Written by David Stockman
We have always heard that a determined government prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich, and now we know it’s true. After 38 years in the prosecution racket, Robert Mueller just made his biggest score ever — that is, he nailed a great big Nothingburger.
But he also did a lot more than that. Mueller’s 37-page comic book indictment actually unmasks — inadvertently to be sure — the distinctly un-terrifying essence of the whole Russian meddling narrative. In fact, the crude social media emissions (ads and posts) of the so-called troll farm were generally lame, often laughable and sometimes downright ludicrous as per this gem cited by Mueller:
a. On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the ORGANIZATION-controlled Instagram account “Woke Blacks” to post the following message: ‘[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.’
Notwithstanding the grave nomenclature of BLOCK CAPITALS, endless sinister “on or about” events and 99 numbered paragraphs of particulars, the true bill (charging document) is actually just a random catalogue of social media trivia like the above “Woke Blacks” post.
Most of the cited gleanings amounted to crude word bombs, often in broken English, that presumably even Kim Kardashian’s 59 million Twitter followers could see through.
‘Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is’
The lion’s share of these postings and ads probably disappeared into cyberspace like the sound of a falling tree in an empty forest, anyway. According to Facebook itself, the seemingly ubiquitous social media ad campaign depicted in the indictment was nothing of the kind. It actually amounted to just 3,000 placements at a cost of $100,000 — more than half of which were purchased after the election, and 25 percent of which ended-up in its dead letter office (unread).
Likewise, the handful of efforts to actually stimulate pro-Trump rallies in Florida and elsewhere were abject failures. As we document below, the Russians had absolutely no “ground game” in the US and any third-rate campaign consultant will tell you that ads alone do not produce crowds. In fact, there is virtually no evidence that anyone showed up at the rallies cited by Mueller.
Besides, the overwhelming share of the pro-Trump social media postings uncovered by Mueller’s sleuths amounted to “copy and paste” relays of current partisan talking points. Thus, the indictment cites such slogans as:
‘Vote Republican, vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!’
‘Trump is our only hope for a better future!’
‘Donald wants to defeat terrorism…Hillary wants to sponsor it’
It took a clandestine nest of Russkie imposters and subversives to pollute the social media with this kind of tripe?
In fact, RNC, Fox News, and the Trump campaign were already saturating the internet with these messages, anyway — along with millions of pro-Trump social media activists. The 80 Russian operatives cited by Mueller didn’t add one damn bit to the massive social media messaging that was already out there.
So here’s the joker in the whole deck. It seems that the nefarious “troll farm” in St. Petersburg that comprises nearly the totality of Mueller’s case is not a Russian intelligence agency operation at all.
Instead, it’s the relatively harmless Hobby Farm of a fanatical Russian oligarch and ultra-nationalist, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has a great big beef against Imperial Washington’s demonization of Russia and Vlad Putin. Apparently, the farm was (it’s apparently being disbanded) the vehicle through which he gave Washington the middle finger and buttered up his patron.
Prigozhin is otherwise known as “Putin’s Cook” because he made his fortune in St. Petersburg restaurants that Putin favored and via state funded food service operations at Russian schools and military installations. Like most Russian oligarchs not in jail, he apparently tithes in gratitude to the Kremlin: In this case, by bankrolling the rinky-dink operation at 55 Savushkina Street in St Petersburg that is the object of Mueller’s pretentious foray into the flotsam and jetsam of social media low life.
Prigozhin’s trolling farm is grandly called the Internet Research Agency (IRA), but what it actually does is hire (apparently) unemployed 20-somethings at $4-8 per hour to pound out ham-handed political messaging on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube etc. They bang away twelve hours at a shift on a quota-driven paint-by-the-internet-numbers basis where their output is rated for engagements, likes, retweets etc.
Whatever these keyboard drones might be, they are not professional Russian intel operators. And the collection of broken English postings strewn throughout the indictment are not one bit scary.
