Guest opinion: Russian trolls and the spreading chaos on social media
Why should Russian Internet trolls’ interference in Western elections through social media propaganda stop with United States elections?
Well, it doesn’t, of course. And it’s a matter that should be of concern to all citizens of the world’s democracies and all Americans, including supporters of President Trump, who was the apparent chosen favorite of the Moscow bot factories in the election of November 2016.
Because the trolls’ interest — whether any actual collusion occurred between the Trump campaign and the Russians, officially Kremlin-backed or not — is not in the end with any one candidate or cause as such.
It’s the disruption itself that is important to the anti-democratic factions in Russia. They are simply seizing upon — just as elements in China are — a moment of uncertainty in the open democracies of both the United States and western Europe, sowing discord for the sake of discord in the hopes of promoting both authoritarian systems such as their own and weakening Western democracies, whether the current leaders lean to the right or to the left.
A strong European Union, for instance, is not in the interest of those who would rather see a little chaos. And now intelligence experts say they have seen a pattern of social media postings traced to Russia in both the Catalonian vote for independence from Spain last month and in last year’s Brexit vote for British secession from the EU.
In northeastern Spain, the secession campaign “featured Russian state-backed news outlets and social network robotic accounts leveraging the mayhem to push the Kremlin’s larger anti-Western and anti-democracy themes,” the Washington Times reported. Information warfare expert Molly R. McKew told the paper: “What is so troubling is that the Russians used the same playbook (as in the U.S. and Brexit elections) and nobody seems to care. … It’s the constant drumbeat; minorities are disadvantaged, the West has nothing to offer, democracy doesn’t work.”
Democracy does work. But, as in the Cold War, as in countless hot wars since our republic and those of western Europe were created during and after the Age of Enlightenment, it will take vigilance to sustain it. The current regime in Moscow is not our friend. When its trolls come knocking, call them out.
— The Orange County Register, Nov. 29