Defending Against Foreign Media Attacks

Anthony Arnold, Pointcast News
January 2020

The 2020 election is coming. As Democrats prepare to cast their first primary votes, President Trump’s re-election bid is getting ready to kick into gear. As November draws near, it becomes more important than ever that we have the ability to trust what we read and see on the news. That’s the backdrop for the reports about the hack of Jeff Bezos’ phone.

The hack, which was allegedly carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia, was a political act. It was done as an attempt silence the Washington Post reporting about the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, had emerged as a fierce critic of the Saudi government, and on a trip to Turkey he was assassinated by agents from Saudi Arabia. PointCast
Bezos is the owner of the Washington Post and the paper was instrumental in discovering the truth behind the murder. This sort of investigative reporting is one of the pillars of a free society, and is essential in delivering information to voters that they can use to make informed decisions at the ballot box. That’s why this act represents a dangerous escalation to a trend we first experienced in 2016.

Our ability to see the truth behind the story is growing more and more difficult. As we all become trapped in our information bubbles we become less and less capable of identifying what really matters from what’s just “noise.” The traditional role of the press, which is to help guide us to the truth, is more important than ever, but is threatened by outside forces.

The Bezos story, while at first appearing to be another tale of a rich man caught cheating on his spouse, now becomes something else entirely. While we can condemn him for his actions, we should all be concerned about who may have been behind this leak. Another country openly interfering with reporting into the murder of one of our own journalists illustrates not just the extent to which powerful forces will go to shield themselves, but also the extent to which that desire is amplified by the emergence of techonology

With the election coming ever closer, we all need to train ourselves to see not just the story on the page, but also the larger picture behind the story. With governments like Saudi Arabia and Russia now entering the ring, we’re all going to have to learn how to dig a little deeper and ask more questions about what we see.

Disinformation campaigns, selective leaking, and targeted news is going to be a feature of our politics like never before, and ultimately it’s our responsibility to defend ourselves.