Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Manipulating Useful Dupes

"Americans have a right to know that much of what they view online is being disseminated by foreign agents in an effort to disrupt U.S. energy policies."
"[Many of the Russian-linked accounts targeted] highly visible tension points [in America; protests against pipelines and over climate change]."
"The surge of American energy into the global marketplace heightens the Kremlin's desire to eliminate or mitigate the American energy threat and to do so by influencing social media users, American voters, and public officials."
"The Kremlin is attempting to make ... 'useful idiots' of unwitting environmental groups and activists in furtherance of its energy influence operations."
"Although this is not a new tactic in the Kremlin's playbook, it has been adapted to account for modern technological advancements like the Internet and social media."
"Throughout history, the Kremlin has engaged and manipulated unwitting individuals to disseminate propaganda in furtherance of its global agenda. By leveraging the sincerely held views and beliefs of unwitting agents, the Kremlin is able to exploit polarized issues in American democracy to influence action in furtherance of its agenda."
Report: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology
Oh dear, the seething outrage of sanctimony! The American investigation by lawmakers in the U.S. linking Russian-sponsored agents to energy market manipulation in the United States. As though similar intrusive methods used traditionally and to the present by certain arms of the U.S. government would never, ever dream of engaging in such nasty underhanded interference in foreign countries. Condemning the Kremlin's appetite for disrupting American economic outreach, while portraying innocent American environmental groups as sincere but fallible dupes.

Such righteous displays of indignant frustration fail to sit well with reality where the C.I.A. has been involved not only in undermining all manner of groups abroad in efforts to alter their political landscapes with a view to favouring American policy, would have infinitely greater impact in a moral sense if official U.S. ethics were anything to celebrate from the perspective of a moral compass. Still, it makes for fascinating reading, if only to fully savour how impressively successful agents can be in launching their operations through social media.

The extent to which Russian agents have enthusiastically taken up the exploitation of social media platforms in the United States, influencing opinions on environmental and energy policies in the United States is quite enterprising. Social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been most helpful in providing the investigation with documents revealing agents utilizing accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian enterprise out of St. Petersburg established for the particular purpose of manipulating social and traditional Western media by the government of Russia.

And it has succeeded to an amazing degree in advancing Russian propaganda. Its now-legendary success in the political sphere dating back to the last U.S. presidential election represents a casebook study in fundamental, purposeful and successful interference on a grand scale. Eliciting howls of outrage from the unprepared Americans who have seen their own brilliant, world-altering inventions turned skilfully against them. That very same Internet Research Agency aided and abetted the election of a nincompoop to the American presidency whose lack of principle reflects Putin's.

It seems, however, that an astonishing amount of industrious energy on the part of computer expertise focused on social media was utilized to grand effect in the sphere of U.S. energy growth; roughly half the numbers used in manipulating the presidential election. According to Twitter, over four percent of all IRA (Internet Research Agency) tweets related to energy or environmental issues in comparison to eight percent delegated to the U.S. election. An estimated 4,334 IRA accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were established between 2015 and 2017.

An unfortunate slop-over affecting Canadian energy futures also occurred. But then, Russia has no great love for Canada, either. The Canada that saw former Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarrass Vladimir V. Putin in grudgingly shaking his hand at a G7 event while advising him gruffly to "get out of Ukraine". A Canada whose Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, has a rather undiplomatic hate-on for Russia. A Canada which chose to adopt the Magnitsky Act into law, further distancing itself from Moscow.

So that opposition stirred by Russian interface with U.S. environmental groups impacted the two pipelines vital to Canada's future energy exports: TransCanadaCorp.'s Keystone XL meant to transport Alberta oil to the U.S. Gulf, along with Enbridge's Line 5, of the Lakehead system to move Western Canadian oil to Eastern Canada through Great Lakes states. The masterminded protests through social media impacts linking U.S. energy and climate change, fostering and supporting both through propaganda and funding of environmental groups in the rejection of oil pipelines.

Social media posts were meant to and succeeded in inciting fear and loathing of oil spills, along with the "brutalization" of North American Aboriginal populations. According to one tweet, the Keystone Pipeline purposed to transport the dirtiest fuel on Earth, and another highlighted Keystone pipeline leaks in South Dakota. Nothing like fear-mongering and supporting peoples' neurotic concerns over worst-case scenarios, even in the face of reality diminishing the potential of those scenarios in the face of other options currently in use for transport known to be more dangerous, to motivate people to assemble and to protest, alerting politicians to the way the wind blows.

Russia sees the U.S. energy deposits and extractions as a huge challenge to their own markets, particularly in Europe. Its efforts are meant to impact on America's growing influence as a large energy exporter, threatening Russia's revenue and influence on energy-dependent Eastern Europe. The probe launched by the U.S. House of Representatives committee revealed that Russian sponsored-agents funded environmental organizations in the U.S., one of the recipients being the Tides Foundation which in turn funds campaigns in British Columbia against oilsands pipelines and liquefied natural gas.

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