A Civil Information War Is Happening in the US*


**Editor’s note: On March 4, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

The Washington Post has discovered an interesting phenomenon — the U.S. is flooded with fake media outlets. They disguise themselves as local media, but in fact, they are political advocacy sites. Currently, those sites target the Nov. 8, 2022 midterm elections. The paper’s conclusion: “Our democracy is engaging in self-sabotage.”

First of all, there are a massive number of these political advocacy sites. The investigation found 51 of them in just a few swing states. And all of them either blast the Republican candidates or boost the Democratic ones. Moreover, these sites are not run by some group of individual bloggers. In fact, they are powerful and offer a printed version. For example, one site’s printed version has a circulation of 3.5 million copies. And The Washington Post isn’t happy about it.

Yes, you got it right — one of the Democratic Party’s ideologically closest newspapers is engaging in friendly fire with the message that the Democrats can’t “go low with” the Republicans. The Republicans, too, before the 2020 presidential election, sort of set up a strong network of such websites, but they ran out of time — they should have started earlier.

The newspaper considers such actions “going low” because they will prompt people to stop believing any information sources — including, for example, the local media, which the election campaigners pretend to be.

That is an excellent point because information wars are a real phenomenon. Currently, Russia is fully experiencing it. However, this is not about the existence of the information war (which has always been waged) but about its scale. For now, Americans may be trying to analyze exactly how many political advocacy sites they currently have fighting for the “correct” outcome in the 2022 midterm elections. But has anyone tried to calculate how much money and resources worldwide have been pumped into creating some unique “true” picture of what is happening in Ukraine? How much money is involved in this? How does it work, and is there a language barrier? That is, how does the part of the war conducted in English and presented around the world differ from the part of the war, the communication of which relies on the Russian language? Either way, the scale is enormous. Hopefully, these investments were less extensive than the cost of supplying weapons to Ukraine.

Likewise, another network of thousands upon thousands of fake news outlets has been mobilized to explain to American people the benefits of lockdowns, shutting down businesses to “fight a virus” and being stuck at home. However, the same number of sites has popped up to explain how large pharmaceutical companies have benefited from this situation and how the facts have been falsified.

And even earlier, an equally enormous army of information sites was created worldwide to explain the delights (but also the necessity) of living only with renewable energy instead of oil and gas. There are dozens of such sites.

Here, it is a question of scale. Has anyone calculated what percentage of gross domestic product is produced by the myriad of people engaged in brainwashing everyone? How much money is spent on all information wars? And what would happen if all the people running those sites were deprived of funding? After all, it is likely that the process of fake news creation has already been outsourced to a robot.

And The Washington Post is absolutely right: The inevitable consequence of this onslaught on the brain will be that hundreds of millions of people will simply be cut off from any flow of information. And a new era will dawn because the information age, like everything in this world, is temporary. And it is also terribly unpleasant — literally for everyone.

Coming back to the U.S. with its supposedly fateful 2022 midterm elections, it is hard to gauge what is really happening in terms of voter sentiments: Either the voters’ preferences are really fluctuating the way we have been told, or it is an illusory battle of different propagandists.

Note that at first — this spring — it was clear that the Democrats would lose control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the midterms. Indeed, the economy had gone into recession, the sanctions against Russia had jacked up gasoline prices beyond measure, and the Democrats’ policy of uncontrolled immigration had caused severe crises across the country.

However, this summer, the Democrats took a breather. Polls began to paint a more hopeful picture. The economy shifted an inch in the right direction — and the situation hung in a precarious balance. And now, in the fall, it’s again looking bad for the Democrats.

To demonstrate this, a website called Statista offers a visual and intelligent representation of a large quantity of polling data. Specifically, in this case, it takes all opinion polls in the U.S. and publishes them in strictly chronological order in the form of simple graphs, where the more recent polls are placed toward the top of the chart. The situation right now is this: In all October polls, the red horizontal bar (denoting the popularity of the Republicans) is invariably slightly longer than the blue bar (representing the Democrats). It wasn’t always that way in the summer. Now, this picture turns out to be convincing.

Of course, given the madness in the information space, you are unwittingly (and quite rightly) beginning to check to see if even this site is fake. Not to mention that the war of the polls is an age-old tale: This is not the first election in U.S. history when propagandists begin to infiltrate the public’s mind with statistics from unknown sources to show that “their people” are winning.

Today, a few days before the midterms, it’s best not to touch the Republican sites — just watch the Democrats rally their supporters to go out and vote. For example, here are a couple of The New York Times headlines and subheadings from yesterday: “This Is Not the Voter Sentiment Shift Democrats Were Hoping For,” “Pelosi’s Last Dance? Speaker Sprints Across U.S. as Republicans Close In.” There has also been a rumor — only a rumor — that the Democrats are trying to please their voters by suggesting that they will be getting rid of President Joe Biden sometime after November. Supposedly, the whole problem is just his inadequacy, which is, in turn, demoralizing other Democrats.

But what about the fact that the information wars will eventually render the very mechanism of an election meaningless? Another question is how to replace this mechanism. Here is a wonderful new idea: Whoever can pull out a great ancient sword stuck inside an old stone anvil is duly elected.

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About Nikita Gubankov 97 Articles
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, I've recently graduated from University College London, UK, with an MSc in Translation and Technology. My interests include history, current affairs and languages. I'm currently working full-time as an account executive in a translation and localization agency, but I'm also a keen translator from English into Russian and vice-versa, as well as Spanish into English.

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