The New Hysteria on Kremlin Trolls


On Christmas day, CounterPunch readers who opened the Washington Post were confronted by a startling lede in the top article. Under the alarmist headline, “Kremlin Trolls Burned across the Internet as Washington Debated Options.” the piece reported that one “Alice Donovan” had contacted CounterPunch back in February 2016 and later posted articles on its website. She had claimed to be a freelance journalist, but her first email to CounterPunch, sent at 3:26 a.m. (which, the Post reminded us darkly, was “the middle of the day in Moscow”), was shared to buttress the central claim drawn from FBI sources: “Donovan” was actually a covert Russian agent.

According to the Post, “The FBI was tracking Donovan as part of a months-long counterintelligence operation code-named ‘NorthernNight.’ Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America’s democratic institutions.” Counterpunch had become the hapless propaganda patsy of this troll “army” and editor Jeffrey St. Clair was scrambling fruitlessly to sort out what had happened.

So far, so alarming. But CounterPunch readers are used to parsing media claims and under the briefest scrutiny the Post article quickly fell apart into a mass of unsupported assertions—even leaving aside obvious mysteries, such as why we are now supposed to take writing in the wee hours as revealing someone’s true location in Eastern Europe (I now…

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