The details of what Russia did to the American political landscape in the 2016 election cycle is now a matter of record. It is not speculation, a matter of opinion, or a cleverly constructed hoax. It’s real. They used our American invented social media platforms to flood our public square with exaggerations, distortions and outright fabrications that exploited generations-old divisions between us. Wounds that should have healed long before now never did because some of us just couldn’t resist picking at them-and like a troublesome sore they finally got infected. Vladimir Putin has his thumb resting comfortably in an American president’s mouth and we should all feel bitterly humiliated by that fact.
He is an evil despot and is the antithesis of every ideal that we have aspired to since our founding. Do not trust any American who hesitates in denying that he is our enemy and he leads a rogue nation.
Enemy though he may be, Vladimir Putin and Russia are not our problem. Our problem is US. WE are our own problem. The fact that his little gambit worked so well reflects very poorly on our collective cultural condition. I understand that this was a pretty large scale operation: 80 well-financed Russian agents working around the clock for months fingering, fondling and feeling-up our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts with too-bad-to-be-true stories about Hillary Clinton. But the reality is that the mental diseases of racism and sexism left us susceptible to even the most juvenile attack. The anti-Obama ferver was always race driven but adding the sexism already baked into our culture made Hillary a big fat juicy target for at least half of the country right off the bat.
These Americans were ready to believe the worst about her and evidently exercised no discernment whatsoever when they read and spread lie after lie about her on everything from child molestation to murder to garden variety political corruption. But that could be chalked up to the over-heated hyper-partisanship we consented to when we bought into this idiotic two-party system. When people are faced with a binary choice they will go through a lot to convince themselves that they are making a choice to be happy about- and that might mean turning one of the candidates into the Devil incarnate. We now know who that is – and it ain’t Hillary Clinton.
If you are keeping score, Russia cuckolded America when it penetrated our election because of our racism, sexism and our 2-party system of binary choices. But there’s more. Our vanity and our laziness were the other major weak spots that let those trolls and ghouls into our polling places. Facebook flourishes because of our vanity more than anything else- we just LOVE being the star of our own infomercial and there is no platform that serves that vanity better. So Facebook was ground zero for the Russian propaganda bombs that were constantly going off once the 2016 filed was set. Instagram and Twitter were hot too but according to the first 13 election meddling indictments, Facebook was the foundation as re-tweets and shares always referred back to inflammatory language and lies originating on some Russian Facebook page masquerading as engaged American citizens.
So run-away vanity drew us to Facebook but plain laziness kept us there. How lazy do you have to be to get ANY significant proportion of your news from Facebook? That is ridiculous when a simple point and click can get you to a legitimate news outlet where you will never hear that the Clintons are running a child-sex-trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizzeria, or that Hillary Clinton lied to the FBI 39 times but was never prosecuted. The only thing worse than getting your news from Facebook is BELIEVING the news you get from Facebook. Just like a body gets fat and flabby when it consumes too much junk and is not properly exercised, so too will a person’s mind. We were exposed as a nation of fat-heads in 2016 for that very reason. Evidently, our enemy knew that a big portion of our citizens shops for political candidates in the very same place that they shop for “hook-ups,” quick weight loss tips and get rich quick schemes. They were easy prey.
If we don’t address these core issues within our own culture and do it fast, Putin will find another hole in our system to stick his fingers in as soon as we close the ones he’s already found. The machinery of his meddling may get the headlines but what lies between the lines is where the real story is. It worked because of who we are and how we relate to each other. Some of us are so into hating on each other that we forget what an animal Putin is- along with some of the other weirdos that our 45th president seems to have an affinity for. We’ve got to own up to what is wrong with us so we can fix it. Our enemies have figured it out and they have demonstrated some serious skill at using it to take us down- and helping to elect Donald Trump with the support of only 25% of eligible voters is all the proof we need. So I’ll give Putin credit for one thing: he punches way above his weight class. The only question remaining is whether we have the will to come back from that punch and the skill to keep it from landing again. Stay tuned: we’ll find out in nine months.