Russians Had A Ball Fueling Twitter Outrage Over 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

Damn, the Russians have been busy! If you thought the extent of their social media manipulation was helping to install Donald Trump as President, think again. They had more nefarious motives in mind, like building backlash against Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

When Johnson's film opened last year it was met with unnaturally sharp criticism. Sure, the storyline was a detour from what fans had been accustomed to, but that wasn't just it. There were segments of fandom who were especially outraged at the number of prominent female characters, of the supposedly progressive nature, and it all seemed to be used to create a wedge issue at a time when our pop culture is more influential than ever.

According to a study by Morten Bay, a research fellow at USC, nearly half of the negative Twitter discourse aimed at The Last Jedi was part of a Russian influence campaign. Examining roughly 1000 tweets aimed at Rian Johnson between December 2017 and July 2018, Bay discovered  “Overall 50.9% of those tweeting negatively was likely politically motivated or not even human.”  He continues, “A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls." 

So what's the point of driving angry Star Wars fans into their separate corners?  Well, what happens when you take the most popular franchise in the country and split its fanbase down ideological lines?  Bay theorizes,  “The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

To be fair, you didn't need to be a Russian troll to dislike The Last Jedi. That's not what Bay is saying. But they took a film that was polarizing on its own and exacerbated the reaction to destablize our country just a little bit more. If that makes you wonder about the hours you spent arguing the merits of The Last Jedi on Twitter, well you probably should.