The Daily(ish) Review

The Daily(ish) Review: The Russians are everywhere

Fresh cup of Nescafé Clasico...mmm, subtle notes of instant coffee.

Today's Daily Review brought to you by Procrastination. I followed a Glenn Greenwald tweet link to a Guardian article about Russian information warfare spooks meddling in the Mexican election. Those Russians are busy. It'd be fascinating to read their latest Measures of Effectiveness reporting.

Mexico's leftwing frontrunner laughs off Russia jibes and says: I'm no Moscow stooge

I think the author of the article is David Agren, but it's a little hard to be sure on their site.

"It could be a scene from a John Le Carré novel: under a leaden sky, a grey-haired man in an overcoat looks out to sea and chuckles quietly at the prospect of a Russian submarine bearing a shipment of gold."

- That's pretty dramatic (I know, intentionally so) from the get go. The Russians might want to look into cash, diamonds, or Bitcoin. (What weighs more, a pound of gold or a pound of diamonds?)

"But the image came in a video this week by the leftwing frontrunner in Mexico’s presidential election, as he laughed off claims that he is receiving covert support from Moscow.

Andrés Manuel López Obradora populist former mayor of Mexico City, has become the focus of escalating – if unsubstantiated – allegations of Russian interference in the 1 July election."

- ...Russian interference...So far, so vague.

"In December, the US national security adviser HR McMaster said there had been “initial signs” of Russian meddling in Mexico. He offered no details, but the ruling PRI has made such claims a central plank of its campaign against López Obrador, popularly known as Amlo."

- I'd capitalize National Security Adviser since it's a known position. Not at all sure if I'd be right to do so, though, and not sure if there are differences here between British English and 'Merican. I think I'd also drop "the".

- "initial signs of Russian meddling"...the vague continues. Governments and lobbying groups by their nature get involved in foreign elections. It's the type, nature, and extent of that involvement that is the key issue. Saying something like "initial signs of meddling" doesn't really help anyone make a more informed decision about what is taking place.

"According to western officials, Russia has used hackers, bots and fake news to influence campaigns from the US presidential election to the Brexit referendum and Catalonia’s independence vote."

- I'd use Western.

- I don't doubt that Russia is employing these resources to influence campaigns and elections. But the efforts, as often described, suggest that there's this mass brainwashing and manipulation, and that if the Russians weren't doing it, the outcomes would be different. People and groups who have an interest in seeing a particular result will figure out the messaging and themes that they think will resonate with voters and push them in a certain direction. Until the actual voting machines and counts are being manipulated, the responsibility is on the public and the voters to not fall for populist, misleading information.

- Are the Russians trying to influence elections that favor their interests? Of course they are. But the receptive audience is already there. Russia benefits from our tense, fractured political situation, but they didn't create it. It all goes back to people reading and thinking critically. That in turn goes back to basic education. And that goes back to - pay teachers better and put more money into public schools. Uh oh, leftie socialist alert.

"Many Mexicans poured scorn on the idea that Russia could further destabilizing Mexico – which in 2017 had its most violent year in recent history – or undermine its democracy, which has long been plagued by vote-buying and excessive campaign spending."

- I'd go with further destabilize or could be further destabilizing.

"“If the point of Russian intervention in the electoral process is to undermine confidence in democratic institutions, the truth is there isn’t much left to do in Mexico. The Mexican political class has already done this work, without their help,” tweeted Carlos Bravo Regidor, professor at the Centre for Research and Teaching in Economics."

This seems a far more articulate version of what I was trying to say above. In the United States, we've created this divided situation. Politicians in both parties have served us poorly. The internet doesn't seem to be helping. Twitter is making us all dumb. Short, clever tweets pass as reasoned analysis.  I think it's bad across the board, but the Republicans and the Fox News crowd are causing the most harm. I think they know it, too. For example, deep down they have to know that people of color have legitimate concerns about their interactions with American law enforcement. Kaepernick very peacefully expressed his concern about the situation by taking a knee during the national anthem. Instead of taking even a moment to consider why he chose to do that, the right labeled that as an insult to the men and women in the U.S. military. I was in the U.S. Army - his actions strike me as representative of one of America's strengths.

Verdict: It's not a bad article. When Greenwald referred to the article, I assumed it would be entirely about nefarious but vague Russian activities related to Mexican elections. I think it's more of an overview of claims and counter-claims related to Russian activities. Regardless, most of these articles are similar in that they make it seem like people are powerless in the face of these armies of bots.

A somewhat rambling Daily Review from me today. I apologize to my audience of 4. I may have had one too many deliciously inexpensive Nescafé Clasicos. This post will likely simultaneously brand me a raging Leftist, a Russian apologist, or a Right Wing reactionary.

I'm definitely left of center, but I think what used to be the center has shifted far to the right, in a weird way. I don't trust Russia for a second, but I also think they're a regional power pursuing rational self-interest (rational in the grad school foreign policy speak sort of way) that hasn't got a winning message. Are people lining up at Russian embassies and consulates to move there? Doubt it. I'm sure it's a beautiful place...led by corrupt oligarchs. I would love to visit sometime, but I think as soon as you've said something critical of Russia online you're better off crossing other countries off your travel list first. Plutonium wasabi on one's sushi doesn't end well.