Tag Archives: Internet Research Agency

USA Not Really

In case you didn’t know, USA Really is a Russian propaganda site which can’t decide if it wants to pretend to be American-made or if it’s Russian but “that doesn’t matter.” The site is of such poor quality and tone it makes you suspect that for many people associated with the Internet Research Agency (AKA “Not the cool IRA“), the trolling industry is nothing but a big grift.

Laziness doesn’t even begin to describe USA Really’s problems. For example, the site just had an overhaul and yet look at its search page:

usareally

Type an “epic” there? Are you sure I can fit the entire Mahabharata into that search bar?

Sometimes the site seems like an extremely lazy version of Sputnik News or RT. For example, most people are familiar with the way those two media outlets carefully tack between far-right and far-left, subtly encouraging a red-brown alliance. USA Really, on the other hand, has no use for subtlety. It’s political tone is as if someone smashed together a conservative boomer Facebook page with a “Resistance” one just to see what sticks. RT’s format tends to work better because most people only consume it via Youtube videos and individual shared articles. As such, they’re likely to only see those things that appeal to them, meaning for example that the leftist only sees Chris Hedges, Seymour Hersh, or Lee Camp. Meanwhile the far-right viewer is likely to only see the right-leaning material. On USA Really, it’s just a mixed grab bag where anything goes.

And that brings us to their head editor, one Alexander Malkevich. Apparently the Russian Embassy in the US is claiming that he was detained at Reagan National Airport.

Yes, that’s just the Russian Foreign Ministry whining about other countries persecuting journalists. I’d suggest they start their campaign for press freedom at home, but what more can be said about Russian government hypocrisy that hasn’t already been said a thousand times?

In the Talking Points Memo story, it says there is no mention of his detention outside of the embassy’s claims and the Russian news agency TASS. However, since that article was published, USA Really posted a story about the claim. As usual, it is full of the typical bullshit one comes to expect from that site. Interestingly, USA Really claims it was Dulles International and not Reagan, although that could just be a mistake from the Talking Points Memo piece. The USA Really post contains what’s purported to be a photo of a search warrant for Mr. Malkevich, but I must confess I’m not informed enough on the local legal system to say anything about its authenticity. In any case, the article is full of hilariously idiotic claims about what supposedly happened in the interrogation, such as this:

“I believe that USA Really has been successful as a project, as during the first part of the interrogation I was asked questions, like: “Who are you, guys?” and “Why are you undermining the foundations of American democracy?” Malkevich said. “The whole first set of questions was devoted to “Why did the USA Really News Agency even come to American(sic), since it had been good “for us without you?”

I’ve seen stories on Tumblr more convincing than this one.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about the matter in the near future, but till then I’d say the only major inaccuracy in the Talking Points Memo story was the line where they describe USA Really as “RT/Russia Today on steroids.” In fact it is RT on Krokodil. In any case, based on past statements from Alexander Malkevich, I’d say he’s either a very lazy grifter or completely delusional. Take your pick.

Advertisements

No, Russia Didn’t Make People Hate The Last Jedi

One clickbait story that’s been making the rounds lately is how Russian trolls may have influence or been involved in the hate campaign against Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Naturally, these articles range from the more thought-out and cautious, to…eh…whatever the hell this is supposed to be. The reaction, especially in some of the cinephile groups I frequent, was, as you might imagine, pretty incredulous. It mostly amounted to people posting links to the more clickbait-y versions of the story with a comment like: “LOL! Looks like Disney is trying to blame RUSSIA for people not liking Last Jedi!”

The problem is, if anyone had bothered to look, this whole story is based on one academic paper by one Morten Bay at the University of Southern California. Moreover, even reading the description in the link shows that the thesis of the paper is nothing remotely resembling an accusation that the backlash against The Last Jedi was driven by Russian bots or trolls. It makes a comparison between the Russian information campaign of 2016 and some of the Twitter activity directed toward The Last Jedi and its director Rian Johnson, and it notes how the activities of some of the accounts involved in the backlash resembled those of known Russian bots and trolls, but when it actually gets to the topic of Russian involvement in the hate campaign, it in no way implies that they were driving it. In fact, from what I read it doesn’t even state anything conclusive on whether any accounts were confirmed to be Russian trolls or bots. Most important of all- I did a CTRL-F search and did not find the magic kill-word “Hamilton.” Any time I see “Russian bots are tweeting about (insert trending news story here),” I run that simple procedure and I get a hit, I close the tab and save several minutes of precious time.

Personally I find it odd that in an economy that revolves so much around advertising, the media hasn’t yet figured out why a bunch of Russian troll accounts would tweet or retweet things about a super popular Star Wars film or any other trending news story. It’s not rocket science- they’re trying to garner an audience. Those who are familiar with the history of the so-called Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg know that it initially focused on domestic audiences; it still is largely dedicated to this as far as we know. The purpose was to get Russians to rally behind Putin an his foreign policy aims. A typical tactic here would be to set up a social media account which posts about all kinds of mundane things like shopping or cooking, but which will, when needed, share or post some key government talking point. Imagine you follow some blog about recipes, but one day out of the blue there’s a post about how the CIA is supporting a Nazi coup d’etat in Ukraine. Many Twitter troll accounts act in a similar manner, sometimes going dormant for long periods of time before emerging with a different persona, for example.

