Were Russians Behind The Last Jedi Backlash?
The reaction on social media to episode eight of the Star Wars saga was notoriously bad. But according to a new academic paper conducted at the University of Southern California, The Last Jedi was getting blasted by "bots, trolls/sockpuppets or political activists using the debate to propagate political messages supporting extreme rightwing causes and the discrimination of gender, race or sexuality. A number of these users appear to be Russian trolls." The campaign was part of a widespread attempt to subvert the political process, the study argues. "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." More than 50% of the negative posts online came from bots. The reaction was so bad some Star Wars actors, like Kelly Marie Tran, quit social media over the harassment. The Last Jedi’s director Rian Johnson retweeted the study, writing "what the top-line describes is consistent with my experience online. And just to be totally clear: this is not about fans liking or not liking the movie – I’ve had tons of great talks with great fans online and off who liked and disliked stuff. That’s what fandom is all about. This is specifically about a virulent strain of online harassment."