[Editors Note: Links to reporting about the Nashville ATT bombing are here because the guy was apparently obsessed by 5G cell service paranoia. Like other Q enthralled, he believed in Lizard people. (Who in their right mind believes in Lizard people?) These beliefs, nonsensical to near insanity, were part and parcel of the batshit levels of credulousness underpinning the stop the steal bullshit of the January 6th insurrection attempt. Everyone in that crowd was a conspiracy crazed Q smoking fool.]




RickWiles Soros BorderRant 2021 11 01 If this sounds credible to you, you might be an idiot.



FloridaCovidDeathRate 2021 10 04

10/29/2021   Conservatives Are Giving Ron DeSantis the Trump Treatment Defend the imaginary version, ignore the real thing. By Jonathan Chait, Intelligencer / New York Magazine

On the whole, Florida’s per-capita death rate from COVID ranks seventh highest of any state. That is a raw figure that doesn’t account for factors like age. But finer-grained analyses don’t necessarily paint a more flattering picture.


Florida has had the highest per-capita death rate among the elderly of any state during the COVID surge:


In the zipcode containing Miami airport, a vaccination hub, the number of first doses given to adults is more than 35x the adult population, yet in official statistics all of these doses count towards Miami's vaccine coverage.


Calculating coverage based on residents only finds three times more unvaccinated elderly people in Florida than according to official CDC statistics.


10/29/2021   What Happened to Matt Taibbi? The former darling of the liberal media is now one of its loudest critics. By Ross Barkan, New York Magazine / Intelligencer

He says he hasn’t changed.

10/26/2021   A Short History of Conservative Trolling, by By Rick Perlstein, New York Magazine

The pre-Trump right, like the post-Trump one, had a style as distinctive as its authoritarian substance: same venality, same cruelty, same infantile nature. You just used to have to look a little harder to find it.


One category of troll falls under what blogger Josh Marshall used to describe, in a less enlightened age (the 2010s), as the right’s “bitch-slap theory of American politics.” That’s the one where you get something a little bit wrong on purpose in order to make the libs look like pedantic asses if they correct you, or weaklings if they don’t. Joseph McCarthy was a master of that one, pioneering the tactic of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat” Party — a hallowed troll that continues to this day.


10/25/2021   The Facebook Papers - The Associated Press

"The Facebook Papers represents a unique collaboration between 17 American news organizations, including The Associated Press.  

Journalists from a variety of newsrooms, large and small, worked together to gain access to thousands of pages of internal company documents obtained by Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower."

10/25/2021  Internal Facebook documents give insight into the company’s practices, according to reports, Twitter

10/25/2021   A whistleblower’s power: Key takeaways from the Facebook Papers, by By Cristiano Lima, The Washington Post   [ @viaCristiano on twitter ]

Interviews with dozens of current and former employees and a trove of internal documents show how the social media company inflamed real-world harms


A personal decision by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leads to a crackdown on dissent in Vietnam. Measures to suppress hateful, deceptive content are lifted after the American presidential election in 2020, as pro-Trump groups disputing the legitimacy of the election experience “meteoric” growth. A dummy test account on Facebook in India is flooded with violent anti-Muslim propaganda — which remains visible for weeks on the real account of a frightened Muslim college student in northern India.


A trove of internal Facebook documents reveals that the social media giant has privately and meticulously tracked real-world harms exacerbated by its platforms, ignored warnings from its employees about the risks of their design decisions and exposed vulnerable communities around the world to a cocktail of dangerous content.




DaveTroyReDamagingSocialNetworks 2021 10 25

Dave Troy on damaging social networks, Twitter, 2021-10-25

10/22/2021   Inside Facebook, Jan. 6 violence fueled anger, regret over missed warning signs, by Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Reed Albergotti, The Washington Post

Facebook has never publicly disclosed what it knows about how its platforms helped fuel the Janusry 6th mayhem. The company rejected its own Oversight Board’s recommendation that it study how its policies contributed to the violence and has yet to fully comply with requests for data from the congressional commission investigating the events.


On Jan. 6, Facebook staffers expressed their horror in internal messages as they watched thousands of Trump supporters shouting “stop the steal” and bearing the symbols of QAnon — a violent ideology that had spread widely on Facebook before an eventual crackdown — thronged the U.S. Capitol. Measures of online mayhem surged alarmingly on Facebook, with user reports of “false news” hitting nearly 40,000 per hour, an internal report that day showed. On Facebook-owned Instagram, the account reported most often for inciting violence was @realdonaldtrump — the president’s official account.


10/25/2021   The Facebook Papers, by Emily Birnbaum, Leah Nylen, Mark Scott, Julia Arciga, Susannah Luthi, John Heldel, Emily Birnbaum again and Alexandra S. Levine, Politico

10/25/2021   The Facebook Papers, by Emily Birnbaum, Leah Nylen, Mark Scott, Julia Arciga, Susannah Luthi, John Heldel, Emily Birnbaum again and Alexandra S. Levine, Politico


0/2/2021   Jim Acosta: Far-right is behind its own 'great replacement' theory, by Jim Acosta, CNN Newsroom

CNN's Jim Acosta explains the consequences of Fox News host Tucker Carlson and far-right personalities spreading coronavirus misinformation.

12/1/2018   Truth Sandwich, by George Lakoff

TweetOfLakoff TruthSandwich 2018


9/30/2021   Opinion: Katie Porter’s epic takedown of Kyrsten Sinema reveals an important truth, by Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

However the battle over President Biden’s agenda turns out, this ugly saga will accomplish something crucial: It will separate Democrats who take their role as public servants seriously from those who are operating with such epic levels of bad faith that they are essentially insulting the intelligence of their own constituents.


Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) just delivered a sharp dressing down to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) that neatly crystallizes this contrast.

9/30/2021   Opinion: No, Facebook’s domination isn’t inevitable, Opinion by Christine Emba, The Washington Post

It’s not clear that we can so easily log off — and, more important, it’s not clear whether our children can. Most of us, at this point, are quite familiar with the dopamine pleasure hits Facebook has engineered into its platform — the addictive quality, fine-tuned via algorithm, that keeps us scrolling deep into the night. And even if Facebook and its various apps were somehow restricted to over-18s, or over-13s (the bar slips ever lower), it’s not the case that the degradation of our discourse, democracy and attention should be resisted only on an individual basis.

9/29/2021   Stephanie Grisham admits the Trump administration was dishonest, Opinion by Erik Wemple, The Washington Post

“Casual dishonesty filtered through the White House as if it were in the air conditioning system.”


“One thing I’m proud of that day was that I was the first to resign over the siege on the Capitol.”


