Russia used Pokemon Go to try to influence the US election

Russia used Pokemon Go to try to influence the US election

I don’t care how much baseball you watch, you’ve never seen a reach like this. CNN has been embroiled in a feud with President Trump that has blown its ratings through the roof. Portraying themselves as courageous truth-tellers, maligned as fake news, the network has profited enormously off of Trump and returned the favor by giving him absurd amounts of screen time in 2015 and 2016. Sometimes, a story has no heroes, only self-interested actors.

If you’ve followed the news cycle for the past year, you may be aware of vague intimations that the Russian government influenced the election, backed up only be increasingly weak evidence. Russian sources purchased 100,000 dollars’ worth of Facebook ads, but that’s not even enough money to buy a mayoral election. If Hillary Clinton was destroyed by a marketing budget that small, the problem wasn’t the Russians.

Now, CNN has dropped the most absurd Russian election meddling story yet. Get ready to Pokemon Go to the polls, and vote for Donald Trump for Mother Russia, because that’s what this story alleges: that Pokemon Go was used by the Russians to try to elect Donald Trump.


Here’s the story: A Russian-funded fake Black Lives Matter page called “Don’t Shoot Us” created a Pokemon Go contest. They were giving Amazon gift cards to Pokemon Go users who named their Pokemon after a black victim of police brutality, such as Eric Garner or Philando Castile, and then found a virtual gym near the scene where they were murdered by police, and uploaded a screenshot of their Pokemon having conquered the gym.

It’s quite sketchy. But in what way on Earth does this look like any kind of sophisticated or successful attack on America’s elections? How would this sway even a single vote? There is no clear partisan implication here at all, save for an opposition to police brutality through a very bizarre, tasteless and foolish method.

How would this ‘meddle’ with an election in any way or form? It’s part of a larger unearthing of Russian-backed fake Black Lives Matter groups and YouTube channels, but the Russian channel exposed by The Daily Beast literally had less than 100 views on almost all of their videos. If this was a highly-sophisticated disruption of an election, using Pokemon Go, a pittance of ad money, and a Russian-backed YouTube channel with almost no views, then it’s the worst election disruption ever attempted in human history, and could not possibly have had even one twitch of an effect on the outcome.

Has the Russia hysteria really gotten so bad that this Pokemon Go oddity is heralded as breaking news on the influence of Russia over our elections? Trump may be an erratic authoritarian in many ways, but his crusade against the media is honestly quite sensible. Nobody has ever trusted the American legacy media, and stories like these just prove where their priorities lie.

Worse, the microscopic focus on a tiny amount of Russian-backed money is emphasized rather than the fact that American money runs our elections, and that wealthy donors and corporations have most of the political speech in the country. But that is not selected as relevant. Rather, this story is. Foreign paranoia always sells more than uncovering your own country’s sins.