Indeed, the utterly stupid naiveté of the whole St. Petersburg operation is crystalized by this episode when the farm purportedly garnered some startling political insight from an unwitting Trump campaign official in Texas:
80. On or about August 19, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona ‘Matt Skiber’ account to write to the real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization who previously had advised the false persona to focus on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.’ Defendants and their co-conspirators told that U.S. person, ‘We were thinking about your recommendation to focus on purple states and this is what we’re organizing in FL.’
Jeez Louise and goodness gracious, too. Who coulda thunk as early as August that Colorado, Virginia, and Florida would be swing states!
In any event, even Mueller’s indictment proves that the farm was strictly amateurville. None of the other 12 Russians charged has an intelligence background, either.
Thus, the CEO is a retired St. Petersburg police officer. The executive director is a 31-year old website developer and internet PR promoter who previously had garnered small beans contracts ($4k-20k each) from St. Petersburg agencies to publish municipal newspapers, make video reports about their activities, or promote local programs such as one on “tolerance and prevention of drug addiction.”
Likewise, two more of the operatives were graduates students in IT and advertising at St. Petersburg universities.
Then there is the husband/wife duo, Maria and Robert Bovda, who were the original heads of the US focused “translator project.” Both were recent graduates in psychology from local universities, where Robert’s 2011 thesis had been on “The Effects of Social-Support Conditions On Loneliness As Experienced By the Elderly”.
We can’t help but think they had not yet become hardened spies when the joined IRA in November 2013 and apparently left in October 2014. Whatever they did during their tenure at the farm, cooking up ways to help Donald Trump’s not yet announced campaign was surely not among them, but still apparently enough to help fill out Mueller’s indictment roster.
Another was Dzheykhun Aslanov, who was head of the “American department” and had graduated in 2012 from the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg. He had studied economics and wildlife management!
Likewise, nowhere in the entire 37 pages is there even a clause linking Prigozhin’s Hobby Farm to the SVR (foreign intelligence service), the FSB (counter-intelligence and anti-terrorism), the GRU (military intelligence service), any other agency of the Russian State — or even some purported Kremlin back channel to Putin.
Yet there is every reason to believe that the entire Russian meddling narrative cooked up by the partisan hacks in Obama’s inner circle — John Brennan, Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes — was based on the amateurish machinations originating in the nondescript building pictured below.
As we will show, the Hobby Farm was no Russian state secret or clandestine vehicle of its intelligence community. To the contrary, it had been fully covered in the Russian press for years as one of numerous such oligarch funded projects designed to glorify the Putin regime and vilify the Russian opposition.
It had also been the subject of a lengthy expose in The Guardian of London, as well as other western media. Even Radio Free Europe had done a lengthy profile.
All of this had happened long before Prigozhin’s Hobby Farm had turned its attentions to US politics. Indeed, the IRA’s pivot to the US in April 2014 occurred well before Trump’s candidacy was gleam in anyone’s eye except his own, but after a seminal event had occurred which Mueller’s comic book narrative completely ignores.
To wit, what apparently riled up Prigozhin was Washington’s heavy-handed meddling in the politics of Ukraine during the US funded and enabled coup on the streets of Kiev in February 2014.
Never mind that the incumbent pro-Russian government had come to power in an honest election and had chosen to take a more attractive economic deal from Moscow than was being offered by the West. Also ignore that fact that Ukraine was Russia’s next door neighbor and had been an essential element of Greater Russia — sometimes a full fledged constituent state — for more than 700 years.
Likewise, when Crimea elected by 90 percent referendum vote to “rejoin” Russia, it didn’t happen at gunpoint. Crimea is 85 percent Russian and had been an integral part of the Russian state ever since it was purchased from the Turks by Catherine the Great for good money in 1783.
Thereafter, its major port city of Sevastopol had functioned as the homeport for Russia’s Black Sea fleet under Czars and Commissars alike. The only real reason it needed to “rejoin” Russia in March 2014 was because the Ukrainian tyrant who ruled the Soviet Union in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev, had gifted it to his Ukrainian compatriots during a drunken celebration of his victory over two deadly rivals who also claimed Stalin’s succession.
