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 How Russian 'kompromat' destroys political opponents

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PostSubject: How Russian 'kompromat' destroys political opponents   Tue Jan 17, 2017 7:59 pm

The 2016 presidential election and Donald Trump have given Russia a wonderful opportunity to showcase one of its best national products: a particularly effective type of media manipulation called "kompromat."



Short for "compromising material" in Russian, kompromat is the intersection of news and blackmail. It's the ability to sully the reputations of political opponents or pressure allies through hints, images, videos, promises of disclosures, perhaps even some high-quality faked documentation. Sex or pornography often figures prominently. The beauty of kompromat is that it has only to create a sense of doubt, not prove its case conclusively. This sounds a bit like "fake news," but in a classic kompromat operation, real Russian state media organizations work in tandem with the Kremlin to find appealing and effective ways to discredit the target. Often, that means in the most visceral and personal ways possible.

Now kompromat may have come to the United States.

This past week, news broke that U.S. intelligence officials had briefed Trump on unsubstantiated allegations that Russian operatives had gathered scandalous information on him or had had contacts with his advisers. But kompromat was a constant undercurrent in the campaign, too: National security officials say hackers linked to Russian intelligence got into the Democratic National Committee's servers and the gmail account of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta to leak damaging information about her. And Trump's love of conspiracy theories and baseless accusations isn't so far from the Russian concept either — which may be why the idea that he might have been a target of kompromat himself is resonating so clearly with his political opponents.

The Kremlin has denied that it sought to gather compromising information on Trump during his visits to Russia, as it has denied involvement in the DNC hacks. But a high-profile businessman such as Trump would be a prototypical target for such an operation. And denials are also standard.

Kompromat has evolved well beyond the clumsy photo-editing of the Stalin era, when political opponents were carefully airbrushed out. Several opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin or the Russian regime find themselves facing charges of possession of child pornography that they believe was planted by Russian operatives — in Russia, but also in Lithuania and Britain.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-russia-kompromat-blackmail-trump-20170117-story.html
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