P45 was elected by a margin of about 77,700 popular votes (in MI, PA, and WI), a minuscule margin in an election where 137 million popular votes were cast. Was Rosenstein’s naiveté betrayed by his use of the term “ads”? Ads are hardly the core of social media messaging utilized by Russia in its campaign to influence US elections. Led by its military intelligence unit, the GRU, Russian efforts more recently to sow discord in America have involved the spread of fake data and information about the coronavirus pandemic.
The US intelligence community has specifically identified individuals and organizations in Russia dedicated to this task, as well as other sources in China and Iran participating in disinformation measures and attacks. Since 2016, these actions have proliferated and become more sophisticated in messaging tactics but continue to reflect a consistent theme. One example of the newer iteration of propaganda is a site called Oneworld.press, identified by officials as linked to the GRU, which recently published an article critical of congressional candidates considered tough on Russia. Denying connection with or influence by the GRU, the site categorically rejected that claim, stating that such speculation was being spread by individuals who aimed to damage President Trump’s reelection chances.
As reported by The New York Times (July 29, 2020), Oneworld.press stated:
Everybody across the world knows that some members of the “deep state” have their daggers out for Trump and the President himself has even said as much on countless occasions.
A denial that might easily have been authored by the White House press office itself.
The sophistication of disinformation with the intent of sowing fear in the American public has morphed into utilizing the current pandemic as a vehicle to promote conspiracy theories supportive of themes and messaging from the P45 reelection efforts.
The sophistication of disinformation with the intent of sowing fear in the American public has morphed into utilizing the current pandemic as a vehicle to promote conspiracy theories supportive of themes and messaging from the P45 reelection efforts. On July 27, 2020, a viral video was posted drawing millions of views and boosted by QAnon, which is dedicated to demonstrating that the current pandemic is controlled by an international cabal. The video carried a statement by a Houston physician as head of a group called “America’s Frontier Doctors” claiming that, among other things, that masks do not slow the virus; hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating the virus. The group espouses other, perhaps more preposterous medical advice such as endometriosis, cysts, infertility, and erectile dysfunction derive from “demon seed.” Topping them all is a claim that alien DNA has been used as an antidote to HIV.
In multiple tweets, P45 and Junior retweeted clips from the video to their followers to demonstrate the message about reopening the economy. At a White House press conference the following day, upon questioning by reporters, P45 said:
I can tell you this, she was on air along with many other doctors. They were big fans of hydroxychloroquine and I thought she was very impressive in the sense that from where she came, I don’t know which country she comes from, but she said that she’s had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her. For some reason the internet wanted to take them down and took them off. I guess Twitter took them off and I think Facebook took them off. I don’t know why I think they’re very respected doctors.
Well, with a rousing endorsement like that, who wouldn’t think them great?
“America’s Frontier Doctors” is backed by leaders from the Tea Party Patriots, including a physician and lawyer who regularly appear on right-wing media. In this way, the circle is complete, from Russian military intelligence to conspiracy theorists to indigenous political movements, all in the service of presidential reelection activity and at the expense of the American public.
It’s not a matter of a limited number of ads, as Rosenstein would have it, but this misinformation campaign is a more comprehensive scheme of multimedia messaging and outlets across platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, that are so inundated that they are unable to police prohibited usage. Even worse has been the absence of a cohesive and coordinated national strategy to counteract the originating foreign sources.
The inability or refusal of P45 to challenge Vladimir Putin regarding the interference in US electoral politics was heightened this week when the President said he did not discuss reports about bounties being paid to the Taliban for killing American soldiers in Afghanistan. The silence from the White House on all conflict or tensions with Putin translates similarly to an accused criminal who takes the Fifth Amendment as a defense.
The sprouts from the demon seed are carefully nurtured and cultivated by caretakers vested in the success of P45 and willing to sacrifice national values and prosperity to achieve political ends. Rod Rosenstein may never arrive at a different conclusion about the impermeability of the American electorate than the one he voiced in 2017. Reality and experience indicate that a new, more profound, kind of awareness and strategy are required to navigate today’s political environment.
If, indeed, demon seed were a reality, the failure of this administration to counter foreign influences into American politics and culture may be said to be deliberate, a conscious decision to win re-election. Rosenstein may represent a kind of avatar of the electorate that the Republican reelection campaign wishes it to be. P45’s campaign may be relying upon the observation that some of the people can be fooled all the time.