TweetOfMarkJacob NewsMediaComplicity 2021 09 27


From Threadreader: Read this thread in your browser.


9/24/2021   ‘Rudy is really hurt’: Giuliani reportedly banned from Fox News, by Martin Pengelly, The Guardian

Since the election, and Giuliani’s championing of Trump’s lies about electoral fraud, his law licenses have been suspended in New York and Washington DC.


He has also admitted to lying on television. In a 2018 Department of Justice deposition recently made public, he told agents “you could throw a fake” during political campaigns.


His then law partner, Marc Mukasey, added: “You’re under no obligation to tell the truth.”


Giuliani repeated: “You could throw a fake.”

9/23/2021   Opinion: Our constitutional crisis is already here, by Robert Kagan, The Washington Post

“Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation.”  — James Madison


Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation. The political and intellectual establishments in both parties have been underestimating Trump since he emerged on the scene in 2015. They underestimated the extent of his popularity and the strength of his hold on his followers; they underestimated his ability to take control of the Republican Party; and then they underestimated how far he was willing to go to retain power.

9/21/2021   Huge hack reveals embarrassing details of who’s behind Proud Boys and other far-right websites, by Drew Harwell, Craig Timberg and Hannah Allam, The Washington Post


EpikFailDataLeaks 1 

9/22/2021   Real Estate Agent swept up in hack canned from brokerage for Holocaust views, by Andrea V. Brambila, Inman

Florida real estate brokerage Travers Miran Realty has fired real estate agent Joshua Alayon after he was swept up in a hack that revealed alleged attempts to register domain names such as holocaust-truth[.]com, theholocaustisfake[.]com, whitechristianrepublican[.]com and whitesencyclopedia[.]com

11/7/2015   Former Putin aide, founder of RT television network found dead in Washington, by Tribune Wire Reports, Chicago Tribune

Lesin pushed for establishing the Russia Today satellite TV channel, later renamed RT, once saying that Russia "must do propaganda for ourselves, otherwise we'll always look like bears." RT credited Lesin with "inspiring the creation" of the agency.

3/11/2016   Russia US: Former Putin aide Lesin died of 'head injuries', BBC

A former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was found dead in a US hotel four months ago, died of head injuries, US coroners say.


Mikhail Lesin, 57, also had blunt force injuries to the neck, torso, arms and legs, Washington DC's chief medical examiner said, without concluding how the injuries had been sustained.   The New York Times reported that Lesin's injuries were the result of "some sort of altercation" that happened before he returned to his hotel.   A Russian forensic expert quoted by Lenta.ru website (in Russian), Alexander Aulov, said Lesin's injuries were consistent with a severe beating, not an accident or the result of convulsions.


Russian media had reported Lesin's death as a suspected heart attack.


The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says that for years Mikhail Lesin was the mastermind behind the Kremlin's wholesale takeover of the Russian media landscape after Mr Putin became president.




9/16/2021   Facebook keeps researching its own harms — and burying the findings, by Will Oremus, The Washington Post

Facebook knew that teen girls on Instagram reported in large numbers that the app was hurting their body image and mental health. It knew that its content moderation systems suffered from an indefensible double standard in which celebrities were treated far differently than the average user. It knew that a 2018 change to its news feed software, intended to promote “meaningful interactions,” ended up promoting outrageous and divisive political content.


Facebook knew all of those things because they were findings from its own internal research teams. But it didn’t tell anyone. In some cases, its executives even made public statements at odds with the findings.


This week, each of those revelations was the subject of a story in the Wall Street Journal, part of an ongoing investigative series that it’s calling the Facebook Files. The reporting is based on internal Facebook documents, some of which were turned over to the Journal by a person seeking federal whistleblower protection, and interviews with current and former employees, most of whom have remained anonymous.

8/19/2021   Only Facebook knows the extent of its misinformation problem. And it’s not sharing, even with the White House, by Elizabeth Dwoskin, Cat Zakrzewski, and Tyler Pager, The Washington Post

Discussions came to a head last month, when President Biden said platforms like Facebook were “killing people.”

Russian Hacking and Influence in the U.S. Election, The New York Times

Links to 104+ Reports, datelined Sept 10, 2020 through June 16, 2021

6/28/2021   William Barr’s bombshell about Trump is more revealing than it seems, by Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

Barr has offered fresh details about Trump’s effort to subvert the election to journalist Jonathan Karl. These are supposed to be exonerating. But they open up new lines of inquiry about the post-election conduct of Barr himself, and show that the machinations of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are more depraved than we knew.

6/28/2021   These Republicans knew the ‘big lie’ was absurd. What does that say about the rest of their party? The Editorial Board, The Washington Post

It was not until Dec. 1 that Mr. Barr finally announced publicly what he had known for weeks, telling an Associated Press reporter, “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” It took Mr. McConnell even longer to denounce Mr. Trump’s lies. One can only wonder, if Mr. Barr and Mr. McConnell had spoken out sooner, whether the “big lie” might have struggled to deepen and fester among Republicans the way it has.


But at least they acknowledged reality, a fact that to this day distinguishes them from a shockingly large number of their fellow Republicans. 

6/28/2021   The cold truth about Republicans’ hot air over critical race theory, by Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post

Republicans’ hissy fit over critical race theory is nothing more than an attempt to rally the party’s overwhelmingly White base by denying documented history and uncomfortable truth.


This manufactured controversy has nothing to do with actual critical race theory, which, frankly, is the dry and arcane stuff of graduate school seminars. It is all about alarming White voters into believing that they are somehow threatened if our educational system makes any meaningful attempt to teach the facts of the nation’s long struggle with race.

6/28/2021   Democracies Don’t Try to Make Everyone Agree, by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic

Marxist literary scholars and popularizers of critical race theory have one thing in common with certain GOP commentators: a tendency to see their own view of the world as the only valid one.


“I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a Communist.”
— General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday

“He’s not just a pig—he’s stupid.”
— Tucker Carlson, Fox News television host, describing Milley


Soldiers should know, Milley declared, that African Americans were counted as less than fully human until “we had a civil war and Emancipation Proclamation to change it.” It took “another 100 years,” he noted, to get to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All of that should sound completely uncontroversial. It’s just a recitation of facts about American history, things that most people learn in elementary school. But to Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, the mere suggestion that you should seek to understand your own society, including its flaws, makes you a “pig” and “stupid.” Laura Ingraham, another Fox News host, called for defunding the military in response to Milley’s statements, on the grounds that “he’s chosen to indulge the radical whims of Democrats.” The Carlsons, Ingrahams, and other culture warriors who now dominate the world of conservative infotainment seem now to believe that the study of American history—the knowledge of what actually happened on the territory that lies between the two shining seas—should be forbidden.


