That was then, this is now, Soviet-Russian media subsidies edition

by on October 30, 2017 at 1:19 am in Current Affairs, History, Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

This is the week of hearings on Facebook ads, as well as Twitter and Google promotion of pro-Putin or sometimes pro-Trump or disruptive ideas.  So far we know that Russia-linked ads on Facebook cost about $100,000, a laughably low number.  Maybe there is much more hidden, but so far I don’t see it.

$100,000 is exactly the amount the Comintern gave in the 1920s to organize a campaign against John L. Lewis leading the mine union.  No, I am not adjusting for inflation, so in real terms the sum in the 20s was much higher.  The Comintern also gave at least $35,000 to start the Daily Worker, again that is a nominal figure from the 1920s.  The American Communist Party received subsidies too.  Many other communist subsidies, media and otherwise, remain hidden or at least uncertain.

Furthermore, those earlier expenditures helped convert a large number of Americans and American intellectuals to actual belief in communism, or at least fellow traveler sympathies.  And consider this (NYT):

The C.P.U.S.A.’s vulnerability had a great deal to do with its dependence on Moscow. For much of its existence, the party could not have functioned without Moscow gold. One of its first leaders, the journalist John Reed, was given more than a million rubles’ worth of czarist jewels and diamonds to smuggle into America to support the fledgling American movement. In the 1920s, Armand Hammer, the future head of Occidental Petroleum, used money derived from Soviet concessions to underwrite The Daily Worker and fund communist operations in Europe. Without Soviet money, the C.P.U.S.A. would not have been able to hire the hundreds of full-time organizers and support an array of front groups and publications that enabled it to outspend and out-organize its left-wing rivals.

So I’m just not that “impressed” by the Facebook revelations to date.  If you want to worry about Facebook, the much bigger problems are abroad (NYT).

1 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 1:35 am

‘Maybe there is much more hidden’

Or maybe there is simply a lot of willful ignorance about online activities involving social media in the U.S., starting with Facebook – ‘That doesn’t mean you’ll reach up to 25 million people. Effective ad campaigns balance how many times people see the ad and the kinds of people who see them. If you’re trying to reach as many people as you can with that figure, you’ll get a lower frequency with about 75 percent of your audience seeing the ad one time.

But most agencies operate on the presumption that ads need to be seen by a person five to seven times over an eight-week period to be effective, according to Sean Corcoran, executive director of the Americas at MullenLowe Mediahub.

With those parameters and $100,000, you’re looking at reaching 3 million to 5 million people in a general audience, with that average person getting the same ad five times.’ https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/29/russian-facebook-ads-how-many-people-could-you-reach-with-100000.html

And ads are only part of what is going on, as noted here – ‘If that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider the echo chamber of not only Facebook itself but Twitter, where people frequently post content they first encountered elsewhere. Digital ad experts say any problems on Facebook are likely amplified and exacerbated on Twitter.

“If you spend $100,000 on Facebook, you can cause havoc on Twitter,” says Marc Goldberg, CEO of Trust Metrics, a publisher technology company that keeps tabs on bad actors online.

Automated accounts can tweet false news first posted on Facebook to get it trending on Twitter, Goldberg says. Twitter, which has its own well-known bot problem, was saturated all election with divisive political trends that often appeared to have artificial support.’ http://adage.com/article/digital/russian-spam-farm-facebook-money/310383/

Which can be seen with what happened with this twitter account – ‘Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.

The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes.

There is no evidence that any of them knew the account was run by Russians. Independent researchers had suspected the account was Russian, and their work was confirmed Wednesday by two people familiar with the investigations into the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

The spread of links from the account shows the remarkable reach of a disinformation campaign that harnessed the power of American celebrity and the immediacy of social media to propel messages further, faster and more cheaply than possible even a few years ago.

At a time when public scrutiny has focused on Russia’s exploitation of Facebook, the new discoveries about the reach of @Ten_GOP underscore the role Twitter and other social media platforms also played in reaching audiences, including people influential in shaping political narratives.

“They were trying to influence influencers,” said Jonathan Albright, research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. Like several other researchers, Albright has used analytics tools to map the spread of the reported Russian account. “They’re creating buzz,” he said. “It’s a buzz machine.”’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/michael-flynn-nicki-minaj-shared-content-from-this-tennessee-gop-account-but-it-wasnt-real-it-was-russian/2017/10/18/8b92fcda-b435-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html

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2 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 2:00 am

But if it’s that easy and cheap to get a few million views and generate “buzz” then everyone can do it (and they are). They can’t all be massively shaping public opinion. It’s a zero sum game, since there is only so much influence to be had via these channels.

I think Tyler’s point that this is small potatoes stands.

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3 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 2:33 am

‘It’s a zero sum game’

No, it is not a zero sum game. That faked Twitter account is a good example, actually, of just how lax the online social media world is when it comes to accuracy – ‘Michael Sullivan, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party — whose verified Twitter handle is @TNGOP — said his group had complained to Twitter about the account in September of last year, as well as in March and August.

“We’ve done a significant job trying to improve our digital footprint, so it’s very frustrating when you see something like that come out and continue to impersonate you,” Sullivan said.

He said he never tweeted back at the account to set the record straight. “We didn’t want to give them credit for getting under our skin,” Sullivan said.

The Russian news site RBC named @Ten_GOP in a report this week on the disinformation campaign. The account was created, according to archived versions of its account page, in November 2015 and included Tennessee’s state seal.”’

In a sense, this would be like talking about the effect of ink in a gallon of water – it requires very little ink to ensure that the water is no longer clear. What has been truly amusing is watching how many Americans seem to assume that our cuddly bear friends in Moscow care about either Republicans or Democrats. The Russians care about reducing the effectiveness of their major geopolitical rival, and are proving themselves to be much more effective in using the free market, along with an absolute disregard for accuracy, in furthering their goals, compared to how ineptly the Soviets handled the matter.

The truly sad thing is that anyone unfamiliar with how the Russian media has been increasingly manipulating its own market would not realize that the Russians are simply using many of the same tactics that have already been successful in other settings.

Anyone in the U.S. who does not realize that the Russians are doing their best to weaken the U.S., but instead thinks the Russians care about American partisan politics, is truly naive. Unless one thinks that a former KGB member has turned a new leaf while running that shining beacon of freedom which is today’s Russia.

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4 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 4:21 am

Yes, it is a zero sum game. There is only one presidential election. New technology making it easier to send a message voters doesn’t increase the amount of “presidential election influence” that is possible, rather, it reduces the value of a message to voters.

Russia may have reached more people with Facebook and Twitter in 2016 than they did with their funding in the 1920s. But in the 1920s people were receiving far fewer competing political messages. For example, Ann Coulter appears to tweet dozens of things per day, and most people who follow her probably also follow a number of other political personalities and consume lots of political content on Facebook. If Russia got her to retweet something…yay for them? How much do you really think that moves the needle?

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5 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 4:42 am

‘There is only one presidential election.’

