(National Sentinel)Â Interference: In an age when most of the “mainstream media” have abandoned all journalistic ethical standards in a rush to hammer POTUS Donald Trump on a daily basis, there haven’t been many opportunities to praise the legacy press.
ButÂ The New York Times deserves kudos for a bombshell story the paper published late Wednesday that is, expectedly, being ignored by the other majors.
The gist of the story is this: An ‘experiment’ to mimic Russian election meddling via social media manipulation during the 2016 election was launched by Leftist operatives in the Alabama Senate race involving Democrat Doug Jones, the winner, and Republican candidate Roy Moore.
You may recall that the two were vying for a seat vacated by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, so the seat, initially, was considered solid red and a shoo-in for the GOP.
But thenÂ The Washington Post published a series of scathing stories featuring women who accused Moore of essentially molesting them when he was in his late 20s/early 30s and they were in their mid-to-late teens.
After the stories, the seat moved from a certain GOP victory to a toss-up.
Enter the Democratic “Russian experiment” operation. TheÂ Times reported:
As Russiaâ€™s online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results.
The secret project, carried out on Facebook and Twitter, was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race, in which the Democratic candidate it was designed to help, Doug Jones, edged out the Republican, Roy S. Moore. But it was a sign that American political operatives of both parties have paid close attention to the Russian methods, which some fear may come to taint elections in the United States.
One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russiaâ€™s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by The New York Times, says explicitly that it â€œexperimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.â€
The projectâ€™s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.
â€œWe orchestrated an elaborate â€˜false flagâ€™ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,â€ the report says.
Mr. Morgan said he could not account for the claims in the report that the project sought to â€œenrage and energize Democratsâ€ and â€œdepress turnoutâ€ among Republicans, partly by emphasizing accusations that Mr. Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
The project had a budget of just $100,000, in a race that cost approximately $51 million, including the primaries, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The Times further reported thatÂ Joe Trippi, a seasoned Democratic operative who served as a top adviser to the Jones campaign, said he noticed a Russian bot swarm that suddenly began following Moore on Twitter. He added that it was “impossible” that $100,000 tipped the race in favor of his candidate.
Recall that despite the allegations against Moore, which clearly hurt him, Jones still only won by about 21,000 votes; 49.9 to 48.4 percent.
Despite claims to the contrary, with a margin so slim, we don’t really know if this “Russian-style” camp did or didn’t have an influence on the election large enough to tip the scales, because there isn’t any way to know that. Simply saying “it’s not possible” isn’t credible.
What weÂ do know is that the operation took place; Jones won the race; and Morgan’s firm used the Post’s stories to generate opposition among Republicans whom they believed may have been reluctant to support Moore because they were uncomfortable with the allegations against him. And we know that this is what Russia was doing during the 2016 election.
So two things: One, Democrats complaining about “Trump-Russia collusion” have nothing useful to contribute to that conversation anymore; and two, it’s obvious that Democrats are willing to cheat the system in order to win on Election Day, even if it means manipulating voters rather than trying to win them over with superior ideas and policies.
Bottom line: No one can honestly say it is outside the realm of possibility that Jones won his election thanks to this “experiment.”Â — Jon Dougherty
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