After a string of high-profile Hollywood celebrities and politicians having been accused of sexual assault, the accused have all chosen notably different responses. Harvey Weinstein, the subject of a criminal investigation, has largely fallen silent and into exile. Louis C.K. immediately admitted the allegations from his accusers to be true.
But George Takei, the latest celebrity to find themselves in the cross-hairs of sexual assault allegations, has since blamed the ensuing scandal and political fallout occurring in real-time over social media on the Russians.
Takei’s insistence that Russian government trolls have personally targeted him to fan the flames of controversy surrounding his accusations is the latest indication that Russia’s malign influence and activities, real or imagined, has taken a permanent fixture in American politics and entertainment.
Takei was confronted with accusations that he groped a male model in 1981 that had passed out after drinking at the actor’s condo. The accuser said he was prompted to tell his story after the domino effect of all the other Hollywood sexual assault stories that have come out recently, and specifically after Takei made a point to go after Kevin Spacey. “When he started in on Kevin Spacey, I thought, ‘Oh my God, the hypocrisy,'” said Scott Brunton.
Takei’s response over Twitter was to say he is “shocked and bewildered” and that this is a “he said / he said situation.” The incident, and Takei’s response, has since become national news, particularly due to Takei’s previous impassioned denunciations of other celebrities accused of similar crimes.
In a Tweet following his response to the allegations, one that has since been deleted, Takei shared a graphic which he claims shows proof that the Russian government was using its well-known bot and troll army to perpetuate the controversy over his case and to intimidate him. “A friend sent me this,” Takei apparently wrote. “It is a chart of what Russian bots have been doing to amplify stories containing the allegations against me. It’s clear they want to cow me into silence, but do not fear, friends. I won’t succumb to that.”
His tweet claiming Russian government interference has since been seized on by many Twitter users who say Takei is attempting to deflect blame and appear as the victim of a conspiracy.
But considering the breadth and depth of Russian interference in the American political and social landscape, it’s possible Takei is not completely off in his assessment. As the activities of the Russian government and what they sought to achieve become more understood, it is not outside the realm of possibility that amplifying a controversy over sexual assault, especially against an icon of the LGBT community in the United States such that Takei is, would be a prime candidate for Russian influence operations, precisely because of the division and political angst it would create.
Whatever the case may be with Takei, Russian intelligence is without a doubt taking copious notes.
Image courtesy Angela George via Wikipedia