This is not about a presidential election, this is about weakening America’s political institutions to the maximum extent possible, to Russia’s benefit.

There is absolutely nothing new in Russia’s longer term strategy, post WWII – decouple the U.S. from Europe, and use whatever means practical to integrate as much of Europe as possible into a Russian sphere of influence. Oddly enough, until recently, the (extremely successful) American strategy was the exact opposite – decouple Europe as far as possible from Russian influence.

The really amusing thing is just how many people seem to think that the Russians are playing some sort of American partisan political game. They aren’t. Don’t be in the least surprised if, just by chance of course, a trove of hacked data appears sometime in the summer of 2018. A trove which just happens to ensure that enough Democrats are elected to the House to ensure maximum chaos at the highest levels of America’s government.

Who knows, maybe the Russians will just happen to have some friendly proposals for countries like Estonia and Georgia in 2019, ever so coincidentally of course. And maybe that pesky Ukrainian situation will finally be resolved to the full satisfaction of all the oppressed Russians subject to Ukraine’s fascist rule.

6 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 7:27 am

How have they weakened America’s institutions? Some people who already didn’t like Trump are using it as a reason to question the legitimate of his presidency–but partisans have similarly questioned the legitimacy of every president at least back to W in 2000. If not for Russian activities, they would just be using some other talking point against Trump. Pretty weak sauce if this was their plan.

Also, the evidence suggested Hillary was favored to win, so if they wanted to undermine the presidency why support Trump? Seems more logical to back the candidate most likely to win. If Trump lost there would have been no Russia scandal.

At the end of the day, you really don’t know why Russia took these actions (none of us know for sure). But I don’t find your theory more plausible than the prevailing one that Putin wanted Trump to win.

7 A Definite Beta Guy October 30, 2017 at 9:07 am

The weakening of European unity has less to do with posts on Twitter and more to do with Merkel trying to enforce her own immigration policy on the continent.

8 Albert October 30, 2017 at 10:08 am

> But I don’t find your theory more plausible than the prevailing one that Putin wanted Trump to win.

Way to completely miss the point, dude. Of course Putin wanted Trump to win, because that was the conclusion most likely to cause chaos and discord in America. He’ll continue to want Trump to be president right up until the time a different position is more likely to cause chaos and discord in America.

9 Chip October 30, 2017 at 10:58 am

“ Of course Putin wanted Trump to win, because that was the conclusion most likely to cause chaos and discord in America. ”

Putin is a genius. He didn’t collude with Trump while feeding intelligence to the Clintons to trigger spying on Trump along with a Special Counsel to elect a guy who’s increased military spending while flooding the markets with American energy that shreds Moscow’s finances – and here’s the genius part – all the chaos and discord will actually be sown by the Democrats and only the rare anonymous person posting on economics blogs would know it was really him.

Sounds reasonable.

10 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

Who said anything about supporting Trump? This automatic assumption is part of what makes this so thing fascinating, at least to someone living outside of the U.S. The Russians have interests, not friends – weakening the U.S. (for example, having America’s energies be devoted to internal issues without seeming resolution) is an interest. And it isn’t as if the Russians are omnipotent – their attempts to disrupt the French presidential election failed laughably, at an even lower price to the French political system than it likely cost the Russians to attempt, not to mention the accompanying ridicule associated with Russian ineptness, and how easy it was to play them for fools in public.

This is what is missing in this discussion in the U.S. – an awareness that Russian interests remain as inimical to the American interests as they were 100 hundred years ago. The French, cynics that they are, are fully aware that the only people who truly care about French interests, not to mention the only people to have a right to determine French affairs, are the French themselves. The Russians are not cuddly bears just wanting to be petted.

And that was at least a semi-serious prediction concerning 2018 – the Russians don’t care the least about Republicans or Democrats, but they do care about ensuring America’s stature is reduced as far as possible, along with America’s ability to respond to what the Russians are doing.

‘At the end of the day, you really don’t know why Russia took these actions’

No, but how easily we overlook Russian attempts, to a large extent successful, to use online activities to disrupt other nations – not just the U.S., but Estonia, Ukraine, France (as noted), Germany, the Netherlands – this is not something the Russians just started doing. Really, do read about Fancy Bear, particularly if you know what the three letter agency GRU means – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fancy_Bear And as with all things Russian, recognize that no intelligence agency is allowed to exist alone – thus, welcome to Cozy Bear, keeping up that old KGB/Red Army rivalry in cyber operations – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cozy_Bear

America is not really all that exceptional – those Russian bears have a global vision, not merely an American one.

11 Lanigram October 30, 2017 at 11:53 am

Divide and conquer, and it is working.

Putin is ex-KGB, that should tell you something.

12 clockwork_prior October 31, 2017 at 2:07 am

There was much more hidden – ‘Facebook plans to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that 126 million of its users may have seen content produced and circulated by Russian operatives, many times more than the company had previously disclosed about the reach of the online influence campaign targeting American voters.

The company previously reported that an estimated 10 million users had seen ads bought by Russian-controlled accounts and pages. But Facebook has been silent regarding the spread of free content despite independent researchers suggesting that it was seen by far more users than the ads were.’ https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2017/10/30/4509587e-bd84-11e7-97d9-bdab5a0ab381_story.html

13 Steve Sailer October 30, 2017 at 2:17 am

“It’s a buzz machine.”

In contrast, Hillary’s $1.2 billion in spending was an anti-buzz machine (although it did wonders for Pepe the Frog).

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14 DJF October 30, 2017 at 6:27 am

Ssssh

Or next someone will bring up who was actually funding the campaigns

https://www.opensecrets.org/overview/topindivs.php

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15 Steve Sailer October 30, 2017 at 1:57 am

But don’t forget the Kremlin also bought more than four thousand dollars worth of Google ads!

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16 DJF October 30, 2017 at 6:31 am

Google should advertise this.

“With just $ 4,000 of Google ads you too can change US election results!!!!”

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17 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 7:39 am

And yet, despite realizing their long time goal of reducing the money in politics, Democrats will not be happy.

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18 Steve Sailer October 30, 2017 at 2:15 am

I can recall receiving a press release email in November or December 2000 from a Sikh-American political action committee on how the Sikh vote had determined the Presidential election. You see, there are X thousand Sikh voters in Florida and Sikh voters really, really care about laws that make it mandatory to wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle, but Sikhs have to wear their sacred turbans instead of helmets, and Sikhs love motorcycles. Either Bush or Gore had endorsed or not endorsed the Sikh view on this crucial hot button issue, and when you do the math, it’s obvious that that swung enough Sikh votes to determine the winner of the election.

I did the math. And, you know, the Sikh PAC was probably right about the Sikh motorcycle helmet vote determining the 2000 election.

I think the chances that Kremlin Facebook and Google expenditures determined the winner of the 2016 election are a lot smaller than that Sikh motorcyclists determined the winner of the 2000 election, but it’s not impossible.

