Jenna Abrams, Russia’s American Twitter Sock-Puppet

The Daily Beast has a well-researched article examining the mysterious Jenna Abrams, a minor right-wing “celebrity” in the United States who came to online prominence during the 2015-16 presidential campaign by Donald Trump. The Twitter and Facebook user presented herself as an ordinary, stay-at-home mom disgusted at the rise of “political correctness” and the supposed liberal dominance of the mainstream media in the US. However, her commentary on news and politics was mixed with a preponderance of tweets and posts devoted to pop-culture phenomena. It was these latter subjects, often humorous or satirical in nature, which initially drew the attention of other internet users. While people followed her for the snarky one-liners about Kim Kardashian, they also received intermittent criticism of “far left” causes, some of which went viral among her growing fanbase (some 70,000 Twitter followers at her height).

Eventually, web-savvy journalists began to feature Abrams’ provocative tweets or observations in their articles, creating an astonishingly diverse list of global references, including: Bustle, US News and World Report, USA Today, Fox News affiliates, InfoWars, BET, Yahoo Sports, Sky News, IJR, Breitbart, The Washington Post, Mashable, New York Daily News, Quartz, Dallas News, France24, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Gizmodo, The Independent, The Daily Dot, The Observer, Business Insider, The National Post, Refinery29, The Times of India, BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, Russia Today and Sputnik.

Unfortunately, it turns out that there was one serious problem with all this fame and adulation for the popular Twitterer. Jenna Abrams never existed. In fact, she was the layered creation of the Internet Research Agency, the Russian Federation’s state-funded “troll farm” in St. Petersburg. One or more employees worked behind her social network accounts prosecuting a careful, low–profile campaign to influence the election for the White House. A campaign so meticulously conducted that even prominent individuals who interacted with the sock-puppet persona, from the actress Roseanne Barr to the former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, were convinced of her ultra-conservative authenticity.

The full Daily Beast post is well worth reading.

Rather closer to home, it also makes you wonder why dozens – perhaps hundreds – of individuals are expending so much time and energy desperately attempting to revive a dormant insurgency to destroy the British legacy colony on our island nation, when the battlefield has clearly moved on to other terrain. Hearts and minds will liberate the north-east, not blood and guts.

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10 comments

  1. This is a huge problem in English speaking countries. Pretty much everyone learns English these days. So anyone can go to an English speaking forum and pretend to be an American/British/Aussie/whatever. While the opposite is not possible. An American who tries to do that will be identified and called out immediately. Actually I’m surprised that we don’t have such a troll farm in the Baltic states. (Or maybe we do have one and it’s very good at its job) An American CIA/NSA employee who’s learned Russian is still not the same as someone who’s grew up among Russians and can actually pretend to be one.

    1. So I’ve heard, but there are US troll-farms, as we know, using private contractors. Most seem to be fairly useless (the Arabic ones especially). Russian influencing operations seem to be small scale, shoe-string affairs.

    2. You yourself seem to have a truly remarkable facility for written colloquial English – for someone apparently raised in Eastern Europe. I’ve often marvelled at it. I’ve known quite a few Eastern Europeans over the last few years and none of them come close to your ability. In fact even most Dutch or Scandinavians I’ve known don’t come close. Quite extraordinary…

  2. The local comparison is an ill thought one since Russia has been aggressively practicing hybrid warfare in different countries for many years now with results that could not be achieved separately. Apart from the information war in Ukraine, it puts it’s own armed proxies and little green men against western backed militias. The local equivalent would be the Irish states own multifaceted attacks on the northern statlet through trade war and materially supporting and directing paramilitarys/terrorists. Though it just goes to show, the scenario is nothing new and is largely just a continuation of the soft power projection the US has been practising elsewhere for decades

    1. All true. However if you take one hundred republican activists beavering away online in a coordinated manner, using the most popular social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to share their political opinions and commentary, and “anchoring” those opinions around fixed information nodes, even just posts and articles on WordPress and Medium blogs, you begin to generate a network of support and influence. One with the potential to grow as each “Sharer” attracts followers and interacts with each other.

      It might be small-scale but surely that is better than sending young men and women out on crazy missions to plant undercar bombs or fire off improvised rockets at armoured jeeps?

      There is nothing criminal in the online behaviour, if properly managed and kept within certain boundaries. In a country the size of Ireland, one hundred activists commenting under appropriate articles on the likes of thejournal.ie with republican commentary would have some influence. Even if just a surface one initially.

      The trick others have stumbled upon when it comes to internet “propaganda”, is too always appear more common, more of the mainstream opinion, than you are. When it looks like your are of the majority, not the minority, then the real majority opinion may begin to swing your way. Everyone wants to go with the crowd. The accepted wisdom.

      That is partly how the Sunday Independent newspaper succeeded in the 1980s and ’90s, by pretending its editorials and columnists were the voice of the people. And look how the odious Harris clan influenced our politics and views on the Six Counties.

