Mean tweets from foreign countries reflecting schadenfreude over America’s current difficulties have been redefined as “foreign interference” with “American democracy.” From Politico:
Foreign foes taking advantage of divide over race, national security adviser says
China is among the nations mentioned by Robert O’Brien.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien. | Aijaz Rahi/AP Photo
By RISHIKA DUGYALA
05/31/2020 12:02 PM EDT
National security adviser Robert O’Brien on Sunday said foreign powers were trying to exploit the fraught state of U.S. race relations and protests over George Floyd’s death.
On Saturday night, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio — the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee — tweeted that he was seeing “very heavy” social media activity on nationwide demonstrations and counter reactions linked to at least three foreign adversaries. “They didn’t create these divisions. But they are actively stoking & promoting violence & confrontation from multiple angles,” he wrote.
On ABC’s “This Week,” O’Brien said that was “spot on.” He said he saw tweets from the Chinese taking pleasure and solace in the chaos in America. He also mentioned Zimbabwe and Iran.
Asked whether Russia — which tried to stoke racial unrest and other divisions during the 2016 election — is also involved now, O’Brien said there may be Russian activists playing a role. But he said that’s different from China, where “it’s coming straight from the government.”
Here’s the transcript from ABC:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And no — no question, it should be condemned, right? I completely agree with that. But you said you hadn’t heard about any other incitement from the right. But the DHS warning that went out this week noted specifically that the white supremacist, extremist Telegram channel was inciting the violence as well. They are saying it is both sides that are inciting violence from the outside.
O’BRIEN: Yes, I think the actual perpetrators of the violence, the ones that are on the street, that are burning down minority-owned businesses and restaurants, who have already suffered through this terrible COVID situation and — and are at risk of losing their business and now they’re seeing them burn to the ground, those are ANTIFA radical militants. And we’ve seen them before in other protests and we need to get to the bottom of it.
Look, I condemn all extremists, on the right or on the left. But — but the ones who are out on the streets throwing the Molotov cocktails and attacking our police, who are acting with — you know, for the most part, with restraint, and heroically, you know, that has to stop. …
STEPHANOPOULOS: What evidence do we have that foreign adversaries are also trying to exploit the situation? I want to put up a tweet that Senator Marco Rubio put out last night. He’s the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And he said, tonight we’re seeing very heavy social media activity on protests and counter-reactions from social media accounts linked to at least three foreign adversaries. They didn’t create these divisions, but they are actively stoking and promoting violence and confrontation from multiple angles.
Who are these foreign adversaries?
O’BRIEN: Well, Senator Rubio is spot on. And I’ve seen a number of tweets from the Chinese today that are — are taking some sort of pleasure and solace in — in what they’re seeing here.
And I want to tell our foreign adversaries, whether it’s a — you know, Zimbabwe or a China, that the difference between us and you is that that — that officer who killed George Floyd, he’ll be — he’ll be investigated and he’ll be prosecuted and he’s going to receive a fair trial. The American people that want to go out and protest peacefully, they’re going to be allowed to seek redress from their government. They’re not going to be thrown in jail for peaceful protesting.
There’s a difference between us and you. … But there’s a big difference between us and our foreign adversaries. But you can — Marco Rubio is 100 percent correct that our foreign adversaries are going to take advantage of this crisis to sew discord and to try and damage our democracy. We’re not going to let that happen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We — you mentioned China. We also know that Russia has been actively trying in the past to spark racial unrest. Are they one of the adversaries who are now exploiting the situation as well?
O’BRIEN: Yes, there — there — there may be Russian activists who are doing that, but the difference that I’ve seen so far is that, for example, we saw a Chinese foreign — foreign ministry spokesman trolling the State Department about this. So it’s — it’s open. It’s coming straight from the government. So it’s something we’re keeping an eye on.
But, listen, to our adversaries, the American people, we may have our political differences, and we’ve gone through these crises before, but we’ll overcome it. …
STEPHANOPOULOS: What are we doing right now to counter those adversaries as they try to foment more unrest here in the United States, China, Russia, you mentioned Zimbabwe.
O’BRIEN: Yes, look, Iran is — has certainly been active in this — you know, in this — in this realm as well. And we’ve got a number of tools in our tool kit, George, but we’re — we’re working very closely with our allies. I’ve been on the phone with our — my colleagues, national security advisors, over the weekend. We’ll be meeting with them in the coming days. The democracies will stick together.
We’ve got a series of measures that we’re going to deal with China and the way that they’ve choked out freedom in — in Hong Kong. The president made a very important announcement on that front on Friday and — and the — the U.S. government is looking at all of our relations with Hong Kong and China.
So there will be a response and it will be proportional, but this is not something that — that our adversaries are going to get away with for free.
Okay, so reading the transcript, it’s not clear if O’Brien is specifying Zimbabwe as somebody who is interfering with American Democracy by trolling us with mean tweets, although Stephanopoulos seems to assume he is talking about Zimbabwe. My guess is that O’Brien just pulled the name of Zimbabwe out as a general example of a “foreign adversary” of America. Maybe he was thinking of doing an A to Z thing but couldn’t think of a foreign adversary that comes in the alphabet before Belarus.
And my guess is that the “proportional response” stuff at the end is not about how America will respond to mean tweets, it’s about Hong Kong. That reminds me that it’s helpful to have an articulate national security advisor. Henry Kissinger had his pros and cons, but he spoke very slowly in complete sentences and even paragraphs and he seldom left his listeners confused about whether he was threatening China or Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information replied:
Zimbabwe does not consider itself America's adversary. We prefer having friends and allies to having unhelpful adversity with any other nation including the USA. https://t.co/x8OUAskzLZ
— Nick Mangwana (@nickmangwana) May 31, 2020
Update: A commenter points out that the Zimbabwean president’s spokesman has indeed been sending out tweets mocking the U.S. From ZimLive.com:
The United States has imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe since 2001, stating that the country posed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States.”
The United States embassy in Harare has recently ratcheted up the rhetoric, demanding that Zimbabwe investigates the recent abduction of Harare West MP Joana Mamombe and MDC youth assembly activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, and prosecutes those responsible.
Charamba, in one of his tweets, said: “I think the Zimbabwean government should summon the U.S. Ambassador to explain the goings-on in the U.S.! This is an unusual, continuing and extraordinary grave threat to Zimbabwe’s strategic interest globally! And of course a grave threat to international peace requiring invocation of the United Nations Chapter 7.
“Clearly, the Administration is unable to protect U.S. citizens, in which case responsibility to protect stricture must kick in. The SADC standby brigade is supremely ready to deploy all maximum means and capabilities needed to put out this raging fire.” …
Charamba, defiantly, tweeted in response to the U.S. warning: “If having an outraged conscience over cold-blooded murder of a blackman in America by an agent of the American government makes Zimbabwe an enemy; if criticising racism and human rights abuse in the same makes the critique an enemy of U.S., then by the same token, U.S. made itself an enemy of Zimbabwe from as far back as 2000.
“Amazing how a polity so wont to poking into internal affairs of small countries, and sponsoring opposition in small nations’ body politic is so squeamish about retweets from its own press and that of its European allies press. Crazy!”
This notion pushed by the Legacy Media during the derisible RussiaGate fiasco that Social Media is so overwhelmingly powerful that its use by foreigners automatically undermines American Democracy needs to be laughed out of the building.