The Russia hoax, especially the fake Russia dossier, was a classic dezinformatsiya operation. But – all things considered – by and for whom? Let us first define dezinformatsiya, its purpose, and objectives, as well as provide a historical perspective for good measure.
Nearly 35 years ago, while the Cold War was raging, an excellent book on the subject was written by Richard Shultz, a professor at Tufts and scholar of international security studies, and Roy Godson, professor emeritus at Georgetown and author of books on covert operations and intelligence. The book is entitled, “Dezinformatsia: The Strategy of Soviet Disinformation.” This is an excellent review of the book. And here are some definitions presented:
Soviet leaders use the term “active measures” (activnyye meropriatia) to describe an array of overt and covert techniques for influencing events and behaviors in, and the actions of, foreign countries. Prior to the 1960s, the term dezinformatsia was used in some Soviet circles to describe these instruments. Active measures may entail influencing the policies of another government, undermining confidence in its leaders and institutions, disrupting relations between other nations, and discrediting and weakening governmental and non-governmental opponents. This frequently involves attempts to deceive the target (the governmental and non-governmental elites of mass audiences), and to distort the target’s perception of reality. Active measures may be conducted overtly through officially-sponsored foreign propaganda channels, diplomatic relations, and cultural diplomacy.
Covert political techniques include the use of covert propaganda, oral and written disinformation, agents of influence, clandestine radios, and international front organizations. Covert disinformation is non-attributed or falsely attributed communication, written or oral, containing intentionally false, incomplete, or misleading information (frequently combined with true information), which seeks to deceive, misinform, and/or mislead the target.
The book details historical examples of Soviet active measures and includes interviews of former Soviet intelligence officers, some of whom defected to the West. It is a highly recommended read! Now recall that the world has changed since this book was written in 1984:
- The Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991.
- The KGB is now the FSB, and a former KGB officer who well understands the use of active measures is the Russian president (Vladimir Putin). Read about (some of) his career here.
- The technical means for conducting dezinformatsiya operations have been greatly advanced with the advent of the internet, social media, and the “instantaneous 24-hour news cycle” via a myriad of cable news channels.
- Oh, and Americans’ collective guard against “Communism” has been effectively dropped partially thanks to overt actions of our own political class. Socialism is now increasingly viewed as “good” by younger Americans who are ignorant of its historical failure.
- For a time, the Russians were even considered our “friends” by the political class – until it became convenient to turn the Obama regime’s overt friendship with the Russian leadership (recall Hillary’s Russian reset button, and Obama’s promises to Medvedev in 2012) into something quite different in order to advance the Democrat political agenda!
The objectives of Russian (formerly Soviet) disinformation operations have shifted slightly since the fall of the Soviet Union. Previously, the objectives were focused on discrediting US foreign policy, separating the US from her allies (especially NATO), strategic deception, etc. In recent years, with the rise of the internet and social media, Russian disinformation has focused on seeding discontent and turmoil on the US domestic scene, including meddling in and seeking to sow discord during US election campaigns.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Russians have had an easier time emigrating to the US, as well as obtaining temporary visas for various reasons. Access to the US mainstream facilitates meddling and deception operations by the FSB and GRU (Russian military intelligence). In addition, the internet enables entities outside the US to access and influence Americans. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media are easily penetrated by Russian operatives, for example. Some of those “Russian bots” that the Left widely complains about on Twitter really are Russians!
It can never be repeated enough that the Russians have meddled in American internal affairs – including elections – for decades! 2016 was neither unique nor an aberration in that regard. The Russians seek to sow discord here CONTINUALLY. There has been an ongoing cyberwar with the Russians for many years. And the Russians have meddled in other countries elections for years, too. By the way, our hands are not clean in that regard, either! Here is a decent historical summary of some of our own actions in that regard.
Let us now look at what the Mueller report stated about “Russian meddling” in the 2016 election, courtesy of AG Barr’s excellent summary before the release of the redacted report. While the Russians did attempt to undermine the 2016 elections through disinformation practices, the special counsel found no underlying evidence of collusion with Russia by anyone in the Trump campaign or any other American. The first effort by the Russians was via the “Internet Research Agency” with strong ties to the Russian government to sow discord among American voters “through disinformation and social media operations” (from the Mueller report). The special counsel brought charges against several entities and Russian individuals for their roles in these schemes. Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large. But there was no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or any US person coordinated with this IRA operation.
The report also details efforts by Russian military officials associated with the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel’noje Upravlenije (GRU – Russian military intelligence) to hack into and steal information from individuals associated with the Democrat Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the purposes of eventually publicizing these documents. Charges were subsequently brought against several Russian military officers for their suspected roles in these illegal hacking operations. Those charges are still pending and the defendants remain at large. The special counsel found no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign or any American conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in this hacking activity.