The Republican-controlled state legislatures and school boards that are currently seeking to ban the teaching of “critical race theory” have this same intention. Most of them seem not to have a very clear idea of what the phrase means, and so invariably the ban will be interpreted broadly and clumsily: Schoolchildren should not be taught the history of racism in America; they should not learn about slavery; they should not be allowed to think about the long-term consequences. That, apparently, is now the consensus in a segment of the Republican Party.


But to maintain that flexibility, a liberal-democratic society absolutely requires that its citizens experience a liberal education, one that teaches students, scholars, readers, and voters to keep looking at books, history, society, and politics from different points of view. If one of our two great political parties no longer believes in this principle—and if some of our scholars don’t either—then how much longer can we expect our democracy to last?

6/25/2021   A war on truth is raging. Not everyone recognizes we’re in it, by Lee McIntyre and Jonathan Rauch, The Washington Post

In 2015, word spread online that a routine military exercise in the southwest, called Jade Helm 15, was a plot by President Barack Obama to impose martial law and seize everyone’s guns. The paranoia was “fueled by conservative bloggers and Internet postings,” the New York Times reported. So far did the claim spread that Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercise.


At the time, Americans responded to such bizarre online happenings with exasperation and bemusement. But the paranoia was fueled by more than conservative bloggers and Internet postings. Former CIA director Michael Hayden later said that Russian propagandists were behind the campaign. They were probing for vulnerabilities to disinformation — and found them. “At that point I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process,’” Hayden said.


Most people regard Republicans’ #StopTheSteal campaign, also known as the “big lie,” as an attempt to re-litigate the 2020 election and pander to a radicalized, Trumpy base. It is that, but it is also a massive and devastatingly effective deployment of Russian-style information warfare against American democracy — by Americans themselves — with an eye toward the future. We should think of it not as a momentary partisan outburst but a kind of epistemic 9/11: a moment when a menace that has been developing for years reaches maturity and displays its full prowess.


Attacks on the concept of objective truth are not new. Left-wing attacks on objectivity date at least to the 1970s, with the rise of academic trends such as deconstructionism and postmodernism. Not long after, conservative media began attacking truth systematically, for example, through the rise of demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, who railed against the “four corners of deceit” (government, academia, science and the media).


The rise of Donald Trump brought a turning point. He and his allies in conservative media and Republican politics seized upon Russian-style disinformation techniques and applied them to domestic politics. In his 2016 campaign, Trump lied so frequently and flagrantly that the media couldn’t keep up and the public lost track, a favorite Russian tactic known as the fire hose of falsehood.

6/24/2021   Rudy Giuliani barred from practicing law in New York over election lies, by Sarah Betancourt, The Guardian

The New York supreme court issued its decision on Thursday, saying that it had found “uncontroverted evidence” that Giuliani made “demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large”, on behalf of his client, then-president Donald Trump, and created a “narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client”.

5/7/2021   The GOP’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Obsession, by Adam Harris, The Atlantic

How conservative politicians and pundits became fixated on an academic approach

4/30/2021   FBI warned Giuliani, One America News in Senate of Russian disinformation campaign targeting Biden, by Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger, The Washington Post

Despite the alert, Giuliani went forward in December 2019 with a planned trip to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where he met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom the U.S. government later labeled “an active Russian agent” and sanctioned on grounds he was running an “influence campaign” against Biden. That operation, officials said, involved Ukrainian officials and political consultants who the U.S. intelligence community has since concluded were acting as Russian proxies not only to smear Biden and derail his candidacy but also to curtail U.S. support for Ukraine.

4/30/2021   FBI warned GOP's Ron Johnson he was being used to spread Russian propaganda -- and he didn't care, by Brad Reed, RawStory

4/29/2021   Trump-loving lawyer Lin Wood bizarrely claims he roamed White House -- and found ex-president still there, by Travis Gettys, RawStory

4/28/2021   Strategic Lies: Deliberate untruths used as a political tactic – new study, by Ivor Gaber, University of Sussex, Novel-Science

It doesn’t matter if the lie is easily rebutted. Indeed in one sense, rebuttals are part of the plan because they result in the subject of the lie being amplified and kept on, or near, the top of the news agenda. The ultimate goal of strategic lying is to have an impact on the salience of issues.

3/17/2021   “Strategic Lying”: The Case of Brexit and the 2019 U.K. Election, by Ivor Gaber and Caroline Fisher, The International Journal of Press/Politics

The final days of the Trump presidency and its aftermath brought into sharp focus the issue of political lying. Politicians have historically employed rhetoric and rhetorical spin to embellish the truth and hide damaging information. However, outright lying has traditionally been deemed politically too risky, resulting in resignation and the undermining of public trust. In contrast, recent electoral successes —the 2016 Brexit Referendum and the 2019 general election in the United Kingdom, and Trump's victory in 2016 and his increased electoral support in 2020—point to an apparent growing tendency for politicians caught lying not to be punished at the ballot box.

4/16/2021   Elite Members of U.S. Military Share Misinformation in Secret Facebook Groups, by Carol E. Lee, NBC News

Extremism in the military has been in the spotlight since more than two dozen current and former service members were linked to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. But the private Facebook groups reveal an underbelly of a segment of the military that has long been revered as America's front line of defense.


"Trump was sabotaged once again!" a member of US Special Forces Team Room wrote Jan. 7 about the Capitol riot. And because of those posing as Trump supporters at the Capitol, he added, "trying to get to the bottom of the obvious election fraud now looks like it doesn't have a chance."   "Well said!" a member responded. But another disagreed. "Nope, they were definitely real trump supporters," he wrote.

4/16/2021   Q is exposed. Will he face consequences? by The Editorial Board

Probably not, writes Lindsay Beyerstein. Lying isn't a crime.


TweetOfRightWingWatch Giles 2021 04 12

4/11/2021   Trump repeats election lies and insults McConnell in front of RNC donors in Palm Beach, by Michael Warren and Kevin Liptak, CNN

The bulk of the RNC's spring retreat took place a 10-minute drive south of Trump's club, at Palm Beach's Four Seasons resort. There, around 360 donors mingled poolside at the beachfront hotel with Republican officials, including chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and co-chair Tommy Hicks. But on Saturday night, guests were shuttled up the road to Mar-a-Lago, where Trump addressed the retreat behind closed doors.


Trump went through an extensive recounting of debunked claims the election was stolen from him, including detailed complaints about individual states, and insisted the results were rigged, the person in the room said. In addition to insulting the Republican Senate leader -- which received huge applause -- the former President was highly critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci and once again took aim at former Vice President Mike Pence, whom he said had failed him in certifying the Electoral College results, according to the same person in the room.

4/10/2021   Michigan Senator Patrick Colbeck Begging for Cash to Pay Possible Dominion Legal Defense

Let's not forget that ex Northfield Township Trustee Tawn Beliger was Colbeck's "bigliest" local supporter

4/5/2021   Half of Republicans believe false accounts of deadly U.S. Capitol riot-Reuters/Ipsos poll, by James Oliphant and Chris Kahn, Reuters

Since the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have pushed false and misleading accounts to downplay the event that left five dead and scores of others wounded. His supporters appear to have listened.


Three months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to overturn his November election loss, about half of Republicans believe the siege was largely a non-violent protest or was the handiwork of left-wing activists “trying to make Trump look bad,” a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has found.


Six in 10 Republicans also believe the false claim put out by Trump that November’s presidential election “was stolen” from him due to widespread voter fraud, and the same proportion of Republicans think he should run again in 2024, the March 30-31 poll showed.


“Republicans have their own version of reality,” said John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University. “It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence.”


Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of Trump’s top Republican critics in Congress, has criticized the push to rewrite the history of the Capitol attack.


The disinformation effort is “such a dangerous, disgusting spin on reality,” Kinzinger wrote in a fundraising appeal to supporters last month, “and what’s even worse is that it goes unchallenged by so many in the Republican Party.”

4/5/2021   Opinion: Why tearing down Fauci is essential to the MAGA myth, by Michael Gerson, The Washington Post

There were, of course, disagreements along the way about the length of lockdowns and the form of mandates. But on the whole, American citizens have witnessed one of the most dramatic vindications of scientific expertise in our history. We have been healthier when we listened to the experts and sicker when we did not.


This is the context in which the MAGA right has chosen to make Anthony S. Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984 — the villain in their hallucinogenic version of pandemic history.


When former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro claims that Fauci is “the father of the actual virus” or former chief of staff Mark Meadows complains about Fauci’s indifference to the (nearly nonexistent) flow of covid across the southern border, the goal is not really to press arguments. It is to create an alternative MAGA reality in which followers are free from the stress of truth — a safe space in which more than half a million people did not die and their leader was not a vicious, incompetent, delusional threat to the health of the nation.

4/5/2021   Opinion: The only question about QAnon that really matters, by Alyssa Rosenberg, The Washington Post

Given the damage QAnon has done to individuals and families, it’s far more important to determine what might bring individual adherents to their senses. And for society at large, the task ahead is to find a way to restore a shared sense of reality and agreed-upon tools for determining what’s true and what’s fake.

4/4/2021   How to know if you (or Donald Trump) violated the First Amendment, Video by Jules Suzdaltsev, Mashable

4/4/2021   Chuck Todd Confronts GOP Senator: Weren’t Trump Tax Cuts an ‘Economic Failure’? by Justin Baragona, Daily Beast

With President Joe Biden proposing increases in corporate tax rates to help pay for his $2.3 trillion infrastructure spending bill, Republicans have pushed back, complaining that the tax hikes on the wealthy will inevitably lead to job losses and impact small businesses. Wicker attempted to make that argument during his Sunday appearance on Meet the Press.

4/3/2021  Dominion Voting Systems demands former state Sen. Colbeck retract voter fraud claims, by Minnah Arshad, Detroit Free Press

Dominion Voting Systems  accused former state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of waging a "self-serving disinformation campaign" against the company and demanded he retract his claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, in a 14-page letter emailed Friday.


At the end of the letter, Dominion said that while it continued to ask Colbeck and others to retract their claims, the damage done is irreversible, and it expressly stated the right to sue.  "Make no mistake — Dominion will hold you accountable for these lies," Dominion wrote.

Let's not forget that ex trustee Tawn Beliger was Colbeck's bigliest supporter

4/1/2021   The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man, by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

In this crowded field of wrongness, one voice stands out. The voice of Alex Berenson: the former New York Times reporter, Yale-educated novelist, avid tweeter, online essayist, and all-around pandemic gadfly. Berenson has been serving up COVID-19 hot takes for the past year, blithely predicting that the United States would not reach 500,000 deaths (we’ve surpassed 550,000) and arguing that cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus (yes, they can).


Berenson has a big megaphone. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and millions of viewers for his frequent appearances on Fox News’ most-watched shows. On Laura Ingraham’s show, he downplayed the vaccines, suggesting that Israel’s experience proved they were considerably less effective than initially claimed. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, he predicted that the vaccines would cause an uptick in cases of COVID-related illness and death in the U.S.

3/30/2021   Opinion: Dominion lawsuit outs Fox News’ disinformation campaign, by Eric Wemple, The Washington Post

When asked about a torrent of disinformation, in other words, Fox News highlighted two stories that told the truth. “You can’t get away from defamation by saying the truth in the morning and then lying through your teeth in the afternoon. That doesn’t cut it,” said Stephen Shackelford, a Dominion attorney, on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday.

American Target Advertising, Inc., RIchard Viguerie, Yesteryear's Daddy of Direct Mail 

3/28/2021   Three groundbreaking journalists saw the Vietnam War differently. It’s no coincidence they were women, by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

She knocked out her first article on a blue Olivetti portable typewriter she had carried from New York and mailed it the cheap and slow way from a post office in the heart of Saigon’s French quarter to the Village Voice, nearly 9,000 miles away. It arrived, and on April 21, 1966, the Voice published FitzGerald’s indictment of the chaotic U.S. war policy.


“The result was a highly original piece written in the style of an outsider, someone who asked different questions and admitted when she didn’t have answers,” wrote Elizabeth Becker in her new book, “You Don’t Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War.”

3/3/2021   How Marty Baron and Jeff Bezos Remade The Washington Post, by Marc Tracy, The New York Times

By contrast, the second Post — the one Mr. Baron ran for most of his tenure — had more resources and different priorities. While many desks have grown, Metro staffing has stayed constant. The Post is digital first to the point that its print circulation has been more than halved since 2013, according to numbers from the Alliance for Audited Media, with Sunday print circulation around 320,000 last fall.


Mr. Baron’s Post was not squeamish about what it meant to chase a big digital audience. Whoever succeeds Mr. Baron — the publisher, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., is leading the search — will inherit roughly three million digital subscribers, said a spokeswoman, the most of any U.S. paper after The New York Times. The Post website has been topping 100 million monthly unique visitors of late and is neck and neck with The Times, according to Comscore.


