The Russian Facebook Fizzle
In their book “Shattered,” Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes report that within 24 hours of losing the presidential election, Hillary Clinton was ordering her campaign to argue that it was hacked by Russia. Just as reporters leaped to find “news” to corroborate her allegations of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” (VRWC for short) during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, they have lunged at stories of Russian interference to validate VRWC 2.0.
Second verse, same as the first. The media outlets most deeply invested in the narrative about Russia having somehow masterfully manipulated the 2016 election are beginning to struggle as the actual facts tumble out. Getting a closer look at the Russia Facebook postings doesn’t help the Sore Loser Chorus. In fact, it demolishes it.
The New York Times posted a story on Oct. 9 headlined “How Russia Harvested American Rage to Reshape U.S. Politics.” But there in the details was a dramatic shapelessness, a borrowing from the left and the right, that ultimately underscored why the story should have never been published in the first place.
Times reporters Nicholas Confessore and Daisuke Wakabayashi explained that one Russian Facebook page was called “the United Muslims of America,” which often shared posts and videos about American Islamophobia. It stole a YouTube video produced by a man named Waqas Shah in which actors he’d paid shoved him around in New York City to see whether bystanders would object. They did not. So America is bigoted.
But another Russian account called “Being Patriotic” spread a widely circulated internet hoax about how Muslim men in Michigan were collecting welfare payments for multiple wives. So the Russians were both protesting Islamophobia … and promoting it. How is that “reshaping” our election process? It is what it is: an attempt to inflame both ends of the spectrum and set them to war against each other.
If the Times is trying to corroborate Clinton’s Russia-Trump conspiracy, it is not helping itself when it reports in the same piece that the Russians caused Americans on both sides of the divide to promote their material. It noted that a Facebook page called “Blacktivist” carried “passionate denunciations of the criminal justice system and viral videos of police violence.” One of the posts about the death of a black teenager in a fight with police in Bridgeport, Connecticut, was reposted by Black Lives Matter Chicago.
The Being Patriotic page also stirred up conservatives with a message against more refugee settlements in America. But here’s the glaring difference in coverage: The Times asked conservative social-media activists how they felt about having been used by the Russians, but they didn’t get any quotes from Black Lives Matter about having been manipulated.
Washington Examiner correspondent Byron York dealt a major blow to these Russia-Trump conspiracy theories by reporting facts that Facebook itself has revealed.
–Facebook said 56 percent of these ads’ impressions came after the election and 25 percent of the ads were never seen by anybody.
–Most of the ads didn’t mention the election or the candidates or the need to vote. They may have “harvested American rage,” but for what purpose?
–Most of the ads were not geographically targeted, and when they were, they were all over the place. The ones targeting swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin ran in 2015 and drew less than 1,000 impressions.
Nothing the Clintonistas have cited as the “real killers” of her presidential hopes has turned out to be true. Clinton wanted Donald Trump as her opponent. Then she couldn’t vanquish him. And now she can’t face it.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.