December 19, 2018

"The Russian social media ads and posts designed to influence our election, they seemed silly and almost obvious now, so why were they so effective and what does that say about our deeply divided society?" New Day host John Berman asked.

"John Avlon has your reality check, sir."

The study commissioned by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence committee, found the Russian media barrage "clearly sought to benefit the Republican party and specifically Donald Trump as early as the GOP primaries, and not to mention, of course, all the requisite hating on Hillary," Avlon said.

"But what's really stunning is how Russia's efforts to spread misinformation preyed on America's identity politics divide. They targeted tribes on the far right and far left, and to look through their characters of identity politic is to see how easily duped we are by dividers."

He showed examples of how Russia trolls effectively targeted both the right and the left.

"Perhaps most sinister is when all of this fake-ness aligned to attack real journalism -- from fake George Orwell quotes to memes that compared North Korean propaganda to real news.

"Now if all this is enough to give you whiplash, that was part of the point. The goal of this kind of disinformation is to confuse, divide and distract and create anger and apathy, sometimes with the specific goal of driving down election turnout, such as this meme aimed at the African-American community -- or promoting the Green Party candidacy of Jill Stein, who received more votes in key swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania than Trump's victory margin. In all, 10.4 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts, 61,000 Facebook posts, and 1100 YouTube videos.

"But on the most fundamental level, the Russian trolls understood our identity politics divides, the kind of focus on common enemies rather than our common humanity, is the real source of weakness in our society, and they exploited it with unwitting Americans' help.

"There's a phrase used by the mass murdering founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, that applies to folks who liked and shared these links. He called them 'useful idiots.' "

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