Did Russia Succeed in a Terrible, Awful, No-Good Plot?

OK, you all know most of this already. How Russian bots targeted lefties on social media, drumming up anti-Hillary hatred to help elect Donald Trump. You’ve read the stuff about how razor thin was the margin (88,000 over several states, if memory swerves…) that got Il Douche his electoral victory.

Fear and trembling, fear and loathing: Did they succeed? Can we prove they didn’t?

Further question: if we could prove that they did, would we want to? Considering the thunderingly dreadful consequences if we did, how the MAGAts would totally lose their shit… Hot take on it is no, we can’t, thank God. Shits bad enough as it is. Could use some reassurance on that. Lots of it.

Mueller? Mueller?

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There’s a case to be made that their interest is not so much in securing the election of X or defeat of Y, as in casting enough doubt and confusion for there to be sufficient distrust of the system to reduce the acceptance/legitimacy of whoever is elected. They don’t need witting “agents”, “useful idiots” will do just as well.

They would have preferred someone who was eager to remove the sanctions. Restoring the Exxon oil deal would have been a nice bonus. Making the CEO of Exxon SecState would have been fucking orgasmic. But sure, just yanking our chain would have probably made their day.

I think that the goals and expectations changed as it became clearer that Trump could actually win. Initially, I think the aim was to target the American public through social media and other channels to sow discord and divisions. It should be noted, however, that these divisions were already there - Russia simply exploited them during a political campaign. The Russians probably would have done that if the nominee had been Ted Cruz or GOP nominee who would have been willing to exploit those types of divisions.

But as the Democratic race became more competitive and as Hillary began to show symptoms of being a weak candidate, I think the Russians knew they had an opportunity to achieve a lot more in terms of specific policies. They probably would have approached any GOP nominee with dirt on Hillary in exchange for loosening of sanctions because the Republican party leadership and some of the conservative activists have contact and ties with Russian oligarchs. Trump just had longer and deeper ties, and he was easy to exploit and manipulate.

What sort of discussion do you expect with an opening that is a redundant, inflammatory rant? You know the answer to the question. Yes. The Russians succeeded in their goal. Which is exacerbating social fault lines in other nations. We do the same damn thing so I am not sure where all this impotent, self-righteous rage is coming from.

Not sure it was a terrible/no good. The US has done much the same.
How do you define success. What’s are the parameters.
In such great power games, objectives and aims are often hard to quantify. Even for the attacker. Which makes it’s difficult to conclude what success is or would entail.
They probably had multiple lists of outcomes. Expected outcomes. Desired outcomes. Hoped for outcomes. Long shots.
They probably got some of them in each list and failed others.

What in Russian folklore would be equivalent to a troll? I’m not finding it.

Despite the OP, which mentions only the IRA, I’ll also discuss the GRU.

In the case of the IRA, you would need to ask some campaign/advertising organizations to go through and do focus group testing and project results based on the targeting to try and get a real sense for it.

In general, I would probably predict that there was minimal effect. Their advertising budget was 1/200th of the GOP and the amount of sway that advertising actually has is fairly minimal. If it takes 200 units of money to shift people by 5%, then Russia would only be moving things by 0.025%.

That said, 0.025% of a population of 300,000,000 is 75,000 people. If you get them in the right place, that could swing things. Split over a few states, though, and that’s less useful. Russia didn’t target just one county or one state, they targeted a variety of regions, so that 75,000 is fairly dilute.

Also, the ads I have seen were all crazy nonsense. Crazy nonsense moves the opinion of crazy people and crazy people vote for crazy candidates.

The Russians spent some amount of their budget on Bernie and quite possibly did help him a fair ways since it’s not too hard to hook up crazies with crazies and the budgets in the primaries were smaller.

But in the main election, most of the crazies weren’t going to vote for Clinton anyways. She’s a fairly centrist candidate. Advertising to them, in this case, is sort of like working hard to convince programmers to eat pizza. You’ll certainly succeed but you’re not actually changing the needle.

To be fair, in the case of a razor thin margin, any minimal effect is important. But, the fact that there was already a razor thin margin means that it would already be fair enough for either person to win. And if you’re comparing a smart but crooked, centrist candidate to a stupid and crooked, crazy-wing candidate and seeing a razor thin margin than Russia isn’t the problem. There is some greater systemic issue.

