United States National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien warned President Donald Trump that Russians were manipulating Rudy Giuliani with information about former Vice President Joe Biden. An MSNBC panel discussion with experts explained that the propaganda peddled by conspiracy theorists follow the same path akin to the Pizzagate conspiracy that provoked a near-mass shooting.
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook had pledged not to allow "hacked" information on their platforms, so right-wing conspiracy groups used what they said was hacked information for a New York Post story so they could get past the restrictions. Notorious Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch owns the Post.
"Platforms could have stuck to their guns, but they didn't," explained NBC News reporter Ben Collins. "They made a choice to play both sides here. And that's just something they've been doing for the last four years and something that we are to get used to. I do want to stress here we didn't know WikiLeaks were the bad guys until well after the fact."
He noted that for a while, the mainstream press was celebrating WikiLeaks because of the information revealed. Then it became clear that the information couldn't be trusted.
"So, we are sort of -- we are prisoners of the moment here," Collins continued. "We are living in the interim where we don't know if this is hacked material, where we don't know if it's been leaked with a patsy or something like that. This is, by the way, I really want to stress this; this is how Pizzagate started in 2016. There were 'hacked materials.' They were put online and said, 'everybody figure it out for yourself.' And when people started to figure things out for themselves on Reddit, they found a satanic cult that does not actually exist. So, we have to be very careful and say, hey, this is the point of this entire thing is to create innuendo, create suspicion, create the appearance of impropriety, even if it's not there."
In the case of Pizzagate, right-wing groups created a fake story that former Secretary Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. The restaurant not only doesn't have a basement. It has no affiliation with Clinton. But the conspiracy captured so many far-right Trump supporters that one man drove to Washington with a gun to liberate the trafficked children that were never there.
Counterintelligence expert Malcolm Nance explained that this tactic is the only option left for Trump, who can't seem to make anything stick after spending nearly $1 billion attacking Biden for the past year.
"All of this information has supposedly now implicating Hunter Biden has miraculously shown up inside of a computer that was supposedly left by Hunter Biden or a guy who looks like Hunter Biden, and that, of course, is now Rudy Giuliani's attempt to make an October surprise to implicate Hunter Biden, and perhaps even in the last few weeks, try to get an indictment of him or -- and/or Joe Biden," Nance explained. "It would be amazing, but they've tried just about everything else."
Collins noted that this was all part of the plan for the conspiracy theorists. Either the social media sites ban the "hacked" information, or they ban it and the right-wing freaks out, crying "censorship."
"It's a win-win for them," he said. "This was a plan, and it was very coordinated. And I think we should start talking about it like that."
"This is baby spy school stuff," said Nance, who worked in Naval Intelligence during his career in the armed forces. "When you want to implicate something -- at the Yuri Andropov school of intelligence that Vladimir Putin went to when he was a baby spy in the 1980s, this is what they teach you, to implicate your enemies. You put compromising material or fake material that you have generated into a position where a neutral third party can find them, and then that third party will pass it on to a relevant authority, and then a scandal breaks out. That's technically what WikiLeaks did."
However, this time, Nance said, the intelligence is targeted to a person and could be edited to have false information couched in truth to make it look legitimate. He called it "black propaganda."
"This is old school stuff that usually is done with you putting something in someone's wallet or having somebody's dirty film fall in front of the New York Times," Nance went on.
See the full conversation below: