Judge Roy Moore is a big deal in Alabama -- and also, apparently, in Russia. A swarm of Russian Twitter bots has suddenly followed the Republican front-runner in the special Alabama senate race, helping to increase his social media audience from about 27,000 followers on Friday to 47,000 on Monday.
But don't call him Russian Roy just yet. The Moore campaign doesn't understand the candidate's sudden Soviet popularity and they've asked Twitter to investigate. "We had absolutely nothing to do with this," Moore spokesman, Drew Messer, told the Montgomery Advertiser. "We've never purchased followers or dummy ads on Twitter."
Another aide told me the same, stating that "our social guys worked hard to build an authentic following." And while it's difficult to explain why Moore is suddenly big in the former USSR, there's no denying his popularity in Alabama. The base that loves Moore will follow, will like, and will retweet everything he puts out online.
So why would a conservative folk hero like Moore bother to seek out Russian support? Moore probably didn't.
Twitter is full of real accounts and Twitter is full of fake accounts. These bots glob on and follow politicians, spamming their tweets with everything from advertisements for supplements to straight gibberish. The parasites of the digital world, they're completely unavoidable. They can also be spread. Perhaps someone wrapped the digital equivalent of a smallpox-infested blanket around the candidate. Meddling isn't unthinkable.
So while Roy Moore may be a populist, nationalist, fundamentalist with poor gun-safety habits, the Alabama Republican probably isn't part of a Soviet sleeper cell.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.