The Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections cost Hillary Clinton greatly. The Russians used a variety of techniques to influence American citizens from voting for Hillary Clinton and encouraged them to vote for Donald Trump. Questions are still asked how Trump managed to win the election while he only has 38% favorable rating compared to Clinton which was 48%. Russians tactics made citizens view Clinton as an untrustworthy and dishonest individual. Indeed, the Russian hackers alarmingly and successfully reframed the American political narrative on the eve of the election. The WikiLeaks from Russia backed trumps efforts to win the candidacy. Russians significantly generated immense and detrimental scandals on the Clintons election. The emails exposed Clinton as being a liar, dishonest and incredible in the critical days of the election. Reports indicate that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, disliked Clinton when she was the US secretary. Russians suppressed the turnout of the African Americans and spread propaganda and fake news through social media.
Key words: Sabotage, 2016 Election, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Social media, Propaganda
A meticulous analysis of the 2016 presidential election shows that the online activities and the targeted cyber attacks had a powerful influence in deciding the fate of the election. The evidence clearly indicate that the Russians did meddle in the 2016 election and the Russian sabotage had a magnitude impact. The media attention, use of social media, phony trolls and hacking of the emails were factors in play that affected the election balloting of 2016 and made a difference for trump. The dirty tricks changed the course of the 2016 campaigns. The emails which were obtained Clinton’s Gmail account were indeed damaging. The mails permeated discourse and heated debates. Clinton faced a hard time in explaining herself about the mails, and the debated viewers who were about 71.5 million saw Clinton as being less forthright compared to trump (Teague, 2018). The damage had been done. Clinton’s reputation had been tainted in a way that was difficult to undo.
Background Information on Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is an American politician born on October 26, 1947. She served as the first lady in 1993-2001 and a New York US senator from 2001 to 2009. Her current net worth is $45 million (Teague, 2018). In Obama’s administration (2009- 2013), Clinton served as the Secretary of State. As a first lady, she vehemently supported reforms in healthcare and gender equality. In her tenure as the secretary of state, she responded to the Arab Spring through proposing military interventions in Libya. Clinton was on the forefront in organizing international sanctions and diplomatic isolations against Iran in attempts to curtail the nuclear program. Clinton’s first presidential run was in 2008 against President Obama and lost in the nominations. In the second run of 2016, she became the Democratic Party Nominee. Clinton became the first female candidate to be nominated by the US major political party for the presidency. At the start of the campaign, she was a famous candidate but later on, interferences from the Russian operatives tarnished her reputation which made her lose the election to Donald Trump.
Background Information on Donald Trump
Donald Trump serves as the 45th president of the US. He was born on 14 June 1946. Before getting into politics, Trump was a television personality and worked as a business person. In 1971, he was appointed to be the president of the family’s real estate and renamed it “The Trump Organization.” The organization incorporates casinos, hotels, skyscrapers and golf courses. His current net worth is estimated to be $3.1 billion (Teague, 2018). In 2016, Trump entered the US presidential election where he defeated 16 opponents in the primaries. Trump’s political position is described to be nationalists, protectionists, and populists. Trump’s campaign received widespread media coverage due to his controversial sentiments. His election as a president came as a surprise to many who did not anticipate his win. Trump is the wealthiest and the oldest individual to have won US presidency. Furthermore, he is the first person without any governmental or military services to have made his way into the presidential office and won the election while losing the popular vote. In his presidential tenure, the policies he initiates sparks numerous protests, and he is termed to be a racist president.
How Russian Influence in the 2016 Presidential Election helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton
Russian Hacked Emails
The Guardian (2016) explains that the Russian hackers had repeatedly made efforts to hack the US institutions before the election. The tactics involved sending out phishing emails that tainted Clinton’s reputation. Moscow got access to about “60,000 of Podesta’s emails, and they again breached the Democratic National Committee (DNC)” (The Guardian, 2016). The emails were available to the WikiLeaks website which were later published before the elections. The Russian president argued that Clinton had resisted efforts to establish relations between Moscow and Washington. In 2011 and 2012, Russians had gone to the streets protesting the reelection of Putin for the third time. Putin believed that Clinton was behind the popular uprising and that she had paid the protestors who wanted to push him out of office (Kellner, 2018).
