Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

Why Foreign Propaganda Is More Dangerous Now

| Sep. 19, 2017

When George Washington gave his Farewell Address in 1796, he urged the American people “to be constantly awake” to the risk of foreign influence. In the wake of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 United States election, the president’s warning has a fresh, chilling resonance. 

The debate in the United States about foreign interference concentrates on who did what to influence last year’s election and the need for democracies to strengthen their cybersecurity for emails, critical infrastructure and voting platforms. But we need to pay far more attention to another vulnerability: our adversaries’ attempts to subvert our democratic processes by aiming falsehoods at ripe subsets of our population — and not only during elections.

In the Cold War era, Soviet attempts to meddle in American democracy were largely unsuccessful. In 1982 Yuri Andropov, then the K.G.B. chairman, told Soviet foreign intelligence officers to incorporate disinformation operations — the so-called active measures meant to discredit adversaries and influence public opinion — into their standard work. They had an ambitious aim: preventing Ronald Reagan’s re-election.

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For Academic Citation: Power, Samantha.“Why Foreign Propaganda Is More Dangerous Now.” The New York Times, September 19, 2017.

The Author

Samantha Power