By Eric Tallant
Former Army NCO/Fellow at The Intelligence Community
I’ve been recently kicked off a popular social media platform. Appeals for reinstatement have been denied. A year’s worth of work and networking are all but gone. Most wouldn’t feel too much about losing access to a social media website. They’d move on. However, I was using social media, on this particular platform, to combat hostile propagandists and trolls that were flooding news feeds with provocative disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories.
Basically, whenever a hostile profile would post inaccurate and inflammatory information, especially about the US, I would do my best to counter their claims with factual information. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t become snarky with these information agent provocateurs- I did- but as time moved forward, there became more enemies than I and my colleagues could keep up with, and soon we were overwhelmed with complaints to the social media police. Thus, bans came down.
The reasons I took up fighting against online agents of disinformation, conspiracy theorists, and propagandists were all based in protection of my country. The alternative media, mostly filled with conspiracy theorists and anti-government types (both on the right and the left), have been getting a steady diet of state sponsored propaganda from Russia, China, Iran, and other extremist groups. The marriage between the paranoid far right in the US and Russian media has been consummated. The conspiracy theorist shock jock Alex Jones has for some time been provided “expert analysis” by Roger Stone -a political advisor whom helped oversee ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanucovyk’s rise to power at the Kremlin’s bequest. Stone now advises Donald Trump, and continues to appear on Alex Jones’ “Infowars” program. Perhaps this explains some of Trump’s conspiracy related quips.
As the US presidential race got into full swing, I started to notice that there was more and more pro-Russian, anti-American conspiracy related garbage being spouted on social media sites through conservative male profiles. As I engaged these profiles, I discovered some of the individuals behind the keyboard were real and some were fake. One of my colleagues went to great lengths to uncover a totally fake conservative American male profile had been purposefully setup to gather a large following. This profile was spewing nothing but pure Russian-sponsored propaganda, aimed at perpetuating divisiveness in American politics and culture. The profile was made to look like it belonged to a successful, white male businessman that had lost faith in the current American way of doing things. This profile appears to be actually created systematically by analyzing different variables found in polls and demographics of visitors/viewers of certain TV stations and websites, and then tailored to project a cross section of the most popular divisive theories found on those media platforms.
My colleague engaged, with much vitriol, this fake profile. In the process of his engagement, seemingly real Americans who shared a somewhat similar viewpoint as this fake profile, began to show up. My friend, a man with decades’ worth of experience in Civil Affairs, PSYOPS, and as an advisor to Special Forces as an Information Operations officer, sensed that if he didn’t maintain a straight forward, decisive, friendly yet firm attitude towards these real Americans, he’d lose the advantage of speaking the truth, and risk being a propaganda blurb for the bad guys. All in all, my colleague kept his cool, advanced on the objective, and, at the very least, kept the narrative two-sided.
To Be Continued…..