By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
Russians trolled my hamster. And deceived enough people to vote for Brexit. Or at least got enough people to believe something written on the side a bus to vote for Brexit. And they got Trump elected in the USA. It’s frightening to think they can buy adverts on Facebook and convince us to vote for their favourite candidates.If it’s that easy it makes you wonder why no one else is doing it.
Sometimes I think I too may have been surreptitiously influenced by those sneaky Russkies. I once had a conversation on a train with a British man who had just returned from a visit to the Soviet Union. I believed he was British because he didn’t look Russian, apart from the impressive big fur hat they all wore in those days, and he didn’t speak with a Russian accent. He told me that everything in the Soviet Union was shoddily built and how, if they invaded Europe, half their tanks would clap out before they got through Germany.
I now think he may have been planting propaganda in my brain. Reverse propaganda, that is, which is cleverer than straight propaganda; to get us to think the commies were weak and easily beaten. So that if things kicked off they’d give a us a hammering we weren’t expecting: because their tanks would actually make it all the way to the Channel. That kind of thing.
Maybe that’s what’s going on at the moment, what with the Russians having got Trump elected. I don’t know what they’re expecting from him now that the old communist regime doesn’t exist any more. He’s not going to be promoting the works of Marx and Lenin, is he, or call for a People’s Democratic Socialist Republic of America. Maybe it has something to with oil (Big Oil, as the tinfoil hat brigade call it). Oil, like International Finance and Jews, is always a final go-to for the conspiracy theorists. Maybe Vladimir simply wants to stir trouble up in the West just for the hell of watching everyone run around like dogs chasing their own tails.
I really do not know. I’m not sure if the political-media clerisy who have been agitating themselves over this for the past eighteen months really know either. Most of what the press say in the States is that so-and-so met somebody who was Russian or met someone else who had links with a Russian, etc. I’m none the wiser about what the hell has been going on, but I suspect absolutely nothing has been going on – which must bug the hell out of all those rabid anti-Trump activists.
It was only a matter of time, of course, before the hysteria reached our shores. Now the Russkies are to blame for Brexit and heaven knows what else. Prime Minister May made a point of attacking them for fake news and “weaponising information”. Scary stuff. I can see how there is clearly a lot of propaganda going back and forth about the Ukraine – a problem to a large extent provoked by the EU’s irresponsible expansionism (and now universally ignored) – but that’s part of a long-running Russian problem. The real beef, though, seems to be about social media, according to the Guardian:
Russia has been accused of running “troll factories” that disseminate fake news and divisive posts on social media. It emerged on Monday that a Russian bot account was one of those that shared a viral image that claimed a Muslim woman ignored victims of the Westminster terror attack as she walked across the bridge.
I love the idea of a troll factory. I also love the way they’ve managed to wangle in a bit of their own fake news, namely the suggestion of Islamophobia, in the comment about the Muslim woman on Westminster Bridge. So among the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of accounts that retweeted the image, they managed to find one – just one – account that was identified as a Russian bot. This is really serious stuff.
What gullible simpletons we are, as if being told what to believe by Dacre, Murdoch and the Barclays in their newspapers were not bad enough we are now having our tired old strings pulled by the Russians on the internet as well, getting us to vote for Trump and Brexit and letting the oligarchs buy big properties in London. Where will it all end?
The line about them trolling my hamster is fake news, by the way. I don’t have a hamster. I might just start my own troll factory, though.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.