What Europe Can Teach America About Russian Disinformation


[From The Atlantic. Read the whole piece here.]

By Jed Willard

In 2014, United States officials encountered a new form of Kremlin disinformation in Ukraine. As “little green men” streamed into the country’s south, blatant falsehoods over anything from the history of World War II to weapon-system deployments spread across the internet and the airwaves. Propagandists disguised as professors, activists, and journalists sowed confusion about what was actually happening on the ground: soldiers bearing no flag had occupied strategic territory. Intelligence collectors supplied propagandists with tapped calls and hacked emails containing compromising language, and the Kremlin leaked all of this to the media at key moments.

U.S. officials engaged in an aggressive campaign to build a global understanding of what was actually happening in Ukraine, and united Western allies in a chorus of condemnation. As a result, the West backed a sanctions regime that, remarkably, remains intact. But over time, with a peace process theoretically underway and the situation cooling, the State Department’s focus on counter-influence campaigns waned, and the unit leading the charge dissolved. Two years later, disinformation campaigns using very similar tactics targeted the U.S. electorate in the run-up to the 2016 vote, spreading so-called “fake news” and encouraging divisiveness in an effort to influence the election and American democracy itself….

[Read the rest of the article at The Atlantic, here!]


Foreign Interference in Elections: Advice for 2018 (from Denmark)


The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, after fourteen months evaluating the Intelligence Community’s work on Kremlin interference in the American election, announced on May 16 that the foreign effort was “extensive” and “unprecedented.” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), the Committee’s Vice Chairman concluded that “one thing is already abundantly clear – we have to do a better job in the future if we want to protect our elections from foreign interference.”

How does one go about doing that? In an effort to find out, we interviewed officials and academics from eleven countries, asking them how they go about defending their elections, what the U.S. should learn from them, and what keeps them up at night. Country by country, we’re going to share their advice here at FDRfoundation.org. Up first: Denmark!

It turns out the Danes were already paying attention to us. “The real wake-up call for Denmark was in 2016, when we saw the coordinated Russian influence campaign that targeted the US election, Jesper Møller Sørensen, Political Director at the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained. “This was an example of the whole Russian toolbox of active measures which we need to counter with democratic means.”

The Danes, like many others, suggested a focus on education and coordination. Helping the general public understand that sometimes “fake news” is actually fake news is key. “In the end,” said Sørensen, “psychological resilience comes down to education.” “In our view an important part of education is also making public the ways influence campaigns are conducted and engage openly in these debates.”

Unfortunately, the U.S. (for now) lacks the Dane’s superpower: trust in institutions. “We have a well-educated and informed population, Sørensen noted, “but the greatest strength the Danes possess is the high amount of trust toward our government and institutions in general. This makes it harder to sow distrust and polarize debates.” Distrustful and polarized nations, like America, are easier to manipulate with disinformation.

Another Danish superpower is their ability to coordinate with friendly neighbors. “Close cooperation with like-minded countries is crucial to exchange experiences about the threat, said Sørensen, “we are engaged in a well-established and extensive cooperation with the Nordic and Baltic countries on this issue.” Can America do this?

Awareness, education, coordination: advice from Denmark for defending our 2018 elections.


Organizing Democracy 9/27


Paul Poast, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, will present on his new book Organizing Democracy.

Adams House, 5:00-6:30pm, September 27, 2018. More details as the date approaches!

“In the past twenty-five years, a number of countries have made the transition to democracy. The support of international organizations is essential to success on this difficult path. Yet, despite extensive research into the relationship between democratic transitions and membership in international organizations, the mechanisms underlying the relationship remain unclear.  With Organizing Democracy, Paul Poast (University of Chicago) and Johannes Urpelainen (Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies) argue that leaders of transitional democracies often have to draw on the support of international organizations to provide the public goods and expertise needed to consolidate democratic rule. Looking at the Baltic states’ accession to NATO, Poast and Urpelainen provide a compelling and statistically rigorous account of the sorts of support transitional democracies draw from international institutions. They also show that, in many cases, the leaders of new democracies must actually create new international organizations to better serve their needs, since they may not qualify for help from existing ones.”