The upshot has been a truly national paper, unmissable not just for inside-the-Beltway scoops but for understanding the country at large.


“Marty was just the right editor for The Washington Post for the last eight years — thank God,” said Mr. Graham. “Marty is old-fashioned in the way he approaches the news. He believes in truthfulness and completeness and accuracy and fairness.”





2/16/2021   On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith, by Elizabeth Dwoskin, The Washington Post

“In the summertime, I thought, these are just fringe beliefs. But the further we got into the pandemic, I realized, these are very widely held, and I was surprised by how many Christians and churches subscribe to this,” said Emily Smith, an epidemiologist at Baylor University, a private Christian university in Waco, Tex. She runs a large Facebook page dedicated to discussing covid-19.


Smith, who is Christian and married to a Baptist pastor, said her posts trying to disavow anti-vaccine sentiment have been met with hostile responses and threats.


TweetOfTellingDeSantisToShoveIt 2021 02 24












  Reported by Brooke Baitinger, South Florida Sun-Sentinal  





TurnOnTheSundayTalkshows 2021 02 21

Republicans Stoned on Stupid.    February 21, 2021.


2/9/2021   Op-Ed: Trump’s Big Lie is getting him impeached. It adds to a long line of treacherous GOP Lies, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway, Los Angeles Times

The Big Lie about the 2020 election was broadly endorsed by Republican leaders and bought by a vast swath of the party faithful and others. How did we get to a point where a majority of Republicans were willing to defend something so demonstrably false or wrong?


Actually, we’ve been there for a while.

2/6/2021   Lou Dobbs, and the most problematic claims Trump allies made about voting machines, by Aaron Blake, The Washington Post

Lou Dobbs is out at Fox Business, just a day after the voting machine company Smartmatic filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit against him, the cable news network and several purveyors of the debunked theory that its technology was used to commit massive voter fraud.  Dobbs was Fox Business’s top-rated host.


Indexed by RNC mouthpiece, Blake's report lists the Lie by Lie details:


What Rudy Giuliani has said

What Sidney Powell has said

What Lou Dobbs has said

What Maria Bartiromo has said

What Jeanine Pirro has said

What One America News has said

What Mike Lindell has said

2/5/2021   Fox News has dropped America's HateThrob, Lou Dobbs, promoter of Trump’s false election fraud claims, by Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison, The Washington Post

Fox Business has canceled “Lou Dobbs Tonight” one day after the host was named in a multibillion dollar defamation lawsuit against the network and its parent company.


Dobbs, 75, was among the most ardent pro-Trump voices on air. He held influence over Trump administration policy — particularly on trade and immigration — and relentlessly promoted the former president’s false claims of election fraud late last year. His nightly program, which a person close to Dobbs said aired its final episode Friday, was by far the highest-rated on Fox Business.

2/5/2021   Fox News cancels Lou Dobbs’ show; pro-Trump host not expected to be back on air, by Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times

Dobbs' strident anti-immigration views led to his 2009 departure from CNN, where for years he was a signature talent and a pioneer of TV business news with his program “Moneyline.” He won a Peabody Award for his coverage of the 1987 stock market crash.


When he arrived at Fox News, he immediately made waves by questioning the U.S. citizenship of then-President Obama, who was born in Hawaii.

2/5/2021   Column: What can you do about the Trumpites next door? by Virginia Heffernan, Los Angeles Times

You might end up like the upper-middle-class family I stayed with in France as a teenager. They did not attend a citywide celebration for the 100th birthday of Charles de Gaulle, the war hero who orchestrated the liberation of his country from Nazi Germany in 1944. They did have several portraits of Philippe Pétain, Nazi collaborator, on their wall.


When I screwed up the courage to ask how it was for them during the occupation, the lady of the house replied, “We were happy because the Nazis were very polis.” I didn’t know the word, so I excused myself to consult a French-English dictionary. I was in tears when I found the entry: “polite.”


So when I accept generosity from my pandemic neighbors, acknowledging the legitimate kindness with a wave or a plate of cookies, am I also sealing us in as fellow travelers who are very polis to each other but not so much to “them”?

TweetOfNewsmax MikeLindellSmackdown 2021 02 02


MyPillow Guy Voted off Grifter Island


12/23/2021   What happened to Maria Bartiromo? The Trump election fraud story has the TV news biz asking, by Stephen Battaglio, Los Angeles Times

The veteran business journalist, now an anchor at Fox News, made her bones by getting sit-downs with the likes of Jamie Dimon or Warren Buffett. Guests would get a handwritten thank-you note afterward.


She broke ground at CNBC as the first TV reporter on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and became an iconic TV personality worthy of having a song written about her by punk rocker Joey Ramone.


But lately Bartiromo’s former colleagues — many of whom admire her reporting skills and tireless work ethic — are wondering why she allowed her programs to become a vessel for President Trump’s last gasp efforts to overturn the election results. CNBC insiders and alumni often exchange texts with tweets or clips of Bartiromo and the question “What happened?”

2/2/2021   Right Wing Domination of Media & Politics Keeps Us Stuck in Disinformation and Right Wing Government, by Julie Hotard, Medium

What’s the solution? Standard texts on disinformation or propaganda, such as Linebarger’s Psychological Warfare, a World War II era reprint, point to counterpropaganda as the remedy. If we ever expect to solve the problem, we need to stop thinking individuals are going to solve it by using critical thinking or by converting their Right Wing neighbors or relatives to lovers of factual news. If we want to solve the problem, we will have to spread truth at scale — at the same scale and to the same audiences that are now targeted with lies.


That means truth-spreading radio, TV, newspapers, news web sites and social media “troll farms.” The truth needs to be expertly aimed at the same audience that consume Right Wing disinformation TV, radio, newspapers, news sites and social media right now. Nonprofits could fund them.

Why would they fund them? Well, right now, numerous nonprofits are wasting their time, money and the talents of their staffs, preaching and fact checking to the choir. Other nonprofits spending hundreds of millions of dollars “putting out fires” like our pandemic public health problems, that were set by Right Wingers in government — who would never have been elected, had it not been for Right Wing propaganda media lies and fear/hate mongering about Democrats.




10/19/2020  The Vast Reach of Right Wing Disinformation, by Julie Hotard, Medium

The human brain is not built to function properly in an environment of more lies than truth. Yet a lot of Americans live in such an environment, at least within the area of politics.


Mindfck CambridgeAnalyticaAndThePlotToBreakAmerica cover

Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America, by Christopher Wylie, Random House, 2019


10/9/2020   Talk Radio Is Turning Millions of Americans Into Conservatives, by Paul Matzko, PhD, The New York Times

The medium is at the heart of Trumpism.


