Who needs nukes?
by Tom Sullivan
It’s absolutely Rovian. Undercut an adversary by attacking his strongest point. Openness is both democracy’s greatest strength and its Achilles heel. The spread of fake news (with a little help from Donald Trump’s friends) is doing that without requiring expensive conventional weapons. Plus, these attacks leave no bomb parts to trace back to their origin. According to an item in this morning’s New York Times, it is a problem allies across the Atlantic are also struggling to combat:
In their open-plan office overlooking a major thoroughfare in Brussels, an 11-person team known as East Stratcom, serves as Europe’s front line against this onslaught of fake news.
Created by the European Union to address “Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns,” the team — composed of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — tracks down reports to determine whether they are fake. Then, it debunks the stories for hapless readers. In the 16 months since the team has been on the job, it has discredited 2,500 stories, many with links to Russia.
In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.
It is easier today than when at the height of the Cold War the principle vectors for spreading false stories were limited numbers of print newspapers and television. And it’s not just the Russians. Today the East Stratcom team admits it is “outgunned.”
“There are concerns shared by many governments that fake news could become weaponized,” said Damian Collins, a British politician in charge of a new parliamentary investigation examining the phenomenon. “The spread of this type of material could eventually undermine our democratic institutions.”
It already has. Not to go Ginsberg on you (the other one), but during last year’s presidential election I saw the many of the best minds of a generation virtually destroyed by fake news spread via social media. It was very ugly. The November results were even uglier. Just because there is no shrapnel doesn’t mean there’s no fallout. Attacking “the very idea that there is a true version of events” is no longer just Kremlin geoplolitical strategy. It is Trump White House policy.
FYI, East Stratcom maintains Facebook and Twitter pages.