      There is a lot of untapped potential in say, the likes of Saoradh establishing an online news magazine as a front, and employing five or six people to run and generate the kind of political movement they want to see. It’s all about creating SEO-attractive sources of information which you control and shape.

      This website morphed into a “republican” one from its original purpose back in 2011 precisely because of my own frustration with the lack of professionally-presented Irish republican opinion on the internet. Now it has articles and posts linked to by Wikipedia, mainstream news media, journalists on Twitter, and so on. If one person can do that, with limited resources and around a daily working life, what could five or six full-timers do?

      If the Workers Party could hijack RTÉ news and current affairs in the 1970s and ’80s then republicans should be seeking to create their own information exchanges.

      1. But wouldn’t that be preaching to the choir? Most people in the Republic already support United Ireland. At least it’s pretty unlikely for them to vote against it if the north actually votes in favour of reunification.

        How would you convince someone whose very identity hangs on “I’m British and this is rightful British land”? Unless the UK falls apart like the USSR I can’t see that happening.

      2. As soon as that strategy becomes effective the platforms will retune the algorithms. Twitter just confessed to suppressing DNC Leak & Podesta tweets. Google News retuned and slashed traffic to left/prog sites. Eric Schmidt is tight with HRC – look at their co-travel & appearances.

        How do you think AI will be used to shape the data we are shown? Or what we say is heard? Think about your timeline on say twitter. There is far more being said by those you follow than is included. Didn’t you already curate your own list, why do you need opaque intrusions applying values you are not even aware of, let alone in support of.

        The promise of the internet has become a debauchery of backstabbing to make a buck, users are sheep that need regular shearing and culling. Google and Apple have your phone numbers. They never stop working to tie all of your virtual identities back to your real one. From that they derive your psych profile and how to push your buttons.

        It’s the Fat, Salt, Sugar strategy for the psyche.

      3. I agree, in fact if your a republican you dont have a choice. Propoganda has always been important and will be used against yimou if your not aware of it.

        It is a shame when issues become proxy wars for “sides” rather than the issue themselves. But like you say, it is better than young men giving their lives.

        Also in terms of culture, I think even though shes not a supporter, Jeremy Corbyns sucess if he makes it, owes a lot to JK Riwlings Harry Potter series. While that may seem nonsensical, only a fool would ignorr its cultural impact on young readers, and its use of at the very least a soft socialism in its narrative.

        If anyones a fantasy writer, why not examine the partitioning of a fictional nation? These kind of things can help I think, more than we may realise. Of course the thing to do would be to make sure you dont just make something soulless and vacuous just for propoganda in art, but its useful to be aware of these things.

        And lastly, Im pretty sure much of social networking on facebook and commenting on reddit is prone to beigading by the left and the right.

        I think Irish republicanism needs to find a space on the agenda, putting forth Irish traditions and culture, not letting it be brabded for us by people whos identity is soley based on being for communism or capitalism.

  3. Also it is known that the Russian trolls impersonate members of both sides and try to sow division.

    So would you also want to pretend that you’re a unionist and spam stuff like: “This whole Brexit shit is getting out of hand. I’m afraid that London is going to chicken out and impose a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK”? And other similar things to spread FUD among them and make them consider United Ireland as a viable option.

  4. Neocon trolls always resort to the feeble “Russian troll” canard when they can’t answer arguments – as in the support Hillary and Victoria Nuland gave to open Neonazis in Ukraine – and the support Anglo-America and Israel give to Islamic jihadists in Syria, Libya and Iraq. One doesn’t have to be a Freudian to detect the projection going on here, i.e accuse your opponent of the corruption one habitually engages in. I’m waiting for the Neocons and Clintonistas to accuse Donna Brazile and Elizabeth Warren of being Russian agents – since these two senior Dems have now admitted that Hillary and her corrupt hatchet men and women rigged the Democratic primaries to do Sanders out of the nomination. What the Neocons and Clintonistas want is the internet and the media to be a greek chorus for the endless war and corporate welfare agenda, and raise no awkward questions about just who benefits fromt all this global turmoil. Anybody who dissents will be character assassinated in true Soviet style as a “Russian agent”. Ironic or what? Not really, since the Neocons are ideologically descended from the Trotskyist brand of Soviet Communism (though many Irish Neocons tend to be former faux Stalinists of the WP stripe – I say ‘faux’ Stalinist because one of the functions of the Workers Party was to proselytize in the Soviet Bloc and other communist countries on behalf of British rule in Ireland – hence the ostentatiously pro-Soviet stance they took on many issues).

    On that point, maybe some day someone will conduct an investigation into just how many British intelligence operatives work in the Irish media. Many of the most influential journos in Ireland belonged to the British intelligence front that was the Workers Party in the 1980s – and even those too young to have been part of this MI5 directed three ring circus (political, cultural and criminal) have close family and personal ties to the older WP hacks.

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