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19 P Burgos October 30, 2017 at 9:40 am

On the other hand, when initial reports about Russian hacking came out, all of the experts thought that Russia’s goal was just to sow discord and mistrust within the US and to further weaken the ability of the nation to effectively govern itself. On that score, they have succeeded brilliantly, and probably for an immaterial amount of money (relative to Russia’s resources).

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20 Ricardo October 30, 2017 at 9:49 am

The margin in Florida in 2000 was 0.01%. Of course it is possible that a few hundred Sikh votes were decisive then. That’s just how arithmetic works. In 2016, the decisive votes for Trump were cast by a group of people in 3 swing states who could fit into a football stadium.

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21 edgar October 30, 2017 at 2:48 am

“pro-Putin, or sometimes pro-Trump, or disruptive ideas…” Hmmmm like maybe Black Lives Matters? Maybe as a BLM promoter, Tyler is unable to admit he was fanning the same flames as the evil Russkies who bought pro-BLM ads. But in attempting to minimize the perception of social media influence, he is also providing cover for the Democrat controlled social media’s campaign to censor non-aligned voices. Tyler and the Democrats are all about social control and eliminating the opposition. Not at all unlike their idols the Chi-Coms, and just as effective. The authoritarian menace is omnipresent.

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22 Veobaum October 30, 2017 at 8:22 am

Wait. I thought Tyler was a shill for the Koch brothers. You people need a better model.

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23 BC October 30, 2017 at 2:54 am

There’s also the issue that ads are just speech. There was a time when we didn’t fear speech, even that of foreigners, because we believed that competition in the marketplace of ideas was better than government controlling that marketplace.

One related topic is the wisdom of using campaign finance laws to ration Americans’ speech. Now that we know that Russians disseminate campaign speech through facebook and other platforms, I would hope that support for rationing Americans’ speech would drop precipitously. It will probably be impossible to prevent Russians from speaking about our elections completely. It would be unconscionable to limit Americans’ abilities to combat Russian speech by rationing Americans’ speech.

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24 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 3:17 am

‘There was a time when we didn’t fear speech, even that of foreigners’

The U.S. has an extremely long history of both fearing, and not allowing, foreigners to have any influence in American politics. Such as this example, from Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 22 – “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.”

Then there is – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_and_Sedition_Acts

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25 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 4:56 am

And yet that Soviet money did have an impact on American politics. The Communists have largely dominated American letters and films since they spent what was a tiny sum of money seizing the high cultural ground and never letting it go – look how Hollywood treated Elia Kazan compared to pretty much anyone else linked with the Communists.

Their high point was probably the relatively trivial sums they spent on the “anti-War” effort to ensure a Soviet victory in IndoChina and the subsequent genocide. The protests being largely run by people getting Soviet or North Vietnamese money.

I think there are plenty of reasons for thinking America would have been better off with even tougher laws.

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26 A Truth Seeker October 30, 2017 at 8:58 am

I bet those excuses about Vietnam sound much better in Germany and about WWI. “We were totally winning until we were backstabbed”. Just spending a few more times the total amount of bombs America spent on the Nazis would have done the trick: Thieu would still be in Saigon, goes the self-serving legend.

The American regime had more than one decade to defeat a much weaker and poorer enemy, it resort to everything from carpet bombing to secret bombings to poisoning to extermination of civilians to coups to bombing Indochina to Stone Age. Nothing worked. The American aggressor was thrown out of Indochina the same way King George’s troops were from America.

America has had a decade and a half to defeat the Iraqis and the Afghans, but there is no end in sight yet for America’s recent colonial adventures. American can’t win a war is not against Granada or Panama.

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27 Sam Haysom October 30, 2017 at 1:08 pm

I mean it’s an objective fact that the Viet Cong was eradicated by 1970. If you want out can even walk a few classrooms down and ask the AP history teacher (if Zanesville schools have AP) to explain it to you during your off period.

28 A Truth Seeker October 30, 2017 at 1:54 pm

“Việt Cộng soldiers carry an injured American POW to a prisoner swap in 1972. The VC uniform was a floppy jungle hat, rubber sandals, and green fatigues without rank or insignia.”

“(…) the U.S. Congress passed the Case–Church Amendment to prohibit further U.S. military intervention in Vietnam in June 1973 and reduced aid to South Vietnam in August 1974. With U.S. bombing ended, (…) oil pipeline was built from North Vietnam to Việt Cộng headquarters in Lộc Ninh, about 75 miles northwest of Saigon.”

I think it was Ribbentrop the one assuring Molotov in Germany that the British had been crushed. A few moments later, they have to go to a shelter because the RAF was bombing. Molotov asked who were the guys doing thw bombing if the British had been crushed. I wonder who Americans spent the years between 1970 and 1973 fighting. Or if it were a mere Northern invasion, why was it so hard to thwart after spending more time at it than took defearing the Japanese Imperial Army and the Wehrmacht. It must have been the hippies. Or the Jews.

29 Jeff R October 30, 2017 at 11:26 am

Yeah, unfortunately in 2017, speech is violence and Facebook comments are acts of war, at least according to some people in this thread.

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30 Steve Sailer October 30, 2017 at 3:11 am

Carlos Slim, who has intermittently been the richest man in the world because the government of Mexico sold him the Mexican telecom monopoly, bailed out the New York Times in 2009 for only $200 million.

Granted, that was 2000 times what Russia spent on Facebook ads, but this seems like a very intelligent investment in getting favorable news coverage from America’s most influential source.

For example, the Slim dynasty is really interesting: his kids are surnamed Slim Gemayel because they are part of what was an actual Fascist dynasty in Lebanon. When Uncle Bashir, the Phalangist warlord president of Lebanon was assassinated in 1982 and his followers massacred all those Palestinians in refugee camps, the New York Times headlined Bashir Gemayel’s obituary: “He Lived by the Sword.”

But you won’t read much about the Slim dynasty’s links to Lebanese fascism in the New York Times. That’s confusing and distracting. It’s not part of The Narrative.

In contrast, you will read over and over again in the NYT about how Russia hacked the election.

Nobody points out the absurdity of the numbers. If Putin wanted Slim-like coverage, he should have bailed out the New York Times in 2009.

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31 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 8:55 am

Pierre Gemayel was impressed by surface aspects of inter-war fascist movements when he founded the Lebanese Phalange in 1936. (There was a competing Sunni corps at the time called the ‘Muslim Scouts’). However, he was a parliamentary politician during the postwar period, albeit with different reference points than the usual run of bosses and grandees that dominated Lebanese politics from 1926 to 1975. He differed in that he had all those years a party militia, something other bosses did not develop until the 1970s.

There were fascist and fascistoid movements in the Near East during that run of years – the Baath Party and the Syrian Popular Party to name two. The Lebanese Phalange was a communal particularist movement, not a fascist movement.

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32 TMC October 30, 2017 at 1:22 pm

“If Putin wanted Slim-like coverage, he should have bailed out the New York Times in 2009.”

