This should give us pause

From “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” by Timothy Snyder

In 2016, American journalists seemed to misunderstand a presidential campaign. As a longshot candidate surmounted barrier after barrier and accumulated victory after victory, our commentariat blithely assured us that at the next stage he would be stopped by one fine American institution or another. There was, meanwhile, one group of observers who took a different position: east Europeans and those who study eastern Europe. To them, much about the president’s campaign was familiar, and the final outcome was no surprise. Ukrainian and Russian journalist who sniffed the air in the Midwest said more realistic things than American pollsters who had built careers on understanding the politics of their own country.

To Ukrainians, Americans seemed comically slow to react to the obvious threats of cyberwar and targeted lies. When Russian propaganda made Ukraine a target in 2013, young Ukrainian journalists and others reacted immediately, decisively, and sometimes humorously with campaigns to expose disinformation. Russia deployed many of the same techniques against Ukraine that it later used against the United States – while invading Ukraine. When Russian media falsely claimed in 2014 that Ukrainian troops crucified a small boy, the Ukrainian response was rapid and effective ( at least within Ukraine itself.) When Russian media spread the story in 2016 that Hillary Clinton was ill because she mentioned an article on “decision fatigue” (which is not an illness) in an email, the story was spread by Americans. The Ukrainians won, and the Americans lost in the sense that Russia failed to get the regime it wanted in its neighbor, but did see its preferred candidate triumph in the United States. This should give us pause. History, which for a time seemed to be running from west to east, now seems to be moving from east to west. Everything that happens here seems to happen there first.