The Long Trail from ClimateGate to RussiaGate
April 1, 2017
Senator Mark Warner’s intro to this week’s hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee is a good primer on the twisting trail of RussiaGate, the penetration by a foreign power of the United State’s highest office.
That’s not where it began. Disinformation is as old as human civilization, but the targeting of science and the scientific method began in earnest with initiatives in the US to undermine the use of scientific information in regulating powerful corporations and their behavior. The lead industry, the tobacco industry, the chemical and energy industries, have all funded and participated in the long-term erosion of public trust in scientific knowledge – or even the notion that there can be scientific knowledge, that citizens only option is to choose from among “alternative facts”.
Russia continually sought to diminish and undermine our trust in the American media, like blurring our faith in what is true and what is not. Russian propaganda outlets like RT and Sputnik successfully produced and peddled disinformation to American audiences in pursuit of Moscow’s preferred outcome. This Russian propaganda on steroids was designed to poison the national conversation in America. The Russians employed thousands of paid internet trolls and botnets to push out disinformation and fake news at a high volume, focusing this material on to your twitter and Facebook feeds and flooding our social media with misinformation. This fake news and disinformation was then hyped by the American media echo chamber and our own social media networks to reach and potentially influence millions.
Former FBI Agent Clint Watts discussed Russian activities in the election here -significant at 5:25 – he notes (this is a) “duplicate of what they do to their own population, to sow disinformation so that their own population is confused.”
The innovation of the last decade has been in using the tools of social media to widen and more precisely target these efforts, and those techniques were road-tested and perfected in the attacks on climate science that took place in 2009-10, now known as “climate gate”.
The perpetrator of the “climate gate” email hack is not known to this day, but the emails first appeared on a Russian server, and Russia was one of the early suspects.
Knowing what we know today, it seems clear that attacks on climate science were all of one piece with the attack on Liberal Democracies that we are seeing today.
This knowledge makes the March for Science all the more important, as we know that not only Science is at stake, but the very right to think freely, and expand human knowledge.