By Jon Dougherty
(TNS) Homeland Security, Defense Department, and U.S. intelligence officials, along with some lawmakers, have been warning for more than a year that foreign interference in the 2020 election was a certainty.
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And, of course, the one country that is mentioned most often is Russia. After being fed a steady diet by the “mainstream” media of the narrative “Russia hacked the election to help Donald Trump” — of which there is zero proof but much continued wild speculation — political enemies of the administration know that simply by mentioning Moscow, it stirs up a lot of emotion in a plurality of the electorate.
In the Information Age and the age of social media, where news travels at the speed of light, basically — even fake news — advanced countries like Russia, China, and even Iran have learned how to use information to manipulate people into thinking a certain way or believing a certain narrative.
But what’s also true, especially when it comes to politics, is that so very often voters have already made up their minds about certain candidates or certain issues, so no amount of outside influence or “interference” is going to change their view.
What’s left, then? Actual manipulation of electionÂ results, as we may have –Â may have — seen in Iowa, making internal ‘election interference’ a much bigger threat to our democratic republic than any foreign intelligence operation.
CNN — after inserting the obligatory mainstream media reference to Russia, Trump, and the 2016 election — actually got to the nub of this rising concern in a piece published Sunday:
Almost a year before the Iowa caucuses, a top US cybersecurity official said fears about foreign meddling in theÂ 2020 electionÂ were the one thing that kept him up at night.
But if this week’s debacle in the first vote of the Democratic presidential primaries is anything to go by, another formidable threat to American democracy lies much closer to home.
As the hours ticked by Monday night with no sign of results out of Iowa, a lack of information from election officials left a void filled by a torrent of American-made misinformation, conspiracy theories about what went wrong, and claims of vote-fixing.
There is no sign that external interference played any role in the meltdown of the Iowa Democratic Party’s reporting system (some of the blame lies with the apparentÂ failure of an app). In fact, the work that was done to cast doubt over the democratic process — efforts typically pinned on foreign adversaries and bad actors — was being done by Americans themselves. …
The US intelligence community anticipates foreign actors will try to use the same tactics again in 2020, and there are alreadyÂ signs of interference from RussiaÂ (Moscow denies all claims of meddling). Late last year, Congress approved $425 million in election security funding, as part of an effort to safeguard against interference. But, with nine months still to go, Iowa is worrisome evidence that the challenge is also internal: misinformation is just as likely to come from inside the US as from outside, experts say.
“If a country can’t recognize that domestic disinformation is just as much a threat as the foreign variety then they will be unable to counter either,” Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center and author of the upcoming book How to Lose the Information War, told CNN.
If the Iowa chaos has taught us anything, it’s that we’re uniquely vulnerable to narratives of “hacking” and “rigging” thanks to 2016, Jankowicz said.
Again, and to be clear, there is no indication of ‘funny business’ — vote theft, vote manipulate, etc. But because the Iowa Democratic caucuses turned out to be such a debacle, with vote tallies delayed by days, not just hours, it’s understandable that some people are casting doubts about the results.
And in fact, we’ve even speculatedÂ this week that could be by design, as well. Rush Limbaugh noted in 2018 that Democrats appear to be engaged in a long-term campaign to convince Americans they cannot trust our election processes anymore, the as-yet-unsaid ‘solution’ being, of course, to implement some other system that would result in perpetual Democratic control.
The media — CNN, especially — has played a role in creating mistrust in our voting processes and election outcomes. The media has carried the water for Democrats upset that “Hillary won the popular vote” as did “Al Gore in 2000,” yet Republicans won the electoral majority and that is not only patently unfair but in defiance ‘of the will of the people.’
We don’t yet know exactly what went wrong with the Democratic caucuses in Iowa (the Republican caucuses went off without a hitch). But it does indeed indicate that we’ve got a much bigger homegrown “election meddling” problem than a foreign one.
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