There's a solitary little brown bird that has spent his winter in and around the boat shop. I'm guessing it is a he, but I have respected his privacy. He has an ongoing love affair with himself. He spends a lot of time on our freezer, where there's an old mirror tucked away with just enough room for him to stand on the chest door and look at himself. He pecks at it a bit. He sings a little song. He fluffs himself up and tries to impress the bird in the mirror. My mailman says he's a winter wren. (The bird, not my mailman. I'd be worried otherwise.)
I watch this little guy a lot. He reminds me of social media. Staring into a flat surface, a little bit shiny, while he's prancing and puffing in front of his own image — thinking it's something entirely different.
The government's investigation has resulted in thirteen indictments against Russian individuals and three corporations for attempting to tamper in our elections. "They are charged by a grand jury with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Five of them are charged with aggravated identity theft. According to the indictment, they posed as Americans and created online personas to 'sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. election.'"
The reports are telling us more than $1.2 million a month was being spent by a foreign nation to manipulate Americans on social media sites.
How in the world did they spend that kind of money? I mean, there's the whole "What were they thinking?!" and "How dare they!" But how did it take that much money to trick Americans who stare into the digital image of themselves to hit a thumbs up button?
It's like that little bird.
Peck. Peck. Peck.
Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.
The mission to "sow discord" was waged on all fronts. How to pit the Bernie Sanders supporters against the Hillary Clinton folks. Trust me, I didn't think that argument needed any help, but it was seeded and tended to by Russians. "According to the indictment, the Russians were paying Americans to participate in rallies or perform tasks at them. One American was paid to build a cage on a flatbed truck; another was paid to portray Clinton in a prison uniform."
The contentious primary for the Republicans was also a target. See? It wasn't just your imagination that this last campaign was more angry than others.
This week, after the school shooting in Florida that took 17 more souls from our world, the computer bots were at it again. Thousands of comments — "pro-gun" posts — flooded the cyber waves. What do they get from that? Why would an enemy want us fighting with each other? So far we've just fought with each other about the mass shootings that keep happening, and haven't found any agreement other than we're sick of "thoughts and prayers" from the people who could make a difference.
Oh. Well, I guess when we're fighting with each other, we're doing the injury to ourselves. There's a time-saver for those who would do us harm.
I'm trying to get out of the comfort bubble when taking in news. It's not easy. You know what I'm talking about. Who wants to spend time with that one guy who stands a little too close, talks loud and smells like freedom? No one wants to hear that one lady talk about her personal rights and how every conversation gets back to the details of her natural childbirth. I get it! I don't either. But how much are we losing if we just peer into our ideological mirror and not stretch our capacity to listen? They can't all be Russian cyberbots. I promise to try if you will.
One Russian businessman who was on the list of indicted, Evgeny Prigozhin, wasn't worried about the case against him. "Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see," he told a Russian news agency.
He has a point. So does that little brown bird in the boat shop. I'll be glad when spring shows up so he can find a lady bird and build a nest.