Why pay for the cow if you’re already getting the milk?

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33 sugar baby October 30, 2017 at 3:39 am

With those parameters and $100,000, you’re looking at reaching 3 million to 5 million people in a general audience, with that average person getting the same ad five times.

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34 Steve Sailer October 30, 2017 at 4:36 am

It’s like gambling. With just $100,000 you too can break the bank in Monte Carlo.

The trick is to only bet at roulette on winning numbers.

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35 Z October 30, 2017 at 4:50 am

On the other hand, just the so-called Internet Research Agency behind this reportedly has a monthly budget of $1M – http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/17/politics/russian-oligarch-putin-chef-troll-factory/index.html?adkey=bn – which works out ~6x the inflation-adjusted cost of the campaigns you mention. And of course there’s all the other traditional-media and net-based propaganda outlets RT, Sputnik, etc.

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36 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 5:29 am

Don’t bring facts to a fake news fight.

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37 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 7:50 am

In this case it’s a fact plus the incorrect assumption that the whole budget is being spent on U.S. politics.

The agency does Russian and English language stuff, according to the article. We don’t know the breakdown, but assuming Russia spends a lot more effort influencing their own people than ours seems reasonable.

Also the figures that Tyler quoted are just the some given to U.S. based organizations in the 1920s. Presumably they also spent a lot on Russia-based support for those activities back then.

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38 dan1111 October 30, 2017 at 7:51 am

“the sum” not “the some”

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39 Z October 30, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Totally agree $1M/month probably isn’t the right number… and from anecdotal experience folks keyed into Russian-language media get exposed to (and influenced by) this stuff WAAAAAY more than whatever the extent was of the influence of propaganda targeted at Americans.

But it’s just dumb to compare Soviet financing of American communist activities to a single Russian propaganda expenditure in 2016 when it’s obvious the magnitude is something way bigger than $100k… for instance, you know, running a whole english-language propaganda television channel that seems to be roughly 50% focused on pro-Putin propaganda and 50% focused on delegitimizing American democracy.

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40 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 5:13 am

Without Soviet money, the C.P.U.S.A. would not have been able to hire the hundreds of full-time organizers and support an array of front groups and publications that enabled it to outspend and out-organize its left-wing rivals.

Which probably goes a long way to explaining why Communist parties collapsed at pretty much the same time across the world. It is not true for Communist parties that had their own country. Vietnam’s Communists did not go anywhere but most of the former Soviet block’s parties collapsed when their Soviet masters died.

However so did parties that I would have thought had a solid base. The Italian Communist Party for instance could not have been that dependent on Soviet subsidies and had been experimenting with ideological alternatives. But they dissolved themselves in 1991 so they could reform as more electable parties. The French Communists managed to hold on. They dumped the worst of their Soviet baggage and have gradually faded away but they did not give up when Moscow stopped calling the shots.

I guess it is easier to be a Communist when you live in hope the Soviet Army will soon install you as the absolute leader of the smoking radioactive ruins of your own country.

The exception has been the Japanese Communist Party which sided with China in the Sino-Soviet split and so welcomed the fall of the USSR but now remain a Stalinist party without any foreign inspiration at all. China did not work out as they wanted and North Korea is hardly a shining role model.

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41 Mark Thorson October 30, 2017 at 8:21 am

JCP is weird. I watch a lot NHK news, and a few years ago they showed a list of the amounts of money reported being received by the five or so largest political parties. The JCP reported more money than all of the others combined. I asked about that, whether Japan was about to go Communist. The answer is that JCP has a policy, unique in Japanese politics, of reporting all the money it receives. No “black money” for them. Also, they publish a popular political policy magazine (Akahata?) which also generates income.

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42 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 9:12 am

Which probably goes a long way to explaining why Communist parties collapsed at pretty much the same time across the world. I

They didn’t The communist parties in Europe outside the East bloc were suffering a fairly relentless long-term decline in support, a decay which continued after 1989 no matter what their disposition was. The Italian party was an exception. The Italian party re-invented itself between 1974 and 1983 as a parliamentary outfit. What was left of the pro-Soviet wing seceded and founded a separate party after 1989. The East European parties were by 1989 collecting pools of careerists and re-invented themselves as parliamentary parties with varying degrees of success. Outside Europe, the weaker communist movements faded away and the more vigorous re-invented themselves (n a process which antedated 1989 in some cases). Both the Chinese and the Soviet governments had abandoned core precepts of Marxist social ideology by 1989, something quite demoralizing (or liberating) to their satraps and clients.

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43 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 10:04 am

Well yes they did. In 1991 alone a whole series of Communist parties collapsed – including the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Albanian Labor Party, the Ethiopian Worker’s Party, the political wing of ETA, Euskadiko Ezkerra.

Other non-Soviet Communist Parties to collapse in 1991 were the Communist League (West Germany), Communist Movement, Communist Movement of Aragon, Communist Movement of Asturias, Communist Movement of Catalonia, Communist Movement of Euskadi, Communist Party of Australia, Communist Party of Italy (Marxist–Leninist), Communist Party of Nepal (Amatya), Communist, Party of Nepal (Burma), Communist Party of Nepal (Democratic), Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist–Leninist), Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist) (1986–91), Communist Party of Nepal (Mashal), Communist Party of the Canary Islands (provisional), Communist Party of the Netherlands, League of Communists of Macedonia, League of Communists of Montenegro, Proletarian Democracy, Puerto Rican Communist Party, Revolutionary Communist League (Spain), Revolutionary Communist Party (Turkey), Revolutionary Communist Workers Movement of Turkey, Revolutionary Marxist League (Hong Kong), Sabah People’s United Front, Sarawak Malaysian People’s Association, the Socialist Unity Party of West Berlin and the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party

Now some of this churn – little splinter groups fading in and out of existence. But much of it is the Soviet Union’s historical puppets giving up the ghost.

As I actually said, in most places the Communists simply re-invented themselves as Greens or something. They ditched what had clearly become a liability – their subservience to Moscow. But not while the Soviet Army still stood a chance of raping the path for their way into office. Despite that liability and despite the ability to fund themselves locally, most Communist parties remained loyal as long as the Soviet Army was a contender.

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44 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 10:23 am

You’re referring to commmunist parties which were inconsequential to begin with. It didn’t matter if they ‘collapsed’ or they didn’t. They were hobbies for peculiar people.

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45 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 10:59 am

Very few Communist parties outside the Soviet block grew to any size. The French and Italian parties did. The Greek party did. The French dumped their Soviet baggage and found a new leader. They continued to decline. The Italians simply dissolved and tried to pass themselves off as decent leftists. The Greeks are toughing it out.

But of the other Communist parties in the First World, the Belgians (and Mexicans and Malayans) dissolved in 1989, in that year the Swedish Communists suggested they dissolve, the Finnish party dissolved in 1992, the Catalan Communist Party survived until 1997. A whole of them merged with Green parties such as the Danish party and the Dutch party around 1991.

