Gaming Trolls

What If ‘Don’t Feed The Trolls’ Applies to Russia, Too?

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By Louise Mensch | 7:39 pm, November 10, 2016

Donald Trump won a legal election. Whiny liberal students, cry-baby White House staffers and celebrities comparing this to 9/11 are pretty normal grist to the Republican mill. Speaking as an ardent Never Trumper who also supported Brexit, the crying by some of my fellow anti-Trumps reminds me of nothing so much as the endless whining from “Remoan” – our nickname for pro-EU Remain supporters who won’t accept the result.  Perhaps Donald Trump is more ‘Mr. Brexit’ than I gave him credit for.

But papier-mache heads of Trump aside, the United States has seen a normal transition thus far. The Democratic nominee concedes, gracefully. The Republican winner makes an equally gracious victory speech. The President receives the President-Elect at the White House. It may be – indeed, it was – awkward and funny. But that is about as far as anybody can go.

Before the election, the New York Times printed an article on Russia’s interference in the election, citing FBI sources as saying that there was no Trump camp collusion with Russia. They looked foolish today when Russia started to boast that there had been plenty of it. And later in the day, the Trump camp adamantly denied that Vladimir Putin was telling the truth.

But I want to confess something. As an ardent critic of the Times reporting,  I must admit that there was one argument in their piece, attributed to FBI sources, that does seem to be borne out by events. If it is risible to suggest that Russia was neutral in our election, what nevertheless appears to be true is the sourced statement that Russia is not so much pro-Trump as pro-American chaos.

…Russia’s direct goal is not to support the election of Mr. Trump, as many Democrats have asserted, but rather to disrupt the integrity of the political system

This line has been repeated by other reporters, such as Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek, in his investigations:

….the cyberattacks had created political division in the United States.

What could explain Russia throwing Donald Trump and his campaign under the bus and admitting their ongoing links to, as they claimed, almost everybody within his “entourage”?

“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said. “Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives.”

To those following the Putin-Donald bromance, this makes no sense at first. It was simultaneously put out by a trusted Putin adviser that yes, they had worked with Wikileaks – something that throws not only Donald Trump, but also Julian Assange, under the bus. Wikileaks and Assange had claimed that they did not work with Russia, and now Russia was calling Julian Assange a liar.

However, apart from the obvious conclusion that working with Russia is a fool’s errand if you expect loyalty or your secrets kept, there is indeed one reason that Russia would admit its contacts with the Trump campaign – with “most of” his entourage, they say, and admit on the same day that Julian Assange was lying and they gave the data dump to Wikileaks – an admission which also makes Donald Trump look stupid in America, as Trump said ‘No proof’ Russia was doing it.

Russia calculates that if it releases enough information about its contacts with his campaign, and its spying work with Wikileaks, perhaps the FBI will intensely investigate the President-Elect. He has no special constitutional protection until he takes the oath – no sovereign immunity. What if Putin could pull some magic that would really plunge America into chaos?

As a Never Trumper who credits her counter-intelligence community sources, this theory puts me in the odd position of having to row in behind Donald Trump. After all, whatever Russia wants for America, I oppose.

As Eichenwald reported in Newsweek:

By October, “buyer’s remorse” had set in at the Kremlin, according to a report obtained by Western counterintelligence. Russia came to see Trump as too unpredictable and feared that, should he win, the Kremlin would not be able to rely on him or even anticipate his actions.

What if this is true? Putin’s ultimate triumph would be to subvert an election (check) then replace the unstable wild card by throwing him under the bus (efforts ongoing). This would mean that Putin, with his rusty economy and nothing but a few Twitter trolls, had shown he could install and remove a US President at will.

Trump’s camp didn’t like the Putin “admission” and said it was rubbish.

Asked if Mr. Ryabkov’s comments were accurate, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said “absolutely not”.

Trump has good reason to deny it. Under penalty of perjury, any Trump nominee or even White House staffer would have to list their contacts with Russia, including names, dates, amounts of meetings and what was discussed in those meetings. That could make things difficult for the President-Elect and – if Russia is telling the truth – make it much harder for Trump to staff up as he wishes to.

It is certainly one viable theory that Putin has decided to try to mess up the interregnum between Presidents by pushing Trump out. After all, if Mr. Trump is convincingly shown that Russia was trying to use him and is keeping compromising information on him, his ego may well explode with rage. Putin could find that, with power now in his hands, Donald Trump is indeed less ‘grateful and malleable’ than Vladimir Putin expected. US intelligence will be able to tell Trump whatever they know on that matter and what Russia really thinks of him.

One rule of life on Twitter is “don’t feed the trolls”. If you give trolls attention, they magnify.

Putin’s Russian news outlets and Twitter bots are currently trolling hard – and in the traditional sense this time. They are laughing at the US media for not investigating Trump’s links to Russia til their admission of it today (hey! please investigate! Call for his head!). They are boasting openly of Russia helping with Wikileaks, and how many times the Kremlin met Trump campaign personnel. They boost stories of riots against Trump, and they try to get investigative journalists to write more about them.

I have (somewhat reluctantly) been persuaded by this argument:

Politics, and even character, aside the important thing for the patriotic conservative resistance to remember is that what Russia wants for America, America and her allies should resist. And if Russia wants Mr. Trump thrown under a bus, as much as it might go against the grain, Never Trump should shrug its shoulders and support him. The more panic, the more anguish, over Russia’s influence in the White House, the larger a bonus Mr. Peskov gets for his cyber warfare.

Barron Trump ‘knows the cyber’, as his father once said, and I certainly know Twitter. I know what trolls look like, and how the Russian botnet operates. And I see what they are trying to do. The way to annoy any troll on Twitter is to ignore them. Hence the gnashing of teeth that I have locked my Twitter account so only my current followers can see it. When Putinbot accounts cannot spam my timeline, I get to read what real people are talking about.

Now, in the same vein, it’s time for all good patriots to strike back at Vladimir Putin by doing the hardest possible thing – nothing whatsoever. Ignore him; don’t feed the trolls. We have a good VP, a strong SCOTUS, Paul Ryan in the House, and Mitch McConnell in the Senate. Mr. Trump’s power is facing a red Republican wall of its own; legislators dedicated to the constitution. The Kremlin, we hear, had ‘buyer’s remorse’. By ignoring their attempts to create chaos, by not reacting to their petty goading, we may well be enabling a beautifully serene American administration of constitutional conservatism where Trump, in policy terms, can revert to the social democrat he’s always been, surrounded by hard-core, perfectly decent, conservative legislators. And that would make Mr. Putin wonder what he’d let himself in for as the West and America grows in confidence and in power.

So we can let the pros in the FBI, CIA and NSA gather their information – and as to Russia and Putin, we can laugh at them first – and then put their entire cyber-troll army on mental ‘mute’.

It’s always been true, folks.  Let the FSB drunks just cry into the wind as a Trump administration does what it, and not what Vladimir Putin, pleases.

Don’t feed the trolls.

 

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