I totally agree with the editorial statement, “the idea that agents of a foreign government sought to interfere directly in our democratic process should be deeply disturbing to all Americans,” (“Russian election meddling was sophisticated and pervasive — and it's not over,” Sept. 29). After all, it’s a “democratic” process that brought us the despicable Donald Trump, who was thumped in the popular vote but squeaked by in the difficult-to-explain Electoral College. What a process! As a former reporter, though, I’m more bothered by The Sun’s slack reporting on the Russian “interference” and the lack of evidence offered to support the serious allegations.
The editorial and two above-the-fold articles last week accused Russia of using social media to make things worse during the Freddie Gray disturbances (“Facebook ad purchased by Russian entity targeted Baltimore, likely aiming to deepen racial tension,” Sept. 28, and “Black Lives Matter Facebook ad targeting Baltimore, Ferguson linked to Russia,” Sept. 27). But nowhere in the articles (or your editorial) is any proof of Russian “meddling” provided (nor is it explained how Facebook ads could “deepen racial tensions” in a riot-torn city after the fatal injuring of a handcuffed black man while in police custody). Instead, readers get weasel words: Russian hackers “may have” used social media to spread fake news, Facebook ad targeting Baltimore “was likely” part of a broad Russian effort, the ads “apparently” were part of a hacking scheme.
It’s part of a well-established pattern when it comes to Russia. No evidence is required when pointing the finger at the second-most powerful nation in the world. Why? And no one from the Russian government was asked about the allegations. Why? This is Journalism 101. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that federal investigators want to search the Facebook accounts of activists who protested Trump’s inauguration, which could reveal “thousands of names” of people who “liked” a political organizer’s page. The ACLU filed a protest about the warrants, saying they are “too broad” (“ACLU fights federal warrants seeking political communications of Facebook users,” Sept. 29).
About 6,000 Facebook users would be at risk of becoming targets because the government search would disclose “anti-administration dissident activities that would then be investigated by the very administration that they are protesting,” a senior ACLU staff attorney said. When it comes to interference with the democratic process, who should we fear most? Russia or own government? Or my hometown paper treating nonsensical allegations as front page news?
Joseph Surkiewicz, Baltimore
Send letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and contact information.