 


9th Annual FDR Memorial Lecture 11/10


Image result for forged in crisisForged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times

 

An enthralling historical narrative filled with critical leadership insights that will be of interest to a wide range of readers—including those in government, business, education, and the arts—Forged in Crisis, by celebrated Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn, spotlights five masters of crisis: polar explorer Ernest Shackleton; President Abraham Lincoln; legendary abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Nazi-resisting clergyman Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and environmental crusader Rachel Carson.

What do such disparate figures have in common? Why do their extraordinary stories continue to amaze and inspire? In delivering the answers to those questions, Nancy Koehn offers a remarkable template by which to judge those in our own time to whom the public has given its trust.

Tickets: Public and Alumni $20
Students: Free
Adams House LCR 4 PM

Nancy Koehn is an historian at the Harvard Business School where she is the James E. Robison professor of Business Administration. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Koehn earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government before taking her MA and PhD in History from Harvard. She writes frequently for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Harvard Business Review Online. She is also a weekly commentator on National Public Radio.

 


Turkey is not a lost cause


 
The West shouldn’t give up on Turkey, especially for the sake of the many Turks who did not vote Erdogan in the last two ballots. In both, the 2014  presidential election and the 2017 referendum on the constitutional amendment, slightly less than half of the electorate voted against the incumbent. Nonetheless, after the unsuccessful coup attempt in the summer of 2016, Erdogan managed to massively expand his influence over the country’s political institutions, courts, and media. As a consequence, the second half of the Turks have become virtually invisible to the rest of the world. Ever since the transformation of the country according to Erdogan’s ideology is in full swing. 
 
His strategy builds on his own idiosyncratic reading of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Since the 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos,   where he had brushed off Israel’s president Shimon Peres on stage, he has campaigned to reposition Turkey as the protective power of the Near East – just like in the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. A clear line leads from 2009 into the current military deployment against the Kurds and in Syria. In the years before 2009, Erdogan was the hope of all Turks, the secularists and the pious. Heading towards EU membership, he had brought reforms on their way and strengthened the economy. 
 
Unlike in Erdogan’s much-admired Russia, where minorities are demonised and hunted down, no such strategy is necessary on the Bosporus. While homosexuals and journalists have to fear for their life in Putin’s Russia, Turkey liberalises in some areas, normalises the relationship to the Kurdish minority by allowing more space for their language on airwaves and their culture in the public space. 
 
Today, only a few years later, the fear of a civil war is on the mind of many Turks. Both camps, Erdogan supporters and opponents, face each other with equal might and unforgiving steadfastness. Under the radar, Erdogan long worked towards this confrontation. Back during his first campaign in 2003, he employed a rhetoric that today belongs to the essentials of any populist movement: He, Erdogan, constructed himself as the representative of the ‘brown Turks’, those who call Anatolia and the Coast of the Black Sea their home. In a classic ‘us-versus-them’-narrative, they were pitted against the so-called Kemalist and secular ‘white Turks’. Divide and rule tactics brought him to power. 
 
The West currently discusses, whether Erdogan has forsworn Islamism or not, and consequently whether he intends to lead Turkey back into Islamic ages or a future that reconciles Islam and democracy. 
 
The Turkish EU rapprochement initially gained speed but was ultimately slowed down again by the unsuccessful French and Dutch referenda on an EU constitution. The denial of such an EU-wide constitution was read as a rejection of Turkish EU membership. It will be up to future generations to uncover the point at which Erdogan’s ensuing radicalisation became irreversible. 
 
From today’s perspective, it’s undeniable that he must have recovered a religious reading of his political authority and the country’s path, should he have renounced an Islamic worldview in the first place. Today, the president of the secular Republic of Turkey offers its citizens advice on the number of children a  Turkish Muslim wife should have. Erdogan also knows that there is no homosexuality in Turkey, given that such would against his reading of Islam. 
 
