By S.T. Patrick
Hamilton 68, a project that purported to keep powerful institutions and politicians aware of Russian disinformation on Twitter, has now, itself, been outed as a widescale disinformation campaign headed by an ex-FBI agent whose actions benefited the U.S. intelligence apparatus most.
The outing of Hamilton 68 came via Matt Taibbi’s landmark reporting on the pre-Elon Musk partisan decisionmaking that created and enforced free speech regulation on the social media giant. Taibbi, best known for his left-of-center reporting for Rolling Stone magazine, has since left the publication and pursued a full-time career as an independent journalist. This has given him the freedom to, for example, be one of the left’s leading critics of the Russiagate fiasco. It has also allowed him to continue his work as an anti-war commentator, and report honestly about the so-called “Twitter Files,” documents and communications Musk ordered leaked to tell the real story of what was happening at Twitter before he assumed control.
Describing the crux of how Hamilton 68 worked, Taibbi wrote, “The secret ingredient in Hamilton 68’s analytic method was a list of 644 accounts supposedly linked ‘to Russian influence activities online.’ It was hidden from the public, but Twitter was in a unique position to recreate Hamilton’s sample by analyzing its Application Program Interface (API) requests, which is how they first ‘reverse-engineered’ Hamilton’s list in late 2017.”
The problem is that most of the 644 accounts were neither bots, nor Russian, nor Russian-supporting. They consisted largely of anti-establishment Twitter users who strongly and actively criticized U.S. foreign policy, the military-industrial complex, the phony Russiagate debacle, the war in Ukraine, and U.S. policy in Syria.
Yoel Roth, a former Twitter executive, described the legitimacy of Hamilton 68 as “bull****.”
“Virtually any conclusion drawn from [the dashboard] will take conversations in conservative circles on Twitter and accuse them of being Russian,” Roth said.
Hamilton 68 was run by former FBI man Clint Watts and was supported financially by the Alliance for Securing Democracy and the German Marshall Fund. Watts is an NBC and MSNBC contributor on matters of intelligence.
But the operation and its supporters were not entirely Democrat partisans. On the board of the Alliance funding the project sat Republican political and media insider Bill Kristol, who was Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff and who served on the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose report is viewed skeptically as a road map for the aftermath of 9/11.
Hamilton 68 had a long list of supporters, from the academic to the political, even after some Twitter officials knew it was a faulty gathering of accounts that were improperly labeled. Harvard and Princeton both supported it.
Whenever a conspiratorial view of history arises, some wave it away as an impossibility because, after all, how could so many people involved in something secretive keep it to themselves? Emily Jashinsky of “The Federalist” website explained how exactly that happened with Hamilton 68.
“This is a damning illustration of the institutional corruption rotting American politics and culture,” Jashinsky wrote. “You may wonder how ex-spooks could create a secret list, hide their results, pass off the research as legitimate, convince just about every major media outlet to run with the findings, convince elite universities to run with them, and keep Twitter quiet in the process. The answer is that some institutional powerbrokers are corrupt, some are inexcusably incompetent, and others are a combination.”
Hamilton 68 proves that media organizations labeling and then weaponizing “disinformation” reporters is a practice that is not only prejudicial, but also political. Media organizations began using their own disinformation reporters to spread the disinformation that were the Hamilton 68 reports.
The disingenuous results of the Hamilton 68 net were swept under the rug in favor of the harm it was doing to its targets. Even for many who knew of the severe problems with its dashboard, the ends justified the means. Being tagged as a “Russian agent” was as effective as being labeled a “Red” during the heart of McCarthyism. 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton once ludicrously suggested former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was a Russian agent. It was a strategy that worked in many instances, and those sponsoring it were more than willing to look past the failed cases to focus on the results at-hand.
To seek and destroy anyone who placed himself in any way in front of the anti-Trump train that dominated the national media and national political scene beginning in 2016 was the goal of those who narrow-mindedly believed this was the only noble pursuit of a good American. If you weren’t strongly enough against Trump, you were in the way.
Taibbi, evidently one of but a few honest investigative journalists, has exposed this project and many that were eroding Twitter from the inside. What else was Big Tech doing to manipulate public opinion? What other politicians have been ruined by operations like this? Can we ever trust anything we ever hear again about any president—especially one who dares to mention normalizing relations with our alleged “enemies”?