Indeed, when Obama’s neocon Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, Victoria Nuland, was caught telling the American ambassador in Kiev that “Yats is the guy” with respect to the new Washington designated leader of the post-coup government and joined a chorus of Washington-based vilification of Putin and the Russian government, the die was cast.
Russian nationalists like Prigozhin were not going to take it lying down. As we document below, then and there he began to shift some of the activities of his trolling farm toward the US.
It amounted to a tit-for-tat response to the anti-Russian propaganda emanating from the Washington-funded NGOs in Kiev; and also from outright government agencies like the National Endowment for Democracy and Radio Free Europe, as well as the Deep State subservient operations of CNN and its print media imitators.
That shift was described as the “translator project” by Mueller’s historically ignorant lawyers. The implication was that out of sheer aggression the Kremlin had unilaterally decided to attack America’s democratic process through the IRA.
In fact, the overwhelming likelihood is that an arriviste Russian billionaire got a bee in his bonnet after Washington’s Ukrainian coup — and then went to town on America with his trolling farm exactly as he and many others had been doing in internal Russian politics for years.
From the point of view of US/Russian relations and world peace, however, the re-direction of activity at Prigozhin’s Hobby Farm could not have come at a worse time. Its wholly open and widely known operations permitted Obama’s hatchet-people to quickly seize on the IRA’s new theatre of focus as evidence of a massive Russian attack on America’s election process, thereby turning a molehill into a mountain.
At length, the partisan leaders of Obama’s national security team, led by the detestable John Brennan at the CIA, selectively coopted and abused the resources and credibility of the vast US intelligence apparatus to put the imprimatur of a national security threat upon what was in fact a scary bedtime story of no real significance. That effort culminated in the phony intelligence assessment published by four US intel agencies in January 2017 based on the work of Brennan’s “hand-picked” accomplices.
In what is surely a fabulous irony, therefore, the Internet Research Agency amounts to a reverse Potemkin Village. It wasn’t much to look at and was nothing to worry about until Obama’s national security posse falsely embellished it’s innocuous façade into a mortal threat to American democracy and national security.
And then Robert Mueller brought in his gang of copywriters and illustrators to turn this entire tall tale into CNN-ready “news.”
We will demonstrate below that what happened in this building was a complete farce and posed no threat to the security and liberty of the American people whatsoever; nor did it even remotely impact the 2016 election process.
But with his comic book indictment, Robert Mueller has actually made himself a mortal threat to America’s democracy and national security. That’s because his indictment is unleashing a rabid anti-Russian mania in the Democratic party and turning flaming liberals and leftwing progressives, who used to form the backbone of the peace party in America, into outright war-mongers.
The Donald tweeted over the weekend about Moscow “laughing its ass off” about the Mueller indictment, but we think he missed the mark. It is the Deep State on the banks of the Potomac that is bursting with glee — literally licking its collective chops — about the endless budget boondoggles now assured to be coming its way.
The neocons and military/industrial complex had already taken control of the GOP lock, stock and barrel. Then, his campaign rhetoric about “America First” notwithstanding, Trump abdicated to his empire-minded generals in order to concentrate on his Twitter account. And now in the wake of the RussiaGate hysteria being given a powerful new boost from Mueller’s comic book, the Dems are lining up to say we will see your $700 billion budget and crank it up from there.
The truth is, there is a screaming fiscal crisis coming hard upon Imperial Washington. That’s owing to the $15 trillion of new deficits that are now built-in for the next decade — at the very time when the Fed has shut down is massive bond-buying experiment and the Baby Boom is hitting the social security and medicare rolls in droves.
Absent the RussiaGate hoax and the Dems descent into mindless, anti-Putin hysteria, there would have been a moment of maximum danger for the Deep State’s hideously inflated military, intelligence, and surveillance operations. In the coming battle against fiscal collapse, they surely would have been on the fiscal chopping block like at no time since the aftermath of Vietnam in the 1970s.
But rescue is now at hand. The Dems have been shell-shocked ever since the evening of November 8, 2016, and have worked themselves into deliriums about how it was all a big mistake enabled by Russian meddling and collusion with the Trump campaign.
