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OMDAHL: Russians will shred minds in midterms

By Staff | Jan 5, 2018

By the time American voters start looking at their congressional options, Russian political strategists will be waiting to unload an electronic flood of “shock and awe” that will be incomprehensible for the gullible American electorate.

Everyone involved in building a new voting system that will withstand everything the Russians can design has come with a different theory about the attack. Those dealing with the collection, tabulation and certification of ballots are bracing for widespread manipulation of figures.

Others are convinced, myself among them, that the Russians will use in 2018 what worked in 2016: buy thousands of commercials on social media to spread constructive and destructive rumors, e.g.”Hillary has a restaurant in Virginia engaged in child trafficking.” A man actually appeared with guns to rescue the kids.

About a hundred years ago, educators and social scientists saw a bright future in the spread of educational and charitable institutions. I am glad they didn’t live through the death of their expectations. The electorate is no more qualified to run a democracy today than it was in 1918. Our lives are consumed by electronics not knowledge, just electronics.

The problem is that all of us have predispositions to believe rumors that we want to believe and we cling to these predispositions with a passion, e.g.”behind some hill in Kentucky is a band of Moslems that have established Sharia society.” My cousin-in-law told me and that’s truth.

If the Russian siege were only going to be through electronic equipment, defense against this invasion would be simple. After all, we have as many electronic brains as Russia so we could detect and block their efforts with ease. But that does not help those voters lacking in discernment.

Social scientists look at education as the first line of defense. Well, society has been neglecting the civic education of it citizens and there isn’t time to teach discernment to millions of gullible voters by November 6.

Perhaps one idea worth considering would be the creation of a 24-hour online Truth Central to receive research and provide reports on the validity of fake-news. After all, we have a lot of fake-newsers in as well as outside the country.

One problem: can we find a creditable institution that a large enough share of the citizen would trust with the news? Certainly, the propaganda channels of MSNBC and Fox news would be dismissed. The president would not tolerate CNN.

I suspect none of the three regular commercial channels would pass muster anymore. The Drunk Cowboy Daily in Billings would probably be acceptable to carry the reports but the page layouts never gets past the Burned Egg to the print shop. A Drunk Cowboy has not been published since 1947

It is sad when we have to admit that distrust has seeped so deep in our society that our major news sources cannot be used to correct falsehoods.

Most interest groups with publications have vested interests so most of them may be dismissed. The only one organization acceptable for standing as the pillar of truth in the 2016 election is the American research-based performance management consulting company known mostly for its reliable polling, the George Gallup organization.

With 90 years of untarnished performance, the Gallup people would appreciate the limitations of data, discretion in handling information, and responsible reporting.

Exposure of Russian rumors looks like the most effective strategy short of shutting the Internet down for four months. Better solutions are welcome but never fly without a strut in one hand.

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