I often wonder how certain topics stay front and center in the news and others fall by the wayside. I’m reminded of this by the near daily updates on the “Russian Scandal.” I have to admit, it has been nearly a year and-a-half and I’m still trying to figure out what happened.
Part of it is laziness because I just don’t care that much. But part of it is that there really doesn’t seem to have been much of an “attack” on our beloved electoral process as mainstream news would have you believe.
If I’m understanding correctly, Russia didn’t actually hack into voting machines or manipulate actual votes. They apparently conducted an “influence campaign,” which basically means they put information out there that people were stupid enough to believe. So instead of the duped voters joining forces with those scammed by Nigerian bankers and lottery schemes to step forward and say, “We are morons,” a bunch of time, money and effort has been put into rectifying this “assault” on democracy.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think we have been in the midst of an influence campaign of a different kind.
If you take a step back and look at the furor over “influence campaigns,” it is almost comical. Aren’t they the basis in every election? The public is subjected to ad after ad endorsed by candidates, The People For a Better Republic, The Keep God in Schools Coalition and an assortment of other fronts that stand for one side of the aisle or the other. We hear claims about candidates missing votes, smears that they kill babies and allegations that they used campaign funds to fly to Tahiti. But Vladimir in a dark basement in Moscow posts something on Facebook and he’s put a big Red gash in the democratic process?
Color me unimpressed with the outrage.
But doesn’t all of this speak a bit to society as well? That we are influenced by anonymous tweets or Facebook posts? I remember driving with my Mom last year and she exclaimed “Oh my God. Sylvester Stallone is dead!” So I asked where she saw it and she said it was in her Facebook feed. Within a minute, my daughter had used Google to find he was very much still alive.
We accept things at face value without confirming the information. It certainly wasn’t due to journalistic training, but since I was a student I was taught to verify facts through another or multiple sources. Why could I have that lesson taught to me as a 12 year old, but some person in their 50s sees a tweet and pulls a lever based on that information.
Go ahead and laugh. I do. I bet Russia laughs too. What should worry you is those who don’t laugh and think there’s a serious problem with the electoral process. The only problem is with understanding context.
Scott Cost: firstname.lastname@example.org