The Politicus

Minerva @ Midnight: no let up in Russian disinformation

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Not very much has changed with the disinformation being generated by the usual external players.

For decades now, Russian security services have studied a concept called “reflexive control”—the science of how to get your enemies to make mistakes. To be successful, practitioners must first analyze their opponents deeply, to understand where they get their information and why they trust it; then they need to find ways of playing with those trusted sources, in order to insert errors and mistakes. This way of thinking has huge implications for the military; consider how a piece of incorrect information might get a general to make a mistake. But it works in politics too. The Russian security services have now studied us and worked out (it probably wasn’t very hard) that large numbers of Americans—not only Fox News pundits and OANN broadcasters but also members of Congress—are very happy to accept sensational information, however tainted, from any source that happens to provide it. As long as it suits their partisan frames, and as long as it can be used against their opponents, they don’t care who invented it or for what purpose.

As a result, supplying an edited audiotape or a piece of false evidence to one of the bottom-feeders of the information ecosystem is incredibly easy; after that, others will ensure that it rises up the food chain. Russian disinformation doesn’t succeed thanks to the genius of Russians; it succeeds thanks to the sharp partisanship of Americans. Russian disinformation works because Americans allow it to work—and because those same Americans don’t care anymore about the harm they do to their country.

From the March 2019 issue: Russian-style kleptocracy is infiltrating America

You can argue, of course, that these 2020 efforts don’t need to be taken so seriously, because they failed. Biden won. At least half the population did not believe the false accusations, or weren’t swayed by them. The Hunter Biden saga faded. But that misses the more insidious, longer-term effect of these kinds of games—or rather, the insidious, long-term effect of the behavior of the Americans who play them. Just because the Russian security services didn’t achieve their most important goal, the reelection of Donald Trump, doesn’t mean that they and their American partners didn’t do some collateral institutional damage along the way.

www.theatlantic.com/…