Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION - An­drews McMeel Syn­di­ca­tion

WASH­ING­TON — How clever are these Rus­sians! We now learn that they placed at least 3,000 ads on Face­book to con­fuse and di­vide the Amer­i­can peo­ple, that they con­nived a “photo” of Hil­lary Clin­ton in a pris­oner’s striped uni­form (im­pris­oned in a cage, no less!) and that they placed Rus­sians to live in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety as “Amer­i­cans” to dis­rupt our comity first­hand.

This and much worse we now know from Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s 37-page in­dict­ment of 13 Rus­sians ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to “sow dis­cord in the U.S. po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.” Yes, that much we know.

But there is some­thing else go­ing on in this dark world of “noir diplo­macy.” We are rather tak­ing it for granted that those Rus­sian trolls — which, I re­cently dis­cov­ered, is the word for those who sow dis­cord on the in­ter­net in­side an­other coun­try — should know us so well. We should not!

For un­der­ly­ing this scan­dal of Rus­sian in­flu­ence on the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is the ques­tion of why they and many other peo­ples know us too-too well, while we seem to know them all too-too lit­tle.

When I went to Latin Amer­ica as a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent for the Chicago Daily News many years ago, one of the first things that struck me was that the Latins seemed to study us night and day. They were ob­sessed with us.

That same ob­ses­sive spirit is true to­day in far­away Rus­sia. Av­er­age Rus­sians have lit­tle real un­der­stand­ing of the true na­ture of the Amer­i­can sys­tem, but they’re unim­por­tant. We are talk­ing here about Vladimir Putin’s up­per-ech­e­lon oli­garchs like Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “czar’s right-hand,” and Rus­sian stu­dents of so­cial me­dia and so­ci­ol­ogy at Putin’s In­ter­net Re­search Agency in St. Peters­burg, whose $1.25 mil­lion monthly bud­get funds pro­grams de­signed ex­plic­itly to de­stroy Amer­i­cans’ faith in their sys­tem.

Be­fore Mueller and his merry band of counter-trolls, we could say we didn’t know; now we do. And so now we must ask: Are we go­ing to let the weak­nesses Putin and the czar’s right-hand ex­ploited so well — like the in­abil­ity of Amer­i­can con­gress­men to work to­gether on just about any­thing — pre­vent us from deal­ing with the Rus­sians’ dan­ger­ous med­dling?

Face­book says it is do­ing all sorts of things to make up for al­low­ing the Rus­sians to play them for fools. We’ll see. In Congress, money al­lo­cated for anti-Rus­sian in­ter­ven­tion in Amer­i­can elec­tions has so far not been used for any­thing.

And Amer­i­can cit­i­zens: Do they care?

If they do, they surely are not show­ing it. Where could they start? Well, by not wast­ing their time watch­ing too much ca­ble news, by de­mand­ing the truth about those Rus­sian ads, and by sup­port­ing news­pa­pers. News­pa­pers are the only place you will find the truth about your friends, and es­pe­cially about your en­e­mies.

More ideas: Prose­ly­tize for more Voice of Amer­ica news pro­grams to Rus­sia like the ones that un­ques­tion­ably were con­se­quen­tial in de­stroy­ing the Soviet Union (those pro­grams are all but dead to­day). Re­sus­ci­tate the U.S. In­for­ma­tion Ser­vice, which Pres­i­dent Clin­ton wan­tonly de­stroyed. Pro­grams like the VOA need to be per­ma­nent, ex­pected and con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent.

Fi­nally, tell your con­gress­men to get off their bums.

I think we con­grat­u­late Moscow too much with our seem­ingly help­less re­ac­tions to them. For in truth, while it is easy for the Rus­sians to know about us be­cause we are an open so­ci­ety, it’s not re­ally im­pos­si­ble for us to know them, ei­ther.

The one time a bril­liant and work­able anal­y­sis of an­other so­ci­ety was made from our side was in 1944, when Gen. Dou­glas MacArthur, know­ing he was go­ing to be tapped to be the “sub­sti­tute em­peror” in Ja­pan af­ter the war, started pre­par­ing him­self. He helped form a group, largely of an­thro­pol­o­gists, in the Pen­tagon and once in Tokyo, did ex­actly as they ad­vised with re­spect to his be­hav­ior in Ja­panese cul­ture. It was an enor­mous Amer­i­can suc­cess that still in­spires the world.

Why do we not have such a group in the Pen­tagon to­day? In the State Depart­ment? In the White House? Wher­ever?

As the Rus­sians keep trolling, we should start rolling.

Ge­orgie Anne Geyer

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