Tuesday, September 25, 2018

How Russian hackers and other trolls tricked Sconnies in 2016. Don't get SUCKERED again

I wanted to let you know about a tremendous in-depth article from Jane Mayer titled “How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump. “ In this piece, Mayer talks to describing information from an upcoming book by social scientist Kathleen Hall Jamieson called “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President. What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know, and connects the dots between information we’ve seen in Mueller probe indictments, and what we saw in the 2016 elections.

For example, how did the Trump campaign know that they could win states like Wisconsin, when polling data at this point in 2016 said they were far behind? Jamieson indicates that it was because Russians (and therefore the Trump campaign?) had inside information that Hillary Clinton’s support in the Midwest was soft, and that many were open to persuasion when it came to not voting for the Dem.
Another revelation from the indictment which jumped out at Jamieson was that the Russian hackers had stolen the Clinton campaign’s data analytics and voter-turnout models. A month later, when we met in Philadelphia, Jamieson said, “So we’re starting to close in on a pretty strong inference that they had everything needed to target the messaging” at “key constituencies that did effectively mobilize in this election.” Cocking an eyebrow, she added, “The possibility that this happened starts to become a probability—starts to become a likelihood—pretty quickly.”

Joel Benenson, the Clinton pollster, was stunned when he learned, from the July indictment, that the Russians had stolen his campaign’s internal modelling. “I saw it and said, ‘Holy shit!’ ” he told me. Among the proprietary information that the Russian hackers could have obtained, he said, was campaign data showing that, late in the summer of 2016, in battleground states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, an unusually high proportion of residents whose demographic and voting profiles identified them as likely Democrats were “Hillary defectors”: people so unhappy with Clinton that they were considering voting for a third-party candidate. The Clinton campaign had a plan for winning back these voters. Benenson explained that any Clinton opponent who stole this data would surely have realized that the best way to counter the plan was to bombard those voters with negative information about Clinton. “All they need to do is keep that person where they are,” he said, which is far easier than persuading a voter to switch candidates. Many critics have accused Clinton of taking Michigan and Wisconsin for granted and spending virtually no time there. But Benenson said that, if a covert social-media campaign targeting “Hillary defectors” was indeed launched in battleground states, it might well have changed the outcome of the election….

Benenson said that, when he first learned about the theft, he “called another consultant on the campaign and said, ‘This is unreal.’ ” The consultant reminded him that, in focus groups with undecided voters in the fall of 2016, “we’d hear these things like ‘I really hate Trump, but Hillary’s going to murder all these people’—all sorts of crazy stuff.” Benenson admitted that many Americans had long disliked the Clintons, and had for years spread exaggerated rumors of their alleged misdeeds and deceptions. But he wonders if some of those conspiracy-minded voters hadn’t been unknowingly influenced by Russian propagandists who were marshalling the Clinton campaign’s own analytics.

Jamieson and Mayer go on to note that Russian/GOP propaganda efforts may even have “worked the refs” so well that not only did media over-report anti-Clinton themes relating to her emails, but it prodded FBI director James Comey and others into making anti-Clinton statements about events that weren’t worthy of public debate.

This included Comey’s press conference in July 2016 where he publically admonished Clinton’s “extremely careless” handling of emails before admitting that there were no charges warranted against the Democratic candidate for president. Why did Comey do that instead of doing a simple press release saying the matter was closed? Because of fake Russian emails (amplified by the Faux News crowd) that implied Attorney General Loretta Lynch would give Clinton a break for political reasons. Comey wanted to publicly cut that meme off….and helped the Russians immensely in the process.
Six months after the election, the Washington Post broke a story that solved the mystery. At some point in 2016, the F.B.I. had received unverified Russian intelligence describing purported e-mails from Lynch to a member of the Clinton team, in which she promised that she’d go easy on Clinton. An unnamed source told the Post that the intelligence had been viewed as “junk.” Nonetheless, Comey has reportedly told aides that he let the disinformation shape his decision to sideline Lynch.

Fearing, in part, that conservatives would create a furor if the alleged e-mails became public, he began to feel that Lynch “could not credibly participate in announcing a declination.” A subsequent report, by the Justice Department’s inspector general, described Comey’s behavior as “extraordinary and insubordinate,” and found his justifications unpersuasive.

Nick Merrill, a former Clinton-campaign spokesman, describes Comey’s actions as “mind-blowing.” He said of the intelligence impugning Lynch, “It was a Russian forgery. But Comey based major decisions in the Justice Department on Russian disinformation because of the optics of it! The Russians targeted the F.B.I., hoping they’d act on it, and then he went ahead and did so.
Which should remind us that James Comey is not a good guy, and lauding him because of what he has said against Trump in 2017 and 2018 should never forgive him of the disgraceful and unsavvy act he pulled in 2016.

The Republicans and Russians are clearly doing this “work the refs” act today, from the many ways they are trying to smear alleged female victims of Brett Kavanaugh, to the ways that Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP try to blame anyone but themselves for their failures. There are two prongs to this attack, much like there were with Trump in 2016.

One is to stir up and distract low-info voters that know in their minds that the GOP is bad news. This was done by Russians with the Trump campaign with lots of flag-waving and Christian symbols, crossed with a solid bit of racism and resentment plays. In Wisconsin, it’s a Scott Walker tweet-storm where he acts like he supports protecting people with pre-existing conditions and funding roads and schools, while not mentioning that he’s had 8 years to do these things, chose not to, and caused the problems that he now claims he'll "solve".

And when they get called out on it, boy do they screech and whine.

This will only stop when Russians/GOPs see their gaslighting and propaganda efforts hurt the GOP at the ballot box. These amoral slimeballs won’t do the right thing, so it’s up to the Dems to call out the lies and ways the Russia/GOPs try to trick voters, and it’s up to the voters to make the GOP pay a price for their sick game.

If that price is not paid by the cynical GOPper-gandists, it’ll be much worse in 2020. So please, for the mental health of this state and this country, don’t be a SUCKER this time, and don’t fall for the Russia-GOP’s psy-ops.

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