Rep. Adam Schiff delivered a speech at the at the University Of Pennsylvania Thursday. As you might expect if you’ve seen him on television over the past year, he spent a fair amount of time discussing Russian interference in the 2016 election. A site called NTK network highlighted Schiff’s remarks about the 2nd Amendment, which I’ll get to in a moment, but I was more struck by his take on Russia’s promotion of Black Lives Matter.
“Yes, on Facebook you had the content that was clearly anti-Hillary and you had the content that was very pro-Trump, but even the bigger quantity of content that was being pushed through social media was just content designed to pit us against each other, to exploit our divisions,” Schiff said. “So of course they, as you have seen, they parroted Black Lives Matter to try to broaden the racial divide in this country,” he added.
To be clear, I think Schiff is on solid ground in saying that much of what Russia did in 2015 and 2016 on social media was aimed more generally at sowing chaos in our democracy than it was at tearing down or building up a specific candidate. I’ve written about that previously.
What surprises me here is that Schiff seems to be acknowledging that Black Lives Matter posts on social media “pit us against each other.” According to a Politico story last November, this is the pro-BLM ad paid for by Russia:
This ad features images of three African-Americans whose deaths — either from police shootings or while in police custody — inspired protests and called attention to the “Black Lives Matter” movement: Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; and Freddie Gray in Baltimore.
The ad looks like a genuine Black Lives Matter social media post, aside from who was paying for it of course? Does Rep. Schiff really believe this message exploited our divisions, and if so does he believe that’s true of all BLM social media posts? I would have to guess the answer is no but he doesn’t seem to realize that if the ad above is divisive then, at least arguably, a lot of genuine BLM material is too. Perhaps the more important point is that this one ad, even one seen 200,000 times, seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the overall impact BLM has had online and in the media.
To be fair, Russia also paid for a Blue Lives Matter ad about a man who shot two Boston police officers. The ad blamed the attack on a “BLM movement activist.” Maybe that’s what Schiff had in mind, but what he actually said was that Russia stoked division when it “parrotted Black Livers Matter” which seems like it must be a reference to the ad above.
Schiff went on to say that the Russian social media trolls also promoted the 2nd Amendment so Americans would kill one another. “Fascinatingly, they also trumpeted the Second Amendment,” he said. He continued, “Apparently, the Russians are very big fans of our Second Amendment. They don’t particularly want a Second Amendment of their own, but they’re really glad that we have one. The Russians would be thrilled if we were doing nothing but killing each other every day, and sadly we are.”
That’s a pretty crabbed view of the 2nd Amendment obviously but that part of his speech isn’t much of a surprise coming from an elected Democrat. The part about BLM seems more likely to get him in trouble. Here’s the clip of Schiff’s speech.