The Christian minority in the country is facing enormous pressures. The Turkish Ministry of Religion, ‘Diyanet’, which was initially founded to hedge in the Islamic movement of the country and work towards its compatibility with modernity, now spies on Turkish citizens – domestic and abroad. 
 
In the Federal Republic of Germany, cases became public of Turkish Imams on a government-backed mission to find and denounce sympathisers of Fethullah Gülen. Erdogan does not seem to grow tired of pointing his finger at the preacher as the mastermind behind the coup attempt in Summer 2016. He has thus far produced no evidence or proof of these accusations. 
 
After the coup attempt, thousands of people were stripped of their economic and social status. The fear of an overly-powerful state apparatus firmly in the President’s hands has stifled the resistance of many but hasn’t yet silenced the whole opposition movement. Hundreds of thousands of people, for example, partook in the ‘March for Justice’ in Summer 2017, lead by oppositional politicians and representatives of civil society. The march concluded with a rally in Istanbul. 
 
Turkey was a democracy for ninety years, the country harbours a developed civil society and is accustomed to diversity in opinions, not least on religious issues. Contrary to Erdogan’s retrospective monolithic construction of the Ottoman Empire, different ethnic and religious groups, the Millets, lived a relatively free and autonomous life within it. ‘Turkish Islam’, as the President describes it, is thus not historically ‘Turkish’. Rather, it is part of a much more extensive religious restoration in various parts of the Islamic World that builds on ideological dogmatism and the creation of boundaries. 
 
In today’s terms, the Ottoman Empire certainly was no democracy with human rights, such as religious freedom. But it equally wasn’t a fundamentalist theocracy characterised by religious despotism, as Erdogan’s imagines its resurrection. 
 
The many millions of Turks, who did not vote for Erdogan, are equally descendants of the Ottomans and children of the Turkish Republic. They stand for a different interpretation of the role, which Turkey should assume in the geopolitics of the 21st century. They stand for a conception of society that radically diverges from the Islamic one, which Erdogan’s is busy trying to sell to the West as the only authentic one.  
 
The West would fare well by strengthening and supporting these Turks in their debilitating struggle for the future of the country. We must not give up on Turkey. 
 
Professor Alexander Görlach is an affiliate of the FDR Foundation’s Defense of Democracy program and a senior fellow to the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. He is also a fellow to the Center for the Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK. He holds PhDs in linguistics and comparative religion and is the publisher of the online-magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com. This article represents his views alone, not those of the FDR Foundation or other institutions. 

“A Woman is Like a Tea Bag”: Eleanor Roosevelt, and Radical Women of the 20s and 30s 3-26


 

Eleanor Roosevelt liked to say, “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” In many ways Eleanor Roosevelt would have seemed the unlikeliest of feminists: a woman with five children married to man of traditional values. But early on, she became part of a circle of women leaders in the 20s and 30s who worked for labor legislation, world peace, women’s representation the Democratic Party, civil rights, equal pay and education for women, public housing — and the rest is history. This discussion shines a light on Eleanor Roosevelt and some of the women who were her friends and colleagues in the fight for social justice.

 

About the speaker: CYNTHIA M. KOCH is Historian in Residence and Director of History Programing for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation at Adams House, Harvard University. She was Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York and subsequently Senior Adviser to the Office of Presidential Libraries, National Archives, Washington, D.C. From 2013-16 she was Public Historian in Residence at Bard College, where she taught courses in public history and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her most recent publications are “They Hated Eleanor, Too,” “Hillary R[oosevelt] Clinton,” “Demagogues and Democracy,” and “Democracy and the Election” are published online by the FDR Foundation http://fdrfoundation.org/.

Previously Dr. Koch was Associate Director of the Penn National Commission on Society, Culture and Community, a national public policy research group at the University of Pennsylvania. She served as Executive Director (1993-1997) of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and was Director (1979-1993) of the National Historic Landmark Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, New Jersey.

Join us beside a crackling fire in the FDR Suite 7 PM Monday 3/26

 

Sign up information HERE