The leaks of the emails which were sent by top Democrat officials set the 2016 general agenda. For example, on the eve of the DNC, information was released mentioning that the Russians stole the documents from the US intelligence and showed that the Democratic National Committee was in favor of Clinton and not Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Sanders and his supported were infuriated. The leaking of the mail occurred immediately after information spread that Trump groped women and attention was deflected from Trump’s videotape to Clinton’s scandal. The emails turned Clinton’s reputation. Enraged with anger, Clinton ended up describing Trump’s supporters as “deplorables,” and this contradicted his slogan of “Stronger Together” (Jamieson, 2018). The primary objective of the Russian president was to create chaos in the election and did not anticipate Trump’s win.
Russian Spread of Fake News
The spread of fake news by the Russian propagandists was a set back to the election of Clinton. The Russian saboteurs inflamed and polarized the identity issues which later built resentment in the voters. About 2.1 million Russians tweeted fake news messages, and the worrisome number changed the minds of the people. The false framing from the countless messages which went viral on the social media spread an algorithm that reached huge masses. It is alleged that about 470 Facebook accounts were created by the Russian saboteurs at the time of campaign and many shared messages with at least 340 million times (Mayer, 2018). One of the Facebook pages was called Blacktivist, and this fake groups worked to instill racist tension through posts that denoted to be of violence against the black race. The Blacktivist Facebook page illuminated the big Russian conspiracy to divide Americans. The Russian provoked outrage and built discontent in the social systems including safety and police and further made some people to feel marginalized. The interference amplified the wedged problems far beyond any authentic reach and magnified the media coverage. Mayer terms the Russian operatives as the “most successful covert influence operation in history” and affected the electoral scale (Mayer, 2018).
Suppression of African American Turnout
Allegations hold that the Russian conspirators wanted to suppress the turnout of the African Americans. The Russian post of #Hillary4Prison and the media coverage on the issue also struck a theme of dishonesty. Russians added fuel to the right fire and certainly consuming Clinton’s campaign. Notably, a decline in the turnout was a decisive factor that would see Clinton's defeat. The interference had a chronic and insidious effect which aggregated enough to swing the election towards Trump. More votes were influenced in areas including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan by the Russians. The operatives released ads which spread on the internet targeting the black race. One of the most famous was that of a black woman who stood in front of a post written: “AFRICAN-AMERICANS FOR HILLARY” (Kellner, 2018).
Russians Spread Propaganda through Social Media
The Russian hackers and trolls spread propaganda through the social media which built imbalances and dominated the presidential debate. In the book, “Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President, What We Don’t, Can’t and Do Know,” Jamieson explains that the Russians significantly used the social media create the extensive damage (Jamieson, 2018). The numerous Russian Trolls amplified phony reports, for example, the report of Pope Francis being endorsed by Trump. This influenced more churchgoer voters. In the book the perfect weapon, David Sanders explains how cyber attacks sabotaged elections (Sanders, 2018). In the book, Jamieson provides a forensic analysis into the evidence available that led to Clinton’s defeat and she terms the Russian traitors to be “discourse saboteurs” (Jamieson, 2018). The Russians created the social media post which directed at getting the support of the churchgoers as well as the military families.
Clinton received multiple military deferments and the allegations on the famous prisoner of war parents, Gold star, collided with Trump's religious convictions. Russians promoted biblical memes towards Clinton like the one which depicted Clinton to being a Satan having arm-wrestling with Jesus, budding horns and the message attached to it which said: “Like if you want Jesus to win!”(Sanger, 2018) Furthermore, an integral post depicted that Clinton was uncaring concerning the 2012 tragedy in Benghazi. Yet in another post, there were conflicting pictures which showed a man putting on a T-shirt written “UNDOCUMENTED UNAFRAID UNAPOLOGETIC” and a thin homeless veteran where the man in t-shirt questioned why “this veteran gets nothing” and “this illegal gets everything” (Mayer, 2018). Below the message, there was a conclusion which indicated “Like and share if you think this is a disgrace.” Results indicate that in the end, Trump defeated Clinton by 26 points on veterans and also performed well in the evangelical masses. The Russian tricks and propaganda along with the steady release of the hacked emails led to a decisive difference and increased the likelihood of Trumps win. The Russian operations manipulated the minds of people through social media. Evidence shows that material generated from Facebook by the Russians reached 126 million “American Facebook users and Senator Dianne Feinstein” even termed it to be a cyber attack “cataclysmic” (Jamieson, 2018).
