Agents of Chaos

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Agents of Chaos TV Poster Image
Insightful docu about foreign meddling in the 2016 election.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It explains what foreign interference is and the history of the specific meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are Russians and Americans who played a part in the 2016 meddling, before, during, and after the election. Interviews are conducted with people from both sides of the political spectrum. 

Violence

Archived footage shows military actions, including the invasion of Crimea and the protests in the Ukraine. There are conversations about violent events, including burnings and shootings (whether true or false), but no images of injured or dead people are shown. 

Sex
Language

Occasional words like "damn" and "hell" are sometimes used, and on occasion a few other curses. The word "f--k" is highlighted as part of a major scandal involving the U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine. 

Consumerism

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are featured. WikiLeaks is also prominently discussed. All of this is offered in context of the meddling.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking (hard alcohol, wine, alcohol) is visible in footage of social events. Smoking (cigarettes and pipes) is also shown.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Agents of Chaos is an insightful documentary series that offers an objective account of foreign meddling during the United State's 2016 presidential elections. There’s some mature themes and occasional cursing ("damn," "hell," and very infrequent use of "f--k"). There's footage of people drinking various types of alcohol and smoking cigarettes and pipes. Archived footage shows military actions, including the invasion of Crimea and the protests in the Ukraine. There are conversations about violent events, including burnings and shootings (whether true or false), but no graphic images are shown. Teens interested in the subject matter may find the series interesting, but older viewers may have an easier time keeping up with some of the conversations. 

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What's the story?

The television docuseries AGENTS OF CHAOS explores the foreign meddling that took place in the 2016 United States’ presidential elections. Interviews with some major political and media players of the time, including former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Russian news editor Margarita Simonyan, former CIA Director John Brennan, and Carter Page, Donald Trump’s campaign advisor, offer their insights about the events leading up to, and surrounding, the 2016 race. It explains how, since 2103, Russian troll factories and hackers were slowly able to create public discord in Russia, in the Ukraine, and later, the United States, by creating memes and embedding assets in social media and using bold programs designed to infiltrate specific accounts of major political players. It explains how these efforts impacted people’s decision-making processes, and the long-term consequences it's having on people’s faith in the American electoral system. The failure of U.S. national security to recognize or prevent these threats, and the efforts of domestic agencies to sway the elections, is also discussed. Archived footage from political events before, during, and after the elections is also featured. 

Is it any good?

This thoughtful and well-organized series offers a comprehensive look into the political machinations of Russia and the United States that led the systematic efforts to create disinformation campaigns. , Co-directed by award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney, Agents of Chaos highlights how these events didn’t "fix" the 2016 election, but helped destabilize and create divisiveness within the electorate by distorting information that people were using to think about the political issues most relevant to them. In doing so, it points to how vulnerable Americans were, and continue to be, when exposed to things like distorted memes, conspiracy theories, and information campaigns disseminated throughout the online public discourse in order to motivate doubt, fear, and outrage.

It's packed with information, and there are moments when it gets a little slow. Nonetheless, Agents of Chaos competently guides viewers through the complicated aspects of foreign interference, including the infamous release of Democratic leaders’ emails by WikiLeaks, and the Mueller investigation. It also makes an attempt at presenting facts objectively while explaining the various ways these events connect. Overall, it’s a documentary that raises some important, but harrowing, questions about the power of disinformation, and the U.S. electorate's inability to recognize it, which makes it well-worth pushing through.

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