Of partisans, trolls, and spooks: a stern dissection of the 2016 election.
Exactly who planned and executed the Russian hacking of the 2016 election is not yet wholly known outside cybercrime circles, but it’s clear that the beneficiary was Donald Trump. As Jamieson (Chair, Annenberg Public Policy Center/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Electing the President, 2012: The Insiders' View, 2013, etc.) writes, if you were to war-game out that cybercrime, you’d wind up with numerous scenarios. Only one is truly negative to the Russians: “The cyberattackers are unmasked by a vigilant intelligence community, condemned by those in both major political parties…the Russian messaging…blocked or labeled a Russian propaganda,” sanctions put in place, and so on. That did not happen. Characterizing the hacking not as “interference” or “meddling” but as an act of cyberwar demanding proportional response, Jamieson surveys the damage: Millions of Americans swallowed Russian-generated lies and went at each other even as the “electoral systems of twenty-one states by one count and thirty-nine by another were hacked.” Allowing that it wasn’t Russians but American voters (and the Electoral College) who put Trump in office, the author performs an after-battle analysis of the “social disruption,” with hackers hooking former FBI Director James Comey into reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and even gaming the presidential debates. Jamieson is clear on why the Russians would have targeted Clinton; she is just as clear that the “legacy media” failed in their task and swallowed narrative lines whole—attributing misinformation to WikiLeaks, for one, and not “St. Petersburg,” bypassing any discussion of Russian involvement until well after the fact. Chalking up the knowns and unknowns, the author concludes that by commission on one hand and omission on the other, both of the leading nominees "increased our collective vulnerability to Russian machinations in very different ways”—machinations, she adds, that aren’t likely to stop.
There’s no good news in this book, which both admonishes and forewarns. Somber but necessary reading for those interested in the democratic process and its enemies.