Hacking of Campaign Data Analytics.
The Russian operatives stole Clinton’s campaign data analysts along with the voter turnout models. From this, the Russians were able to tell that geographical regions such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania contained Clinton's traitors (Teague, 2018). The Russians thus persuaded people through propaganda. Benenson revealed that “We lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin—three states of our Blue Wall—by about eighty thousand votes. Six hundred and sixty thousand votes were cast in those three states for third-party candidates” (Jeis, 2018). The ruling was based on the hacked campaign analytics, and they told people not to vote for Clinton. From the theft of the campaign data, Russians focused on the undecided voters. Indeed, the Russian propagandists marshaled the Clintons campaign analytics and worked to ruin it.
Political Persuasion Swayed the Undecided Voters
Political persuasion was effective, and the messages changed the minds of the undecided voters. Evidence shows that about 15% of the electorate which accounted for 37 million Americans were undecided voters in the 2016 election. The cyber war and the strategic alignment of the messages with the demographic and geographic goals pushed voters to a new direction. Jamieson states that the “Russian saboteurs nimbly amplified Trump’s divisive rhetoric on immigrants, minorities, and Muslims, among other signature topics, and targeted constituencies that he needed to reach” (Jamieson, 2018).
Russians and James Comey’s Letter
The decision by the FBI director to produce Clinton’s damaging classified information and emails attributed to the Russian disinformation and undermined Clinton's overall integrity. This shaped the decision to sideline Clinton’s election. Before the information from the FBI, Clinton leading by 5.9%. However, a week after the emails went public, the lead had shrunk to 2.9%. The letter that James Comey, the former FBI Director, sent to the Congress on 28 October 2016 played a significant role in running the election of Hillary Clinton (Nate, 2018). Besides, the subsequent firestorm from the media concerning the letter ruined everything. The letter alleged that reopening of Clintons email inquiry. This denoted to be one of the biggest news events that were released in the final two weeks of the presidential campaign that affected Clinton (Teague, 2018). The Russian interferences through the media reporting about the letter and the emails gradually evolved to undermine Clinton’s election while promoting Trump’s favorable vote. The letter and the subsequent media attention blended and resulted into a cumulative effect over the presidential campaign. The indictment alleged that Internet Research Agency organization attempted to interference in the election. The rogue criticism of former FBI director on Clinton worked towards Trump's victory and reinforced the Russian’s agenda.
Russian president Vladimir Putin did swing the election which saw trump’s victory. Simply put, the Russian trolls, dirty tricks and email hacking helped to elect the US president. Americans citizens were unaware of the foreign manipulation from the Russians. Interestingly, Trump remains to be the duly elected president. Sabotaging an election does not necessarily have to do with the electoral machine but also voters influence. Russians persuaded the people enough and changed their decision through propaganda. The effort of the manipulation was vitally momentous. Russians worked to pull out a political and a technological coup. Russians spread exaggerated rumors and branded her to be a deception after hacking the data analytics and fake news.
Jamieson, K. (2018). Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know. New York. Oxford University Press
Kellner, D. (2018). Donald Trump, Globalization, and the Russia Connection in Election 2016. Cultural Politics, 14(2), 139-152. doi: 10.1215/17432197-6609032
Nate Silver. (2018). How Much Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election?
ABC World News. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-much-did-russian-interference-affect-the-2016-election/
Mayer Jane. (2018). How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/01/how-russia-helped-to-swing-the-election-for-trump
Sanger, D. (2018). The Perfect Weapon. Crown Pub.
Teague, E. (2018). Collusion: how Russia helped Trump win the White House. International Affairs, 94(2), 467-469. doi: 10.1093/ia/iiy051
The guardian. (2016). What we know about Russia's interference in the US election. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/16/qa-russian-hackers-vladimir-putin-donald-trump-us-presidential-election