'Madam Secretary' Tackles ‘The War on Fake News’ and Russian Trolls

December 10th, 2018 1:06 AM

CBS’s Madam Secretary is closing in on its 100th episode, so it’s bound to get crazier and crazier from here on out. Case in point, the latest episode reignites “the war on fake news” with more Russia conspiracies. Are there any other kinds anymore?

The December 9 episode “Winter Garden” starts off with the United States attempting to help admit Serbia and Kosovo to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. While the initiative is promising at first, the attempt begins to fall apart once Spain pulls out following reports of uprising Catalonian nationalists.

After that, Serbia and Kosovo threaten to derail the talk themselves after a reported mass Albanian grave in Serbia stirs up Kosovo nationalists. Although the Catalonian Independence movement is hardly relevant and the mass grave report is later unconfirmed, tensions rise with Kosovo citizens attacking Serbians on unsubstantiated and bigoted rumors.

Make no mistake, the main issue behind this plot is fake news. In fact, the Secretary of State’s office even holds a meeting on how to combat this threat, which by now has taken the life of a 12-year-old boy. We have come to the point where “fake news” spread by strangers on the internet literally leads to death and destruction by stirred-up nationalists.



Jay: Obviously, our number one issue is the escalating mob violence in Northern Kosovo aimed at ethnic Serbs.

Matt: How is anyone believing this stuff? Uh, one guy was accused of burying kids in his basement. He doesn't even have a basement.

Daisy: Yeah, it's like a Hansel and Gretel fever dream.

Blake: What can we do?

Elizabeth: Well, I'm meeting with the NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe later this morning, asking him to deploy extra troops. We are not going to sit this one out until it is full-blown ethnic cleansing again.

Daisy: Have we figured out who's behind all the fake news?

Jay: DNI is into it.

Matt: Uh, why are we pretending to look into this? Occam’s Razor. It’s Russia.

Elizabeth: The problem is, I can't take Occam's razor to the Foreign Minister of Russia.They are not the only country using hate speech and fake news, so we are going to need real proof.

Jay: Okay, what we do know is the company behind Kosovo's social media platform is our old friend Kronic DM. If you'll remember, we worked with Kronic back when we were... (Laughing)

Matt: Sorry, I'm sorry. The name kills me.

Blake: Well, at least they took the pot leaf out of their logo.

Matt: Oh, they did? Okay, fellas. Because we worked with Kronic in Angola and Sri Lanka, we'll be asking for ID on all the fake news stories.

Daisy: Tech CEOs love cooperating with the government, so that should go well.

Elizabeth: Wait a second. Who-who's their CEO? What's his name? The...

Jay: Scott. Scott Goodman.

Elizabeth: Scott Goodman. So play to his ego. Tell him he'll be the new hero in the war on fake news.

Matt: He's a fanboy. Bring him a cape.

Nina: I can 100% get you a cape.

Jay: Let's see how I do with words first.

Madam Secretary clearly doesn’t play around when it comes to false information that may or may not (but totally is) spread by Russian bots.

Does it really surprise anyone that the culprit is Russia? Since the series has already tackled both Russian interference and fake news, it was only a matter of time before it linked the two.

An investigation leads United States forces to a Russian troll farm where authorities gather names and faces of those responsible. Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord (Téa Leoni) herself confronts the Russian Foreign Minister Konstantin Avdonin (Yasen Peyankov) on these findings. However, Konstantin, being the Russian bad guy that he is, denies this activity and suggests that Russia isn’t responsible for everything that doesn’t work out for the U.S. He’s apparently wrong, since Russia has been behind most of bad things in the White House so far (on this show and in liberals' minds), including the recent bombing.



Konstantin: Madam Secretary. You've called to wish me happy holidays?

Elizabeth: Well, as we say here, Konstantin, I'm going to cut to the chase, or in this case, the capture. At 9:42 Moscow Standard Time, U.S. Intelligence documented these Russian nationals operating what, in internet-speak, is called a "Troll farm." The data seized from these servers indicates something more serious. This was a highly organized, state-mandated propaganda factory whose aim was to destabilize and prevent the admission of Serbia and Kosovo to NATO.

Konstantin: Once again, you've called with outrageous allegations based on paranoid rumors...

Jay: Foreign Minister, I'm sending you copies of the seized activity from the servers. I think you'll find it to be ample proof that members of your government are engaged in a campaign of disinformation.

Elizabeth: Anti-Muslim stories circulated online in France.

Jay: False rumors of a violent Catalonian uprising in Spain.

Elizabeth: I-in Spain, and a fake story of a mass grave in Kosovo, and, worst of all, incitements to violence against Serbian citizens of Northern Kosovo.

Konstantin: Even if you have what you consider to be proof of this, it's impossible to trace a direct line from online rumors to acts of violence, unless you intend to blame Russia for the centuries of hatred between Serbians and Albanians. I'm sure you'll try.

Elizabeth: This is a 12-year-old boy. He was accused online of stealing his friend's bike. A mob showed up at his door and shot him in the head. If nothing had been posted about this boy, Konstantin, he'd be asleep in his own bed right now, not in a morgue waiting to be buried.

Konstantin: I will look at your materials. But I would suggest: Look for someone else to blame every time a deal of yours doesn't work out.

Despite this setback, Elizabeth manages a new attempt to reach out to the feuding countries by uniting them against a common enemy: Russia. Although the final act of the deal is not yet settled, she at least has the moral high ground of standing up to the “campaign of disinformation” by the Russian government.

Since 2016, Russian bots and fake news have been accused of causing everything from Net Neutrality opposition to the Paris riots to people not liking a bad Star Wars movie, as if no real people could possibly hold these views. And that’s not even touching the constant barrage of Trump-Russia collusion stories and fake news cries we’ve been getting since the presidential election. Starting from the left’s efforts to explain away Donald Trump’s win, “fake news” has turned into the single source of international chaos and even death, all at the hands of Russian trolls. At some point, we have to wonder whether Russia is the sole evil, omniscient Internet puppet-master tricking dimwitted people into believing lies or if there may be other things involved.

Fortunately for leftists, fictional shows like Madam Secretary can simplify things for them. You can’t blame constant political polarization if "nationalists" just believe any fake news. You don’t have to analyze your own argument if you just blame Russia for concocting any opposition. The left never has to take any blame so long as there’s a boogeyman on the internet. Honestly, that sounds just as insidious as any “Russia” plot this show concocts.