Don’t Forget It Happened

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This news should not surprise you if you’ve been reading TPM over the last year. It’s something I’ve discussed a number of times in different contexts. But we’re now getting the first comprehensive studies showing that Russian propaganda campaigns played a major role in spawning and in other cases simply spreading “fake news” stories aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton and aiding Donald Trump.

This Washington Post piece does a nice job in explaining some of the patterns which have emerged.

But what I really want to flag to your attention is this article in Buzzfeed which notes that the German intelligence services are concerned that “fake news” and Russian hacking could disrupt the federal election scheduled to be held in Germany next year. On the one hand, they should be concerned. It would be odd if Russian hybrid warfare agencies didn’t mount the same kind of effort in Germany that they did over the last two years in the US.

But this article – and the concern it documents – is helpful for another reason. It’s illuminating to see the just concluded US election through foreign eyes. To them it’s clear that our election was significantly disrupted and affected in its outcome by a hostile foreign power. Any domestic intelligence agency would be on guard in the face of that kind of threat.

But while they are on their guard, here in the US people are already starting to forget. We’re on to worrying about Trump’s latest outrage, taking up our preferred position in the internecine warfare within the Democratic party, cursing the pollsters and a lot else. Indeed, it’s not just that many of us are starting to move on. All along the reality of what happened – that our election was manipulated by a highly effective Russian subversion campaign – is difficult to fully process or accept. So there’s been a tendency to bracket it off as just another weird oddity of the 2016 cycle, some offensive mischief making that was galling but now behind us. But it is hard to see the German reaction and preparations and not get jolted back into a more honest view of the sobering reality. The Germans are preparing to counter and defeat electoral subversion we were unable to prevent and to which we fell victim. When you see that they are preparing to prevent what happened to us it gets a bit harder to sweep under the rug or forget that this really did happen to us.

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