Talk radio’s power is rooted in the sheer volume of content being produced each week. The typical major talk radio show is produced every weekday and runs three hours, so just the top 15 shows are putting out around 45 hours of content every day. Even setting aside hundreds of additional local shows, the dedicated fan can listen to nothing but conservative talk radio all day, every day of the week, and never catch up.


As Jim Derych, the author of “Confessions of a Former Dittohead,” put it, Rush Limbaugh “makes you feel like an insider — like you know what’s going on politically, and everyone else is an idiot.” There is power in that feeling, the proposition that you and the radio elect have been awakened to a hidden truth about the real way the world works while the rest of the American “sheeple” slumber.


By 1963 President John F. Kennedy was so worried about what an aide called this “formidable force in American life today,” which was able to “harass local school boards, local librarians and local government bodies,” that he authorized targeted Internal Revenue Service audits and the use of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine to silence these pesky conservative broadcasters. The result was the most successful episode of government censorship of the last half century.


Conservative broadcasters have never forgotten it, and it is a key reason that a conspiracist mind-set has such a grip on listeners. Since 2003, Rush Limbaugh, who got his start working in radio as a teenager in the mid-1960s, has mentioned the Fairness Doctrine on nearly 150 episodes. He credits the rise of talk radio to the lifting of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by the Reagan administration. And he worries that the left could at any moment use a revived Fairness Doctrine to silence conservative radio. As Mr. Limbaugh put it in January, “They’ve been trying to nullify or negate me” for three decades.


This suspicion that elite institutions — the media, universities, government, Big Tech — are run by hostile liberal gatekeepers seeking to silence conservative voices continues to fuel right-wing anxiety. It also helps explain conservative support for Mr. Trump, who can be accused of many things but not of failing to speak his mind. When you believe that all politicians lie but that only liberal politicians rig the game, you’re more likely to vote for someone who you think will fight back even if they lie along the way.

10/3/2020   Immanuel Kant: Dare to Think. The Enlightenment Philosopher’s Rational Revolution, by Steven Gambardella, The Sophist

9/10/2020   U.S. sanctions Ukrainian lawmaker tied to Giuliani as ‘active Russian agent’



TweetOfMarjorieTaylorGreene FB 2018 schoolshootingsdenial

  1/21/2021   On Facebook in 2018, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene endorsed conspiracy theories that

9/11 was an inside job and that Sandy Hook was staged, by Eric Hananoki, Media Matters


1/17/2021    Deceptions in the time of the ‘alternative facts’ president, by Calvin Woodward, AP,

Trump’s fabrications were the racing heartbeat of his rallies. The counterfeit fed the charisma.

1/17/2021   Three ways the media can vanquish the Big Lie that will linger even after Trump is gone, by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

The NYU professor and press critic Jay Rosen put it memorably: “In the same way that you might begin an interview with a pro forma, ‘this is on the record,’ or ‘how do you spell your name?’ journalists (and talk show bookers) should set the ground rules with, ‘Very quickly before we start: who was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election?’ ” If the answer is “we need to investigate that” or “President Trump,” simply withdraw the opportunity.


In the bad-faith political world we live in, these kinds of sound policies will be branded as liberal bias and a free-speech violation. Not so.


“This isn’t a cancel culture,” Christopher Krebs, whom Trump fired as head of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told CNN last week in arguing why it’s essential to shoot down harmful false claims as he did. “There has to be an accountability culture in the United States right now.”

 1/17/2021   Fox Settled a Lawsuit Over Its Lies. But It Insisted on One Unusual Condition, by Ben Smith, The New York Times

On Oct. 12, 2020, Fox News agreed to pay millions of dollars to the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staff member, implicitly acknowledging what saner minds knew long ago: that the network had repeatedly hyped a false claim that the young staff member, Seth Rich, was involved in leaking D.N.C. emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. (Russian intelligence officers, in fact, had hacked and leaked the emails.)


Fox’s decision to settle with the Rich family came just before its marquee hosts, Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, were set to be questioned under oath in the case, a potentially embarrassing moment. And Fox paid so much that the network didn’t have to apologize for the May 2017 story on FoxNews.com.


But there was one curious provision that Fox insisted on: The settlement had to be kept secret for a month — until after the Nov. 3 election....


11/24/2020   Fox paid seven figures to settle lawsuit over bogus Seth Rich conspiracy story, by Michael Isikoff, Yahoo News


1/13/2021    Four years ago, I wondered if the media could handle Trump. Now we know, by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

Since last week’s outrageous and deadly attack on the Capitol, incited by Trump, the gloves have come off. The language that journalists feel free to use is far more direct, far less mired in cautious respect for the highest office in the land.


As Roy Peter Clark wrote a few days ago, in a dissection of a front-page Washington Post report that used words like “saboteurs” and “attempted coup” to describe the MAGA marauders: “I am astonished . . . by an epiphany: Language that pushes the boundaries of traditional neutrality can be used in a responsible news report.”


The reality-based national press, though flawed and stuck for too long in outdated conventions, has managed to do its job — with dedication and with bravery, given the dangers created by Trump’s antipathy to what he calls “the enemy of the people.”

 1/12/2021   This is the right-wing media problem in a microcosm, Opinion by Nicole Hemmer, CNN

Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the author of "Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics." She co-hosts the history podcast "Past Present" and "This Day in Esoteric Political History.


"Shortly after the Capitol attack on January 6, several media companies leapt into action, scrambling to modify the infrastructures of misinformation that had been a source of steady profits throughout the Trump years.  Perhaps the most surprising announcement came from Cumulus Media. The talk radio company, which carries popular right wing shows hosted by Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino, circulated an internal memo (first reported by Inside Music Media and later the Washington Post) telling hosts they needed to stop spreading false information about the election."




 TweetOfAlexJones 2021 01 10

1/10/2021   Alex Jones on video claiming that the White House coordinated with him personally to lead the insurrection march.

1/7/2021   The pro-Trump media world peddled the lies that fueled the Capitol mob. Fox News led the way, by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

“Fair and balanced” was the original Fox News lie, one of the rotten planks that built the foundation for Wednesday’s democratic disaster.


Over decades, with that false promise accepted as gospel by millions of devotees, Fox News radicalized a nation and spawned more extreme successors such as Newsmax and One America News.


Day after day, hour after hour, Fox gave its viewers something that looked like news or commentary but far too often lacked sufficient adherence to a necessary ingredient: truth.


