Wednesday 1st November
Things are hotting up. After almost a year of rumours and resignations and sackings and turmoil in The White House, the first arrests have been made. I do not know the truth, perhaps nobody knows the whole truth and maybe we will never know all the details. All we do know is that many e-mails either from or to Hilary Clinton were hacked and released, mostly by Wikileaks, just prior to the Presidential Election. There was a lot of furore because she should not have used a private e-mail server for what may have been confidential documents. The CIA were investigating. Then just one week before the vote the head of the CIA reported that another batch of e-mails had turned up which they were also investigating (these turned out to be innocuous). Trump made many accusations about this, even saying he would jail Hilary when he became President.
There were also thousands of new Facebook pages created, all supporting Trump and it is suspected that these originated from Russia.
Who knows if any of this actually affected the vote. In the end the opinion polls were about right and Hilary got more votes and a higher percentage than Trump. She just lost by a few thousand in a few states she was expected to win, which handed the prize to Trump.
This may have been the first election where Social Media played such a huge part, although Brexit a year earlier also saw huge activity on Facebook and Twitter.
It is also probable that over the years many governments including our own have tried to affect elections. It obviously played into Putin’s plans for Trump to win. He has threatened to dismantle many of the old institutions which Russia disliked. Over the months it has emerged that there have been multiple connections and meetings between Trump’s inner team and the Russians. Whether these will end up as proof of collusion or as red herrings is still anyone’s guess. But there are shadowy links between millionaires in England like Aaron Banks, who supported UKIP and Brexit and in America who supported Trump, and Nigel Farage and Julian Assange and Cambridge Analytics, the company which did much of the damage over Hilary’s e-mails.
What this means for democracy is questionable? I doubt very much if any of these investigations will actually prove that Trump either knew or sanctioned any involvement with Russia. Or that any elections will be re-run. And especially that Trump will be impeached. It makes good headlines but as the rest of the world and almost everyone you meet holds their head in their hands at the very mention of Trump, it does very little to discourage his core supporters.
Sadly, I think he will be elected for a second term. Only a disastrous war or another economic collapse will dent his popularity.
The longer term questions are harder to solve. How do you stop either other countries or rich individuals from using Social media for their own ends? How do you hold fair elections with a hugely powerful media anyway? All we can hope is that as time goes on, more people become aware of the difference between genuine reporting of, and highly slanted opinion masquerading as, and downright made up fake – news,