Discover more from Rigid Thinking
The enemy of Russia's enemy
It's not just far-right groups getting help from Putin.
This post is free to all, but premium subscribers get it a few hours earlier, along with paywalled and private postings and access to the comment section. For a free trial, click here:
And with that…Go! Go! Go!
So, a couple of political extremist groups are credibly accused of having close ties to Russia. Dog bites man, right?
Well, these particular groups are a little different from the Trumpy ones we’re used to being in Russia’s pocket:
Federal law enforcement officials appear to be investigating members of the Uhuru Movement in St. Petersburg for alleged connections to a Russian government official who prosecutors say directed U.S. political groups in a campaign to sow division, spread pro-Russian propaganda and interfere in U.S. elections.
Federal agents executed search warrants Friday morning at multiple locations, including the Uhuru House at 1245 18th Ave. S.
The searches appear to be related to an indictment that was unsealed Friday against a Russian national who is accused of working with the Russian government and intelligence services in efforts to interfere in U.S. politics.
Located at 1245 18th Ave. S in St. Petersburg, the Uhuru House is the local headquarters for the International Uhuru Movement. The group is part of a “worldwide organization, under the leadership of African People’s Socialist Party, uniting African people as one people for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development,” according to its website.
This news is a bit surprising, since the Uhuru folks bent over backwards to hide any association with Rus- [record scratch]
Later, Uhuru leaders held their own news conference.
“We can have relationships with whoever we want to make this revolution possible,” said Eritha “Akile” Cainion, later adding, “We are in support of Russia.”
The infamous “Black Hammer” organization - the guys who first accused Anne Frank of having been a white supremacist, which there’s a not insignificant chance will be part of school curricula ten years from now - are also allegedly on Putin’s payroll:
The U.S. Department of Justice has connected the Black Hammer Party, a Black-led radical group based in Atlanta, to an alleged Russian plot to sow discord in the United States, according to a newly unsealed federal indictment.
The department announced Friday that Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a Russian national with Kremlin connections, was secretly funding fringe political groups in Georgia, Florida and California, directing them to “publish pro-Russian propaganda, as well as other information designed to cause dissention in the United States and to promote secessionist ideologies.”
“Secret foreign government efforts to influence American elections and political groups threaten our democracy by spreading misinformation, distrust and mayhem,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. said in a statement. “The department is committed to ensuring U.S. laws protecting transparency in the electoral process and the political system are not undermined through foreign malign influence.”
According to the indictment, Ionov, who lives in Moscow, paid for members of the Black Hammer Party to travel to San Francisco in March to protest Facebook’s censorship of posts supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The influence went so far as to direct Black Hammer members on the designs of signs for the protest.
The group livestreamed the protest on its social media channels and accounts of the protest were carried in Russian media. Ionov even posted his appreciation of the Facebook protest on his own Facebook page.
Black Hammer and its erratic leader Gazi Kodzo have made criticism of America’s foreign policy regarding the Russian invasion a centerpiece of their recent social media campaigns, calling Ukraine a white supremacist country and backing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s talking points for starting the war.
Black Hammer is so over the top in its conspiratorial lunacy, I’ve seen people suggest it’s been backed by government agencies the whole time. And it turns out they were right.
So, did Vladmir Putin read his Ibram X. Kendi and decide it was time to correct some tremendous historical injustices? Not likely. It turns out there’s nothing new about Russia backing black activist and nationalist groups - or even inventing them out of whole cloth - alongside the extreme right-wingers:
When longtime Baltimore activists first saw a Facebook account called “Blacktivist” organizing a local police brutality march, they were immediately suspicious. The page honoring Freddie Gray, who had died in police custody a year earlier, quickly acquired a sizable following, but no one knew who was running it.
Heber Brown III, a pastor and community organizer, messaged Blacktivist asking if the person lived in Baltimore.
“No,” replied Blacktivist on 15 April 2016. “But there are people in Baltimore. Volunteers. We are looking for friendship, because we are fighting for the same reasons.”
At the time, Brown thought it was an out-of-town figure trying to co-opt the local movement for publicity. Another activist, Jamye Wooten, theorized Blacktivist could be an undercover police officer spying on protesters.
Neither thought the online figure purporting to be an ally was an agent of Russia.
Experts in Russian history and US civil rights said that while the Blacktivist accounts may not have been directly linked to the US election, they are consistent with what would be expected from a propaganda campaign directed from Moscow intended to foment division.
“This is not because the Russians are believers in the ideologies espoused by any of these movements,” said Mark Jacobson, a Georgetown University professor who recently released a report on Russian influence operations. “This is about the Russians exacerbating pre-existing tensions. By building upon these existing divides.”
Antonio French, a prominent activist and Black Lives Matter supporter in Ferguson, Missouri, where Russia reportedly targeted at least one of its Facebook ads, said he was particularly concerned about the way social media enabled propagandists to engage in “micro targeting” of specific groups.
“I found it very disturbing that there was this orchestrated, well-funded attempt to exploit our divisions,” he said. He added it would be “interesting” when investigators and historians look back to “figure out how much of today’s divisions came naturally versus how much of it has been fueled by people whose sole purpose is to divide us”.
Whenever I see something particularly divisive or controversial on social media, whether from the left or the right or the cloud-cuckoo-land fringe, my working assumption is that there’s at least some foreign involvement at work. That goes double for when it’s an organization that appears to have emerged out of nowhere but already has a massive social media presence.
Of course, in a country of 330 million souls, you’re going to have a significant number who legitimately believe extremist and conspiratorial ideas, and it’s never been so easy for them to promote them and make alliances with like-minded people. Russia hasn’t invented these fissure points out of nothing.
But when they see an opening to get Americans arguing even more than they already do, they will take it. Chaos and division is itself the goal.
“Chief,” known as the Signal Hill dog, has died.
Owner Becky Jackman announced the sad news on Facebook over the weekend.
She says the eight-year-old Newfoundland dog succumbed to cancer.
Chief, “the sweet droolball we got to hug and love every single day,” was a popular attraction over the years for visitors to Signal Hill.
The dog appeared in hundreds of photos with tourists and locals against the backdrop of Cabot Tower and the city skyline.
Hopefully, he’s letting Bill Russell and Nichelle Nichols cuddle up with him right now. And while I don’t think he was known for biting people, there’s one exception I’d be happy if he made.