The Truth Is Finally Out: #BlackLivesMatter Was a Russian Hoax
And the Identity-Politicking Mainstream Media Softened Us Up for the Russians
by Alexander Zubatov
I’ve long wondered how so many seemingly intelligent people could possibly believe the hype and transparent media distortions and ignore the overwhelming evidence that no epidemic of cops killing blacks was actually going on. I’ve long attributed it to herd-mindset thinking, intellectual laziness, a refusal to put in the work necessary to look beneath the surface of things. Or, I thought, it could be the need to signal one’s virtue by hitching oneself to a high-speed train heading in a popular direction or just a disinclination to take on the burden of spitting into the politically correct wind and speaking truth to power. I’ve even written at length about the ideology of “cultural Marxism” that underlies so many of the strands of thought that have coalesced into our present-day toxic brew of identity politics laying the foundation for movements like #BlackLivesMatter to spring up and divide us. And all of these are certainly factors. But now, we have all learned from a Senate Intelligence Committee report that a big part of the explanation for the popularity of #BlackLivesMatter is a lot simpler, if more insidious: Russia!
As you have likely heard by now, it turns out that during the 2016 election, Russia was operating a sophisticated disinformation campaign. Russians used social media — Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook — to target African Americans (more than any other group) to, first, win their allegiance by inundating them with divisive and inflammatory #BlackLivesMatter messaging about evil white cops, mass incarceration, pandemic white supremacy and other overblown nonsense and then, with that done, encourage these same people not to vote (or to waste their vote on a third-party candidate) in the 2016 election, all in an effort to help elect Trump. As the Washington Post reports, “The influence operation — run out of St. Petersburg — was sophisticated, relentless and became more effective with time. Its goal was to manipulate identity politics to tear America apart.” The Washington Post continues, summarizing the findings of the report:
In addition to targeting major metropolitan areas that had become hot spots in the Black Lives Matter movement, the agency also microtargeted Ferguson, Mo. — attempting to reignite the flames of racial animus after the violence in the streets had died down. They used Facebook’s Ads Manager tool to target African Americans who were specifically interested in “Black Nationalism and identity,” as well as “incarceration” and the criminal justice system.
“The IRA used a variety of false personas (sock puppets) to infiltrate American political discussion communities on the right and left, including black activist communities, in order to exacerbate social divisions and influence the agenda,” the document explains. “Accounts posing as Americans on the right and left were frequently created and operated from the same computers.”
The Russian trolls coordinated, among other things their Twitter and Facebook accounts, to manipulate African Americans who were already primed by divisive and inflammatory mainstream media coverage (such as, ironically, by The Washington Post itself) to buy into the fake narrative they were selling:
[The group’s] Twitter account, @blackmatterus, started in October 2015 and grew to have more than 20,000 followers. There were Twitter profiles set up for fictional African American “contributors” to the website; the made-up @Crystal1Johnson became the sixth-most-retweeted IRA asset. Most of the posts were written to amplify racial tensions.
The group’s Twitter account often linked to a Facebook page called “Black Matters” that acquired more than 222,000 followers. It encouraged African Americans to participate in real-life rallies against police treatment of minorities. The page promoted events in at least six cities, according to the report, from New York to Detroit, Charleston, Baltimore and Jackson, Miss.
This comes on top of an earlier revelation in April of this year that the largest #BlackLivesMatter group on Facebook — boasting some 700,000 followers and $100,000 in funds raised (some of which had gone into Australian accounts) — had been a scam run by a middle-aged white Australian entrepreneur who used the group to make money selling #BlackLivesMatter branded merchandise to angry idiots and/or virtue-signalling dolts.
What all of this shows is that there are many of us who are very susceptible to manipulation by those who would avail themselves of our superficial identitarian affiliations to pad their own bottom lines and cater to their own political interests. But a key point missed in all the “Russia-Trump” hoopla is this: the list of those unscrupulous individuals and organizations that stoke the flames of racial and other identitarian polarization to manipulate us for their own private financial or political purposes includes all those mainstream media organizations — The Washington Post, The New York Times, Slate, The Guardian, CNN and many others I could name — that are now all over this story because of the Trump-Russia connection. The reality, as we all know, is that media coverage with racial, gender and other “identity” angles sells big-time. People get really worked up about issues of identity, and the media pockets big-league ad revenue when people get really worked up, creating a perverse disincentive to flood us with hysterical, jazzed-up and often wildly distorted stories about racism, white supremacy, sexism, Islamophobia and the like. This is why, as I have argued before, Trump’s claim that the media is the “enemy of the people” rings so true to so many of us. The media doesn’t have to be, and indeed, in a sane world, wouldn’t be the enemy of the people. But in our world, this media, the media that used its non-stop, sensationalized coverage of identity politics and #BlackLivesMatter to prime so many of us to be duped by the Russians is definitely not our friend. So, as desperate as the media is to make this story about how Russia elected Trump, the reality hits far closer to home: the same media organizations that hate Trump with such a passion softened us up for a Russian disinformation campaign; they now have only themselves to blame.
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Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, drama, essays and polemics. In the words of one of his intellectual heroes, José Ortega y Gasset, biography is “a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.”
Some of his articles have appeared in The Federalist, Tablet, Times Higher Education, Quillette, The Imaginative Conservative, Chronicles, The Independent Journal Review, Acculturated, PopMatters, The Hedgehog Review, Mercatornet, The Montreal Review, The Fortnightly Review, New English Review, Culture Wars and nthposition.
He makes occasional, unscheduled appearances on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Zoobahtov).