Latest Russian Hysteria Says That Russian Trolls Studied House Of Cards

There is yet another article spreading hysteria about Russia which is at least slightly less silly than the recent warnings about the Russians using unknown rappers, puppies, and Pokémon Go. The latest warning is that Russians were using lessons they learned from watching House of Cards.

A central theme of this messaging was demonizing Hillary Clinton by playing up the past scandals of her husband’s administration, her wealth and her use of a private email server, according to the interview with the agency worker, identified only as “Maksim,” with his face concealed.

“Maksim” says he worked for the agency during 2015, the year before the election, when it was already focusing its attention on Clinton.

“The main message is: Are not you, my American brothers, tired of the Clintons? How many have they already been?” Maksim says, adding that he and his colleagues were told to emphasize the Clintons’ past “corruption scandals.”

But more broadly, the instructions given to employees of the English language department were to stoke discontent about the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular. “We had a goal to set up the Americans against their own government,” he says. “To cause unrest, cause discontent [and] lower [President] Obama’s rating.”

Just how effective “comments” placed on the websites of American news organizations are in influencing public opinion, if they do anything at all, is far from clear. Still, the interview is potentially significant. Although other Russian language trolls who worked in the agency’s domestic departments have spoken out in the past, Maksim appears to be the first member of the highly selective English language section to describe the agency’s meticulous methods. This is the same department that Facebook has said covertly placed over 3,000 messages on its platform — one component in the Russian “influence campaign” during last year’s election that is getting increased attention from the House and Senate intelligence committees.

These scare stories almost always contain a disclaimer, such as this one saying that the effectiveness is “far from clear.” Realistically there is so much material out there from US sources alone on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that adding comments to websites is hardly likely to have any impact on public opinion.

Has anyone ever changed their opinion based upon comments on news organization web sites?

Clinton was hurt during 2016 both because she deserved to be hurt from her scandals, and as she kept these scandals alive by repeatedly lying about them. The Russians did not make Clinton use the private server and lie about it, or make her violate the ethics agreements she entered into before becoming confirmed as Secretary of State.

One sign that factors other than Russian actions affected approval of politicians is that while Clinton’s approval fell (and has continued to fall even after the election), Obama’s popularity increased.

As for using House of Cards, it is not necessary for the Russians to draw the comparison. Series creator Lord Dobbs said back in 2015 that Claire Underwood was based upon Hillary Clinton, and many people have seen the comparisons to the Clintons without needing  Russians to point it out. I also wonder what warped views anyone learning about American politics would have from watching House of Cards, making them more difficult to persuade others in web comments.

Be Sociable, Share!

6 Comments

  1. 1
    Bob says:

    “Has anyone ever changed their opinion based upon comments on news organization web sites?”

    The purpose of political propaganda is not to “change opinion” in a narrow sense. It is to reinforce and amplify already existing psychological tendencies and beliefs. Have you read even one book on political psychology?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    With all the noise already present on line, what makes you think that this rather limited activity from Russia is really going to make a significant difference? Clinton and her supporters think that this caused her to lose the election. There is zero evidence of this. 

  3. 3
    Bob says:

    We’ll know how limited the activity was after the various investigations wrap up. At least until then many who don’t like Hillary will rationalize it away. In psychology it’s called “motivated cognition”. I also comment on a right wing blog where the author and commenters are all convinced Russia wasn’t involved at all because their candidate won.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Clinton is already making her claims and plenty of information is already available. We do not have to wait until the investigations conclude to say there is currently no evidence of supporting the claim that Clinton lost because of Russia. All available evidence shows that their involvement was trivial compared to all the other activity.

  5. 5
    Bob says:

    This back and forth is becoming circular and pointless. I’ll try not to comment on this topic again until some results are in.

  6. 6
    latest american news says:

    Great info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I have saved as a favorite for later!

Leave a comment