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The Briefing: Defend America and stop sharing political memes

WASHINGTON – Between the lines of the 37-page indictment that spells out a sprawling Russian effort to undermine our 2016 presidential election and divide America into two camps that hate each other, there's a lesson for every American:

You can do your part to stop the Russians or the Chinese or the North Koreans or whoever else might want to exploit social media to sow discord in our country.

It's simple. Stop playing their game.

And while you're at it, stop playing the game of the Democratic and Republican swamp creatures that troll out the same sort of social media hand grenades in hopes that you repost them.

Do your part to improve American democracy. Disarm the Russians, and the rabble-rousers.

No matter where it comes from, never, ever, again post a political meme on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Never retweet anything from any source that seems intent on dividing America.

And never share an incendiary political video on YouTube.

Never. For as long as you live.

Now this might seem extreme, but the forces we as a nation are fighting are extreme. We're fighting Russian apparatchiks, who, in their own words, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's indictment, intended to engage in “information warfare against the United States of America.”

So this is war. And if you use social media and are prone to sending out those attention-grabbing political messages known as memes, you risk the possibility of serving as an unwitting sleeper agent for America's adversaries.

What's more, we're fighting extreme, destructive divisions within American society, which the Russians chose to exploit.

For proof, just look at some of the Russians' memes and other means.

And for an even more complete look at how the Russian infowar effort tried to manipulate us, check this out.

You'll see that the Russians tried to inflame progressives and conservatives alike. The Russians promoted Black Lives Matter AND people who felt threatened by Black Lives Matter. They aimed to incite anger among Muslims AND people suspicious of Muslims. They turned Sen. Bernie Sanders into a rainbow-hued gay icon with bulging biceps – while portraying Hillary Clinton as Satan's handmaiden.

In other words, the Russians did much more than try to get Donald Trump elected. They tried to play on America's existing divisions and deepen them.

And they're still at it. After the Parkland, Fla., school shooting last week, bots that appear to be linked to Russia took to Twitter to try to further divide our nation over gun control.

Over time, countless Americans have helped the Russians by "sharing" their agitprop.

If you did so, you made a mistake.

And even if the latest meme or mean tweet that appeals to your political id didn't originate in Vladimir Putin's "Internet Research Agency," take a good look at it and ask yourself: What good will it do to post this? Will it really change anyone's mind? Or it will just make everybody who sees it double down on what they already believe? Will it do anything more than make people madder than the already are?

Granted, it's hard to resist the temptation to share or tweet, particularly after two glasses of wine or two hours lost in Facebook. But resisting is the American thing to do.

Otherwise, you run the risk of being a dupe, either for the Russians, or for some politically obsessed geek somewhere whose job it is to turn out poisonous Internet tripe for either the Democrats or the Republicans or for God knows who else.

And if you don't think the Russians played us as dupes, just listen to Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina.

“I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people,” Kaverzina, one of the Russian trolls Mueller charged last week, said in an email obtained by the FBI.

So don't run the risk of aiding and abetting what appears to be a murderous regime. And don't play into the hands of the American politicos who want to use you as a free Internet messaging device.

Don't post political memes and be careful of what you retweet.

And if you have something political to say, say it yourself, in your own words.

After all, your friends and neighbors are probably much more interested in your thoughts than those of Kaverzina.

Happening today

Not much. Congress is on recess this week, and that means the pace of Washington slows ... President Trump has lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin before hosting a White House ceremony for Medal of Valor winners ... The Supreme Court issues orders and hears two cases that both involve applications of the Fifth Amendment in criminal cases ... The National Economists Club holds a discussion called "Do Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies make economic sense?"

Good reads

The New York Times notes that states fear they aren't learning enough from the feds about election threats posed by Russia and others ... The Philadelphia Inquirer tells us that a court-ordered congressional remap in Pennsylvania could help Democrats in their battle to win the House ... takes a look at President Trump's weekend tweets ... The Washington Post tells the story of how Junior ROTC members helped save lives in the Parkland shooting ... And Politico reports on an unnoticed national security threat: a shortage of physically fit military recruits.

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