From Russia With Malice

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I’ve just read a sobering article about Russia’s plans to disrupt the November 18 elections. And it brought me up short. One of their main goals is to pit American against American—to have us go at each others’ throats. To turn neighbor against neighbor—family members against family members. And they are succeeding. We can’t let that happen. We need to remember we are all Americans. We might disagree on many things, but fundamentally, UNITED WE STAND. However, this isn’t our reality now.

“In the coming months, (cyber security) experts told [the writer}, Russian operatives will likely start creating fake Facebook groups (if they haven’t already)—some that slam to the left, others that lean as far right as humanly possible—that will argue with one another, and help us do the same; there will be accounts on social media that use Cambridge Analytica-style targeting to serve up ads, and a barrage of cleverly designed and perfectly disguised bots on Twitter.” (Nick Bilton, Vanity Fair, June 22, 2018)

The goal: to set American against American and confuse us to the point we can’t see a fact from an alternative fact or outright lie. And it’s working well as demonstrated by my conversation yesterday with my daughter before I read the article.

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“I can’t believe what my cousin’s neighbor said,” she told me as we discussed the families separated at our southern border. “It was so heartless. And you know what, she’s really a nice person. But I don’t want to be with her again.”

“I totally understand,” I said. “Someone I know who is really a good person, asked me yesterday why I only care about immigrants, not Americans. I was so outraged I could barely say, ‘I don’t only care about immigrants. I care about all people. Of course, I care about Americans!’ But then I sounded so defensive! Why am I on the defensive! I love America—and I love American values. I just don’t want them to be destroyed…along with America.”

“Did you tell them that?” my daughter asked.

“No, I was too mad. And what good would it do? These people won’t believe me. Anything I try to explain, they say it’s fake news.”

The Russians are winning as they destroy our faith in each other. We no longer listen, trying to grasp the other person’s point of view. We no longer search for compromise. We just turn away. That’s a sad truth…and it’s dangerous.

The article continues as Bilton says: “And then there will be new tactics. More than one expert told me that Russia will try to go after actual voting booths in smaller, more contentious districts across the country. The world we live in so intertwined with technology that you could imagine Russian hackers disrupting how we even get to the polls on Election Day. Ride-sharing services could be hacked. We’ve already seen instances of hackers faking transit problems on mapping apps, like Waze, to send people in the wrong direction, or away from a certain street. Perhaps most terrifying of all, one former official told me, are the possibilities arising from Russia’s alleged 2015 cyber-attack on Kiev’s power grid, which plunged the city into darkness.”

I’m a grandmother of five. What do I know about technical internet mechanics? Or about the threat of cyber attacks? I’m just praying that our government has a strike force of some kind that is working to counter these assaults on our country.

All I know is that despite our differences, despite our myriad problems, we need to work together to keep America safe. To keep America strong. To keep the American values of freedom, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness constant for ourselves and our future generations. Let’s see what we can agree on. Let’s stop polarizing one way or the other. Let’s not let the propaganda machines win.

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