In a stunning example not only of the depths to which Democrats will go to win elections but also of the questionable nature of the supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, a firm responsible for creating a “bombshell” report on Russian election influence was discovered to have created its own “Russian” bots to discredit Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The firm, New Knowledge, was one of two that provided information to a report on Russian meddling that was published by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
New Knowledge created thousands of fake Russian social media accounts to try to give the impression that the Russian government supported Moore against Democratic rival Doug Jones. At the time, Moore claimed that Democratic operatives were behind the fake accounts, which earned him widespread mockery from Democratic politicians and much of the mainstream media. But time has proven him right, although that’s little consolation now that Democrats have held the seat for months.
That wasn’t the only scandal during the campaign either. Another group created a Facebook page called Dry Alabama, giving the impression that it was run by conservative supporters of Roy Moore who also wanted to ban alcohol in Alabama. It was intended to hurt Moore’s standing with more moderate Republicans by associating him with supposed staunch prohibitionists, thus giving Democrats an additional edge in the elections. Time will tell whether more such false flag operations will finally be brought to light.
It’s a sad state of affairs when people feel that they need to engage in such underhanded behavior in order to win an election. But it also underscores that anything claimed during and about elections needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. The fact that a firm relied upon as an authority about Russian meddling was itself engaging in the creation of Russia bots means that any reports of Russian meddling or influence need to be carefully examined. Rather than reflexively blaming a convenient bogeyman, investigations need to be thorough, free of bias, and cognizant of the reality that in the internet age anything online can be manipulated to make it appear that it’s coming from another country.