Russia did not start a war in Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. They have been engaging in 21st century warfare with “the West” and “democracy” for nearly a decade. Ukraine is currently enduring a hybrid assault of 21st and 20th century offensives from their neighbor, but we are still primarily talking about the tanks, soldiers and missiles/bombs being used to physically destroy buildings and other infrastructure. We are not talking about the “meddling” in the computer/internet infrastructure that has been going on for years and has not been limited to Ukraine.
Russia has been actively engaged in “cyber war” against Ukraine and the US, among others, for years. For those who have been looking, there is truly frightening evidence of what could happen in America, should Russia choose. Nuclear facilities, electrical grids and banking infrastructure are not off-limits. They have tested all these things in Ukraine. And whether you believe it or not, the Russians did “meddle” in our 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. We are not immune.
One of the leading writers reporting on cybersecurity/21st century warfare is Nicole Perlroth and I would encourage anyone who is interested in (or just terrified by) the topic to read her book “This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends.” Highly recommended. In recent interviews, she has suggested that perhaps it is only the fact that we have also exposed the extent of our cyber capabilities in Russian infrastructure systems that may be acting as a deterrent to any further action, especially considering our current level of financial sanctions intended to hobble Putin for his offensive in Ukraine.
Another amazing journalist who has had her finger on the pulse of this ongoing offensive being waged against the west is Carole Cadwalladr, writing for the Guardian in the UK. While I wrote the bulk of this post last week, her latest article published Sunday took many of the ideas out of my head and made much more sense of them than I have here. It’s worth a read. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/06/social-media-turn-on-putin-the-past-master
The point I want to make here is that we are already involved in what is essentially a new World War, and it is happening on our computers and in our IT infrastructure, as well as on the physical battlefield. We are fundamentally fighting a war over what is truth and what is Orwellian newsspeak and doublespeak, such as the former president’s new social platform called “Truth.” Our security practices have lagged, our critical thinking skills have atrophied and we have made each one of us individually responsible for identifying what is real and what is not. There is only so much your credit card’s fraud protection team can do for you if you aren’t taking meaningful security steps to protect yourself. And what you read as “fact” in your social media feed has everything to do with how conscientious and interested in research your friend network is. Most of us have outsourced our news to unreliable narrators unknowingly. The world is already unsafe.
And it is important to recognize that we have been engaged in this cyber war for years. What Donald Trump calls “the deep state” is our federal government staff responsible for keeping our elections secure. Russia “hacked” our American psyche through our collective narcissism and our obsession with our own “American exceptionalism.” We are not exceptional; we are vulnerable. And the longer we go without acknowledging such, the farther back we will be from actually behaving collectively like a functional democracy, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office.
We must secure our democracy by making it EASIER for all citizens to vote and HARDER for votes to be manipulated BY ANYONE after they are cast. This is the opposite of what has been happening in “red” states across the country. The explanation that the 2020 election was rife with fraud is a lie; it is propaganda designed to be disseminated as a pretext for the state laws written primarily to block Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people from taking part in democracy. Republicans are deathly afraid of whatever they believe is coming to replace white supremacy and are taking advantage of our collective ignorance and apathy to work in concert with FOREIGN INTERESTS to cripple our democracy in perpetuity.
So please, change your passwords, use multi-factor authentication on ALL of your accounts, find good sources of news that tell you things you probably do not want to hear, educate yourself and FUCKING VOTE as though your life depends on it. YOU. MUST. NOT. STAY. HOME. Encourage and help others vote, especially minority, young, disabled and poor people. Our country depends on it.
You cannot claim you “seek freedom” and simultaneously support an authoritarian who intends to upend the rule of law. That is literally what is happening right now.