Ah, Thanksgiving. A holiday we once enjoyed by letting our guard down, getting fat with relatives, and waiting for Uncle Bob to pass out before grabbing the remote and turning off the Cowboys game. That ideal version of Thanksgiving lasted from 1621 until 2015. And oh, how great it was. But now, a Kremlin-directed troll offensive is threatening to shake our once-great holiday to its very core. With Putin’s social media warriors seeking to sow discord at every chance, it’s simply no longer possible to trust that the Thanksgiving content in our News Feeds isn’t subversive foreign propaganda intended to rip our families, and our nation, apart. And thus, we, the people of this great nation, must examine every post, every recipe, every advice column and every meme, to make sure that the content at the foundation of our Thanksgiving observance is not being corrupted and weaponized to turn us against each other.
So, my friends and countrymen, here is a guide for you and your families to make sure the Russians don’t fuck with the turkey. This guide is gleaned from the front lines of the social media disinformation wars. Use it often. Use it wisely.
Check The Ingredients
The first place you should look for signs of Russian meddling is in the ingredients section of any Thanksgiving recipe content. If your traditional Thanksgiving meal recipe post recommends a feast of borscht, solyanka, and pierogi, you should view this with some suspicion (though it does sound delicious). When Grandma walks in with a meal made up of these items, immediately confiscate her phone and search it. If her browser history is filled with RT articles and her Facebook is stocked with state secession groups, she is likely being influenced by Putin’s keyboard warriors. (It’s difficult to really know for sure though. Also, there are few good solutions to prevent similar manipulation in the future) After reviewing grandma’s phone, hand it back to her. Give her a kiss. Tell her you love her. Then gently convey there’s a chance she’s been influenced by a foreign chaos campaign. Eat the food with a smile. A great beer pairing for perogies is Baltika No. 9 — the St. Petersburg brew is extra strong and will come in handy for dealing with your family the rest of the day.
Dead Giveaways: Spelling and Grammar
Next, you must vigorously examine the spelling and grammar inside any Thanksgiving-related content in your News Feeds. Russian trolls are notoriously bad at making sense in English — a Texas secession page once eloquently declared “IN LOVE WITH TEXAS SHAPE” — and it’s likely they’ll slip up here as well. If you see any Thanksgiving memes declaring “In Love with Turkey shape,” or “Vladimir Putin, you I am thankful for,” you might well be viewing the work of the menace movement based in St. Petersburg. It will of course be difficult to know exactly what you’re looking at. And if it is Russian propaganda, Facebook will likely only admit it months down the road. If ever. Proceed with caution.
Identify Divisive Recommendations
It’s been a rough few months, America. So rough we could probably all use a stiff glass of scotch and nap. Make it two glasses and a good night’s sleep. Over the past two years, we’ve had so many disagreements on politics and policy that a smooth Russian social media instigator would encourage us to talk politics over our Thanksgiving meals. With this in mind, when Uncle Franklin comes in with a printout of a Wall Street Journal story headlined “Want to Spice Up Thanksgiving Dinner? Talk Politics,” ask him if he’s seen the writer’s other articles, including “When Boxing Goes Low, I Go High,” about the time the same author attended Mayweather vs. McGregor totally stoned. When you finish your question, look over to Uncle Franklin as he picks out a tin from his jacket pocket and removes cigarette looking thing from the tin. Hey… Uncle Franklin… you can’t… it’s… UNCLE FRANKLIN!!!... wait this is a family... ah, okay…old habits die hard…
Beware The Fashion Blogs
Nothing pulls families apart quite like sloppy dressing. So be on high alert for questionable fashion advice intended to deliver you to your family’s meal looking like a hot mess. Remember, it is never acceptable to wear sweatpants to your Aunt Matilda's house. Never. Even if they say “USA” in big, bold letters down the leg. Also, do not wear gym shorts. White socks should be avoided as well. Costumes are okay as long as they show most of your face so Aunt Matilda can give you a big kiss. You can also wear one of those big Russian snow hats if it’s cold. Okay, I admit it, I’m no longer giving tips on how to spot Russian-seeded content. I’m giving you straight up fashion advice. So wear a nice button up or a sweater. And take a shower for goodness sake. And if you must ride a horse to the meal, do so without a shirt, while flexing, to show you are a strong, powerful leader.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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