Nikita Khrushchev was the leader of the Soviet Union during my junior high and high school years. Technically, his title was First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union — at that time, the equivalent of Vladimir Putin in today’s Russia. I remember vividly his general demeanor, and more specifically his propensity to express in public forums his firm belief that Communism was superior to Capitalism. Consider these quotes [emphasis mine]:
- I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.
- The United States will eventually fly the Communist red flag. … The American people will hoist it themselves.
- We do not have to invade the United States, we will destroy you from within.
- You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept Communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of Socialism until you’ll finally wake up and find you already have Communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you’ll fall like overripe fruit into our hands.
- The press is our chief ideological weapon.
Fast forward to today. The Russians are clearly meddling in our elections and many other facets of our society, but not in the ways Democrats were hoping would offer a more palatable explanation of Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election [i.e., more palatable than the simpler explanation that she was an unimpressive candidate with no clear message who was surrounded by people running a campaign very poorly]. It is clear they have come around to realizing that the “collusion dog won’t hunt,” so they’re focusing on obstruction or whatever else will keep some kind of anti-Trump narrative alive and capturing a decent share of each day’s media coverage. To me, the main value so far in the Moeller investigation is that it is now more publicly known that Russia and other countries are actively involved in cyber warfare — and although it doesn’t get anywhere near the media coverage, so are we.
Back To Khrushchev’s Predictions
Let’s look at some current “goings on” and relate what we see to Khrushchev’s statements. It’s a known fact that many anti this / anti that / for this / for that rallies and demonstrations are fueled by intentional campaigns with one and only one goal — to sow seeds of discontent, create animosity between “factions”, etc. … With Twitter hashtags, Social Media “bots”, etc., even the recent Florida school shooting was used as a springboard for this kind of activity, capitalizing on what the perpetrators knew would be controversy over gun control. Consider this article about a week after the incident [CNBC Article 2/22/18]:
The headline itself is quite revealing. … Florida shooting shows how hard it will be for Facebook to fight its fake news problem. It’s followed by these sub-headings: “What people see on Facebook about the tragedy depends on what they search for, who their friends are and what they’ve viewed before”; and “When everyone’s news is their own personalized version, it can be impossible to find any ‘truth.’”
What you see on Facebook about the tragedy depends on what you search for. Different searches done by CNBC Thursday morning for “Florida high school shooting,” “Florida school shooting” and “Florida shooting,” for example, turned up three distinct sets of videos at the top of the resulting Facebook pages. The sources of the videos ranged from national networks such as NBC, CBS and Fox to local news channels, individual video bloggers and foreign sources like China’s Xinhua news agency. From there the content fragments still further into at least five different types of content: videos, public posts, articles, posts from groups, and another section called “what people are saying.” That last category surfaced some posts from [the writer’s] Facebook friends, suggesting that content was also chosen for [him] based on [his] network. Among the posts were some still claiming that students speaking out against the shootings were paid actors, and others refuting that cynical conspiracy theory. Similarly, there were competing posts on another issue: Some said one shooting survivor claimed that CNN handed him a scripted question to read at its Wednesday town hall broadcast, while another, from CNN, said that charge was untrue.
Even as I was writing this post off and on over the past day or two, I ran across this article …
Report: Russian group hacked Germany’s government network. A Russian-backed hacker group known for many high-level cyber attacks infiltrated the German government’s secure computer networks, the Deutsche Presse-Agentur [DPA, the German Press Agency] reported Wednesday. DPA cited unidentified sources saying the group APT28 hacked into Germany’s Foreign and Defense Ministries and stole data. The attack was noticed in December and may have lasted a year, DPA reported.
The message there, of course, is that Russia is doing what they do everywhere — not just in America.
The truth is that any entity — a person, a company, a government … — can generate this kind of activity if it has two things: 1) the technical knowhow, particularly the ability to make an item appear as though it came from an entity [person, company, or government] within the United States; and 2) possibly, but not necessarily in all cases, the financial resources needed to do #1.
For most of my lifetime, technology has been advancing at a pace far faster than the ability of government to adapt to it — and more worrisome, to effectively utilize it. Deployment of technology has been very decentralized at multiple levels of government — so coordinated thinking about potential needs like national databases to support gun control has been minimal at best, non-existent at worst. Also, no disrespect toward many dedicated and highly capable government employees in this country intended, government generally does not attract and retain the best and brightest of the workforce — for a number of reasons to be sure, but the easiest to relate to is that the best and brightest can make much more money and be more free to “be all they can be” in the private sector.
Until we can narrow this gap and become less polarized politically, I’m afraid we will continue to lag behind several major powers who appear to be light years ahead of us in this critical area — Russia and China for sure, and probably other counties as well. Unfortunately, the former is more doable than the latter, but even more unfortunately, the former is also dependent to some extent than the latter.
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Charles M. Jones