The Bolshevik Revolution turned 100 last October. As Friday’s indictment of Russia's Internet Research Agency reminds us, it's been 100 years of tyrannical and murderous Russian regimes working to subvert democracy wherever they can and distort American public opinion by any means they can devise.
For decades, even in the post-Soviet era, the left wing of American politics laughed off this threat. It was not until Nov. 8, 2016, that it decided that Russia posed a serious threat to this country. This damascene conversion to faith in a new Red Scare helps them cling to conspiracy theories about President Trump colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin to take over the U.S. government.
But none of even the president's most ardent domestic opponents have been able to offer any plausible evidence of what this Trump-Russia collusion looks like or whether investigators of Russian interference will find anything on Trump at all. Certainly, Peter Strzok, one of the most virulently anti-Trump FBI officials who was investigating the president, thought there was "no big there there."
So, while you're waiting for something tangible to develop, let us recommend a more credible and immediate target for your anger.
As of this week, Mark Zuckerberg, owner of Facebook, is now directly colluding with Putin to influence world opinion in favor of the tyrant's regime. It’s happening before your very eyes.
Zuckerberg created one of the world’s largest and most important platforms for spreading news and information — and fake news and disinformation. It was one of the platforms Russian and other foreign propagandists used most effectively in 2016 to pass off lies as real news stories and to spread messages designed to divide Americans by race.
But what Facebook once allowed through organizational passivity, it is now doing willfully. Zuckerberg’s company, the owner of Instagram, has caved to pressure from Moscow and has agreed to suppress Instagram posts that Putin's critics have dug up and presented as concrete evidence of astounding official corruption.
Alexei Navalny, leader of the political opposition, alerted the world this week to Instagram posts that gave Russians and others a rare look at the high-flying lifestyle that government officials enjoy. In contrast to Putin’s manufactured image as a selfless public servant, the posts show Russia’s deputy prime minister, a powerful Putin ally, socializing on a yacht owned by Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska, on a trip where the available evidence strongly hints they traded corrupt favors. The two men also tried to conceal the fact of their meeting, with the deputy prime minister leaving the yacht before it returned to port.
In a video showcasing these posts about the yacht trip, along with other evidence of corruption, Navalny presents a compelling case that the official was also brought there on the oligarch’s plane. He states that the free trip, the free jaunt on the yacht, and the prostitutes on board would probably all count as bribes, if Russia had honest law enforcement or courts.
Navalny throws in drone footage showing this lifetime civil servant’s 17,000-square-foot mansion on seven acres of land. Navalny notes that this Russian official reports on his official disclosure forms that his wife has made millions of dollars in recent years, even though she has no job and owns no other sources of income. This all screams of a huge source of illicit income for one of the most powerful officials in Russia. (Deripaska, by the way, has also been in the news in connection with former lobbyist and erstwhile Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.)
Americans take for granted that Putin’s regime and its top officials are kleptocrats, but the regime tries to prevent most Russians from seeing this. That’s one reason Putin’s approval ratings are so high in Russia — he controls the news, and his enemies can expect to be at least harassed, at worst assassinated.
Navalny’s muckraking represents a sudden threat to Putin, which is why his regime put so much pressure on Zuckerberg to help him by blocking the posts under the flimsy pretext that the video violated Deripaska’s privacy on his yacht. That Zuckerberg capitulated in this matter, choosing to collude with the Putin dictatorship in suppressing real news is a sickening and saddening development.
One bright spot is that Putin has so far failed to force Google into removing YouTube videos about this, including this follow-up video.
A few weeks ago, Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s plans to purify news content that appears on the platform so less “fake news” reaches users. People wondered who would decide what news is real and what is fake.
No one expected it would be Putin.