How Russia is Helping America Destroy Itself

by Andy Denzler

November 5, 2017

This is what I wrote back in August of 2016—before all this Russian conspiracy stuff was being taken seriously by anyone but those with some intelligence training. The InfoSec community was particularly bad—perhaps because they were rather Trmp leaning behind closed doors—and essentially saying that only stupid people blame Russia for anything. The argument is that Russia and North Korea are catch-alls for incompetence. So if you got hacked because you don’t know how to defend your organization, but you don’t want to take blame, just say it was Russia!

This is no doubt happening, and the community is right to oppose that mentality, but the problem is that the feeble-minded are extending that somehow to mean that Russia is never to blame for anything. Which is a curious position to have when the country’s basically being run by experts in information warfare.

Anyway, coming back to the present, last week we just learned an extraordinary amount about the nature of Russia’s involvement. A number of anonymous researchers have identified some key social media accounts and then mapped those accounts to the campaigns they have created and disseminated through various social media networks.

The ads they created are staggering in their genius. They jab stiff fingers into the exact pressure points that can turn America into an enraged and unthinking animal bent on self-destruction.

It’s like Russia has mastered the art of Social Lupus, and they’re spreading it within America until it destroys itself. But there’s no way to understand the depth of what I’m talking about until you see the types of campaigns they’ve created.

These are the pressure points for internal strife in America. They already have people angry. All the Russian campaigns are doing is identifying them, capturing them in short and sharable memes, and then spending money to make sure they get injected and magnified among the population.

As someone who’s been a student of this type of thing in the past, I cannot help but admire it. It’s seriously great work.

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I’d go so far as to say the election of Trump had to be the one of the most effective intelligence campaigns in modern history.

But, as I’ve said multiple times here, Russia isn’t starting this problem: they’re just magnifying it. Exacerbating. Poking the bear. Instigating.

Hey, did you hear what they said about your mom?

That’s the technique. And wow, it worked. Not trying to disrespect the negative effects that have come from this, but I honestly can’t help but appreciate the perfection of this campaign.

But unrelated to Russia, but very much related to the fragmentation of America, I’ve been reading a few books about how America used to be unified in the 60’s, and how it’s becoming more and more soloed now—especially in terms of how the new upper class is breaking away from the middle and working classes.

The books I’m reading are Coming Apart, The New Urban Crisis, and BoBos In Paradise. They all walk through the relatively recent changes in America that are taking us from a single group with a unified set of goals and ideals, to a massive set of peoples who have very little in common.

What fascinates me is how this fragmentation and the Russian instigation of strife internally are very much related. Not tactically, but at the narrative level of disintegration of America.

Basically, we all used to be Americans. Different. Some rich, some less rich. But all were industrious. We valued honesty. We valued morality. There were major social issues with race to be sure. But we were (mostly) one America.

And now we’re just fragmenting. Busting into pieces along the lines of surgical identity politics. That’s what the campaigns above are: they’re sets of things that appeal to specific identity politics groups. They explicitly create the feeling of us and them.

And it’s not just America. The same thing is happening in Europe. In Canada. All over.

As I wrote about in Maybe the Current Trend for Society is Fragmentation, I think this is just the current mode the world is in. Thomas Piketty said in his book that the natural tendency is towards income separation, and that the only things that bring the classes together are major events like wars.

So which are we hoping for? More income disparity or a war to fix it?


  1. Russia executed the move of the century in helping to get Trump elected. It was sheer genius on their part.

  2. The strife they took advantage of was already there; they just magnified it.

I highly recommend you take a look at some of these campaigns and that you read these books that talk more about the class separation that’s been happening for decades.


  1. Coming Apart is the book about class mentioned above.

  2. The New Urban Crisis talks about how big cities are shutting everyone else out.

  3. BoBos In Paradise talks about the new upper class.

  4. Capital in the 21st Century is about how wealth distribution has moved over time, and how we can expect it to keep separating until we have a war.

  5. This resource collected the various Russian accounts and campaigns in one place.

  6. Hamilton 68 tracks Russian influence on Twitter.

  7. This NYT piece takes a nice sampling of these campaigns as well.

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