Failed Neoliberal Policies Caused Low African American Turnout in 2016 – Not Russians

The New York Times and other “liberal” media persisted this week with their yellow journalism regarding Russia, giving great publicity to two reports asserting that Russian trolls targeted African American voters over social media in their alleged attempt to elect Donald Trump.

The reports were issued by a Cyber Security firm, New Knowledge, and Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University and Graphix, who were both commissioned by the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee.

Based on review of 10.4 million tweets, 1,100 YouTube videos, 116,000 Instagram posts, and 61,500 Facebook posts published from 2015 through 2017, the New Knowledge report concluded that the Russians had tried to dissuade African Americans from voting for Hillary Clinton.

In some cases, the trolls tried to mislead people into texting their votes. In others, they encouraged voting for third-party candidates like Jill Stein or giving up on voting all together, with messages that read “F*CK THE ELECTIONS.”

The Times and other media reported these findings as explosive, though acknowledged that there is no way of proving that the trolls swayed any voters.

Some of the content is in fact laughable and would be viewed by anyone as a joke, such as a photo of Jesus wearing a Make America Great cap.

The New Knowledge report furthermore appears to be filled with unverified claims and exaggerations.

For example, it claims that Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) reached 126 million Facebook users, which distorts the estimate of Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch.

He testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October that 126 million people may have beenserved one of these [IRA-generated] stories at some time during the two-year period,” which extended past the election for a full-year.

[See D. Gareth Porter, “33 Trillion More Reasons Why the New York Times Gets it Wrong on Russia-Gate,” Consortium News, November 2, 2018.]

Thus only an estimated 29 million Facebook users mayhave got at least one story in their feed during the election period.

Facebook’s Vice President acknowledged that people read only about 10 percent of the stories in their News Feed every day, so most in turn went unread.

Black voter numbers in reality had nothing to do with Russia, but rather deep disillusionment with the Democratic Party and the failure of its neoliberal policies.

During Obama’s presidency, black median income decreased by 10.9 percent to $33,500 compared to a 3.6 drop for whites to $58,000.

Black unemployment also reached a twenty-seven-year high and the number of black children living in poverty eclipsed whites for the first time since the census began collecting data in 1974.

The reason for these outcomes has much to do with Obama’s conservative economic policies and close connection to Wall Street.

One of his first acts, disgracefully, was to cut $73 million for historically black colleges. Though the Affordable Care Act cut uninsured health-care rates in the black community by a third, his program to buy toxic bank assets excluded subprime borrowers who were mostly black. Only 1.7 percent of small business administration loans went to blacks compared with 8 percent under Bush.

Obama further sold out black residents of Flint, Michigan after their water was poisoned in a fraudulent scheme by the Republican Governor’s business associates and extended provision of military weaponry to police prone to brutality against blacks.

The Democrats nominee in 2016 Hillary Clinton was also of the Wall Street pro-military wing of the party, who did little to inspire confidence among black voters.

Many remembered how her husband Bill helped devastate inner city communities by expanding the War on Drugs, gutting welfare, and contributing of the outsourcing of jobs through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Through their fixation with Russia, the Times and other media outlets are helping to revive a Cold War political climate while neglecting to inform readers about the true source of our political malaise.

Their strategy may very well be part of a plutocrat campaign to divide, coopt and undermine emergent progressive movements of the left which represent our only hope for a decent future.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018) and Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting for the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019).