For students of Russian history, there is nothing new or surprising about the Kremlin's penchant for using propaganda as a weapon against the West. In the past, there have been planted stories with little credibility in publications of dubious reputation with limited circulation. With the Internet, that mode of production has radically changed in breadth and efficiency. The scope of operations and the size of the battle space has increased exponentially. So too, has the ability of an inside 5th column to disrupt and stab us in the back.
This morning, NPR presented the work of researchers who were able to piece together Breitbart's position in spreading false and misleading stories during the last presidential campaign. That research shows the connections that Breitbart used to spread its poisonous stream of propaganda. Americans, it seems, were ripe targets for this kind of operation, having weakened the educational system that used to prepare citizens by having them think critically about information, the sources, and the evidence.
Our culture is under attack, but not by other people's babies, Islam, or communists. It is under siege by people who refuse to adhere to standards of truth-telling, accountability, or basic logic. We have seen our elected officials make racist statements, unsupported allegations against former officials, and propose legislation that fact-checking blows to pieces. Yet a sufficient number of people continue to bow to these assaults to allow the people who commit these offenses to remain in office and in control of our institutions while they attempt to dismantle the means by which accountability operates. We need to understand this process better and teach our children how to combat the cancer of dezinformatsiya that has been unleashed on our society.