It Only Works if You Fall for It

We begin to see stories about how the Russians worked to influence our election in 2016.

Apparently they used social media to spread propaganda in favor of Donald Trump and to promote racial discord.

Robert Mueller in the public statement he made announcing the closing of the special prosecutor’s office stated flatly that this is a problem that requires the attention of every American. Hard to argue with that.

At the same time, Russian propaganda only works if you fall for it. Trump is a highly divisive figure. He appeals to ill educated people even as well educated people find him repulsive. He lost the popular vote. The problem apparently was not that he attracted a large number of votes, whether legitimately or because of Russian propaganda, but that too many people who opposed him failed to vote. Many of them seem to have realized their mistake and shown up in 2018, when turnout, mostly for Democrats, reached a historic high.

Either you were a potential Trump voter, or you were not, and never the twain did meet, or so it seems. Even some of his fellow “conservatives” announced, “Never Trump,” not that anyone much listened.

As to racial discord, the underlying premise should hold even more strongly. It is very hard to imagine how anyone who has a genuine commitment to racial justice in the United States would find any Russian propaganda very convincing. As Trump reminded us, there are still far too many people in our society who lack any commitment to racial justice, who apparently want to reverse the progress we have made in that realm, and who found Trump’s explicitly racist message appealing.

Again, the evidence indicates that such people are the minority. The first African American president won the two elections immediately preceding Trump’s ambivalent victory, such as it was.

The solution to the Russian propaganda problem, for ordinary citizens who have no direct ability to participate in investigating any laws the propagandists, or candidates who accept their help (!), or prosecuting such persons, is just to be clear about what you believe and stick to your guns. Be critical about what you read and post in social media.

Trying to blame Facebook or Twitter for the problem is stupid. The platform is agnostic as to content. Facebook’s ham fisted efforts to root out “fake news” are unlikely to help. That a story appears on Facebook or Twitter tells us nothing about its accuracy or validity. If you have Facebook, you have Google. Any story you have doubts about, go perform a Google search for verification. If you find the same story in other sources, that is strong evidence that the story is accurate. Keep a list of sources that you know are reliable and unreliable.

Assume everything Trump says is a lie.

Mueller indicted several individuals, mostly for lying to the FBI, and several Russian corporations for interfering in our election. Not much he can do about the Russians. They are beyond our jurisdiction.

No matter. Few themes are as popular on Facebook as laments about how stupid is everyone but me and my friends. Okay. Prove it. Make Russian propaganda a nullity in 2020 by detecting it and refusing to fall for it.

Our republic has always depended on the good sense and good faith of our citizens. This has not always worked out as some would like.

But ensuring that Trump does not win a second term in office is a pretty easy test.

Ignore the propaganda. Eliminate Trump in 2020.

Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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