The Corner

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What Russia Really Wants: A Divided, Paralyzed America

This report in the Wall Street Journal is a good reminder of what the Russian government was really aiming for in its efforts to influence the 2016 election and America’s culture in general: 

Russian-linked account activity went far beyond paying for polarizing ads dropped into Facebook members’ news feeds. At least 60 rallies, protests and marches were publicized or financed by eight Russia-backed Facebook accounts from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., according to a review by The Wall Street Journal, which looked at archived versions of now-deleted Facebook posts and interviewed activists, attendees and others familiar with the events, most of which were posted on Facebook.

Facebook said in September that it had found 470 such accounts that it says belonged to Russians and that sought to exploit social divisions in the U.S. through provocative issue ads…

At least 22 of the 60 events actually took place, such as a May 2016 protest of an Islamic center in Houston planned by “Heart of Texas”, a Russia-created page that supported Texas secession and posted the “Blue Lives Matter” rally in Dallas two months later. On June 25, 2016, following the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla, “LGBT United” organized a candlelight vigil, where one of the victim’s brothers spoke. Both were covered by local media and attracted a dozen or more attendees.

It is unclear if the other 40 or so events occurred as publicized. Collectively, the eight accounts analyzed by the Journal were “liked” nearly two million times, archived websites show.

The Russian government didn’t really want to help Trump, and they didn’t want to help the Clinton campaign, either. (They may have felt they would get a better deal from Trump, but they certainly weren’t willing to put aside their efforts to exacerbate political and cultural tensions over that.) Russia is no true friend to either the American political right or left: “Event listings show how Russia-backed pages organized protests for and against the same issues. The page “Born Patriotic” planned 17 pro-Trump rallies on the same day in August 2016 while “Black Matters” hosted anti-Trump rallies after the election.”

They wanted Americans angry, lashing out at each other, and paralyzed and weakened by our own internal political and cultural divisions. It appears many Americans helped make their task way too easy for them.

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