It appears to be an updated version of the 1966 comedy: “The Russians are coming! The Russians are Coming! « But there is nothing funny about conspiratorial crushes from the Twitterverse that Chinese troops gathered along the Maine border were defeated in an air strike.
Recent posts from a QAnon-supported Twitter handle with nearly 50. 000 supporters said tens of thousands of Chinese troops had gathered along the Maine-Canada border and that an F-16 fighter that crashed in Michigan last week was actually shot down – presumably by the Chinese.
(QAnon has become an increasingly dangerous conspiracy theory in recent years, claiming, among other things, that President Donald Trump is fighting a horde of deep state pedophiles. )
While the gossip about Chinese troops in Canada is full of fantasy, it is this type of disinformation that poses a real threat, say some experts in the information battleroom.
« This is, in a sense, an information war, » Dave Lapan – a retired Marine colonel who served in various public affairs roles, including ministries of defense and homeland security – told the Military Times. “We normally deal with that from opponents. And who knows? Part of it can be generated by our opponents. ”
If this information is not generated by them, it will at least be amplified, Lapan said, adding that nations like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran « use social media to create unrest in the US ». S.. .
« The Opponent’s Gallery is all involved in the information war against us, » said Lapan, now vice president of communications at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
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On Monday, the Twitter handle @stormis_us posted the following: « The F-16 was shot down in Michigan, and I now believe 50. 000 Chinese troops were actually bombed and killed by anti-personnel bombs. On the Maine-Canada border. ”
The information looks ridiculous at first glance, but the handle on which « THE TRUTH and FACTS » is written. A warrior for GOD and Christ, #VETERAN, # WWG1WGAWORLDWIDE, #MAGA, # TRUMP2020, #Conservative ”has almost 50. 000 followers, few of whom believe this post.
And yet, not only are there no formations of Chinese troops in Canada, but the F-16, which belonged to the Wisconsin Air National Guard, crashed on a routine training mission in December. 8, killing the pilot, Capt. Durwood « Hawk » Jones.
Other reports used images of howitzers on a Maine train that first appeared in October as « evidence » that the U. . S.. . The military responded to a Chinese incursion into Canada – RUMINT gushing into the air over a delusional train spotter, which was then put down by the local CBS subsidiary.
Still, some on Twitter suggested reaching out to the people of Jackman, Maine, a town about 15 miles from the Canadian border, Monday to see what they know.
« There have been no military conflicts in or around Jackman in the recent past, » said city administrator Victoria D. . Forkus said in an email to the Military Times.
« The Maine National Guard is unaware of any such movement, » said Army Maj. Carl Lamb, a spokesman for the Maine National Guard, responded to the Military Times when asked if Chinese troops were stationed across the border.
As for the howitzers, the real story is hardly as compelling as the armor that is being pushed to the limit to fend off the ChiComs.
The Maine Military Agency, Lamb said, had refurbished the howitzers, but those operations ended two years ago.
« Recently the federal government decided to move the howitzers out of Maine, » Lamb said. “MMA was hired to deliver the equipment to Presque Isle for transport by rail to its final destination. MMA’s contractual storage obligations ended once the howitzers were delivered to Presque Isle for follow-up. ”
Officers from Capt. Jones’ unit, the 115th. Jagdflügel, declined to discuss the impact these conspiracy theories had on his grieving family.
« At the moment we are concentrating on supporting Capt. Jones’ family and our wing when we lost a hero and a true patriot, « said Capt. Leslie Westmont, a public affairs officer. “In addition, we are doing everything we can to support the ongoing investigation. ”
But besides letting a decorated combat veteran get dragged into this mess, the danger with such conspiracy theories lies in the suspicion these posts sow, Lapan said.
He compared it to rumors about Jade Helm 15, a special operations drill five years ago. Conspiracy supplier Alex Jones has twisted the information in such a way that the people in Texas have been seriously concerned about commands preparing to take over the country.
A more recent example, Lapan said, is how Air Force Lt. . gene. . Thomas McInerney spoke about how U. . S.. . Special forces were killed in a gun battle with the CIA in Germany for computer equipment related to election fraud.
Despite retired Lt. . Gene Thomas McInerney’s Claims There Was No U. . S.. . Troops killed in a gun battle with the CIA in Frankfurt.
« In this current environment, you lack credibility and mistrust, » Lapan said, adding that the domestic public affairs staff must now address the issues faced by their peers.
This suspicion was heightened by « so-called militias » and law enforcement agencies who disguised themselves like troops during the recent public unrest across the country.
“People in public have a perception that the military is doing things that it actually doesn’t. ”
Victor Garcia, a retired army colonel who most recently served as chief of information operations for U.. S.. . Special Operations Command agreed to end his career in June.
« The danger is that people will actually doubt what the truth is, » said Garcia, who now works for Northrup Grumman in business development. “The ability to see what is real and what is not is becoming increasingly difficult. ”
« I think there is a bigger problem than discord and discontent, » said Garcia. “It paralyzes policymaking because when you have policymakers who supposedly belong to the same nation – and I’m not just talking about the U. . S.. . here – when you have this disagreement about what really the facts are, it cripples the consensus building that leads to policy implementation. ”
Garcia pointed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 as a real-life example of the effects of disinformation.
« I would offer you that if you look at the reaction of some of our European partners to the Russian incursion into Ukraine, this is a perfect example of what I am talking about with political paralysis, » he said. “Are you Russian? Ukrainian dissidents? Who do they belong to? How do we deal with Russia and what if we are wrong? They couldn’t build a consensus on the facts. ”
Perhaps the best portrayal of the potential bottom line of all of this is the « Twilight Zone » episode from Jan.. March 1960 titled “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. ”
Lapan agreed that the 60-year-old televised game aptly captures the dangers of today’s information warfare battlefield.
« Even if our opponents did not spark these rumors, I am sure they are happy to watch such things as spread to create division and conflict. « . ”
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously a military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and previously the Tampa Tribune covering USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF, among others.
World News – CA – No, the Chinese are not on the Maine border – and the dangers of misinformation
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