This isn’t really news to me. Last year, my job briefly entailed tracking Russian anti-Hillary trolls on Twitter, and there were hundreds. I’m sure there were more, but there are only so many hours in the day.
Read Will Bunch:
If you’re an American high school grad of a certain age, you probably have a friend or two on Facebook like Melvin Redick. Redick promotes himself as a proud graduate of Philadelphia’s elite Central High School and a Philly native, a salt-of-the-earth guy who hung around Pennsylvania to attend Indiana University and take up residence in Harrisburg. Most of his pictures on the social-media site are adorable shots of frolicking with his grade-school-age daughter.
But Marvin Redick doesn’t have anything to say about his personal life, or his alma mater on Olney Avenue. When he showed up on Facebook late last spring, it was all about his rancor toward Hillary Clinton and his rants about U.S. policy toward Russia.
“These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and other leaders of the US,” Redick wrote on Facebook on June 8, 2016, promoting the very first site hosting documents that were illegally hacked from Democratic Party higher-ups during last year’s campaign. “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”
Here’s something else really interesting: Your all-American high school chum “Melvin Redick” seems not to actually exist, according to a groundbreaking investigative piece published late last week by the New York Times. There’s no record, according to the Paper of Record, that Redick ever attended Central or IUP, and those happy pictures with his daughter appear to have been taken in Brazil. The apparently not-real Redick showed up on social media, the newspaper found, around the same time as “Katharine Fulton” and “Alice Donovan” — all of whom trashed Clinton, praised the campaign of now-President Trump and steered American Facebook users to hacked emails and documents, all in a brand of mangled English that sounds a little like the old cartoon character Boris Badenov. And none of whom seem to be real human beings living in the United States.
It feels like a pilot for a less-interesting sequel on FX — The Fake Americans. But the role that the not-Philadelphian not-Melvin and his pals played in the 2016 elections (and may still be carrying out in American politics even now) isn’t so much entertaining as alarming. In recent weeks, a raft of new disclosures — each more stunning than the last — has made it clear that a Russia-financed-and-run operation to tilt the 2016 presidential election to Trump had many more tentacles than we hapless real Americans had first realized. And it’s increasingly clear that born-in-the-USA social media sites like Twitter and, especially, Facebook were at the core of the scheme.