One of the most important things for these trolls, of course, is to get followers, so naturally they’re going to be watching what topics trend and who’s following those topics. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to see that there was a huge buzz about Star Wars online, and apart from ideological affinities toward the far right, the Internet Research Agency (maybe I’ll just call them “The bad IRA” from now on) cannot have missed how easy it is to get a huge, dedicated following if you pander to the “anti-SJW/feminist” chuds. So you tweet something about how “Cultural Marxist SJWs are runining teh STAAAAAAAR WAAAAAAAAAARZ!!!!1” and voila! You have picked up some severely sexually frustrated but loyal followers.

And this gets back to what I’ve written about recently, about the real purpose of these information operations. They are not, as the grifters “narrative architects” or talking heads say, trying to “divide” America. This is the perspective from someone with privilege, power, and who is generally disconnected from daily reality for most Americans. Most Americans understand that we are extremely divided and have been for some time. The reality is that Russia’s influence operation is about creating unity, uniting polar opposites of the political spectrum around talking points or ideas that are in line with the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals and in some cases, its domestic agenda.

But before you can get anyone to start listening to your specially crafted talking points, you’ve got to get their attention and keep it. Hence the tweeting around trending topics, the hashtags, the memes, and so forth.

However, let us not lose sight of the biggest issue in all of this. Namely, that despite the fact that Rian Johnson had ambitious goals for The Last Jedi, he ultimately failed hard thanks to a number of mindbogglingly stupid decisions and poor writing, thus squandering all the film’s potential and possibly ruining the whole new trilogy. This, is of course, objective fact, and there is nothing the entire St. Petersburg troll factory could ever do to change that.

Don’t @ me.

…..

………

Okay let me just say something about this bullshit excuse where people say “What does it matter if Snoke doesn’t have a backstory? You didn’t question the Emperor’s backstory and they didn’t even say the name Palpatine in the original trilogy!” 

Mocking-Spongebob

“tHe eMpErOr dIdN’t hAvE a BaCkStOrY iN rEtUrN oF tHe jEdI! yOu’Re jUsT mAd yOuR sTuPiD fAn tHeOrY wAs wRoNg!” -Idiots

We knew in the original trilogy that the rebels were fighting the Galactic Empire, and empires are ruled by emperors. We naturally assumed an emperor had to exist and he’s mentioned throughout the trilogy! The First Order is not the Galactic Empire- in fact it’s not really very well explained what it is at all! Therefore it’s perfectly reasonable to want to know just who the hell Snoke is, why he’s leading the First Order, and why he’s so powerful. Also maybe explain why the hell the First Order has almost wiped out the rebellion almost immediately after said rebellion completely destroyed their massive home base in The Force Awakens. And why would you ever want to bring up fuel in a STAR WARS MOVIE?! None of this makes any sense! 

Goddammit, Rian! What were you even thinking?! 

What Do We Have Here?

Yesterday one of my long time readers sent me a very interesting link. Check out this video:

Notice anything, like how the narrator during the story sounds like a computer? Or take a look at the video description, where we see this:

“We report the daily’s breaking news, Top Stories and the Most Interesting News.
We report the genuine news and circumstances occurring the world over.
Genuine Reports that the predominant press doesn’t need you to think about!

We are your #ONE source for the most vital
world event and stories happening every day!
We always want to know what YOU think!
Stay tuned for updates.

Very excited to partner with other electronic newspaper pages.”

“The daily’s breaking news?” No Oxford comma (often used by Americans and taught in schools when I was young).  “Genuine news and circumstances?” Reporting things “the predominant press doesn’t need you to think about?”

All of this tells me it was not written by a native speaker of English. But this video is just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at the channel page. As you can see it was created on 4 January 2017 and has about 96,000 subscribers and nearly 60 million views.

In the channel’s description it repeats the same poorly worded text you see in each video description. It derides the “predominant press,” yet has logos from mainstream media outlets all over its graphics.

 

Here’s what a sampling of its videos looks like:

youtubechannel

I’m guessing they don’t know what “Breaking” means in media terminology.

One thing immediately jumps out at you- all these stories tend to be pro-Trump and very anti-Obama. They also hype conspiracy theories and fabricated claims about protests, such as the 4th November Antifa Civil War (this conspiracy meme was originally started by American nutcase fantasizers):

Once again there’s that computer voice, which begs the question- if this is just some American or Western-based outfit trying to spread conspiracy theories with clickbait news stories, possibly for financial gain, why would you use a computer text-to-speech program? This would sound annoying and it’s probably much less efficient.

Of course you would use text to speech if you’re not a native English speaker and you have an accent, particularly a Russian accent. This is not the first time they have done this either.

This Youtube channel, dear readers, is almost certainly another idiotic project of the Internet Research Agency, better known as the St. Petersburg troll factory. And like all their content, it’s extremely amateurish, basically a regurgitation of American conservative conspiracy theories, and would probably only be appealing to your racist uncle who ruins Thanksgiving with his unfunny jokes about “ebonics” and rants about the lack of “White Entertainment Television.”

Still, the fact that it was founded this year tells us that for all their failures, the Internet Research Agency is still plugging away. And the predominant press doesn’t need you to know this!