake news and fake pages/accounts on social media networks, that are then used to influence US voters. This problem could be solved, armchair experts say, if people stopped using Facebook as anything more than a family photo album — and Twitter as anything more than a place to yell at celebrities in 280 characters or less.

Due to the fact that nobody over the age of twenty-five uses Snapchat, I can’t wait for the reports that Gen-Z has been targeted by Fancy Bear over the last three years without us realising. Every time someone in their early-twenties receives a snap, its immediately followed by a flash of democracy-destroying propaganda.

“OMG! Candy is at that cute little haberdashery we showed her! What — the — f***!”

“What a bitch!”

“Oh and did you know that Bernie Sanders was an SS Officer in the second world war who killed more Jews than Hitler!?”

“Woah — I did, like, not know that — Also what’s a haverdashashay?”

Is that even a thing anymore? Snapchat?

Actually, if I were the one behind a Russian hacking agency, I’d make sure to project as much anti-Republican rhetoric to the younger generations as possible, to further spark the generational war of ideologies. Of course, all you have to do is present the facts to portray an anti-Republican viewpoint — so maybe they should go a little further.

If propaganda said that the current sitting President of the United States once admitted that he grabs women by the pussy, and that he can do anything to them — and that his ex-wife has accused him of multiple counts of rape — and that he admitted on live television that he’d have sex with his daughter (if she weren’t his daughter). Then all of that technically wouldn’t be misinformation.

It alarms me that not all Republican officials are concerned about the threat of Russian election meddling. I’m not talking about partisan collusion and whatever the hell Trump tweets about at 5am. I’m talking about the kind of meddling that’s designed to disrupt the entire system; Fancy Bear style.

Could it be that they aren’t concerned because they stand to benefit from a light amount of election tampering? I couldn’t possibly say, but I have been vehemently nodding my head as I type this paragraph.

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In the last couple of weeks I’ve thought about setting up a character online as an experiment, with social media pages that spout ridiculous things. It was going to be a left-wing conspiracy theorist — Essentially if Alex Jones were a Starbucks-drinking, vegan, cisgender male ally.

I had a couple of posts typed that were polar-opposite parodies of an Alex Jones rant. With topics such as:

“The water is making the frogs heteronormative, which forces a hegemonic world view on our amphibian brothers and sisters.”

“The entire Trump victory was a false-flag opperation. Our Lady St. Hillary has been running the country for the last year and a half!”

“The alt-right are meeting in their mother’s basements and spending three hours every evening coming up with dank memes and eating pizza rolls.”

Actually, I think that last one is true.

The plan was to have a disclaimer at the very bottom of the page that read “The following is a work of fiction, any and all posts that come from this page are untrue”, as very few people read the description of the pages they share content from.

After thinking about the idea for a few days I realised that:

A) It isn’t funny. Unless you’re exposing the flaws of others via a character like this (Who Is America?), then it’s largely self-serving and offensive to the people you’re supposed to be parodying.

B) If people are dumb enough to believe that Alex Jones is a real person who is “telling it like it is”, then maybe people would believe my character and I’d legitimately influence a vote in the midterms via misinformation.

C) I’d be removed from Facebook and other social media networks as a “fake news” page or a Russian influencer. At least, I’d hope that I would be.

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I think that Russian influencing could be combatted by simply knowing where you get your information from. I’d much rather an American voter believed everything they heard on Fox News Entertainment than whatever they read on Facebook.

If America, and other countries, had a solid media-literacy education program then there’d be nothing for Russia to exploit. The problem is that parties on both sides of the political spectrum have benefited from lies and truth-warping since the beginning of modern politics — See the Brexit Leave Campaign for more details — So they also stand to lose a lot by cracking down on all misinformation.

My hope from this era of election-meddling, misinformation-spreading and fake-news, is that a party of honesty emerges from the quagmire of politics.

Trump was clever because he presented the same-old brand of Republican politics as “not politics”, and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK isn’t going far enough on his own left-wing policy because he knows that he’d never honestly be able to deliver that.

We need the old-guard to move-on, that includes older Democratic candidates too. And we need a wave of youth in politics; Those who understand the power of seeing a single post on Facebook, and who get that politics is about serving people and not yourself.

I’d run, but I’ve absolved myself from the ultimately difficult burden of public-service that politics should be, by moving to a foreign country.


Today is Tuesday, August 21st and I didn’t make a warmup post yesterday because the fog was too heavy, but here I am now.


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