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Just how gullible are we?

If last week’s announcement that Russian and Iranian operatives are using technology once again to influence U.S. politics came as a surprise, you clearly have not been paying attention. That makes you preferred prey, by the way.

We were warned in advance of the 2016 election of how the internet was being used against us by mischief-makers in Moscow. Attempts to hack into states’ election computers were almost always unsuccessful — but that was not their only strategy. They used “social media” to pit Americans against one another, even employing operatives here in this country to further the process. At one point, they even managed to arrange two competing protests at the same site. Both were controlled by people operating on behalf of the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin’s psychological and sociological warfare minions did not stop after 2016. They have continued, sometimes through thousands of social media posts in a day, to continue planting false stories aimed at whipping Americans into frenzies against each other.

Perhaps the only thing that has changed is that there are more players. China is involved. Now, as was reported last week, Iran has become a major player.

One tactic has been to obtain lists of registered voters and send them spurious emails, some actually threatening people.

Lists of voters? Good grief! Some hearing or reading about last week’s revelations may have been horrified about that.

But the truth is that such lists are widely and legitimately available. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties use them for perfectly legal, acceptable purposes.

So getting the lists was no technological feat.

We have been warned that although the technological saboteurs have tried and tried again, they have not been able to penetrate election computers. Our election mechanisms remain secure, for the most part — though we hasten to add that making that happen requires constant vigilance.

No, the real success being enjoyed in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and no doubt the capitals of other foreign countries has been in getting Americans by the millions to swallow online lies placed to pit us against one another.

We should have become smart enough as a people to reject that technique after 2016. We have not been. Clearly, then, we Americans have failed to heed the old, good advice: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

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