One might think that liberals, still desperately clinging to the absurd notion that Russia delivered the 2016 election to Donald Trump, would be hell-bent on preventing the alleged tactics being used to “influence” an election—any election—again. Oh, but you’d be wrong, so very wrong. Yesterday, the New York Times published a story detailing how left-wing tech experts “decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race.”
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.
Funny how the New York Times goes out of its way to say the project “was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race,” yet Russia spending a mere $100,000 in Facebook political ads during an election where $6.8 billion was spent is, according to anti-Trumpers, enough to have swayed the election to Donald Trump, courtesy of Vladimir Putin.
So, what exactly did these left-wing techies do?
An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by The New York Times, says explicitly that it “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
The project’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.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.
Mr. Morgan said in an interview that the Russian botnet ruse “does not ring a bell,” adding that others had worked on the effort and had written the report. He said he saw the project as “a small experiment” designed to explore how certain online tactics worked, not to affect the election.
Perhaps the most absurd part of the report, aside from the assumption that anything Russia did may have altered the outcome of the 2016 election, is that the people behind the false flag operation claim they weren’t intending to alter the outcome of the election. “The research project was intended to help us understand how these kinds of campaigns operated,” said Jonathon Morgan, the chief executive of New Knowledge and a participant in the false flag operation. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.”
Democrat Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore by 20,715 votes, or 1.5 percent.
Mr. Morgan said he could not account for the claims in the report that the project sought to “enrage and energize Democrats” and “depress turnout” among Republicans, partly by emphasizing accusations that Mr. Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
According to the story, this false flag operation had a $100,000 budget “in a race that cost approximately $51 million, including the primaries, according to Federal Election Commission records.” A drop in the bucket for sure, but still a larger share of money than Russia’s democracy-destroying ad campaign was in the 2016 election… if you want to do the math. Regardless, have you seen the Russian ads spread on Facebook? Exactly.… Analysis of the 2016 social media strategy by Russia showed it was designed to polarize the electorate (something that has been happening organically for decades without Russia’s help) by “targeting extreme identity groups” on both sides of the aisle. “We know the Russians targeted extremes and then came back with different negative messages that might not be aimed at converting voters, but suppressing turnout and undermining the democratic process,” explained Young Mie Kim, a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher who studied Russia’s 2016 social media campaign.
Let’s put things in perspective. Occupy Democrats (a large left-wing Facebook community that arose in response to the Tea Party movement), which has 7.6 million members, was determined by PolitiFact, a left-wing fact-checking organization, to be producing and sharing content that is overwhelmingly false. In fact, none of their claims have ever rated true. There’s a lot more false or deliberately polarizing information being shared on social media produced right here in the United States… on both sides of the aisle. We shouldn’t allow countries like Russia to employ these tactics, but we also shouldn’t exaggerate the impact their efforts actually had—nor should Democrats be “studying” these tactics as an excuse to employ them in our own elections.
This is even more proof that pretty much any time a Democrat is accusing someone else of something, they are the ones actually guilty of the crime. Democrats want to win at all costs, and employing false flag operations is clearly something they intend to do in 202. So beware, the next presidential election is going to be much uglier than 2016.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis