This is probably going to turn out as less of a post and more of a list of links, but the pattern is both worrying and worth pointing out.
First up, The Economist on the increasing sophistication of Putin’s propaganda machine:
The Kremlin’s bet on marginal right-wing parties has paid off as they have moved into the mainstream. It has pumped out disinformation and propaganda both through its official media channels, such as the RT and Sputnik news networks, and through thousands of paid internet trolls. Its cyber-attacks against Western countries produced troves of emails and documents which it dumped into the hands of foreign media, disrupting America’s presidential elections to the benefit of Mr Trump.
And a motivation:
Unlike the Socialists of the 1930s, the Kremlin and its friends today are driven not so much by ideology as by opportunism (and, in Russia’s case, corruption). Mr Putin’s primary goal is not to present an alternative political model but to undermine Western democracies whose models present an existential threat to his rule at home. Having lived through the Soviet collapse, he is well aware that the attraction of the prosperous, value-based West helped defeat communism. The retreat of that liberal democratic idea allows Russian propagandists to claim a victory.
Lithuanian MEP, Petras Austrevicius has seen it all before:
A lot of Europeans think that Russian propaganda does not concern them.
These people are in denial on Russia, whose propaganda has infected European debate like a virus.
We are already late in trying to react. Some are still not ready to start.
And, just to underline the point, Russia’s state-owned RT network will start broadcasting in French next year, just in time for the presidential election. And Germany’s intelligence agency has accused Russia of hacking its politicians and election systems under the guise of online activism.
And for the effectiveness of all this, the BBC notes that:
Despite Donald Trump’s boasts to the contrary, he’s entering the White House with a very tenuous claim to a presidential mandate. He trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in the popular vote by 2.8 million votes, and while he posted a comfortable electoral college win, by historical standards it ranks towards the bottom of victory margins (46th out of 58 presidential contests).
The Kremlin has managed to manipulate the media and is continuing to do so. And the media, often more concerned with ratings than reality, are allowing themselves to be played for idiots.
We should all be very concerned.