A small but interesting number of them rejected the Soviet legacy in 1991 – the CPUSA for instance – only for membership to drop to the point that the remaining hard core re-adopted Leninism. And the Spanish party too.

Oddly enough the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to effect Maoist parties too. The New Zealand Communist Party split into the pro-Peking NZCP and the pro-Moscow Socialist Unity Party. The former dissolved in 1994, the latter in 1990

46 M. Klaus October 30, 2017 at 5:43 am

I want to see those accusations, but so far i think the ” russian hackers ” story is more hype than substance.

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47 Anonymous October 31, 2017 at 4:32 pm

“Early reports from CNBC suggest Twitter is about to reveal more than 36,000 fake Russian accounts, and perhaps more. These accounts sent more than 1.4 million tweets and Russian accounts reached 126 million users on Facebook. This comes on the heels of Twitter’s decision to prohibit Russian backed media companies from advertising on their platform.”

https://medium.com/@mikekmorrison/did-twitter-just-drop-the-bomb-on-the-russians-47915c5b74b

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48 Alistair November 1, 2017 at 11:39 am

You would have been better to stay silent.

Those numbers are insignificant compared to the magnitude of political postings on Facebook and Twitter.

Evidence of such pitiful magnitude weakens your own case Or are you one of those fools who cannot place numbers in context?

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49 Gil October 30, 2017 at 5:54 am

The facebook stuff does seem like a nothing burger. But if Americans were involved, it still could be significant. Sometimes optics matter in politics. Or at least optics used to matter.

The big picture, I think, is that clearly our Orwellian future has arrived. It was actually Hillary that colluded with the Russians to elect Trump, or at least that is what it says on my FB feed.

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50 josh October 30, 2017 at 6:01 am

If we were to somehow be able to rank all Presidential elections since the creation of the Soviet Union in terms of “Russian influence” where would this one fall? I would guess middle to bottom third.

If we were somehow able to rank the influence of all foreign governments on the outcome of the 2016 election, would Russia come out #1? I think perhaps not. Probably not even #2.

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51 DJF October 30, 2017 at 6:23 am

Does anyone actually say that this money came from the Kremlin? The best I have heard is that the money came from someone with “ties” to the Kremlin. Whatever that means?

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52 john October 30, 2017 at 6:51 am

I think it’s pointless to look at the spending to draw an meaningful conclusion about impact from the efforts. The only relevant reason would seem to be looking at the declining costs due to technological change. It’s probably worth noting also that the audience for the recent campaign was likely significantly larger that what was reached in the 1920s.

That we see the same problem — this type of political intrigue and propaganda from both the early communist Russia/USSR and modern day Russia is probably not surprising. It’s not something that should just be accepted — it is clearly a reflection of the idea that war is merely another form or politics and that’s a bad ethos and culture to promote even if often quite true in behavior. We need to deal with it in some way and that way should be structure of the electoral process.

Perhaps the lesson here is about the inherent weakness in our political processes more than anything about foreign meddling in internal affairs. from that perspective the issues is much broader than merely Putin’s geopolitical intrigues.

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53 rayward October 30, 2017 at 7:06 am

Red baiting is alive and well, even Bret Stephens does it. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/opinion/communism-rose-colored-glasses.html Digging up two long-dead communists, Lenin and Stalin, to make a case against today’s liberals seems a stretch, but somebody has to make the case that today’s liberals pose a greater threat to freedom than Trump’s very much alive co-conspirators.

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54 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 10:06 am

The New York Times is making a case against liberals. Along with their readers who comment.

By defending the most murderous and bloody regimes in the history of the human race – people who make Hitler look like the lesser of two evils but whom the Times is proud to call their inspiration.

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55 JWatts October 31, 2017 at 2:35 pm

“Digging up two long-dead communists, Lenin and Stalin, to make a case against today’s liberals seems a stretch, ”

Rayward, I’m curious, when was the last time you decried the use of the word Fascism (or Hitler, brown shirt, etc) when used to refer to someone on the Right?

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56 derek October 30, 2017 at 7:34 am

What amazes me about this situation is how these blithering idiots actually believe their own bullshit. Didn’t Stephanopolis donate more than that to the DNC?

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57 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 10:55 am

Much of contemporary politics is about validating the self-concept and emotional states of certain attentive publics.

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58 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 7:59 am

As others have noted, it is pretty silly to “total” what is just a line item in a wider effort. And don’t shy from “web brigades.”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_brigades

“On an average working day, the workers are to post on news articles 50 times. Each blogger is to maintain six Facebook accounts publishing at least three posts a day and discussing the news in groups at least twice a day. By the end of the first month, they are expected to have won 500 subscribers and get at least five posts on each item a day. On Twitter, the bloggers are expected to manage 10 accounts with up to 2,000 followers and tweet 50 times a day.”

This does not show up in the $100,000.

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59 derek October 30, 2017 at 8:20 am

How much do the Hillary drones that show up here cost?

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60 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 8:23 am

You are one weird Canadian, derek. You seem to think you have more right to interfere here, than Americans have right to their own political process.

But beyond that, your partisan attack on fact is noted.

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61 derek October 30, 2017 at 8:51 am

My pleasure. Doing the jobs american’s won’t do.

To my original point, obviously too much.

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62 TMC October 30, 2017 at 5:26 pm

lol +1 Derek

63 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 8:30 am

Maybe you go down to Tim Hortons, drink bad coffee, and tell your buddies “yeah, ‘derek’ is still messing with the Americans”

Great fun if you don’t have to live with the dysfunction.

https://twitter.com/nytimes/status/924968195835998208

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64 TMC October 30, 2017 at 5:28 pm

For some issues they had back the same time as working with the Podestas.

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65 JWatts October 31, 2017 at 2:42 pm

“Maybe you go down to Tim Hortons, drink bad coffee, and tell your buddies “yeah, ‘derek’ is still messing with the Americans”

Great fun if you don’t have to live with the dysfunction.”

I’m sure you’ll be bringing Thiago Ribeiro (Truth Seeker) to task any day now…..

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66 Paraguayan October 31, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Are you suggesting derek is ultimately as harmless as Thiago?

Each hating the American regime, one in frenzied critique, one by aping its worst excesses.

67 Josh October 30, 2017 at 8:28 am

Still trivial, but even if it wasn’t, so the hell what? Lost of people are trying to influence me to think lots of things.

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68 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 8:33 am

Read up on who Rodney Brooks is (smarter at computers and the nature of intelligence than any of us here) before discounting what he says below.

But sure, I could hope that generations raised with social media would develop the same resistance my generation has to television ads.

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69 Thomas October 30, 2017 at 10:53 am

What is the value of 24/7 positive coverage/advocacy by NPR? Repeal Citizen’s United and jail Tom Ashbrook.

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70 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 11:00 am

The serious answer?

NPR doesn’t lie about who they are. If you really want to ignore everything they say, you can.

