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HomeViewpointsSomebody’s watching!

Somebody’s watching!

One thing is clear. Our humble Internet publication has attracted trolls and propagandists from afar, who seriously want to turn us on to their twisted worldview.

As the United States tumbles into the repugnant and terrifying new administration, with help from Russian hackers and amid an astonishing bromance between Trump and Vladimir Putin, and worries about “fake news,” as TV spokespersons insist THE TRUTH IS A LIE, there may be a tendency to view the Berkshire Edge as a secluded sanctuary that just deals with clear-cut local cultural issues of interest only to our fellow Berkshirites.

But think again, folks. Our reach is global!

And the trolls on our tail include some foreign spooks.

On December 13 we published a short, original, provocative article, entitled, “Connect the Dots: Obama … Russia … Putin … Trump … Election,” that was written by Bruce Lambert, a respected former longtime reporter for The New York Times.

It consisted of a chronology listing recent developments involving Russia, Putin, Trump and the 2016 U.S. election. Among the final conclusions were these entries:

“No one can prove that Russia’s intrusions and links — hacked emails, fake news posts, complimenting Trump, paying Trump cronies Manafort and Flynn, Tillerson oil deal, etc. — tipped our U.S. election. But Russia hoped to have an impact. In an Electoral College contest decided by about 76,000 votes out of 14 million cast in three states, it’s quite possible it succeeded in derailing hardliner Clinton and elevating erratic dupe Trump and his pro-Russia cronies…This is speculative, but since Russians hacked Republican emails, they surely could have hacked Trump’s emails, too. Who knows what strategic information – and possible blackmail – the Kremlin now holds.”

THE RESPONSE

The little piece — which turned out to be so prescient! — generated a lively but modest exchange between the writer and some of our local readers.

But they weren’t the only ones interested in our coverage.

11 new arbat
11 New Arbat, in Moscow, the location of a group claiming to be ‘peace activists,’ whose web site is loaded with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and whose work is focused on ‘the American political system.’

On December 21, shortly before Christmas and Hanukkah, The Edge received an email message from a sender calling itself “Active-Democracy” in Moscow, with subject line that said: “Trump Presidency several times more dangerous than Obama’s.” In it, the sender railed against the “Jewish Establishment,” and offered a mishmash of policy statements and warnings.

It also provided a link to a comprehensive catalogue of other conspiratorial political statements dating back a few years and involving such subjects as U.S. presidents, Hillary Clinton, the Federal Reserve, Netanyahu, Putin, Turkey, the war against Al Qaeda and Isis, the Talmud and Torah, pro-Julian Assange, and other topics.

The group’s website proclaimed:

“We are peace activists whose primary objective is to empower people. We focus on global phenomena adversely affecting more than a million people. It might be political systems, policies, laws, government, movements, commerce, industries or economics … if it is adversely affecting more than a million people, then it has our attention.

Currently our focus is on the American Political System, War on Terror and the involvement of Jewish Interests and the Israeli government in world affairs.”

In its email message and website, the group claimed to be located at 11 New Arbat, Moscow, 119019 Russian Federation.

Google searches of that address point to a large office building housing the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation — the Russian government agency charged with “managing the country’s natural resources and protecting the environment.”

An entry on the group’s website also stated that it is based in Moscow and monitors information around the globe, and later reports noteworthy and pertinent information to the Russian government.

HMMM…

But was the message really from Moscow and is the organization actually housed in a Russian government complex?

This remains hard to prove.

Our initial research turned up some startling results.

From Oct. 13 to Nov. 13, 2016 the Berkshire Edge website attracted 229 page views from URL’s in Russian. This foreign traffic was behind hits from UK, France and Canada. But from Nov. 14-Dec. 23, there was an upsurge, and we received 2,754 page views, or 2.4 percent of total (401,966), and Russian hits were second only to U.S. viewers. The IP addresses indicated 1,610 new users of our website were from Moscow, 834 were from St. Petersburg, and others were from other locations outside Moscow or in Siberia.

One of our staff writers also detected a corresponding upsurge of Russian traffic on his website during the same period as well, with viewers in St. Petersburg suddenly becoming the second most common visitors to his site.

At this writing, we are still attempting to determine if the messages in question are indeed of Russian origin, or if they were made to appear Russian and may be of some other origin — say, given their content, perhaps Jihadi for example.

One thing is clear. Our humble Internet publication has attracted trolls and propagandists from afar, who seriously want to turn us on to their twisted worldview.

WARNING: You probably should avoid the purported Russian website like a plague. Don’t get sucked in.

And on behalf of our fellow residents and readers, we say: Watch out Big Brother – we are watching you!

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