When I challenged the high tech flim-flam man behind the Hamilton 68 Russian bots tracker, he ducked my questions. Then his fans asked me if I was a Russian asset.
By Ilias Stathatos
“Nothing is as evil as what Russia manages to pull off… We [Americans] just focus on extremists. Everything I have seen is democracy promotion. I haven’t seen the US creating fake personas.”
These were the words of Clint Watts, a self-styled counter-terror expert who has emerged through the passion play of Russiagate and hailed as “the pre-eminent experts on Russian influence operations via social media.” Watts has warned that computational propaganda has placed America on the verge of civil war, and suggested before a Senate panel that censorship of online media might be necessary.
“America’s war with itself has already begun,” Watts proclaimed earlier this year. “We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America.”
Watts is currently on a book tour that has seen him earn fawning prime time treatment from Bill Maher while avoiding uncomfortable questions from the public about his work. In fact, Watts has not encountered a single critical question since he released his book, “Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News,” this May.
And he should have, given his record. Watts was the moving force behind the Hamilton 68 Russian bot tracker, which maintains a dashboard claiming to expose Russian influence on everything from the NFL’s anti-police violence protests to the anti-fracking movement to the Parkland shootings.
Ilias Stathatos is a journalist. He has reported for numerous Greek print and online media, focusing on international news and labour journalism. He was the London correspondent for two national newspapers, an Investigative Journalism fellow at the University of London and is currently based in New York. You can reach him @ilistathatos