We live in a different world today. The use of social media in political campaigns rivals the power of the established media to inform the public. It is less expensive than purchasing ads; it enables more precise message targeting, and it is not subject to scrutiny by editors who want to protect their reputation for integrity. It can be effectively used by domestic political campaigns and it is being used by foreign powers to influence domestic politics. A nation's ability to limit the use of propaganda has been compromised by the effective use of the social media in disinformation campaigns. There has been a lot of concern about Donald Trump Junior's decision to invite representatives from a foreign power to provide sensitive information that might be used to discredit Hillary Clinton. One of Trump's defenses for the meeting is that the information on offer was not as valuable as he had hoped. There are lots of problems with Trump's defense that have thoroughly explained by the media. I have posted two articles which provide valuable information that supplements the ongoing debate about the Trump meeting.
The first article was written by an expert with extensive experience in intelligence operations. He argues that the Trump meeting is very typical of an operation that is used to determine the receptivity of the subject to becoming a target for further development. The representatives from the Trump campaign at that meeting passed the test. They did not report the meeting to the appropriate authorities, and they indicated a willingness to participate further in efforts to discredit their opponent. It would not be surprising if further efforts were undertaken to cooperate during the campaign. For example, Jared Kushner was in charge of the campaign's digital media operation. It targeted crucial swing states in the election. Russia's digital operation did the same thing. It also selected well defined targets that would have required a lot of information that is not easily available outside of political campaigns.
The second article was written by an expert in the use of compromising information and conspiracy programs to achieve political objectives. Trump may have been a target by Russia, buthe has also demonstrated his personal skills in the use of conspiracy and compromising information during his career. For example, he entered into politics by freeriding on the conspiracy that Obama was not a US citizen. He often responds to criticism by questioning the integrity of his critics and he used a variety of compromising information to tell his supporters that Hillary Clinton should be in jail. During the Republican primaries he accused Ted Cruz's father of involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Trump makes no effort to support many of his statements with facts and he invents new facts to suit his purpose. He has effectively used Twitter as a way to circulate information that is essentially fact free and not subject to the intervention of editors.
I began this post by claiming that we are living in new age. My point is that we are vulnerable in new ways that threaten our political system. When legitimate sources of information can be effectively neutered by a president who calls them fake media; when the social media can be used effectively to facilitate propaganda; when foreign governments can effectively influence elections, and when the public has not been taught how to deal with information in the new age our democratic system has to develop new tools in order to survive. Trump may eventually go away but the stage has been set for the next Trump.
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