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Tandemocracy Part II: Trump, Putin, And The Information Age

A baffled American citizen examines the historical basis for Russian interference with American politics and mass media.

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Just as allegations of Trump’s ties to Russia began to fade from mainstream memory, Micheal Flynn took it upon himself to remove any remaining doubts of a connection. The relationship between Russia and Trump’s White House seems flagrant in light of the fact that Putin is practiced at supplanting democratically elected leaders. Despite Russia’s rich history of progressive democracy, you may be interested to learn of their Premiere’s less than clean past.

The headlines began with coverage of Christopher Steele’s 35-page report, detailing Russia’s involvement in creating the candidate that would become America’s fearless leader. But the real story starts in 1999. In the course of a day, Putin ascended from his newly awarded office of First Deputy Prime Minister (1 of 3), to Prime Minister of the Government of the Russian Federation. A position awarded to him by Boris Yeltsin, and later ratified by the state. That same day, Putin announced his presidency. Four months later, Yeltsin resigned as President of the Russian Federation and left the office of to Putin. Putin’s first order of business was to sign a decree stating corruption charges against the former administration and Yeltsin’s family would not be pursued. Putin himself was involved in several scandals that he dismissed. Yeltsin's resignation lead to a new election 3 months after Putin took office. In March of 2000, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin had won the simple majority required to stay in office.

Putin’s first and second terms as president were rife with scandals, silenced dissenters (Anna Politkovskaya), and opposition to peaceful protest. But his second term as the Premier (2008-2012) is where things really get interesting. Around May 8th of ‘08, Putin and his First Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, began to undermine the existing power structure of the Russian Government. Putin ceded the presidency to Medvedev,and was made Prime Minister by Medvedev, in order to make Putin President for an unconstitutional third term as Premier. Unsurprisingly, this was met with a great deal of protest, the most severe experienced under Putin so far. Less surprisingly still, the protests were met with paramilitary organizations. Putin’s third term exists in such recent history, it needs little underscoring. However, Russia’s existence in the internet age does need discussing.

The perception of images and facts has long been the bane spin doctors since long before Conway hatched Lahren. The information age has created so many avenues of information, the truth becomes indiscernible, and often, inconsequential. Though governments and government officials have tumultuous relationships with modern social media platforms, they are among the best at manipulating perception in the modern age. Russia is no different. Common tactics included discrediting news organizations, creating false narratives to compete with real information, using actors in news reports, changing the tone of internet discussions, and more. It is foolhardy to put this sort of behavior past America. As recently as 2011, The NSA manipulated social media discussions under the Prism Program. Using glorified dummy accounts, 1 operative was able to control 10 fake accounts. This particular program was aimed at non-English speakers, but the precedent is there.

It does not take much digging to unearth the skeletons of your government’s past. But when you do, you have a responsibility. Rectify the situations and remain vigilant in your skepticism. As this call relates to Americans; at the ballot box, vote against injustice, at the water cooler act against it.

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