On the other hand a fake GOP account, run by Russians, does not say “we are Russians, ignore us if you want to.”

https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/19/twitter-russia-fake-gop-account/

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71 A Truth Seeker October 30, 2017 at 8:08 am

Is this what America has become? A Russian satellite like Cuba and the Sputnik? Has America been Finlandized, but without the public healthcare?

InnBrazil, the pro-Albania Communist Party has survived and prospered – it was a junior partner under Mrs. Roussef coalition -, but the pro-Khruschev/Brezhenev Communist Party has all but disappeared. Unlike Americans, Brazilians are too sophisticate to ever fall for Russian propaganda.

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72 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 8:20 am

And again, this should be put in the context of Rodney Brooks “post-kinetic warfare.”

“But now in the 2016 US presidential election, and again in the 2017 French presidential election we have seen, and all the details are not yet out, a glimpse of a future warfare where kinetic warfare is not used at all. Nevertheless it has been acts of war. US intelligence services announced in 2016 that there had been Russian interference in the US election. The whole story is still to come out, but in both the US and French elections there were massive dumps of cyber-stolen internal emails from one candidate’s organization, timed exquisitely in both cases down to just a few minutes’ window of maximum impact. This was immediately, minutes later, followed by seemingly unrelated thousands of people looking through those emails claiming clues to often ridiculous malevolence. In both elections the mail dumps included faked emails which had sinister interpretations, uncovered by the armies of people looking through the emails for a smoking gun. These attacks most probably changed the outcome of the US election, but failed in France. This is post kinetic war waged in a murky world where the citizens of the attacked country can never know what to believe.”

https://rodneybrooks.com/is-war-now-post-kinetic/

It is not actually smart to blinker available evidence.

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73 Jeff R October 30, 2017 at 8:59 am

Wait, I thought it was James Coney that cost Hillary the election. Does he work for the Russians too? HOW DEEP DOES THIS RABBIT HOLE GO??

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74 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 9:05 am

There were a lot of moving parts.

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75 Jeff R October 30, 2017 at 1:32 pm

I actually clicked on your link above, just now while I was eating my lunch. That guy spends an awwwwwful lot of words meandering around pointlessly to say that the US should probably spend more on cyber security. A real modern day Clausewitz, I see.

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76 derek October 30, 2017 at 9:05 am

You would think that these brilliant people who want to be leaders of the free world would do basic due diligence security measures to protect their communications. But no. They are blithering idiots.

That is why Hillary lost. She was an idiot. She surrounded herself with idiots.

The Russians only exposed her idiocy. I don’t think it went they way they wanted because she was bought and paid for from previous transactions.

Trump for all his glaring flaws obvious and open to everyone was considered a better choice by enough people.

This Russia stuff is an atrappe nigaud. It should elicit shame. It won’t though. Not yet.

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77 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 9:34 am

What gets you about most of the top echelon in Washington is that their skill set is limited to (1) fundraising campaigns, (2) publicity campaigns (in the case of the Democrats, with the aid of a compliant media), (3) leveraging connections, and (4) navigating parliamentary process. Of the ten floor leaders in Congress, one (Kevin McCarthy) has some background in small business and one (John Cornyn) had a good run in the legal profession. The rest are pure career politicians or spent a brief run practicing law 40+ years ago. Of the 11 presidents we’ve had since Eisenhower retired, at most 4 had something more engaging, demanding, or lucrative that they were up to ‘ere entering politics. Look at the seven notable presidential candidates last year: Trump, Ted Cruz, and Gary Johnson had a work life outside politics. The rest, not really. Johnson was engaged in a Quixotic enterprise and has no future in electoral politics and the Capitol Hill establishment despises Cruz even more than they despise Trump.

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78 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 9:35 am

Excuse me, at most 5 of the 11 did.

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79 JWatts October 31, 2017 at 2:48 pm

“…and the Capitol Hill establishment despises Cruz even more than they despise Trump.”

I never understood this. I will never understand why John Kasich refused to drop out of the race. This may have not single handedly led to Trump winning the nomination, but it was probably the single biggest factor. At the time it felt as if Kasich was determined to prevent Cruz from winning the nomination. I would assume that he thought that if Trump won the nomination, then Hillary would win the election.

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80 rayward October 30, 2017 at 9:02 am

For an updated, and I believe accurate account of the conflict between the communists and the west, read The Cold War (a World History) by Odd Arne Westad. https://www.amazon.com/Cold-War-World-History/dp/0465054935 Westad describes a conflict between capitalism and communism, the ideologies not the countries promoting them. It’s a conflict that hasn’t ended notwithstanding the end of the Soviet Union. Just to highlight two consequences of the conflict, after WWII the west (including the U.S.) developed social welfare programs in order to reassure the general population that capitalism would provide for the needs of the less affluent far better than communism and adopted other policies including tax policies that mitigated inequality. It’s no coincidence that support for social welfare programs and policies to mitigate inequality fell after the Soviet Union fell. But it’s also no coincidence that support for socialism, especially from the young, has risen. As the conflict between the two ideologies continues to escalate, one can expect more red baiting and responses to the red baiting. The alternative would be to once again promote policies that reassure the general population that capitalism is the better alternative, including support for, rather than opposition to, social welfare programs and policies (including tax policies) intended to mitigate inequality. Unfortunately, I’m not confident that the ideologues on the right are smart enough to see the unintended and adverse consequences of their actions.

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81 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 9:16 am

To give Tyler’s post the most generous reading, he is citing a point he thinks is interesting, while he knows and he expects his readers to know, the constellation of surrounding facts. Like Manafort’s role. Like the Russian hacking of emails. Like the attempted Russian hacking of voting machines. Like the Russian troll farms. Like the for-profit misinformation phenomenon which grew in parallel.

The only problem with this approach is that lots of people have reasons (partisan and/or psychological) to deny that integration.

It is easier to deny each bit in isolation.

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82 Thomas October 30, 2017 at 10:57 am

The Hillary Campaign, through paid surrogates, actually received opposition research from the Russian Government. The Obama administration may have used this paid research as a justification to spy on the Trump campaign, the fruits of which were then selectively leaked to the media by Obama appointees.

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83 So Much For Subtlety October 30, 2017 at 11:05 am

Indeed what we are seeing is an attempt by the Deep State to remove an elected government from office by manufacturing bullsh!t crimes in an effort to extort some testimony against Trump.

The Republicans stood for it when Scooter Libby was railroaded. Now it looks like Manafort will be.

This is not something the Trump administration ought to tolerate. At least without retaliation.

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84 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 11:36 am

‘The Republicans stood for it when Scooter Libby was railroaded.’

Yeah, provably lying to the FBI and to a grand jury is exactly what one finds as an example of being ‘railroaded.’

In which case, Flynn is probably wondering when his hero will show up to untie him from the train tracks of his own public lying.

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85 TMC October 30, 2017 at 1:27 pm

He told them about an incident and was off by a couple of days because they wouldn’t let him use his notes. The horrors.