Now, getting to the GRU, they probably had a significantly larger impact and quite plausibly did put things over.

They do seem to have given Stone targeting information, information from the DNC, and, plausibly, received back advice in some form. If you only have a budget of $1m, making sure that you’re not overlapping with the GOP is a big difference. This could have helped Russia’s IRA efforts to have been less dilute than they otherwise would have been.

More practically, knowing what the enemy was doing (i.e. Team Clinton) could be an immeasurable advantage.

Ultimately, you’re fighting for a handful of states that might switch over. Whether you win or not is predicate on your choosing which states to target and how much time to spend in those states. Once you know which ones your opponent is targeting, you can dump all of your advertising money into those ones, so there’s zero dilution, to spread a negative message while you figure out which states are good targets for you where you don’t have to compete head-to-head with the enemy. Clinton has to target every state in the country with an anti-Trump message, because she doesn’t know where he’s going.

If Trump had a budget of 200 and Clinton had 300, she’s at a first level advantage but, if he can target the 200 to five states and she has to cover fifteen, it’s really not a fair game.

Stealing information from the DNC is also important because there’s also the matter of the difference in budget between the campaigns and the budget of the mass media. The mass media has a larger budget than the campaigns by like 10X.

Everyone believes that Clinton is crooked. But they’re also liable to forget that matter unless it’s brought forward. So having news coming out that the DNC slashed Sanders’ tires brings a sort of immediacy and reality to the criminal-ish activities of Team Clinton. Here you suddenly have a billion dollars worth of free advertising going straight to the majority of the population. That takes a bite. Clinton’s turnout with younger voters almost certainly took a permanent nose dive because of that.

The GRU, it would be hard to argue otherwise, almost certainly had measurable and significant impact on the election.

In the next election, assuming that the Democrats elect someone reasonable, the Russians will be weakened by the lack of misbehavior on the part of the candidate going up against Trump. My guess would be that they’ll simply target Congressional candidates with an eye to boosting idiots and crazies. A stupid American government is, ultimately, the greatest advantage to Russia. Republican or Democrat is inconsequential.

We should also note that stupid is to the advantage of every country except the USA itself. Even China is probably deliberating whether to throw in with Trump or not in 2020. He has basically handed them the world, while denying them the US. Long term, the former could be more valuable.

At any rate, 2020 is going to be so flush with crazy candidates that it’s almost certain that we’re all going to feel embarrassed to be citizens of the same country.

Welcome to the new world.

Catch me up, please. I’m guessing that the Irish Republican Army and it’s Individual Retirement Accounts have nothing to do with this IRA, so what is it?

I know what the GRU is, but SMERSH was always my favorite.

If we prove that Russia did, I see no dreadful consequences. The MAGA’s would approve, not lose their shit. That is if they paid any attention at all.

Long and short of it is that some would approve of Russia’s interference. Some already do. Others would simply claim it to be fake news.

The MAGAs adore Trump because they want to be just like him. Going through life with only the goal of satisfying yourself with zero repercussions.

Thinking people already know that Russia interfered. The real shit will not come from MAGA’s, but from those that don’t feel we should be Russia’s groom of the stool.

Internet Research Agency: A private company run by “Putin’s Chef”, using VPN to seem like they were stationed in the US. They ran advertisements on the Internet and had agents masquerading as Americans call up the campaign to try and arrange events together. Largely they seem to have targeted African Americans, trying to convince them that Clinton is a crook. Previous to that, they worked to boost Bernie, possibly by targeting youths, though I don’t know that for sure and I’m not sure if that information has been released.

Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU): Cyber command for the Russian military. They hacked into the DNC, stole emails, campaign strategy details and data, etc. released the emails to the US press and passed the strategy and data information to Stone and some Republican congressmen.

Note that, since the GRU is part of the Russian military, working with them knowingly (and having two witnesses to that fact) would constitute the letter definition of treason.

Most of Russia’s action wasn’t in actual ad buys, but in social media. And the US media (mostly Fox News) then amplified those efforts. And it was very successful.

