Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Russian Measles Problem

By Bob Ferris

I talked to a man the other day whose parents immigrated to the US from the Ukraine before he was born.  He was at my home to fix a pest problem and we incidentally ended up talking about Russia.  It was like scratching yourself during the early stage of measles when you finally realize how covered your are with the sores and understand the lasting damage they will cause.  
“Ideological synchronicity between the American neo-Nazis and the Kremlin approaches complete overlap.” From Observer.
Is it weird to characterize Russia’s attacks on American society like measles?  Not really.  Take what most upsets folks lately and it generally has some sort of Putin thumbprint on it.  Let’s start with Charlottesville.   It does not take too much scratching to see that white supremacist Richard Spencer has some serious ties to Russia.  He makes pro-Putin statements and his wife is Russian-born.  These should be some early clues.  Spencer also allied himself with Russian radicals when he tried to organize a racist conference in Hungary before he was arrested and deported in 2014.  Whats more, the man who allegedly ran his car into Americans protesting racism and Fascism killing an innocent woman had also reposted materials of a pro-Russian nature.  (Note: After US-based companies refused to host neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer Russia rushed in to keep the site on-line.)

“The media and enemies of President Trump have tried to drive a wedge between Russia and the United States,” Graham, who is known for spouting Islamophobic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, wrote. “Our country needs Russia as an ally in the fight against Islamic terrorism. Join me in praying for President Trump and President Vladimir Putin as they have this very strategic meeting.”  Franklin Graham quoted in ThinkProgress 
What seems true for the white supremacists also applies to the Religious Right. It is no small coincidence that Russian philosopher Alexandr Dugin, also known as Putin's Rasputin, was scheduled to be a speaker at Spencer's 2014 conference in Hungary and is also a person with ties to the Religious Right here in the US.   It also no surprise in this Russian-driven dynamic that Dugin endorsed Trump in the 2016 election while praising ultra-conservative commentator and conspiracy-pumper Alex Jones as a "hero" of this recent presidential campaign and a person who "told the truth while everyone else lied."
“YourNewsWire appears to be pro-Russian: According to Boswell, the European Union’s East StratCom Task Force criticised YourNewsWire for using fake news to favour Russian policy. However, Joel Harding (a Kremlin propaganda expert) believed that Russians were using YourNewsWire as a mule or proxy to spread disinformation.”  From rationalwiki.org Profile 
The White Supremacy and Religious Right examples seem obvious but there are also subtle attacks as well.  What about false rumors of deadly, radio-active salmon and other Fukushima sky-is-falling junk (see below) spread by Sean Adl-Tabatabai and the fake news entrepreneurs at yournewswire.com?  They too are said to be pro-Putin.  And while it is easy to see that there might be a profit motive to the click-bait they offer, what about the idea of the benefit to Russia of casting doubt on America’s food resources or our safety?  That is likely both about profits and politics.  

Yournewswire fear mongering on Fukushima was not a casual enterprise.

But then this messaging gets multiplied by the pro-Putin forces at Zero Hedge and other gears in this grinding false media menace (see below). These are all likely the modern-day equivalent of Tokyo Rose or dropping demoralizing leaflets from bombers.  Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.  

Screen Shot from Zero Hedge

It is easy to dismiss some of this as silly or obviously just supermarket tabloid fare.  But that does not mean it is not without material harm.  Yournewswire also pushed the Pizzagate scandal which even in its ridiculousness led one poor soul to take up arms against an innocent pizza parlor.  Only one acted but so many more were influenced.  It truly makes you wonder what influencers caused the man in Oklahoma to take actions to plant a 1000-pound “bomb” near a bank and whether or not they came from similar sources with like intents. What electronic voices echoed in his head to make him pursue this course?

Taken collectively this case of Russian measles attacks everything that we hold dear.  It has certainly attacked our confidence in our cherished free elections and acted to crush our relationship with truth.  It is working to derail our evolving pathway towards a diverse democracy by sowing seeds of distrust between those of other origins and of differing approaches to life and faith.  It also foments distrust of science and the value of education which compromises our country's human capital and weakens us as a nation.  And our country’s susceptibility to this attack has cast doubt on our claims of being a world leader of consequence deserving of gratitude and praise rather than eye-rolls and disdain.  

And the fear mongering was also repeated on Russian-owned RT (Russia Today)

The pathway to lessen the damage seems obvious—stop scratching the sores.  Every child with measles has heard this.  So quit sharing fake news because it itches something in you.  Fake news is designed to itch.  We only avoid self-damage when we are thoughtful and disciplined.  But recovery is going to take time because we are covered by this from head-to-toe.

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