Birtherism. The caravan invasion. Covid denialism. Rampant election fraud. All of these found a comfortable home at Fox.

1/5/2021   In 1,386 days, President Trump has made 29,508 false or misleading claims, Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post  [ Updated Nov. 5, 2020 ]

The Fact Checker’s ongoing database of the false or misleading claims made by President Trump since assuming office.


The false claims that Trump keeps repeating, By Glenn Kessler and Joe Fox, The Washington Post [ Updated Nov. 5, 2020 ]

The Fact Checker has evaluated false statements President Trump has made repeatedly and analyzed how often he reiterates them. The claims included here – which we're calling "Bottomless Pinocchios" – are limited to ones that he has repeated 20 times and were rated as Three or Four Pinocchios by the Fact Checker.



White Evangelical Racism

Publication Date: March 2021

The American political scene today is poisonously divided, and the vast majority of white evangelicals plays a strikingly unified, powerful role in the disunion. These evangelicals raise a starkly consequential question for electoral politics: Why do they claim morality while supporting politicians who act immorally by most Christian measures? In this clear-eyed, hard-hitting chronicle of American religion and politics, Anthea Butler answers that racism is at the core of conservative evangelical activism and power.

Butler reveals how evangelical racism, propelled by the benefits of whiteness, has since the nation’s founding played a provocative role in severely fracturing the electorate. During the buildup to the Civil War, white evangelicals used scripture to defend slavery and nurture the Confederacy. During Reconstruction, they used it to deny the vote to newly emancipated blacks. In the twentieth century, they sided with segregationists in avidly opposing movements for racial equality and civil rights. Most recently, evangelicals supported the Tea Party, a Muslim ban, and border policies allowing family separation. White evangelicals today, cloaked in a vision of Christian patriarchy and nationhood, form a staunch voting bloc in support of white leadership. Evangelicalism’s racial history festers, splits America, and needs a reckoning now.


- Anthea Butler, University of North Carolina Press

1/4/2021   We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right., by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

These days, the true radicals are the enablers of President Trump’s ongoing attempted coup: the media bloviators on Fox News, One America and Newsmax who parrot his lies about election fraud; and the members of Congress who plan to object on Wednesday to what should be a pro forma step of approving the electoral college results, so that President-elect Joe Biden can take office peacefully on Jan. 20.


But instead of being called what they are, these media and political figures get a mild label: conservative.


Engagement data on content from Facebook pages that post about U.S. political news

1/2/2021   Conservatives spent 2020 accusing Facebook of being biased against them, but engagement data tells a different story, by Kayla Gogarty, Carly Evans and Spencer Silva, MediaMatters

1/2/2021   Right-wing media used violent rhetoric to sow disinformation in 2020, by MILES LE & AUDREY BOWLER, MediaMatters

As Americans joined nationwide protests against racial injustice following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in 2020, right-wing media’s response was vicious and divisive. Conservative media figures painted Black activists as violent terrorists endangering the lives of its viewers and civilization itself, while outlets like Fox News celebrated white, right-wing vigilantes as heroes, the true victims of law enforcement.


Fox fed its audience wildly inaccurate caricatures of protests in cities across the country, suggested that urban areas were being consumed by violence, and encouraged Trump to re-establish “law and order.”


While right-wing and white supremacist groups took advantage of the escalating situation to incite violence, far-right personalities focused on the police narrative that the protesters are violent to justify police's use of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters, and they relentlessly hyped up the supposed threats posed by anti-fascists.


Trump used this fearmongering to justify military action and attack his political enemies. The narrative that anti-fascists were behind the violence at protests caused panic in small towns across the U.S., where residents gathered to defend their homes from attacks that never happened.

1/2/2021   Nashville Bomber Rambled About Aliens in Letters Sent to Pals Before Suicide, by Tracy Connor, Daily Beast

The Nashville suicide bomber sent packages full of conspiracy theories—including that lizard people control the earth—to friends in the days before he blew himself up in his RV, WTVF reported. Anthony Warner rambled on about UFOs, aliens, the moon landing, and 9/11 in a nine-page letter.

1/2/2021    In 1960 Reporter / Author Gene Fowler Saw The Impending Danger of Who Decided What’s News In Newspapers

Gene Fowler wrote the following in 1960:


…the besetting evils of a haywire economy, as well as the reprisals exacted by ferocious minorities against anyone who prints unpleasant truths, has taken much of the do-and-dare spirit out of the makers of newspaper policies. When appeasement supplants editorial enterprise, and silences the outspoken criticism of evil men, the newspaper forfeits its character, loses its influence—and eventually its life. Public servants become public masters. All freedoms are endangered when that of the press is assailed.

12/31/2020   Dumber and more dangerous: Fox's 2020 race to the bottom, by John Kerr and Audrey Bowler, MediaMatters

For the first time ever, Media Matters has named Fox News our Misinformer of the Year. In addition to the network's lies, propaganda, conspiracy theories, bigotry, and misinformation, Fox's coverage of -- well, everything -- in 2020 was also frequently very stupid.

12/30/2020   Petula Clark shocked that ‘Downtown’ played before bombing, Associated Press

12/30/2020   Nashville man’s girlfriend warned he was building bombs, by By KIMBERLEE KRUESI and ERIC TUCKER, AP

12/29/2020   Bomber to neighbor: The world is ‘never going to forget me’, By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, DENISE LAVOIE and MICHAEL BALSAMO, AP 

12/29/2020   The Resistance’s Breakup With the Media Is at Hand, by McKay Coppins, The Atlantic

The White House spent four years vilifying journalists. What comes next?

12/29/2020   Newt Gingrich: Democrats are trying to 'brainwash the entire next generation', by David Smith, The Guardian

The 77-year-old Republican former House speaker says Trump will ‘remain a dominant figure for a fairly long period of time’


Some blame Donald Trump. Others blame social media. And those with longer memories blame Newt Gingrich for carving up America into blue states and red states racked by mutual fear, suspicion and alienation.


As speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, the Republican arguably did more anyone else to sow the seeds of division in Washington. “Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into bloodsport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Trump’s rise,” reflected the Atlantic magazine in 2018.

12/28/2020   How right-wing misinformation filled the void left when local newsrooms cut staff, by ALEX WALKER, ZACHARY PLEAT, CASEY WEXLER, SPENCER SILVA & JULIE TULBERT, MediaMatters

We are seeing the likely consequences of this dynamic already, as many stories were missing from the pages of local newspapers and the airwaves of local broadcast news in 2020. Local news outlets failed to warn viewers about health risks of political rallies, declined to inform people that a politician running for national office was making racist statements, and omitted right-wing extremist violence from their reporting. While local outlets fail to cover vital stories in their community, right-wing media have plenty of room to fill the gaps with misinformation via local talk radio, news stations owned by conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group, and hyperpartisan local sites.