The special counsel also examined Russian efforts to publish stolen emails and documents on the internet. After the Russian government disseminated stolen information to entities that it controlled (DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0), these entities transferred some information to Wikileaks for publication. Wikileaks then made a series of document dumps. The special counsel also investigated whether anyone in the Trump campaign was involved in these dissemination efforts. Under current law, publication of the material would not be illegal unless the person was also involved in the underlying hacking conspiracy. No person in the Trump campaign was found to have illegally disseminated any of the hacked materials. The special counsel also investigated a number of contacts between Russians and Trump campaign personnel. After reviewing these contacts, the special counsel did not find any evidence of conspiracy to violate US law involving Russian-linked persons and anyone involved with the Trump campaign.
After nearly two years of investigation, thousands of subpoenas, and hundreds of warrants and interviews, the special counsel confirmed that the Russian government sponsored efforts to interfere with the 2016 elections but did not find that the Trump campaign or any Americans colluded in that effort.
In summary, the nation’s attention was diverted foolishly for two years by investigating a load of DEZINFORMATSIYA! There was no “Russian collusion” there from the beginning although there was the standard and regular Russian election meddling. The Russian-run IRA ran a classic disinformation op. It was possibly the most successful such operation in Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti/ Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii (KGB/FSB) history – and it is ongoing!
Let us now revisit the dezinformatsiya description from the book I quoted above and prove my point:
1. From the book: Active measures may entail … undermining confidence in its leaders and institutions.
Analysis: A large minority of Americans were CONVINCED by the legacy media and Democrats of the past two years that POTUS is in fact a Putin stooge and a traitor! If that’s not “undermining confidence,” then nothing is.
2. From the book: Active measures may entail … discrediting and weakening governmental and non-governmental opponents (of Russia).
Analysis: What is your opinion of the CIA, DoJ, FBI, State Dept, and other US agencies these days? Answer: thoroughly discredited due to their politicization under Obama. I do not trust them at all – which weakens the institutions as the Russians love to see happen. On the non-governmental side, the legacy media is also completely discredited, and that undermines the US, too (they are, after all, the “fourth estate”). https://medium.com/@ubuntufm/the-fourth-estate-on-the-role-of-journalism-facts-vs-fake-news-61168f8e8cf
3. From the book: These measures involve attempts to deceive the target and to distort the target’s perception of reality.
Analysis: Elected Democrats, Uniparty RINOs and the legacy media swallowed the Russian hoax hook, line and sinker. Much of the information in the fake Russian dossier was supplied from Russian sources (probably GRU officers!). And many of these people STILL have no understanding of reality and are willingly perpetuating the disinformation while trying to orchestrate an impeachment of the president!
4. From the book: Active measures may be conducted overtly through officially-sponsored foreign propaganda channels, diplomatic relations, and cultural diplomacy.
Analysis: The Russians have sown discord about the “muh Russia hoax” through their controlled media like Russia Times and even public statements by Vladimir Putin over the past couple of years. And Western media have picked up and repeated the disinformation whenever it furthered the anti-Trump narrative.
5. From the book: Covert political techniques include the use of covert propaganda, oral and written disinformation, agents of influence, clandestine radios, and international front organizations.
Analysis: The IRA (admittedly a bit player) plus the GRU meddling was the epitome of covert political techniques employed to meddle. And we never did hear what Nellie Ohr used that ham radio for, did we? Plus, there were plenty of “agents of influence” at work in the US media to further the hoax narrative.
6. From the book: Covert disinformation is non-attributed or falsely attributed communication, written or oral, containing intentionally false, incomplete, or misleading information (frequently combined with true information), which seeks to deceive, misinform, and/or mislead the target.
Analysis: Good grief! That is a perfect description of the FBI’s use of the fake Russian dossier that was seeded to trusted legacy media people and then referenced as open source reporting as a justification for illegally obtaining FISA warrants against Trump campaign personnel. And some elements of the Russian dossier were likely sourced from Russia to begin with. Repeat after me: that’s dezinformatsiya!
Here we are today, long after the redacted Mueller report has been released. The disinformation initiated and leveraged by the Russians is still in play, as it was co-opted by Democrats and their paid media allies for political expediency purposes. Democrats like Hillary Clinton continue to caterwaul that President Trump “stole the 2016 election” with the help of Russia. As if $160,000 worth of Facebook ads and some random disinformation planted by a handful of GRU agents could sway an American election! I would wager that Vladimir Putin and some of his senior FSB leadership pals are regularly toasting their success with vodka shooters! They – with the help of witting and unwitting allies and agents of influence in the Democrat Party and legacy media – have perpetrated the most successful Russian dezinformatsiya operation in history!
Will Democrats and their paid legacy media accomplices ever acknowledge that they were hoodwinked and cruelly used (in some cases willingly)? Will they ever put a stop to this disinformation op? Of course not, as their donor base and rank-and-file Democrats are convinced the hoax is real. That most of them probably won’t is a clear example of the potentially powerful psychological impact of Russian disinformation operations! The big lie is a key element of disinformation; when the lie/disinformation takes root, it is very difficult to expunge.
The bottom line is that Democrats have enabled and abetted this particular dezinformatsiya operation because they thought they could capitalize on it and destroy the Trump presidency – as well as the President himself and his family in the process – for daring to defeat the Deep State-anointed Hillary Clinton. It was a close-run thing!