Agents of Chaos Review – Enlightening, Gibney Unpacks the Disinformation Highway

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Agents of Chaos, from HBO Max, unpacks, in this two-part series, the chaotic and never ending 2016 election, by taking the viewers behind the scenes to beginning of the Russian disinformation campaign that ultimately influenced the election.

Beginning with a recap of the 2016 Election results, from the Russian news stations, Agents of Chaos is a montage of the pivotal, chaotic, startling, damaging, and nauseating moments. Before Gibney provides a soothing voice over explaining he won’t make us watch an entire recap of the 2016 election, the feelings of frustration are mounting.

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Finally, the documentary settles into it the investigation. With an establishing shot of Moscow, we are in Russia and speaking with Margarita Simonyan Editor-in-Chief of RT, Russia’s state run news agency, who explains her viewpoint on the election, on democracy and why the disinformation campaign was effective.

After this we also meet Camille François, a Cybersecurity and Disinformation researcher, who provides additional background on what many would call a targeting campaign, which is exactly what disinformation is and did throughout the campaign.

As she explains, there are three type of trolls, persona’s (fake accounts), groups/organizations, (fake shops) just an organization that plays the sympathy card and draws in unsuspecting readers worldwide, and what appears to be local news, which presents what appears to be a local shop filling your local community with information.

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After we understand the foundation of what Russian hackers are doing, Agents of Chaos secures never before seen footage of a troll Farm in St. Petersburg, Russia. An investigative journalist, with a hidden camera, provides the footage and fills in the atmosphere.

Gibney also explains Russian trolls didn’t begin with an idea that they would target America or the 2016 Election. The first target was Russia, they were Putin’s patsies, and these employees were told what words they needed to use daily. They were laying seed for the future explosion of the Russian Trolls.

Agents of Chaos begins to layer the foundation with the next step in what became the most powerful influencer in the 2016 election. Gibney introduces all the players, throughout each step, by the end of the first segment, it is clear.

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It is important also to understand, the Putin patsies, were only the beginning. Once it was discovered, in country, the positive effect of controlling the narrative they set their sights higher and moved the troll machine up a notch.

Putin’s overthrow of the Crimean Peninsula, in February 2014, sets the stage for the next phase of the Russian hacking, trolls, and disinformation campaign. Viewers are reintroduced to the deals Putin made with the former President of the Ukraine, the initial violence of the Crimean takeover, the harsh realities of life in Eastern Europe and the difficulties of having a neighbor, like Russian, who at whim or will, could hack into the electrical grid and shit down all power sources.

What does all this have to do with the 2016 election? Gibney adds another layer to the disinformation campaign by reveling the volumes of online material that is false. Articles on websites like appear to be authentic and some even make it to the evening news, and yet it is all fabricated to motivate or demotivate by targeting different audiences.

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By this time, we are back on U.S. soil, and have numerous players in the Obama White House, and the Department of Justice, and are on the verge of the 2016 election.

Agents of Chaos lays bare the facts surrounding the 2016 election. Were we targeted?

Yes. It was disinformation warfare targeting democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The documentary reveals more than the Russian and The United States government would like its citizens to understand. And we understand the cyber vulnerabilities that we face daily.

The defenselessness of even the common American citizen, not a presidential candidate or a creative, is not downplayed. The availability of keystroking software that provides the tools for hackers to access computers for cyber financial theft and more sinister actors who can access through IP addresses the home computers or any random target and sit back and watch as every word typed by the target appears on the screen, like an old time player piano, is readily available. This scene is explosive in scope of the bad actors who wake up, like any artist, in a good mood and work all day.

Agents of Chaos, a two-part documentary directed by Emmy® and Academy Award Winner Alex Gibney will debut Wednesday, September 23 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), with part two airing the following evening at the same time, ahead of the November elections.

Not what one would call entertaining, Agents of Chaos is informative and an intellectual documentary. At face value, the first twenty to thirty minutes begins in Russia, with most dialogue in Russian with subtitles, and while this is extremely important as the story goes, it can be a challenge to sit through. 

Having the opportunity to screen Part 1 twice, after the second screening the plot, the facts, and truths, were crystal clear. Which would be the point, at face value much of what was said was dismissed as conspiracy, wild theories, blaming or other types of rational.

The film is a product of years of reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

With never-before-seen footage inside the Russian troll farms, and videos unearthed from the Russian deep web, the film digs deep into the sophisticated plans to undermine democracy, raising the alarm for the American public, but also proving that these “agents of chaos” weren’t Russians alone; they were also key players in the United States who, through venality, corruption or circumstance, furthered Putin’s goals, with a vulnerable and unsuspecting American public as their target.

Riveting, Gibney unpacks the disinformation highway and lays bare hard truths on the 2016 Election. See it.

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