When Al Gore initially invented the internet as a way for weaklings to feel strong by criticising others anonymously, he must have had no idea that merely a few years later Russia would use said internet as a means for world domination by influencing elections and helping to get Mr. T elected President. I, like most people, was shocked to see that a nation might try to influence another for their own gain. At first I assumed that this was a new thing invented by the Russians, but on further study I found that influencing elections and overthrowing governments predates Gmail by thousands of years.
Here’s some of the best election-tampering tales from this and the last century.
Guatemala is a country in Central America that has traditionally been quite poor. It also has fruit. The United Fruit Company controlled the fruit. The poor people decided to elect a socialist called Mr Arbenz. This crazy radical had stupid ideas like giving workers better rights and raising taxes. The problem in this situation was that Americans liked cheap bananas more than they liked Pedro having a living wage and potable water. There was thus a US-supported coup which installed a series of right-wing dictators in the country. This worked out great aside from the 36-year civil war, the genocides against the Mayan people and the other hundreds of thousands of people that died.
In case you are not aware, the Islamic Republic of Iran is much like Russia: a country we like to blame for lots of things. What is less well known is how the Islamic Republic came to be. Iran foolishly elected a leftie that wanted to nationalize the oil, so we sponsored a coup that made the Shah an absolute monarch. This worked out great until there was a revolution that put in a government we now hate.
Fun fact: Salvador Allende was the first democratically elected Communist in the world. We decided to let that shit fly for 3 years before supporting a coup that led to the regime of Augustus Pinochet, which aside all the people shot in the football stadium and the tens of thousands of disappeared, was roaring success.
In 1979 there was a coup in Grenada that led to a Communist government run by Maurice Bishop and the New Jewel Movement. In 1983 there was another coup by hardliners. This led the US to ponder a huge question: “if a small county like Granada can make a success of socialism, what is to stop bigger countries thinking they can do the same?” Grenada got invaded, problem solved.
The US is quite right to get angry with Russia meddling in their elections because in 1996 the US helped President Yeltsin defeat the Communists in an election by providing funds and logistical support. As Mr Clinton said at the time, “I want this guy to win so bad”. Alas most Russians didn’t so much, but with a little help from us, and an election that was far from free or fair, Mr Yeltsin won. He later anointed Putin his successor and things have been perfect since. Apart, of course from the election meddling from Putin – the chosen successor of the guy we helped get elected. Following so far?
When it’s time for regime change it’s time for regime change, and in Iraq in 2003, we did. It wasn’t our fault that there was no plan B. After Saddam was overthrown came ISIS, whose wacky antics we’ve all come to know and love. And then there’s the Kurds. The Kurds supported the Coalition during the totally non-oil-related regime change, but when it came time for them to have a referendum on independence, we told them to fuck off.
You cannot talk about successful interference in a country without mentioning Libya. Despite there being “Arab Springs” in places like Bahrain and Saudi, we decided than in fact this would be a great time to get rid of North African funnyman Gaddafi. The “no fly zone” was in fact a bombing zone in which we helped to turn the tide in the civil war against strongman leader. Thankfully we had learned our lesson from Iraq and had fool proof plan of again doing nothing and hoping the result would be better. Operation “make same mistake again and again” has been a resounding success so long as you ignore the thousands of immigrants dying on boats in the Mediterranean, Libya going from being the richest and most developed county in the region to failed state, and ISIS controlling much of the country.
And is for these reasons that we rightly condemn Russia for its brutal campaign of social media persuasion. If you really wanna screw with a country, at least have the balls to bomb the crap out of it.