86 clockwork_prior October 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm

This link goes into considerable detail of just how Libby provably lied, repeatedly – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Libby

‘The text of the filed indictment includes: one count of obstruction of justice (Title 18, United States Code, section 1503) for impeding the grand jury’s investigation; two counts of perjury (18 USC §1623) for lying under oath before the grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2005; and two counts of making false statements (18 USC §1001(a)(2)) and in connection with for making “materially false and intentionally misleading statements” to FBI agents who interviewed him on October 14 and November 26, 2004’

It involves a bit more than not being able to access his notes and being off for a few days, as can be easily read.

87 TMC October 30, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Interesting quote: But the Counsel found that “Libby has presented credible evidence in support of his version of events and it appears that one key prosecution witnesses (sic), Judith Miller, has changed her recollection of the events in question.”[4] The reference to Judith Miller, a former New York Times reporter, involved her memoir, The Story, A Reporter’s Journey. In the book, Miller said she read Plame’s memoir and discovered that Plame’s cover was at the State Department, a fact Miller said the prosecution had withheld from her. In rereading what she called her “elliptical” notes (meaning hard to decipher), she realized they were about Plame’s cover, not her job at the CIA. She concluded that her testimony that Libby had told her Plame worked at the CIA was wrong. “Had I helped convict an innocent man?” she asked”

But the whole investigation was a fraud. Judith Miller was not a NOC and was widely know to be working for the CIA.

88 Ricardo October 31, 2017 at 11:01 am

“He told them about an incident and was off by a couple of days because they wouldn’t let him use his notes. The horrors.”

Then, as a highly paid lawyer and Washington insider, he is surely guilty of gross incompetence at a minimum. When the FBI or a grand jury asks you about something and you feel the need to consult your notes, the only proper response is “I’m not quite sure” or “I can’t recall.” Someone who is supposedly a legal professional who gives incorrect information to the FBI or under oath is going to have a harder time than most people avoiding the impression of being deliberately deceitful.

89 Z October 30, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Clinton (and Republicans before her) found out about potentially damaging rumors about Trump and Russia, some of which have later been confirmed, never used them because they were weird but not much more damaging than stuff Trump readily admits to, and turned them over to the FBI because it was relevant to ongoing counterintelligence investigations.

What’d Trump’s campaign do when they found out months before the wikileaks release that Russia possessed thousands of hacked DNC emails, exactly?

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90 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 11:12 am

A certain number of people will say “sure, there may have been ‘a conspiracy against the United States’ but since Democrats found out about it, it doesn’t count anymore.”

Don’t be that guy.

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91 Sam Haysom October 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm

No you should be the guy that gets paid to obsfuscate the fact that the democrats collaborated with the Kremlin on opposition research.

Today was a complete disaster for Democrats- they got the one guy who probally has more dirt on democrats than Republicans. The level of own goal of this whole thing is incredible. Leading aside the fact that Mueller and Comey likely get frog walked into federal prison within 2 years. The swamp is draining its self to spite its wild life.

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92 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 4:25 pm

I hear now that the FBI interview where Papadopolous lied about his Russia contacts came on the same day, Jan. 27, Trump asked Comey for a loyalty pledge.

That is really not much about Democrats.

It is about Comey, but not in a good way.

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93 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 9:23 am

Oh, one of the amazing things for Tyler to drop from this was Nikki Haley’s public position that Russian meddling amounts to “warfare.”

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/19/nikki-haley-russia-meddling-warfare-243942

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94 rayward October 30, 2017 at 9:55 am
95 Denis Drew October 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

Mmm. Sounds a lot like American oligarchs (e.g., Koch) carrying cash of neo-liberal/conservative think tanks, media today.

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96 Evan Harper October 30, 2017 at 10:22 am

So, Tyler linked to a report which actually says that Facebook is trying to focus on the relatively inconsequential $100k ad buy as a distraction tactic from the much larger issue of fake and manipulated ‘organic’ content, and then responded by harumphing about how a $100k ad buy is relatively inconsequential. Am I seriously the only one who noticed this? And then for his “you too” gotcha counterexample he links to a book chapter that actually says American Communist activity in the 1920s was largely self-financing, and doesn’t contain any clear example of Soviet funding at all (although the larger point about heavy USSR subsidies, on the order of the low tens of thousands of dollars per year, is correct.)

Presumably Tyler would dismiss the criticism as mood affiliation or partisanship or whatever, but I really do not see why ostensibly smart, independent liberarian conservative thinkfluencer-types feel the need to run interference for Trump’s specifically least defensible behaviors.

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97 TMC October 30, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Why would it be partisanship? The ads didn’t support Trump, they we put there to add distrust of the voting system.

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98 chuck martel October 30, 2017 at 10:24 am

The US spent billions blasting the eastern bloc with radio messages that weren’t meant to entertain the slaves of the godless Commies. There’s no doubt that the administration of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty feels that they had a significant role in the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites through this propaganda, which is, of course, OK because the US is strictly into the truth. http://nailheadtom.blogspot.com/2017/10/does-facebook-equal-radio-liberty.html

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99 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 10:49 am

Actually, the budget of the Broadcasting Board of Governors even today is less than $700 million a year. VoA was actually a quality radio channel and compared favorably to most foreign radio services at the time. You wouldn’t know that because you’re always talking out of your ass when you’re not just lying.

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100 chuck martel October 30, 2017 at 11:45 am

As usual, you’re missing the points. First of all, after over 60 years of working to undermine an admittedly evil economic and social system, how can the American power structure expect its descendant to forego its own opportunities? Especially when the descendant is little different than scores of similar oligarchies tolerated over the rest of the planet. Second, if the vaunted multi-trillion dollar superior US political system and economy is so fragile that it’s endangered by a puny effort on a social media platform, what hope is there in a real confrontation?

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101 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 12:46 pm

As usual, you’re missing the points.

No, I catch the points you don’t care to admit to.

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102 Art Deco October 30, 2017 at 10:46 am

Prior_approval breaks the snore barrier with another 1,200 words of spin.

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103 OldCurmudgeon October 30, 2017 at 11:01 am

>So far we know that Russia-linked ads on Facebook cost about $100,000, a laughably low number.

I thought the game was to run a token ad or two…essentially, only to give the media an excuse to talk about it. Even something like the now-famous Swift boat ads were only officially broadcast a few times.

Of course, this makes our media the *real* Russia conspirators.

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104 Barry W. Ickes October 30, 2017 at 11:11 am

Normally Tyler would refer to this as an example of technical change lowering the cost of influencing opinion. Facebook makes it cheaper to influence lots of people than it did in the 1920’s when you had to pay writers and keep newspapers open, etc. But I guess it is more important to dismiss the charges than notice an economic phenomenon in this case. So the departure from Marginal Revolution norms.

