Saturday, February 22, 2020

Yes, From His Supporters

Give him credit. Bernard Sanders finds an idea and sticks to it. Whether it is persistence or stubbornness, you always know where the Vermont senator will be on an issue because it is where he always has been.

And so it was that at the presidential debate on Wednesday evening Sanders stated (emphasis mine)

Well, Pete, if you want to talk to some of the women on my campaign, what you will see is the most ugly, sexist, racist attacks that are -- I wouldn't even describe them here, they're so disgusting.

And let me say something else about this, not being too paranoid. All of us remember 2016, and what we remember is efforts by Russians and others to try to interfere in our election and divide us up. I'm not saying that's happening, but it would not shock me.

Yesterday, while revealing that Russia had determined that its favorite candidate in the Democratic race is none other than Bernie Sanders, the candidate forthrightly, definitively, and eloquently stated

I don’t care, frankly, who [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants to be president. My message to Putin is clear: Stay out of American elections, and as president I will make sure that you do.

But then he added

In 2016, Russia used Internet propaganda to sow division in our country, and my understanding is that they are doing it again in 2020. Some of the ugly stuff on the Internet attributed to our campaign may well not be coming from real supporters.

Though "may... not be" are weasel words, the inclusion of  "well" between the "may" and "not" clearly suggests that Sanders is strongly implying that the ugly stuff on the Internet is not coming from supporters.

Odds are that a little of it is. However, Washington Post reporters noted

Sanders’s language was indirect, offered on the debate stage here as his opponents faulted him for the behavior of his most strident fans. It drew criticism from experts in disinformation, who said they had no direct evidence the Kremlin had masqueraded as Sanders voters to interfere in the 2020 race much as Russian trolls had done four years earlier....

Absent direct evidence, researchers said Sanders’s comments threaten to foment further doubt about a campaign that has been buffeted by confidence-shaking missteps, beginning with the technical glitches that marred the Iowa caucuses earlier this month.

"We have seen no evidence in open sources during this election cycle that an online community of Sanders supporters, known as Bernie bros, were catalyzed by what Sanders suggested could be ‘Russian interference,’ " said Graham Brookie, director of the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, which tracks disinformation on social media sites.

“Any candidate or public official casually introducing the possibility of Russian influence without providing any evidence or context creates a specter of interference that makes responding to real interference harder,” Brookie said.

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said Thursday it also had not seen evidence of Russian trolls masquerading as Sanders supporters. Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said the company would “disclose” activity by Russia or other foreign actors if it had “reasonable evidence of state-backed information operations.”

Bernard Sanders had on Friday one brief, shining moment, amplified by a media which barely noticed that he had followed it with a remark intended to deny the obvious about his followers.  This is not over

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