To a substantial degree, however, those narratives were on their last legs until the Mueller indictment came along. For anyone who takes the trouble to read it, of course, it’s just a potpourri of nonsense, marginalia, and irrelevance.
But the Dems had already gone brain dead on the RussiaGate matter — so they are now greeting it as a “blockbuster,” as are the talking heads of CNN and the mainstream media. Consequently, the drivel that came out of the building pictured below is being taken as evidence of a far-reaching attack on America that even rivals Pearl Harbor. As Pat Buchanan noted:
This Russian troll farm is ‘the equivalent (of) Pearl Harbor,’ says Cong. Jerrold Nadler, who would head up the House Judiciary Committee, handling any impeachment, if Democrats retake the House.
When MSNBC’s Chris Hayes pressed, Nadler doubled down: The Russians ‘are destroying our democratic process.’ While the Russian trolling may not equal Pearl Harbor in its violence, said Nadler, in its ‘seriousness, it is very much on a par’ with Japan’s surprise attack.
That’s right. But unlike the vast Japanese naval armada that stealthily steamed toward Hawaii in early December 1941, the Facebook cyber-missiles that allegedly hit America in 2016 came out of this little joint hiding in plain sight:
So let’s return to the fact that Prigozhin’s troll farm doesn’t really look much different than countless others that dot the Russian internet landscape, and which mushroomed after 2011 in support of the Putin-ified Russian state and the crony capitalist economy it shepherds.
A New Yorker piece published by journalist Adrian Chen, no fan of Donald Trump, in late July 2016 explains about as well as any where the Internet Research Agency came from:
The (Internet Research Agency) has been widely reported in Russian media to be the brainchild of Evgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch and ally of Vladimir Putin. At the time, it employed hundreds of Russians in a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, where they produced blog posts, comments, infographics, and viral videos that pushed the Kremlin’s narrative on both the Russian and English Internet.
The agency is what is known in Russia as a ‘troll farm,’ a nickname given to outfits that operate armies of sock-puppet social-media accounts, in order to create the illusion of a rabid grass-roots movement. Trolling has become a key tool in a comprehensive effort by Russian authorities to rein in a previously freewheeling Internet culture, after huge anti-Putin protests in 2011 were organized largely over social media. It is used by Kremlin apparatchiks at every level of government in Russia; wherever politics are discussed online, one can expect a flood of comments from paid trolls.
The real effect, the Russian activists told me, was not to brainwash readers but to overwhelm social media with a flood of fake content, seeding doubt and paranoia, and destroying the possibility of using the Internet as a democratic space……
…….toward the end of last year (2015) I noticed something interesting: many had begun to promote right-wing news outlets, portraying themselves as conservative voters who were, increasingly, fans of Donald Trump. Exposure to even small amounts of Russian politics can induce severe bouts of paranoia and conspiracy-minded thinking, and it seemed logical to me that this new pro-Trump bent might well be an attempt by the agency to undermine the U.S. by helping to elect a racist reality-show star as our Commander-in-Chief. At the time, I found it funny. The agency was a well-funded but often hapless operation — it created a cartoon character that was a giant buttocks to spread anti-Obama propaganda, for example — and this seemed like another of its far-fetched schemes to poison the Internet.
In fact, it was. How it became a fearsome Russian intel operation was entirely due to what happened in Washington DC, not St. Petersburg or the Kremlin, for that matter.
That is, in the summer of 2016, when the Obama inner circle and the Deep State national security establishment alike suddenly were confronted with the theretofore unthinkable prospect that Donald Trump might actually be elected US President, they literally transformed the Hobby Farm of a second tier Russian oligarch into monumental threat to American democracy.
And that took some doing because Prigozhin was essentially a nobody in the great scheme of national security. Unlike Putin, who cut his eyeteeth in the old Soviet era KGB, Prigozhin had fancied himself a ski racer as a privileged young man in a Soviet boarding school. Failing to make the grade on the slopes, however, he had subsequently pursued various petty criminal schemes that landed him nine years in a Soviet prison during the latter’s dying days.
