Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald has a fascinating little piece out overnight about a telling goof in the Russian propaganda channel that has played such a role in the 2016 election.
It’s a rather convoluted story – not the article but what actually happened. So let me try to summarize it briefly. We have another of those apparently Russian-sourced email thefts which ended up on Wikileaks – this time emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. In those emails there’s an email from Clinton confidante Sid Blumenthal in which he appends an article by Eichenwald himself about Benghazi and other matters. When the Russia-state owned news and propaganda outlet Sputniknews got a hold of it they apparently got confused – intentionally or not – and ascribed Eichenwald’s copy to Blumenthal.
So far, so good. Or at least the kind of mistake you might make if you were operating outside your language and political culture – but mainly a tempest in a teapot. Except that the same mis-ascription ended up in Donald Trump’s speech last night at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA! According to Eichenwald, this goof showed up only in Sputnikness, the Russian propaganda site and briefly in a Turkish publication. So how did a Russian propaganda goof or intentional error show up in the GOP nominee’s speech?
But here’s the thing. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It’s happened a number of times with Trump and his top level surrogates. Indeed, I examined the issue back in August.
We might speculate that there’s some kind of mole in the Trump operation. Less conspiratorially, we might speculate that one of Trump’s advisors with extensive ties to Russia is feeding Trump this stuff. The second option at least seems plausible. But there’s actually a simpler explanation and it’s one not based on speculation at all but things we know to be facts.
News from Russian propaganda sources are pervasive in the alt-right/neo-Nazi web. As a secondary matter we know from Adrian Chen’s work that there are a decent number of faux ‘pro-Trump’ accounts on Twitter that are actually run from troll farms operated by Russian intelligence services. By whichever path, Russian propaganda is ubiquitous on the alt-right/racist web – particularly on Twitter, Reddit, 4chan and similar sites.
It happens that we know the Trump world is awash in the alt-right/neo-Nazi web. After all, that’s where all the retweeting of #WhiteGenocide accounts and the like comes from. So anything is possible. Perhaps there’s a more complex explanation. But the simplest one is that it’s organic. Russian propaganda stories from outlets like RT, Sputniknews and other similar sites spread freely on the alt-right/white supremacist web. And that’s where the Trump camp lives. So it’s entirely plausible that that’s why material that appears only on these Russian propaganda sites shows up so frequently in Trump’s speeches.
In other words, don’t worry. The Trump campaign isn’t infiltrated by Russian intelligence (probably). They’re just awash in neo-Nazi and white supremacist propaganda. See my piece from August for more details.