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How Deep Does Russian Disinformation Penetrate Our Country? For Republicans, All The Way In

On Face the Nation yesterday, McConnell claimed the Putin wing of the Republican Party is just a "some lonely voices," referring to Madison Cawthorn, Marjorie Traitor Greene, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Señor Trumpanzee and the white evangelical Christian nationalist movement. "The vast majority of the Republican Party writ large," he lisped more with hope than with conviction, "both in Congress and across the country, are totally behind the Ukrainians and urging the president to take these steps quicker, to be bolder. There may be a few lonely voices off to the side. I wouldn't pay much attention to them."

And don't forget Trump's original political guru Roger Stone, who was babbling about the now defunct "Soviet Union" on a now-defunct cable TV network that still has a smallish right-wing fringe online presence for Putin's anti-American useful idiots. Stone was swimming in those waters over the weekend, singing the praises of war criminal Vladimir Putin. Ready?

"Ukraine is not even remotely about what they're telling us. Ukraine is about the fact that the Ukrainians have used their soil to place dual launch missile pads, missiles that would be aimed at the Soviet Union. There are, in fact, biolabs there funded by our tax dollars cooking up who knows what pestilence to dump on the Russian people... Putin is acting defensively. He is not acting offensively. But you won't read that in the mainstream media and you won't hear it anyplace but Real America's Voice."

We started following Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro's work 3 years ago, when Pompeo's Trumpist, pro-Putin State Department rescinded her International Women of Courage Award. Her book, Putin's Trolls, an exposé of Russia’s unending disinformation campaign, will be released in June. Bill Browder wrote that Aro's work does "the world a huge service by showing us how these tactics work so we can better defend ourselves going forward."

Introducing Putin's Trolls to the media, her publisher termed in "A chilling account of Russian information warfare in the years leading up to the current war, Putin's Trolls exposes the apparatus behind the Kremlin’s coordinated, military-style social media psy-ops against the Western world. Award-winning journalist Jessikka Aro interweaves her own dramatic story as a target of Russian social media propaganda with accounts from many internationally known critics of the Kremlin, who share their own stories of being targeted by Russia’s multifaceted cyber warfare campaigns. As Jessikka began to investigate the impact of the Kremlin’s troll operations outside of Russia, she learned that private citizens in many other countries were being victimized by Kremlin-designed information campaigns. These actions were frequently conducted through an organized 'troll factory' led by Russia’s security and intelligence apparatus, using unregulated social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Many of the disinformation campaigns were centered around the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Several of the Kremlin's current propaganda talking points, including the 'Denazification' of Ukraine, are discussed in the book, which offers background on Russia's intentions in Ukraine in the lead up to their invasion of the country."

She began with a personal anecdote about being forced to flee from Finland early in 2017, having endured "a two-and-a-half-year of death threats and libelous news articles. Online hate sites had brainwashed even some of my friends, turning them into enemies. These same sites portrayed me as a criminal, a liar, and mentally ill. Anonymous users suggested various methods of killing myself. One stranger proposed that I hang myself, while another recommended a “Russian suicide”: someone would push me under the metro, but in a manner staged as self-inflicted. A third individual wished that someone would put a “bullet in the whore’s head, Russian style.” Each time I opened my laptop, or glanced at my phone, I was forced to read snuff fantasies about me produced on an assembly-line scale... I had become the target of such vitriol for one reason only: I was a journalist investigating Russian social media disinformation warfare."

She continued that when she launched what would become Her world-famous

"investigation into Russian online propaganda trolls in September 2014, I was thirty-three years old. My life was serene, and I dreamed of starting a family. I had no enemies that I knew of, and aroused no interest from anyone in the online world. As a journalist, I specialized in Russia and extremist groups. Earlier in my career I had lived in Russia, and throughout President Vladimir Putin’s time in office, I had kept an eye on the pressure exerted on journalists, including retribution via violence and murder. The reporters who risked their lives investigating his regime’s wrongdoings were my professional idols.

"While I had previously investigated jihadists’ recruitment activities on social media, as well as organized crime, it wasn’t until I began examining the Kremlin’s tools of international information warfare that a hate campaign was launched against me. The harassers wanted to exhaust me psychologically, hoping that I would ultimately decide to protect myself and cease investigating

and publicly discussing Russian operations.

"In my work as a journalist, I had become accustomed to

extreme and violent material. I had reported on wars, natural

disasters, plane crashes, and human rights crimes. But nothing had

prepared me for the uncontrollable online spread of thousands of

defamatory memes, threads, pictures, and videos-- all about me!"

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