From The New Yorker:
By Masha Gessen February 20, 2018
… It is true that the indictment tells us nothing about connections between the Russian efforts and the Trump campaign, and the Trump victory. It is also true that Moscow is laughing, at least in part because the Kremlin had no grand plan to elect Trump. … An event as shocking as Trump’s election demands that the forces that may (or may not) have contributed to his victory be rendered suitably monstrous in retrospect.
Trump’s tweet about Moscow laughing its ass off was unusually (perhaps accidentally) accurate. Loyal Putinites and dissident intellectuals alike are remarkably united in finding the American obsession with Russian meddling to be ridiculous. … I wrote at the time that the article showed the Russian effort to be more of a cacophony than a conspiracy. The Kremlin and its media are, as Joshua Yaffa writes, tickled to be taken so seriously. Their sub-grammatical imitations of American political rhetoric, their overtures to the most marginal of political players, are suddenly at the very heart of American political life. This is the sort of thing Russians have done for decades, dating back at least to the early days of the Cold War, but those efforts were always relegated to the dustbin of history before they even began.
Goldman, the Facebook V.P., has seen more of the Russian ads and posts than most Americans, and his imagination clearly strains to accommodate the push to take them seriously. It’s hard to square words like “sophisticated” (frequently used by the Times to describe the Russian campaign) with posts like one from an apparently fake L.G.B.T. group promoting something called “Buff Bernie: A Coloring Book for Berniacs” with catchy English-language copy: “The coloring is something that suits for all people.” It’s hard to apply the description “bold covert effort” (used by Politico) to the enormous amount of social-network static that Russian trolls produced. To Goldman, it may all look like a giant gray mass in which only a few colorful ads and posts have any meaning—and that meaning is hard to discern.
The need to see the Russian effort as somehow meaningful and masterly has produced its own experts in the field. … Russians, meanwhile, have laughed parts of their anatomy off over her coverage of the Gerasimov Doctrine, which is a thing that, well, doesn’t exist.
The phantom Gerasimov Doctrine, described in Politico as a “new chaos theory of political warfare,” sounds more sinister—but also, comfortingly, more serious—than the picture that emerges from the indictment, of Russian agents staging an elaborate production to travel to the United States to gather valuable intelligence, such as advice to “focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.’”
Colorado is nice place to visit in summer (and winter if you ski), Virginia in spring and fall, and Florida in winter, especially if your boss is paying for the trip.
Americans’ apparent need to imagine a Russian adversary as cunning, masterly, and strategic is matched only by the Russians’ own belief in a solid, stable, unshakable American society. … In a society with a strong sense of shared reality, a bunch of sub-literate tweets and ridiculous ads would be nothing but a curiosity.