Recently, the US government released all the 3,000 Facebook election ads that came from Russia. While everyone can now view them, here’s what we learned.
Russian interference in the 2016 US election has long been riding the elephant in the room. Despite numerous investigations both closed and ongoing, we’re still unsure how deep the involvement went. We know it’s somewhere in between not at all and The US Prez is a dancing Siberian bear in a man suit.
Which would explain the generous curves.
What we do actually know is that a belt of Russian hackers did purchase political ads/memes in the run-up and spread them over Facebook. A handful of the Moscovite memes were released to the media, but now everyone can see the full cache.
In the interest of objective journalism, and because I hate myself, I sifted through the pile of nonsense. From it, I learned a few things. A) Punctuation didn’t arrive when the Soviet Union fell apart B) They’re low quality (both in imagery and content) and C) They’re actually quite difficult to discern between real fake ads and their satirical counterparts.
— Dave Gershgorn (@davegershgorn) 10 May 2018
I mean, you would share the ad, if you believed it was a joke. I mean, the Clash of the Titans tone promoted by a page called The Army of Jesus. Would could resist that? Jesus wants you to vote for Trump. It sells itself.
However, dismissing these ads with a chortle is doing them a disservice, as they’re actually incredibly ornate, and see deeply into the problems of today’s America. And yes, occasionally the tone sounds like a clueless Russian pretending to know about American culture in an effort to become pals, as illustrated below, but let us dive deeper.
The Russian e-trolls are actually quite smart about their approach, for two reasons. First, their trolling nonsense is as dank as the local versions, and second, they understand what Americans truly would certainly lay their lives down for.
All hail/hang Queen B.
Speaking of furious division, the Russians actually bridged many gaps, and refused to pick a side, promoting (often clashing) ads that catered for black, brown and white Americans, and especially those who didn’t care for the others.
Which, as awful as this sounds, a divided America seems like everyday America. However, the hackers also stepped to the more extreme havens of American thought, touching on secessionism and the paranoia that Barack Obama was actually an operative for Islamic State.
It’s insane, sure. But you have to admire how well they echoed the jagged parts of America. With the benefit of foresight, you can’t really blame them for what happened. They were merely swimming in the established current, using the same medium as everyone else, the dank meme.
I mean, if the Americans are looking for someone to blame, perhaps they should start with themselves. They elevated a cartoon frog, turning it into a hate symbol, for fudge sake.
I suppose the lasting lesson in 2018 is to both marvel, and forever be suspicious of the power of obvious bullshit.