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105 Sam Haysom October 30, 2017 at 1:16 pm

People can only have one opinion on an issue so it’s zero sum. If the barriers are lowered they are lowered for everyone. The 1.2 billion that Hilary lit on fire apparently worked in the same conditions that the 100000 did. The 100000 was a drop in the bucket.

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106 Alistair November 1, 2017 at 11:48 am

Indeed.

The whole Russia Hack hypothesis rests on the notion that a Russian $1 is super-duper-effective and a Hilary $1 is totally ineffective, For….I don’t know…reasons.

You can make super-crazy assumptions about the effectiveness of ad spending at the margin still not get anywhere near the numbers you need to believe it woz Russia wot won it.

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107 Brian Donohue October 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Every bit of this nothingburger is saturated in human naivete. Wake up. Grow up.

http://img.timeinc.net/time/magazine/archive/covers/1996/1101960715_400.jpg

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108 Harun October 30, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Now advise how much Russians giving Bill Clinton $500k would affect the election.

Why its 5X as much money!!!!!!!1

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109 JWatts October 31, 2017 at 2:59 pm

Yeah, but that’s completely different. He was a Democrat. And he was no longer a politician. And his wife wasn’t doing anything important at the time…..

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110 HL October 30, 2017 at 1:58 pm

The real scandal is that a couple thousand eccentrics and contrarians on esoteric and right learning web forums have changed the world so much in the last 10 years. And they did it all for free! What a bunch of suckers!

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111 bradley calder October 30, 2017 at 2:03 pm

This could have been labeled “Innovation in Everything: Bringing down advertising costs”

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112 albatross October 30, 2017 at 6:25 pm

The dollar amount is relevant because we want to get a scale of the Russian operation. If (as it appears) the Russian government spent a tiny fraction of what American political parties and other interest groups/PACs were spending, then it would be surprising if they were able to have a very big effect, rather than being drowned out by the bigger efforts of other players.

There are a couple ways this might be wrong, though:

a. The Russians might know how to run this kind of campaign better than anyone else–maybe they really *get* internet propaganda or social-media-targeted political ads better than the big players. This seems pretty unlikely to me, but I guess it’s possible.

b. The Russians could get some synergy between their ad campaign, their other internet propaganda operations, and the hacking of the DNC emails. This actually seems pretty plausible, though it’s not really clear to me why they’d have been better at pushing the message than the Trump campaign or Republican PACs, once the information was revealed.

c. Other advertisers/propagandists were mostly trying to influence people in a specific direction–say, to convince them to support changes to environmental rules to allow more fracking, or to vote for Hillary Clinton. The Russians were just trying to stir up trouble, so they could focus on throwing sand in the gears of the public decision-making machinery without particularly caring where we ended up. This makes the most sense to me as a way they could have an actual advantage over everyone else.

My take on this: The current state of traditional media, internet media, and social media all reward outrage-farming–looking around for some offensive person or statement and posting stories about it that get a lot of clicks. That sets up an environment where it’s pretty easy for ill-intentioned people to get everyone yelling at each other. CNN and Facebook and Buzzfeed found it profitable to stick piles of oily rags and open barrels of gasoline everywhere, and Russia spent a few bucks on matches.

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113 Alistair November 1, 2017 at 11:52 am

a) Possible at 2 or 3 to 1 ratio perhaps. But not at the 1000-to-1 ratio you need to swing the numbers….
b) Other people get synergies too.
c) Plausible. It helps that the Dems would rather wreck the system than admit their candidate lost fairly.

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114 A Truth Seeker October 30, 2017 at 6:31 pm

A chilling snapshot of life in America.

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115 albatross October 30, 2017 at 6:32 pm

There’s another side to this story. Right now, we’re all freaking out about Russia doing deceptive targeted ads and internet propaganda operations. And this isn’t crazy–Russia doesn’t have our best interests at heart, and to the extent that they can spend a little money and cause us a lot of trouble, we should care.

But if this stuff works, then there’s no way it’s only the Russians doing it. Instead, we should assume that it’s being done (or soon will be) by every political campaign, every PAC, every interest group, every PR firm trying to push attention away from some corporate scandal, and every country with an internet connection.

If targeted social-media political ads are bad (they are), they’re not just bad when done by Russia, or by foreign governments. They’re bad across the board. If you can substantially depress turnout among blacks by showing them the right kinds of ads on Facebook, then we should care about that whether it’s Russia or the Republican party or Monsanto[1] funding those ads.

My prediction: if we dig into this, we’ll find that everyone has been doing it, because it works, and political consultants and PR companies are like heroin dealers, but less bound by ethics.

[1] Okay, I’m not sure why Monsanto would particularly care how many blacks turned out to vote, but who knows–maybe they do for some reason.

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116 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Well sure, why I have been “we need a better social media” for the last year.

It is in part a structural problem.

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117 Anonymous October 31, 2017 at 10:34 am

It occurs to me, after 24 hours and Tyler’s printing press tweets, that some are pushing back against a possible future, one not even on the US political radar: they fear making Facebook and Twitter responsible for the “reality” they conjure/protect.

It might be why this:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/10/25/twitter_s_new_ad_rules_don_t_negate_the_need_for_serious_regulation_of_online.html

I think those social players would be better off accepting transparency rules now, to head off something more “millennial” (safe spaces) later.

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118 Anonymous October 31, 2017 at 2:08 pm
119 Anonymous October 30, 2017 at 6:44 pm

By the way, a Facebook reach of 126 million users. But since it only cost $100k, no worries?

http://money.cnn.com/2017/10/30/media/russia-facebook-126-million-users/

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120 David J October 30, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Interesting comparison between the CPUSA and the Republican Party. However, the CPUSA never controlled the White House, either House of Congress, or any state legislature.

A party that controls all of those is now happy to accept Kremlin aid. Even though they’re not getting that much help.

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121 Steve Sailer October 31, 2017 at 4:21 am

A simple explanation: Black Lives Matter was a self-inflicted catastrophe for the Democrats, especially when Obama made a big speech about it a few hours before the BLM enthusiast in Dallas shot all those cops. And then when Hillary was asked the following day about the Dallas BLM massacre, her two policy proposals were to pay more attention to Implicit Bias and to restrict cops more.

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122 albatross October 31, 2017 at 1:30 pm

BLM is an example of a movement that the people at the top of the party don’t much care for or about, but that a lot of rank-and-file voters do care about. (The NRA is a good parallel example for the right.) I suspect that Hillary wished that BLM had refrained from demonstrations, riots, and protests during the election, as that would have helped her win the election. But she also couldn’t afford to alienate the sorts of voters who care deeply about BLM, so she had to remain supportive.

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123 Anonymous October 31, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Explain to me Steve, did you write “Black Lives Matter was a self-inflicted catastrophe for the Democrats” before or after you learned that Russia was pushing BLM as well?

Preposterously, Russian trolls were “against HATE”

That is some post-McLuhan shit right there.

http://thehill.com/policy/technology/358025-thousands-attended-protest-organized-by-russians-on-facebook

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