All of those times that Fox News reported that “people are saying…”? The people who were saying it were Russians. Most of the folks who don’t like Sanders because of the behavior of the “Bernie Bots”? A significant fraction of them were literal bots, run out of Moscow. That Facebook post that your nutty uncle never bothered to double-check and just accepted because it “sounded truthy”? Probably originated by the Russians, and even if they didn’t, they helped it achieve critical mass to go viral.

You would need to provide a cite for “most”. So far as I can tell, Russian social media activity aggregated was about equivalent in raw numbers to the reach of Joe Rogan, and he’s hardly the most famous person on Twitter. And, as noted, they were mostly targeting the crazies. They’re swamped massively by people like Alex Jones.

I firmly believe they changed votes, votes which mattered. But this is a belief, and I don’t think it has been… or ever will be… proven. So I’m not dying on that hill, just saying that’s where the evidence is leaning, imho.

I’m pretty sure this was an op run through Paul Manafort, and not the Trump’s themselves. Trump and his kids are puppets, or, given the Russian love of chess, they’re pawns… Manafort is a rook. I’m sure Putin has a very good measure of the Trumps, and had this well before 2015, so he knew he couldn’t run it with Trump’s knowledge… and did just that. I firmly believe this op was run without Donald’s knowledge, which is why he claims “no collusion”.

The Facebook stuff is interesting and a large part of the op, but I think it also serves as a distraction from the larger issue of true election security, especially the security of votes.

But to answer the question: if the objective was to get DJT elected against the odds, well, then the answer is “Yes, Operation Lenin Payback* was a success.”

*My theory is that Putin is doing to the West what Germany did to Russia in 1917 when they released Lenin from his house arrest and transported him to Russia.

I never thought about the Russian targeting in much detail. Sure, I knew about the bots and the fake accounts in general, and for instance noted others pointing out such bots on Twitter. But in the back of my head I always imagined viruses unleashed on individual Facebook or Twitter accounts, infiltrating feeds and spreading misinformation throughout the US, wreaking havoc, if even on a small scale, throughout the electorate. Or something like that. But in the end, it was mostly the bots and the sock puppets, wasn’t it? Thousands upon thousands of them, blasting messages to explicitly sow distrust, or even benign messages, like “vote for Hillary, she’ll be good for America”.

Now, I get that creating fake accounts to do this is unethical. But once the accounts are created, isn’t free speech allowed for the Russians as much as it is for those of us in the US? What is the difference between that and a campaign creating a dishonest ad, twisting the words of the opposing candidate, showing them caught in expressions of befuddlement, or with slow-motion, grainy black and white clips suggesting impending doom if you vote for them, and then blasting that all over the airwaves a thousand times. This is not necessarily a rhetorical question. Help me out here.

But most important, what can actually be done about it? Think about it in terms of similar things that happen in America. Surely there are people here creating multiple accounts and spamming the country with bullshit. But what are we to do, add an amendment to the Constitution that says a citizen can have one and only one Facebook account, or he’ll be thrown out of the country?!

The answer is obvious. Pay attention, recognize the Russian spamming for what it is, ignore the dishonest campaign ads, and research shit for ourselves. I’m cynical enough to believe that these types of tactics will always work though, given the fact that they’ve been happening forever, and always do.

Minor quibble: Lenin was in Switzerland, and desperately trying to find a safe way back to Russia. The Germans supplied him and a number of his minions with a train and safe passage. He was not under house arrest. Here endeth snotty pedantry.

Aside: just finished reading a book about that very subject. Lenin on the Train, by Catherine Merridel. There is an amusing story therein, about Lenin’s various possible schemes to get across hostile territory without getting caught. At one point, he was considering a disguise and a Danish passport. But what if anyone required him to speak Danish? He could pretend to be a deaf/mute, perhaps? His wife, Krupskaya, put the kibosh on that idea by noting that he would have to stay awake the entire trip, since he frequently would start shouting his fury against Social Democrats in his sleep!

The other thing to remember is that the operation is still ongoing. I mean, Boris Johnson is… THIS WEEK!.. the new British PM.

No, he’s not done. Not at all - Mueller was quite correct.

The United States is hardly in a position to complain. America has meddled in plenty of foreign elections, such as those in South America.