This week marks the centennial of the Bolsheviks’ October Revolution, the event that led to the formation of the Soviet Union - one of the most repressive and brutal regimes in human history. As the news media runs its “100 years of communism” segments, what’s amazing is how little has changed in Russia - while Soviet communism itself may have been dropped into the “ash heap of history,” the strategies and tactics used by Russian leaders look as familiar as ever.
The anniversary provides a moment to reflect on how impermanent the revolution was. The revolution, and the ideology it represented, rejected history, truth and human nature in a vain attempt to construct Utopia on earth, no matter what the cost.
While the anniversary is an important opportunity to reflect on the folly - and evils - of Communism, it is also a reminder of just how much of Soviet history has not been appropriately or accurately addressed.
The futility of the Russian Revolution and the Soviet experiment - and the tragic purposelessness of the millions of lives lost in the Soviet Union - makes it difficult for Russia to face the truth about its communist past.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime has also taken the drastic step of banning books that paint less-than-glowing images of the Soviet Union. Putin’s propaganda machine owns the narrative about Soviet history; not surprisingly, it bears little resemblance to the real history.
But it is not simply the memory of the Soviet Union that Putin is rehabilitating. He is also playing an active role in breathing new life into Soviet antagonisms with the West, and borrowing tactics from the Soviet playbook - especially the art of propaganda and the meddling in foreign elections.
Putin is a perceptive student of history and has, no doubt, observed the benefits to Russia of a weakened and distracted United States.
Russia, like the Soviet Union, needs an enemy.
External enemies - whether the capitalist West as in the early days of the revolution, or the United States as in the Cold War, or today’s enemies the United States and Ukraine - provide the necessary backdrop for advancing his internal agenda.
Russia’s role in the 2016 election may strike many Americans as strange. After all, the cacophony of mixed messages and seemingly unrelated social media ads appear not to have a single aim or focus.
What the congressional investigations are likely to show, however, is that Russia’s objective in the social media campaign was not to change the outcome of the presidential election, but was, instead, to sow chaos among Americans.
A United States struggling with internal strife and racial discord is far less likely to notice, let alone counter, Putin’s aggressions.
The bottom line is that when the United States is distracted by its own internal conflicts and problems, Putin is freed up to focus on his own agenda.
The art of propaganda and disinformation, which the Soviet Union perfected, has been updated for the digital era.
For the past year, Russia has dominated the news for the role it allegedly played in our presidential election. On an almost weekly basis, there have been new revelations - and twists and turns - in the ongoing Russian scandal.
One of the latest revelations is that the Russian government created fake social media accounts and then used those accounts to drive participation to political rallies across the United States.
We have learned recently, for example, that the Russian government purchased more than $100,000 worth of Facebook and Instagram ads between June 2015 and August 2017.
One of the main accounts created by agents of the Russian regime, Blactivist, sought to stir up racial tensions and fuel the national discourse about “police brutality.”
Other political ads purchased by Russian entities include one that encouraged voters to choose Green Party candidate Jill Stein; a second that featured an image of the Confederate flag and promised that the South will rise again; and another that endorsed the Black Panthers.
The best way to fight a massive disinformation campaign is to shed light on it and stop it in its tracks with the truth.
Congress, here, should roll up its sleeves and perform one of its most important functions - rigorous investigation.
Americans, having been inundated with fake news, are ready for the truth about the Russian scandal.