Kremlin’s Troll Army
This is a continuation of my series about Kremlin Troll Army Techniques, part two.
These Russian paid trolls were supposedly started around 2005, in order to build the perception of support for certain Russians. Nashi, which is now a Russian youth movement, was begun. Now, however, the use of paid trolls has matured and evolved and the use of Nashi has changed to something akin to the Komsomol or Nazi youth movement in Russia.
Almost certainly you, gentle reader, have encountered Russian paid commenters, trolls, in the comment section of your favorite social media or news site. I have bumped into them on Facebook, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, LiveLeak, New York Times, CNN, The Guardian (UK) and numerous other sites.
The techniques of these trolls is generally the same. If the subject of the article is about Ukraine, for instance, the troll will generally post a statement reflecting a pro-Russian perspective. Depending on the fluency of the troll’s English, they may or may not have a complete understanding of the subject, so their response may or may not be pertinent. When I respond, I generally give a fairly neutral statement, reflecting my perspective, which is generally a pro-Ukrainian or Western response. Here is where it gets interesting.
Occasionally I get a thoughtful response from a pro-Russian. This is actually exciting, for me. I appreciate them taking the time to share their thoughts with me, present their version of the truth and, perhaps, just perhaps, I will gain insight into what and how they form their opinion. Hopefully they will gain a similar experience. This is generally not a paid Russian troll, it is a regular person, from anywhere around the world, having a pleasant exchange of ideas.
But, more often than not, I encounter paid Russian trolls. They will generally attack and then pile on, bringing in others, all using multiple accounts. I’ve been called a fascist, I’ve been called a nazi, I’ve been called an American paid commenter, a punisher, Obama’s stooge, a stupid American, and that is just for starters. If I continue to respond they will attack more and more forcefully. They’ll cite America bombing Kosovo, how Bush and Powell and company lied to the UN before attacking Iraq, how Americans killed millions in Iraq, how the CIA assassinated this world leader, lead that coup and skewed an election. The only thing I have not read is how America is responsible for global warming and I’m sure that’s coming. By this time 10 or more trolls are copying and pasting all kinds of comments, fast and furiously. If I’m still responding, and sometimes I just sit back and read, then they will use every insult known to man, and some I’ve never read before. I’ve been told that certain parts of my body have more than one use, and I thought I knew the human body. George Carlin’s seven dirty words are a good start to the language being used, but apparently new words are being invented every day. It gets really interesting when they swear in Russian or Ukraine and I copy and paste what they wrote into Google Translate, if my Chrome browser doesn’t automatically translate.
These trolls will attack in waves, I get the feeling they learned from the Chinese in the Chosin Reservoir. But the Chinese attacked for hours and days, whereas the trolls last about five minutes. Sometimes I’ll take a break and check my e-mail and return to find all the trolls have moved on. Then, I’m not sure if I’m masochistic or not, I’ll ask another pro-Ukrainian question, just to see who is around. Ah, c’mon, they’re being paid and I’m giving them an opportunity to work, yes?
I’m a co-moderator of a Ukrainian discussion group on Facebook and I’ve recently encountered another twist on this common theme. One of the people in the forum is a Ukrainian woman living elsewhere in Europe who I found out is 1. Real, 2. Intelligent and 3. Introspective. Almost immediately I was accused by some pro-Russians in the group of having a relationship with her, and they began piling on. The personal attacks continued to build, so we moderators chose to boot them out and ban them if they were particularly egregious. A few more pro-Russians tried to use that against us, to distract us from participating in the conversation as well as to discouraging us from participating at all. Boot. Ban. Gone. Problem solved. Most of the time a problem can be resolved with a private message, but these trolls seemed to be especially keen on being kicked out of the group.
What are they trying to accomplish? Dominance, plain and simple. If someone with a Western perspective can be drowned out and discouraged from responding, the Russians win. The perception they seem to want to achieve is that they can say and do what they want, always supporting the Kremlin, Russia and the separatists in Ukraine. They never accept responsibility for bad actions by the Russians and there is always deniability in everything Russia does. They mirror the arguments used by the Kremlin, they learn from and use the articles from RT, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS and other Russian ‘news sites’ and they seem to work in shifts.
How can the West win? Persistence. Plain and simple. Unfortunately the West has the attention span of a gnat, Ferguson, MO has the United States’ attention at the moment, so Ukraine and Russia are on the far back burner on that stove. A long term, coherent and dedicated effort is needed.