But timing is everything — so when he opened a hot dog stand from his mother’s kitchen in newly liberated St. Petersburg in the early 1990s his entrepreneurial talents in the culinary field self-evidently flourished. Soon he branched into convenience stores and then in 1996 into a swank restaurant (Staraya Tamozhnya or “The Old Customs House”) that catered to newly monied Russian who were looking for “more than cutlets with Vodka”.
At length, a strategic $400k investment in a rusting harbor boat was turned into a floating hot spot called “The New Island Restaurant.” From there flowed catering contracts for lavish state banquets after he gained the gastronomical favor of the post-Soviet St. Petersburg political operative, who became prime minister of Russia.
Putin held lavish state dinners on Prigozhin’s floating emporium, where he played host to world leaders like George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac. He also apparently heaped business into Prigozhin’s budding empire with a $177 million catering contract with Moscow’s schools, and then the real jackpot: A two year contract in 2012 worth more than $1.6 billion to supply 90 percent of all food orders to Russian soldiers.
Folks, that’s where the troll factory came from. It opened the next year in 2013 as the kind of token of appreciation expected from oligarchs favored by the Russian state.
Still, it wasn’t the KGB incarnate — just a tweet-by-the-numbers body shop designed to flood Russian media and internet forums with messages extolling Russian greatness, the iniquities and hypocrisies of the morally corrupt West and the glorious works of Vlad Putin.
At this stage the troll farm was involved in strictly Russian business — the handiwork of an oligarch who had thrived on Russia’s particular brand of crony capitalism and was more than happy to shill for his patron in the Kremlin.
Here is how the previously referenced Guardian article from mid-2015 described the farm before some of its modest resources were later shifted to the “American Department” in 2016:
Just after 9pm each day, a long line of workers files out of 55 Savushkina Street, a modern four-storey office complex with a small sign outside that reads ‘Business centre.’ Having spent 12 hours in the building, the workers are replaced by another large group, who will work through the night.
They painted a picture of a work environment that was humourless and draconian, with fines for being a few minutes late or not reaching the required number of posts each day. Trolls worked in rooms of about 20 people, each controlled by three editors, who would check posts and impose fines if they found the words had been cut and pasted, or were ideologically deviant.
The LiveJournal blogger, who spent two months working at the centre until mid-March, said she was paid 45,000 roubles ($790) a month, to run a number of accounts on the site.
‘We had to write “ordinary posts,” about making cakes or music tracks we liked, but then every now and then throw in a political post about how the Kiev government is fascist, or that sort of thing,’ she said.
Scrolling through one of the LiveJournal accounts she ran, the pattern is clear. There are posts about ‘Europe’s 20 most beautiful castles’ and ‘signs that show you are dating the wrong girl,’ interspersed with political posts about Ukraine or suggesting that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is corrupt.
The desired conclusion of one reads: ‘The majority of experts agree that the US is deliberately trying to weaken Russia, and Ukraine is being used only as a way to achieve this goal. If the Ukrainian people had not panicked and backed a coup, the west would have found another way to pressure Russia. But our country is not going to go ahead with the US plans, and we will fight for our sovereignty on the international stage.’
To add colour to their posts, websites have been set up to aid the troll army. One features thousands of pasteable images, mainly of European leaders in humiliating photoshopped incidents or with captions pointing out their weakness and stupidity, or showing Putin making hilarious wisecracks and winning the day.
‘When I got the job there in 2013 it was a small building, I was working in the basement, and it was clear they didn’t have enough space,’ said Andrei Soshnikov, a St Petersburg journalist who infiltrated the company two years ago and has continued to cover it. He linked the move to a much bigger office with increased online activity around the Ukraine crisis….
As we explained above, it was only after Washington massively intervened in the domestic politics of Ukraine in February 2104 that Prigozhin’s Hobby Farm branched into external operations focused on Russian adversaries like the new anti-Russian Ukrainian government and the United States.
