Are Russian Hacks the New Millennial Nightmare?
By Maggie Kurnyta
Just days ago, after a thrilling night out with some of my closest friends, I, like any other millennial, checked my social media for basic updates and current news. Logging into Facebook seemed easy enough until I received the Doomsday-reminiscent notification that I was locked out of my account for security purposes. Upon further inspection, I learned that my social media account had nearly been accessed...by a user from St. Petersburg, Russia.
After performing the ritualistic patterns of changing my password and updating my information, the impending thought of what had transpired loomed over me: Had I almost been fallen victim to the predatory tactics of Russian hackers? Sliding their way through the loose barriers of democracy and “fake news,” my social media account was almost co opted by pro-Trump phrases and right-wing, Nazi-esque ideologies.
While this only confirmed my earlier beliefs about Russian interference in our “democracy,” it also terrified me. I am a white woman from a predominantly liberal state who doesn’t post too frequently on Facebook. There was no logical reason for a Russian user to use me to infiltrate my left-thinking network. Coincidentally enough, this almost-hack came days after my public post about trans-inclusivity in intersectional feminism (you should know, reader, that I rarely believe in coincidences).
We think it’s simple. We think we know who our leftist friends are and which conservative family members we should avoid accepting on social media. We think our news sources are thoroughly vetted and entirely trustworthy. This is not the era of relief and instinctual trust in our democracy or our news outlets. It is an era rampant with the vestiges of Orwellian paranoia. Our democracy stands on shaky pillars and loose foundations.
My answer? Constant vigilance! (Had to throw a Harry Potter joke in here). Voting is the basic answer, and it is an entirely privileged answer. Our identities make the basic right to vote difficult for many and simple for few. Voter suppression is used to silence minority voices, and gerrymandering is used to keep the people currently in power...in power. And I know that Russian interference in the most important US election was disillusioning and disheartening, but it was meant to be. It was meant to shake our faith in this unstable democracy.
I’m a child of immigrants, so the distant and unrealistic notion of the American Dream is still something that I believe can be achieved. Classism, racism, and sexism make that dream essentially a nightmare, but the thought that maybe, a voice that is softer and not typically heard over the noise of the rabble rousers can make a difference, brings me comfort. Multimillion dollar companies, such as Starbucks, Uber, and Lyft, are making it easier for their employees and the general public to access their right to vote. Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, will provide digital access to TurboVote for all employees to make voting easy and efficient. Uber, Zipcar, and Lyft are offering discounted or free rides to polling locations to ensure that distance or lack of transportation is not an issue. Yes, these companies already make millions on the backs of their workers and may only want some good publicity, but if it works to help Americans vote, I’m all for it.
Also, yes, I am totally aware that this may be my own personal bout of paranoia. This may have been an accident that was blown into a conspiracy theory to link active millenial social media users to Russian hackers. I know that the damage done was only a bruised ego for falling victim to a potential hack. However, our democracy can be hacked, and it has definitely been infiltrated with millions of dollars used to buy our legislators and promote harmful laws and practices. We have every right to vote these cheap, unethical people out of power, but when that right is trampled on by foreign entities, it is dangerous.
I would be remiss to not include the very dangerous international effects that America has had in suppressing democracy. We like to travel around the world spreading our “democracy” by silencing the views and beliefs of many groups of people that we view as Other. We promote an imperialistic, white nationalist mindset that has effects on so many people worldwide. We carelessly attack with flawed rationale and inherent beliefs about American superiority, killing millions in the process. Some would argue that this type of cyber attack is entirely warranted. Would they be wrong? I’d argue “Absolutely not.” We’re getting our comeuppance by intricate hacks into the very foundation of America. Only time will tell if we survive it or not.