This year at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) special guest speakers included none less than President Trump at an event viewed by many as a barometer for the future of the American right.  It isn’t unusual for CPAC to have some minor controversies but this time many were shocked as Trump supporters enthusiastically waved miniature Russian flags at the rally.

“Jason Charter, 22, and Ryan Clayton, 36, passed out roughly 1,000 red, white, and blue flags, each bearing a gold-emblazoned ‘TRUMP’ in the center, to an auditorium full of attendees waiting for President Trump to address the conference. Audience members waved the pennants—and took pictures with them—until CPAC staffers realized the trick: They were Russian flags,” the Atlantic reported.

Lest, I be accused of being partisan, I think a prank like this could be pulled off at a gathering for leftists and democrats very easily as well.  The reason why I mention a silly prank at CPAC is because I think the event speaks to a larger trend in American politics and social discourse: Americans are very susceptible to propaganda and routinely do not question what they are told as long as it confirms bias and goes along with previously established dogma.  This is marketing 101, the large bold letters on the flag that read TRUMP disarmed the CPAC attendees, they accepted their narrative in writing while the Russian flag it was printed on was disregarded without critical thought, passing right through their subconscious.

The people waving Russian flags were tricked, they were not Putin fanboys (and girls), but this is part of the problem.  Free societies like America are open targets to information operations, and without a well-informed and educated public we are sitting ducks.  That patriotic Americans gleefully waved Russian flags around at CPAC is a pretty stunning example of how naive, uninformed, and politically unaware that American voters and activists are.  Given that environment, manipulation is easy:

Totalitarians have understood that where democracy reigns it gives considerable weight to public opinion. That is why they who trample it underfoot in their own domain have no greater concern than to win it over in the other camp, while the democracies who respect it abandon it to enemy propaganda without reacting…. totalitarianism moves ahead less on the conviction of its members than on the confusion of its opponents. Communist parties are merely firebrands, and the main effort of the Kremlin is to pervert or weaken the fabric it sticks them into. (Chotikul, 19)

When interviewing an American PSYOPS Sergeant for a previous article about Russian reflexive control theory he explained why Americans are so susceptible, “First, naïveté: We are so naïve as a society and a culture. We’re perfect targets because we tend to believe that everyone is an honest broker and a good actor,” Salil Puri stated.

If a silly prank can get red-blooded American Republicans to wave around Russian flags at CPAC, one should ask themselves what kind of games are being played by nation-state actors, intelligence services like the Russian FSB and Chinese MSS.  The real danger here is not that America will become communist because of some foreign actor manipulating us, the danger is that outsiders will make the American political process so confusing, so convoluted, that no one can tell what the truth is anymore.

But as individual Americans, we should also embrace self-responsibility.  No one is responsible for you waving a miniature Russian flag around but you.  Americans need to start hitting the books and educating themselves.  If they don’t, someone will no doubt start doing the thinking for them.  It is rather humorous how many Americans believe in conspiracy theories about Red Dawn scenarios or US government FEMA camps, when the reality is that the real threat is within each of us.  That threat is our own ignorance.