Even then, however, the mainstream media headline writers, who have been intellectually lobotomized by a constant diet of anti-Russian mania, cannot seem to grasp that their hyperbolic headlines are in no way, shape or form supported by the actual written words in Mueller’s indictment.
In a word, eighty twenty-somethings sitting cheek-by-jowl at banks of computer screens and banging out social media tripe in English as a (third) language did not impact anything in America, let alone the 2016 election outcome.
That is to say, what in the world is so hard to understand about the fact that the pathetic output of this group could not have amounted to 0.000001 pecent of the content that rumbled through these social media channels during 2016?
Yet here is Mueller — writing in indictment black and white — admitting that the troll farm had deployed precious few trolls to the American department:
spread (ing) distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general…..By approximately July 2016, more than eighty ORGANIZATION employees were assigned to the translator project.
Besides the infinitesimal volume and generally crude and unoriginal nature of the troll farm’s output, this tiny 80-person contingent points to another huge flaw in the entire Mueller narrative — especially as it has been embellished and exaggerated by the mainstream media since last Friday afternoon. To wit, all of these posts were destined to get lost in the vast sea of cyberspace without a ground game in the US.
Yet the indictment is clear on that crucial point as well. The Russian meddlers had “no ground game” whatsoever aside from a 22 day visit in June 2014 by two operatives who were not trained spies and who had apparently never even been to America previously.
Yet they visited nine states during that brief interval and thereby “cased-out” the entirety of the American electoral scene:
Only KRYLOVA and BOGACHEVA received visas, and from approximately June 4, 2014 through June 26, 2014, KRYLOVA and BOGACHEVA traveled in and around the United States, including stops in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and New York to gather intelligence. After the trip, KRYLOVA and BURCHIK exchanged an intelligence report regarding the trip.
The above paragraph is itself a smoking bratwurst!
Aside from sleeping, passing through countless airports, checking into a dozen or more hotels and perhaps visiting the chamber of Commerce in Dallas or Denver, what possibly could these two travelers have done to lay the groundwork for “influencing” 133 million voters two years hence?
Mueller doesn’t say and the talking heads jabber on about this trip as if it were some kind of invasion, not the pointless needle-in-the-haystack type of undertaking that it actually was.
And that gets us to the ballyhooed efforts to organize and promote Trump rallies in Florida, Washington DC, New York City and elsewhere. Once again, however, Mueller spills large amounts of ink citing the emails and social media posts that describe the aims of these long-distance media trolls. But there is not a shred of evidence presented about what actually happened on the ground.
We would be so bold as to suggest that we know why Mueller didn’t document this core element of the alleged meddling campaign. Namely, because nobody came to the rallies and flash mob events called for by the keyboard jockeys in St. Petersburg.
Take the case of the “Florida Goes Trump” rallies on August 20, which the indictment dwells on at length. So doing, it purports to explain how real Trump supporters in the state were duped into cooperating, how bloggers back in Russia used social media posts to promote 13 rallies across the state of Florida and bought ads to the same end on Facebook.
In fact, compared to fleeting references with respect to similar rallies allegedly staged in Washington DC and New York City, the Florida rallies take up far more ink in the indictment and come across as exhibit #1 on Russia ground game in the US election process.
Indeed, the liberal hatch-people at Politico made the singular importance of the Florida meddling operation abundantly clear:
But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself. The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash.
Here’s the problem. There seems to be scant evidence that these rallies actually happened or that anyone showed up to the ones that did occur. For instance, here is a photo of one in St. Petersburg (Florida) posted on social media at the time.
We doubt whether Vlad got his money’s worth on this one:
Then there’s the case of Jim Frishe of Clearwater, Florida. He was a real estate development consultant and candidate for county office, who organized a sign-waving event in response to the Russian entreaties that attracted barely a dozen people:
Frishe, 68, said he was called by someone identifying themselves as with a group called ‘Florida for Trump’ and asked to organize a sign-waving rally. He said between 15 and 18 people showed up and that he didn’t receive any signs or money or other support. He never heard from them again.
