Gage Skidmore / Flickr trump supporters speaking...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Many Trump supporters who turned up to rallies weren’t obeying Russia indirectly through instructions passed on by Paul Manafort or … Donald Trump. According to The Daily Beast, many Dixie-humming Trumpers got their orders from Russia the old-fashioned way: directly.

The August 20, 2016 events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!”, and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. 

These get-togethers were organized by a group calling itself “Being Patriotic.” The problem with these good citizens isn’t that they supported Trump, it’s that they weren’t. Citizens, that is. Or even in the United States. It now appears that the group was simply a front for Russian propagandists. And their events were not by any means restricted to Florida.

Being Patriotic had 200,000 followers and the strongest activist bent of any of the suspected Russian Facebook election pages that have so far emerged. Events promoted by the page last year included a July “Down With Hillary!” protest outside Clinton’s New York campaign headquarters, a September 11 pro-Trump demonstration in Manhattan, simultaneous “Miners for Trump” demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in October, and a pro-Trump rally outside Trump Tower last November, after his election victory.  

Congratulations Pennsylvania coal miners. How was it taking orders from Moscow? 

Agitating for Trump rallies isn’t all that Russian teams did on Facebook. There were also numerous groups buying ads to support Trump. There was also an investment in fake accounts used to push false stories to other Facebook users. Facebook appears to have been a pre-built infiltration engine for Russia—ready, willing, and able to give access to Americans, and none too picky about who paid for its services.

Facebook’s internal investigation found some ads that ran between June 2015 and May 2017 with “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum,” on issues such as gun rights, race, LGBT issues and immigration. Most did not not directly mention the election, but a small number of the ads named then-Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Those ads were traced to a Russian “troll farm,” a Facebook official told USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

It’s still far from clear just how much of false news sites and pro-Trump groups on Facebook and other social media were actually fronts for Russian intelligence, but it seems clear enough that we’ve turned up far from all such intrusions. The number of sites on Facebook that have been deleted since the election makes it hard for anyone—other than Facebook, who presumably has this materially archived—to determine the real scope of Russian meddling.

While the only lesson Facebook apparently took from these instances was an assurance that crime does pay, there are members of the alt-Reich ready to take what they’ve learned from Mother Russia and use it elsewhere. 

“A lot of the stuff we are seeing in Germany can be linked to, or is at least inspired by, the ‘alt-right’ movement in the U.S.,” Hegelich said, referring to a loosely defined group whose far-right ideology includes racism, populism and white nationalism.

The trolls of America’s alt-Reich are working to disrupt the German election. Now that Vladimir has shown them the way, they are eager to follow.

… alliance of mostly anonymous online trolls and extremist agitators who are disseminating right-wing materials through YouTube; messaging board sites like 4chan and reddit; and, a texting service.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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