Today is the day that I finally earned my LGM wingsComments
It all started when I pointed out that Greenwald is as usual, playing his horseshoe-shaped audience for suckers.
In some basic respects, Greenwald’s post is technically accurate.
The Pentagon has a decade-old social-media “information warfare” program. Biden is the President of the United States, which makes him the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military. Thus, one could say that “Biden’s Pentagon” did create and control fake social-media accounts.
But why refer to “Biden’s Pentagon?” Is Biden directing the program? Is the White House using the Department of Defense to ratfuck the U.S. electorate?
Let’s take a look at the article:
WASHINGTON — White House officials told the military that they were concerned about its efforts to spread pro-American messaging on social media, prompting the Pentagon to order a review of secretive operations to influence populations overseas, U.S. officials said.
The review follows a decision by Twitter and Facebook over the summer to shut down misleading accounts that they determined were sending messages about U.S. foreign policy interests abroad.
The Pentagon audit and White House concerns were first reported by The Washington Post.
Disinformation researchers said the campaigns largely fell into two camps. Most of the campaigns spread pro-American messages, including memes and slogans that praised the United States. Those programs were similar to how Beijing often spreads disinformation by seeding positive messages about life in China.
One campaign targeting Iran, however, spread divisive messages about life there. The accounts involved pushed out views that both supported and opposed the Iranian government. That disinformation effort resembled the methods used by Russia to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
For years U.S. military commands have promoted pro-American news and messages for audiences overseas, sometimes earning the scrutiny of Congress. But the decision by the social media companies to shut down some accounts associated with the military suggested that the activity had gone further [emphasis added].
So it would seem the Biden White House was concerned about the activities of a program that they inherited. Maybe Greenwald didn’t read the actual story?
I guess he did.
Perhaps the original Washington Post story paints a different picture?
Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, last week instructed the military commands that engage in psychological operations online to provide a full accounting of their activities by next month after the White House and some federal agencies expressed mounting concerns over the Defense Department’s attempted manipulation of audiences overseas, according to several defense and administration officials familiar with the matter.
The takedowns in recent years by Twitter and Facebook of more than 150 bogus personas and media sites created in the United States was disclosed last month by internet researchers Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory. While the researchers did not attribute the sham accounts to the U.S. military, two officials familiar with the matter said that U.S. Central Command is among those whose activities are facing scrutiny. Like others interviewed for this report, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations [emphasis added].
And yes, this specific program dates from the Trump era.
With the rise of Russia and China as strategic competitors, military commanders have wanted to fight back, including online. And Congress supported that. Frustrated with perceived legal obstacles to the Defense Department’s ability to conduct clandestine activities in cyberspace, Congress in late 2019 passed a law affirming that the military could conduct operations in the “information environment” to defend the United States and to push back against foreign disinformation aimed at undermining its interests. The measure, known as Section 1631, allows the military to carry out clandestine psychological operations without crossing what the CIA has claimed as its covert authority, alleviating some of the friction that had hindered such operations previously.
There’s more. Both two articles claim that the vast majority of the material being put out by the sham accounts was actually true. It also sounds like the Trump administration brushed off the same concerns that motivated the Kahl’s review.
(When it comes to the programs themselves, and whether the U.S. should be weaponizing social media, there’s a lot to discuss. Maybe Cheryl, Rob, and I can discuss in a future podcast. Or maybe I’ll write about it. Better yet, maybe I’ll find someone I agree with and link to them.)
So, yes, Greenwald isn’t technically lying. He’s simply creating a totally false impression of the Biden administration’s role in the specific activities he highlights. He’s stoking the paranoia of his right-wing audience, who he knows full well will never actually read the article.
It’s ironic that Greenwald’s post about U.S. disinformation is itself an act of disinformation. It’s also unsurprising. He’s no stranger to the toolkit. After all, he’s become a reliable amplifier for other major purveyors, whether Russia or Carlson.
So how did I earn my wings?