Last week, the great Matt Taibbi revealed that a shadowy group called “Hamilton 68” had been accusing anyone and anything they don’t like of being, or being influenced by, a Russian bot.
“Instead of tracking how ‘Russia’ influenced American attitudes,” Taibbi notes, “Hamilton 68 simply collected a handful of mostly real, mostly American accounts, and described their organic conversations as Russian scheming.”
Simply in terms of volume, Taibbi estimates that Hamilton 68 “may go down as the single greatest case of media fabulism in American history. Virtually every major news organization in America is implicated, including NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Mother Jones alone did at least 14 stories pegged to the group’s ‘research.’ Even fact-checking sites like Politifact and Snopes cited Hamilton 68 as a source.”
But what is Hamilton 68? It is, Taibbi writes, a “computerized ‘dashboard’ designed to be used by reporters and academics to measure ‘Russian disinformation.’ ”
But what it really measured was politically tendentious and utterly baseless allegations of Russian disinformation in order to discredit people and opinions that the people running Hamilton 68 didn’t like. Taibbi identifies it as a “neoliberal think tank” supposedly devoted to uncovering the nefarious influences of the Russkies on — well, everything. But especially — tell me you are not surprised — anything that involves Donald Trump or anyone who has to do with Trump.
Who is behind this gigantic exercise in journalistic malfeasance and deception? Well, wouldn’t you know it, at the center of the operation is our old friend Bill Kristol, patron saint of NeverTrumpery, along with John Podesta, former Hillary Clinton apparatchik, and Michael McFaul, academic anti-Trumper par excellence.
As a story in The Post put it, “Hamilton 68’s pronouncements were used to allege a hidden Russian hand in US politics from hundreds, and possibly thousands, of news stories during the Trump years.”
But it was fake, all fake — or, as a frustrated Twitter employee put it, it was “bulls–t.” Indeed, Taibbi reports that Twitter execs were so concerned (“shocked” is his word) about the proliferation of news stories linked to Hamilton 68 that they ordered a forensic analysis. Result: out of many hundreds of accounts identified as Russian bots, only 36 were registered in Russia, and many of those were associated with Russia Today, a news site.
So here we are. The entire “Russia Collusion” hoax was dreamed up, paid for, and set into action by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It aimed at and succeeded in hobbling Trump’s first term, weighing it down with the $40 million fishing expedition conducted by senile former FBI chief Robert “What’s Fusion GPS?” Mueller.
And now we learn that all the ambient static about the Russkies are coming! the Russkies are coming! was similarly fabricated out of whole cloth.
Here’s how it worked: Hamilton 68, a “research institute,” invents claims about Russian bots. Reporters then target public enemies like Devin Nunes, Mike Flynn, Tulsi Gabbard, or Donald Trump with the claims and, as Taibbi says, “headlines flow.” The scam, he concludes, “needed just three elements: credentials of someone like ‘former FBI agent’ [Clint] Watts, the absence of any semblance of fact-checking, and the silence of companies like Twitter.”
Bottom line? This was an example of what Taibbi calls “digital McCarthyism, taking people with dissident or unconventional opinions and mass-accusing them of ‘Un-American activities.’” But where McCarthy claimed to have found a commie under every bed, Hamilton 68 focused not on targeting leftists — though a few were swept up as window dressing and cover — but on conservative accounts with handles like ULTRA MAGA Dog Mom and @ClassyLadyForDJT.
The activity of Hamilton 68 marks a new, and distinctly malodorous, chapter in politically motivated disinformation. Even as I write, it is being exposed. So far, however, the response has been muted. Not surprising, perhaps, since so many who might have responded were either in on or dupes of the scam.
From The Spectator.