Cyber Trash, Truly Fake News, Russian Antics, and American Elections
It has been some time since I have posted on theleftcorner. My only explanation, well my explanations, fall into the categories of stunned disbelief, a slow-burning rage, and some good measure of depression. To take my mind off the state of my nation, I have spent considerable time recently “binge-watching” various TV series on Netflix or Amazon.
Part of that time was spent watching The Newsroom, a three-season series in which a news network struggles mightily to be just that― be a real news network. What do real news networks do? They worship facts, not sound-bites. They confront liars and professional obfuscators with those facts. They take pundits to task for their biases and their distortion of facts.
One of those instances highlighted on the show dealt with a story that ran wild on Fox News, the Drudge Report, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh. The story was the false and completely unsupported by any semblance of facts. But, it made it into the national dialogue and into an episode of the series.
I even received a link to this story in a personal email from a person from my high school graduating class. He travels by car a great deal in his work, and I am sure he soaks up the venomous tripe Rush Limbaugh serves up each day.
The gist of the story is that President Obama’s planned trip to India was costing taxpayers $200 million dollars a day. Did people accept this swill? Read an email about this trip below. The text is in italics; my comments are bolded below the text.
I have no first hand knowledge of this, just passing along.
I’m just a citizen trying to help fellow-citizens understand our politics and government, even if I don’t really know much about this.
I could not belive this was true (but had also heard it on the air, thought was hype), but when you Google it and read a number of sites, it does appear to be true. Tell him to stay there !!!
As a reasonable amount of cognitive psychology indicates, the more we hear something from different sources, the more likely we are to believe it is true. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous the information. We are especially likely to believe it when it reinforces our beliefs.
Just in case some of you don’t follow current events as closely as I do (yes, I am a “news-junkie”) you may have missed the following information since it never appears in our wonderful newspapers or on most TV news.
Now, we have a claim to some expertise in such matters, and we see the classic attack on traditional media sources. Internet sites are where we find truth, not the New York Times or CBS news.
The Barack Obama family is leaving tomorrow for a ten day trip to India. This is going to be an historical and incredible trip, mostly in the numbers of people going, costs, etc.
1) The entourage will include THREE THOUSAND people
2) FORTY aircraft will be making this trip
3) TWO marine helicopters are being dismantled, flown to India, put back together to fly the Obamas around the country
4) The entire 500 room Taj Mahal Hotel has been reserved for this group
5) Cost is estimated to be $200 million PER DAY for ten days
Okay, that is $2 billion dollars for the trip, but 10-day trip, but $200 million a day somehow seems more believable.
6) Keep this in mind when you get the next notice of an increase in your taxes!!!
No one should ever wonder why taxpayers are angry about this type of extravagance while most citizens are struggling with day-to-day costs of living, etc.
Now, we see the call to use this information as a guide to political decision-making, as in―get pissed at government; it is not doing anything but screwing you. This is your standard mistrust your government rhetoric.
This episode occurred in 2010, but in it you see the types of misinformation spread by the American right and the seeds of the dissension shown by the right-wing in American politics throughout the Obama years.
This type of crap continued until 2016, when these towering pillars of American values (sarcasm here) found a new target―Hillary Clinton (HRC). We have a plethora of misinformation. Below, you see some examples.
The Clinton Foundation paid for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.
HRC had an affair with Yoko Ono. (seriously, from World News Daily Report)
HRC started the “birther movement” that claimed Obama was not an American.
The Clinton campaign illegally “laundered” $84 million in campaign contributions to other entities that it used for the campaign.
HRC wears a defibrillator.
HRC threw a tantrum at the “commander-in-chief” forum and threw water in Matt Lauer’s face.
HRC suffered brain damage from a fall.
Former Clinton Chief-of-Staff did not commit suicide; he was killed to cover-up an affair with HRC.
HRC is bisexual.
HRC is dead, and a clone is being used to replace her.
HRC was involved in child trafficking out of a DC pizzeria.
For a more extensive list see https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/06/hillary-clinton-conspiracy-theories/
All of this seems to support the hypothesis offered so many years ago by Dr. Hunter Thompson, “When the going gets crazy; the crazies get going.”
This type of junk has always circulated in limited circles on the web. What is, to me, most worrisome about all this is the involvement of foreign governments in using such crap to sow dissension among American citizens. A crazy-assed story such as any of those above can pushed by foreign operatives and reach literally tens of millions American citizens. Facebook estimated that 126 million Americans were exposed to content from Russian sources from mid-2015 to mid-2017. This may seem like a drop in the bucket when one looks at how many people hit Facebook every day. But, this content was not sent to folks who like to see cats wearing hats or dogs surfing. It was targeted to specific users.
A recent PEW survey found that 38 percent of American citizens named the internet as their main source of news. There is no way for the average citizen checking the web for news to know whether they are seeing content from a real news organization, a fellow citizen, or from some Russian sitting at a terminal in Moscow.
All of this brings me to a single point. We desperately need some way of informing people that they are seeing Russian agitprop meant to loosen the ties that bind our nation’s citizenry to one another. This is something we must have.
My own solution has its roots in The Newsroom and its approach. Every reputable news outlet (57%of citizens still see TV news as their major information source) should include a regular segment identifying each bit of trending internet tripe coming from or being pushed by a foreign power.
FactCheck or The Committee to Investigate Russia should have websites that identify such content, and they should place content on Facebook and Twitter that unmasks the forces behind corrupt content. Facebook and Twitter should continue their efforts to ferret out phony accounts.
And, all that needs to be done soon. Putin and his people are so pleased with their efforts in 2016 that they are rumored to be planning to disrupt the 2018 races. DJT would have lost the election in the electoral college if only 40,000 voters spread across Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan had voted differently.
Just think about the Russians intervening in specific Congressional races where you need to manipulate a portion of just over 700,000 votes, rather than a portion of the almost 58 million who voted in the last presidential race. That is not a comforting thought
Good bye and good luck.