And not any of the three funny ones either…
We were going to use the word “dumbass” in the title, but the Internet is filled with dumbasses and “stooge” more accurately describes that particular kind of dumbass whose lack of intelligence and sophistication causes them to get used as a tool by scumbags.
“Rube” would also apply, “sucker” as well, but like “dumbass” it casts too wide a net, and since there’s “one born every minute” we might offend some future political party.
“Dipshit“, while appropriate, would just be a little too hostile, and we’re trying to do our part to tone down the toxic rhetoric… a little. (Don’t believe us, well fu… ahem.)
“Mook” and “Goon” imply low-level bad guy status like the dudes you beat up in the early stages of Double Dragon on NES, and also imply an awareness of their role which we’re sure a lot of the people who shared content from these pages probably don’t have. “Schmuck” is a Yiddish word which encompasses a lot of these ideas, which would be doubly appropriate in a certain sense we’re only going to allude to because we want to keep this politically neutral.
So unless there’s some fifteen character German word for idiots-whose-inability-to-discern-facts-from-bullshit-causes-them-to-spread-propaganda-used-to-destabilize-their-own-country-because-they’re-fucking-idiots, we’ll stick with “stooge“.
Anywho, enough with playing Idiot Thesaurus.
The Actual Article
Foreign governments have used social media to spread unrest and division since the earliest days of the Internet, before people even used the term “social media”. Back in 2002 when Bullshido was founded in the pre-Facebook–hell, pre-MySpace days–as the site increased in popularity so did the number of foreign accounts. Unfortunately for them, we’ve always thrived on discord and agitation, and our “Forum Bullies” relished the opportunity to eat the more obvious trolls alive, elbows and toenails first.
But the digital landscape has changed, especially with the rise of smart phones allowing nearly anyone the ability to access online media, where once it required a computer and at least a small amount of technical literacy. The average Internet user now on Facebook is nowhere near as sophisticated in spotting trolls or agitators as they once were, and as we’ve been covering for a while, that is a serious problem because more and more people–especially active voters–get their news from social media sites rather than traditional sources. Foremost among the sites consumed for news purposes: Facebook.
In 2016, various American intelligence services sounded the alarm that Facebook was being overrun with Russian accounts attempting to not only influence the upcoming election, but sow general discord and anger in western countries.
It was largely ignored, possibly–and we’ll admit this is speculation if not common sense–because a significant amount of money was pouring in to promote the posts.
Now there’s a complete list of compromised or wholly-owned Russian propaganda Facebook Pages currently floating around a Congressional subcommittee which they’re not releasing yet, and once we get our hands on it we’ll publish it so that you can scroll through your own posts and see if you were an unwitting participant in information warfare against your own country–stooge.
But for the moment…
The Facebook Pages In Question
Secured Borders was one of the ostensibly patriotic Facebook pages that not only shared content calling for the killing of Muslims and labeling illegal immigrants as “rapists, murderers, and child molesters”, it spent money to promote those posts into people’s feeds.
This was one of the pages explicitly identified by Facebook in Congressional testimony as having been operated by Russian agitators.
Blacktivist also purchased ads during the election, with the apparent purpose of inflaming racial strife. Its content included videos that allegedly showed police violence toward blacks, calls for a new civil war, and statements that attributed white supremacy to both Democrats and Republicans.
Heart of Texas
One of the more insidious aspects of this ongoing campaign in the information war is that local areas are often targeted, sometimes even down to the small town level. In this case, the “Heart of Texas” page operators looked to “rile up” in the local parlance, the residents of the Lone Star State.
As of the time this article was written, these pages have been deactivated by Facebook–some as recently as August. But others have popped up in their wake, and there’s little sign of the dis/mis-information campaign slowing.
Collectively these pages had well over a million subscribers, many who replied zealously and even rabidly. Some, like “Being Patriotic”–which had over 200,000 subscribers on its own, even organized real-world protest events attended by the hundreds.
The page organized both protests against Hillary Clinton, and in support of Donald Trump, in several states. In some of their more aggressive posts, they went after the Black Lives Matter group, imploring their followers to “Arrest and shoot every sh*thead taking part in burning our flag! #BLM vs #USA”.
Red (Brain) Dead Redemption
So yes, if you’ve shared content from any of these pages–or any of the hundreds of other ones on the list that are due to be released–you are a stooge. And not just a stooge, but in the global game of Information Warfare, you’ve just played the role of pawn.
If you think this isn’t a big deal, just remember what happens to pawns on a chessboard when the big pieces start moving. If you played a part in the spreading of this nonsense, it’s long-since too late to redeem yourself. But maybe, just maybe, you can learn your lesson and be a little bit more astute when it comes to who you take seriously as news sources.
And if you’re not guilty of sharing this garbage–as we suspect most of our regular readers aren’t–but you’ve seen posts from these pages on your own Facebook feed from friends or relatives, you have a moral duty to do what you can to educate them. Because when we’re all in the same boat, it’s kinda important to keep the idiots from drilling holes in the hull.
You can start by sharing this article to your own feed. But that’s just a friendly suggestion. We promise, this was written in the USA, by an actual American.
Sources and Further Reading
Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions
in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber
Incident Attribution (Trigger Warning: PDF)