CNN talk trash in on-site hunt for Russian trolls
US media coverage of the indictment of 13 Russians for alleged meddling in the 2016 election had a few funny moments, including one episode in which a CNN correspondent hot on the trolls’ trail found himself at a dumpster.
The indictment last week accused 13 Russian citizens and three organizations of sowing dissent in America through operating sockpuppets (fake online personae). The actual allegations seem mostly to be economically motivated, but for the US mainstream media it was the latest “smoking gun” in the year-long Russiagate saga. And some did a bit of investigative journalism of their own in going after the Russian trolls.
CNN’s Matthew Chance went to the building in St. Petersburg from which the infamous Internet Research Agency — AKA “Russian troll farm” — operated. Past tense, you notice: it has reportedly moved to a posh business center. But Chance believes the trolls may still be there, not dissuaded by the big “for rent” banner on the front of the building.
“Sometimes you can learn a lot about the organization by the rubbish they throw out,” he reported from the scene, moving over to a dumpster located next to the building and inspecting the contents.
“This looks like polystyrene wrappers for some sort of computer or electronic stuff delivered recently. We saw what looked like boxes with new computers being delivered there,” he said. “Clearly, it’s still operating; whether it’s operating as a troll factory is unclear.”
The reporter continued by interviewing a man who said he was journalist working for the news website Nevskie Novosti. The outlet is among the five most-circulated in St. Petersburg, has existed since 2013 and is focused on Russian domestic news.
Some media reports in Russia say it’s part of a media conglomerate operated by Evgeny Prigozhin, the prime suspect in the FBI indictment, which would explain renting a space located 10 minutes away from its main office, but hardly qualifies all its staff as internet trolls. But these are mere details, and CNN goes after the big picture.
The dumpster episode was rehashed during a later live report from the same location, in which Chance told host Jim Sciutto that the building is “the office in which that atmosphere of chaos was stoked from the Russian side.”
“The person who bankrolls that organization has now been indicted in the United States,” he went on. “His name is Evgeny Prirozhkin (oh, those difficult Russian names!) and he is a figure very close to Vladimir Putin.”
Despite earning the nickname of “Putin’s chef” from the Russian opposition media over his catering business, there is no clear indication that Prigozhin’s connection is essentially different from those of most Russians with fortunes originating in the free-for-all capitalism of the 1990s.
The effort described in the indictment seems a bit sloppy for the super-dangerous intelligence service psy-op the US media want it to be. But the Americans now know that the Russian president launched an attack on the USA almost as bad as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and he is doing in again right now: The dumpster never lies!