‘I was going to do what I was going to do anyway. I was a Trump supporter, they didn’t convince me.’
Then there is the case of the “Hillary in stripes” caper allegedly promoted by the Russians. According to the indictment:
‘For example, defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on on a flatbed truck … and another U. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform,’
The thing is, the main evidence for that is that the “cage” appeared about a month later as the handiwork of a Trump supporter, Gary Howd, who did it all on his own — without any prompting, encouragement or money from the Russians.
Even the Politico account of the purported Florida invasion by the Russians let that much slip out:
The caged Clinton stunt was a hit among Trump supporters. On Sept. 23, for instance, NBC2 reported that a Cape Coral man erected a caged Clinton display in his front yard.
‘I feel like I’m doing my little part at least in my little neck of the woods,’ homeowner Gary Howd said.
As it happened, even the Washington Post admits that the “Florida Goes Trump” rallies didn’t amount to much.
The efforts in Florida that August day did not turn out to be particularly impressive. No people showed up to at least one of the proposed rallies, and online photos of some of the other events reveal ragtag groups with Trump signs staking out patches of grass or traffic medians.
As to the “Down With Hillary” demonstration on July 23, 2016, to take another example, here is what you get from Google on this particular element of the indictment:
No results found for “Down with Hillary” rally in New York City on July 23, 2016.
Finally, and as long was we are on the topic, here is what a real troll farm looks like. Yet this vast suite of offices in Fort Meade, Maryland, where 20,000 SIGINT spies and technicians work for the NSA, is only the tip of the iceberg.
The US actually spends $75 billion per year — more than Russia’s entire $69 billion defense budget — spying on and meddling in the politics of virtually every nation on earth. An outfit within NSA called Tailored Access Operations (TAO) has a multi-billion annual budget and does nothing put troll the global internet and does so with highly educated, highly paid professionals, not $4 per hour keyboard jockeys.
Indeed, the cafeterias in the NSA buildings cost far more per year to operate than did Prigozhin’s troll farm during it entire short lived existence (its apparently now being closed down with two of the 3.5 floors already dark).
In that context, Charles Hugh Smith cogently reminds that the real farce in the Mueller comic book is that it is the ultimate case of the pot-calling-the-kettle black:
America’s foreign policy is one of absolute entitlement to influence the domestic affairs and politics of every nation of interest, which to a truly global empire includes every nation on the planet to the degree every nation is a market and/or a potential threat to U.S. interests.
Assassination of elected leaders — no problem. Funding the emergence of new U.S.-directed political parties — just another day at the office. Inciting dissent and discord to destabilize regimes — it’s what we do, folks. Funding outright propaganda — one of our enduring specialties.
Finally, as Pat Buchanan further observed in his post on the Mueller indictment, political and election meddling is what Imperial Washington does. And now we are surprised that others do the same — even that pathetic efforts of a Russian oligarch laid out in Mueller’s ham sandwich indictment:
Are the CIA and National Endowment for Democracy under orders not to try to influence the outcome of elections in nations in whose ruling regimes we believe we have a stake?
‘Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?’ Laura Ingraham asked former CIA Director James Woolsey this weekend.
With a grin, Woolsey replied, ‘Oh, probably.’
‘We don’t do that anymore though?’ Ingraham interrupted. ‘We don’t mess around in other people’s elections, Jim?’
‘Well,’ Woolsey said with a smile. ‘Only for a very good cause.’
Indeed, what is the National Endowment for Democracy all about, if not aiding the pro-American side in foreign nations and their elections?
Did America have no active role in the ‘color-coded revolutions’ that have changed regimes from Serbia to Ukraine to Georgia?
When Republicans discuss Iran on Capitol Hill, the phrase ‘regime change’ is frequently heard. When the ‘Green Revolution’ took to the streets of Tehran to protest massively the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, Republicans denounced President Obama for not intervening more energetically to alter the outcome.
When China, Russia and Egypt expel NGOs, are their suspicions that some have been seeded with U.S. agents merely marks of paranoia?
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.