The Corner

Politics & Policy

Does Russia Want Helter-Skelter?

So I wrote this column about how, if the Russians were interested is sowing discord in America, they might actually want to help the Democrats in the upcoming elections, for the simple reason that a Democratic-controlled House will make American politics even more bitter, batty, and polarized in 2019.

It isn’t that the Dems would be “colluding” with Russia. It’s that the Russians have a long-term strategic interest (or ambition — they see as in their interest) to destabilize the Western alliance and faith in democratic norms. This policy is one of the points of continuity with Russia’s Soviet days.

This was before the latest Facebook story broke last night. From USA Today:

More than 290,000 Facebook accounts followed the fake pages, which had such names as “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being” and “Resisters,” according to Facebook.

The eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles and seven Instagram accounts — which included an African-American group, a Latino group and a women’s group — were not pushing specific candidates ahead of the midterms but sought to stir anger on divisive issues such as race and immigration and appear to have been aimed at left-leaning voters. Facebook declined to characterize the Facebook posts and ads.

It’s unknown whether Russia was behind these bogus pages, but they seem to be the prime suspects. I haven’t seen anything in these reports to suggest this was aimed at helping Democrats — or Republicans. Rather, this is precisely the sort of thing the Russians have done for nearly 70 years: Fuel racial resentment and anger in America. As I wrote a while back:

In the 1960s, the Soviets tried to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. because his message of tolerance and nonviolence was inconvenient to their cause. The KGB wanted the violent radical Stokely Carmichael to become the leader of black America. It disseminated leaflets in black communities claiming that right-wing groups were “developing a plan for the physical elimination of leading figures in the Negro movement in the U.S.,” as Darien Cavanaugh of the website War is Boring recently recounted. In the 1980s, the Soviets spread lies about America inventing AIDS to kill blacks.

The question of whether or not the Russians wanted Trump to win by the end of the campaign seems fairly settled: They did. But the question of why remains an open one (as does the question of how much coordination there was between Russia and the Trump campaign). But what is absolutely clear: The Russians want to see a divided, distracted America torn by racial and ethnic discord. Fomenting “anger on divisive issues such as race and immigration” is perfectly consistent with that agenda.

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