12/28/2020   Biden accuses Trump administration of obstructing his national security team, by David Smith, The Guardian

President-elect says his advisers encountered roadblocks from the defence department and the office of management and budget

12/28/2020   Nashville Explosion: What to Know, By Rick Rojas and Adam Goldman, The New York Times

DNA tests of human remains found at the scene match a 63-year-old Nashville man identified as a person of interest in the explosion, which ripped through downtown Nashville Christmas morning.

12/26/2020   Federal Agents Scour Home as They Hunt for Clues in Nashville Blast, By Rick Rojas, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Steve Cavendish, The New York Times

Investigators said they were working to determine whether more than one person was involved in the Christmas Day explosion that rattled the city.

12/26/2020   Nashville Explosion: What to Know, By Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, The New York Times

12/6/2020   Listen: Misinformation Mailbag, by James Hamblin and Katherine Wells, Social Distance, The Atlantic

How do you talk with a loved one who believes pandemic conspiracy theories?

12/3/2020   Trump’s election lies are part of a much broader strategy. Here’s how it works, by Nicholas Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

Trump persists, declaring noisily and repeatedly to all who will listen that the election was stolen by corrupt Democrats. Almost a month after the polls closed, he’s still insisting that the voting discrepancies were “tremendous,” the election “rigged,” the voting machines “fixed” and that there were “dead people voting all over the place.”


Some view this as self-delusion, the inability of a narcissist to face up to his own defeat. But that’s too generous. In fact, it is deception plain and simple, the logical culmination of Trump’s grand, four-year-long assault on the truth. Baselessly undermining the integrity of the election — the most elemental symbol of American democracy — is merely a fitting finale to his dishonest presidency.


This final big lie is classic Trump. He offers no facts or evidence. It’s just his word against everybody else’s. And that’s the heart of the strategy.


From the moment he took office, Trump has used his powerful platform — and the outsized megaphone that goes with the presidency — to create an alternative reality in which his truth is as good as anyone else’s truth, even if it isn’t exactly, well, true. The idea was that if he cast doubt on information put forth by society’s traditional arbiters — the scientists, the experts, the judges, the journalists — it would leave ordinary Americans rudderless and uncertain what to believe. If every “expert” who disagreed with him was a liar, as well as a partisan or an enemy of the people or a member of a vast conspiracy, then their facts posed no challenge to his “facts.” Americans would have to decide what to believe based on who screamed the loudest and who was saying what they wanted to hear.

12/3/2020   More than 40 states plan on suing Facebook next week. Here's what the lawsuit is likely to do, by Matthew Rozsa, Salon

Will Facebook ever face any repercussions for its actions? The possibility of antitrust action looms

11/29/2020  Troll: Why are Neo-Nazis called right-extremists when the actual Nazis were socialists/leftists?  by Shayn McCallum, PhD, Quora

Because, for possibly the millionth time I have had to say this, the Nazis were not leftists.


Other than the deliberate propaganda of writers like Jonah Goldberg, I believe the confusion about where the Nazis fell on the political spectrum comes from a specifically American misunderstanding of what “right” and “left” mean.


Because the USA was founded as a kind of “anti-Europe”, its politics developed in a very different way from European politics. I have often heard Americans here repeating the fallacy that “left means big government, right means small government”. This actually has nothing to do with what “left” and “right” mean and this feeds the general confusion concerning inter-war politics in Europe.


See, European conservatism, especially in Central Europe, was not based on “small government” at all (and still isn’t) but rather on the idea of law and order, the naturalness of hierarchy, and maintenance of traditional authority. For much of the early history of European conservatism, it was feudal-nostalgic, monarchist and highly militaristic. It was not necessarily in favour of liberal capitalism, although it was not opposed to it as long as the “right people” were making money and nouveau riche riffraff weren’t getting ideas above their station.


Now, maybe you can begin to see why the Nazis and fascists belonged to the Right. The USA is dominated by a history of economic liberalism, whereas Europe took its time warming up to liberalism and tended to prefer managed capitalism. This is why European conservatives seem so confusing to Americans because America has no history with this kind of conservatism (or not much-- the Southern Confederacy nostalgics have some points in common with them).


When you look at the European Right, by US standards they all appear “left wing” because the European right tends to be instinctively statist.


So, what of the Left? Well, historically, the Left is characterised by an emphasis on popular sovereignty-- bottom-up democracy and a rejection of hierarchy, traditional privileges and top-down authority. Anarchism was, for many years, the iconic form of leftism and, as is well known, anarchism is fundamentally opposed to the state. The values of all leftist movements, regardless of what they end up doing in practice (and the Left in power is famous for betraying its own values) have always been centred on freedom, equality, and solidarity.


Now, back to the Nazis. Nothing about the Nazis, or the fascists was in any way “left wing”. On the contrary, their ideology aligned closely with the traditional values of the German Right. As for “socialism”, until Hitler took over the NSDAP, the party did advocate a kind of authoritarian socialist economy but Hitler tossed all that out, keeping only the name for two reasons: for “brand continuity” and to better compete with the Left (which, divided into mutually-hostile socialists and Communists, was the most powerful and popular movement in Weimar Germany).


In any case, for over 70 years, it has been taken for granted that Nazism is “extreme right” and this is because people have known clearly what those terms mean. The confusion today comes from a general lack of knowledge concerning political theories and ideas resulting in a lot of misconception and fallacies.

11/24/2020   Creepy Bespoke Chat-n-Hate Board, Parler, hacked.  Thousands of Haters had their SSNs and DMs leaked., Twitter

11/23/2020   Right-Wing Social Media Finalizes Its Divorce From Reality, by Renée DiResta, The Atlantic

Fox News acknowledged Trump’s loss. Facebook and Twitter cracked down on election lies. But true believers can get their misinformation elsewhere.

11/14/2020   Conservatives Flock To Mercer-Funded Parler, Claim Censorship On Facebook And Twitter, by Shannon Bond, Weekend Edition Sunday

Parler, founded in 2018, touts itself as "the world's premier free speech platform." On Saturday, CEO and co-founder John Matze said one of the privately owned company's early investors is Rebekah Mercer, who along with her father, hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, has been a backer of President Trump and is also a major donor to conservative causes, including Breitbart News and former White House strategist Steve Bannon.


"What we've seen in the past with some of these other fringe or alternative social media sites is, if there's no rules and if it's really siloed, then what happens is it gets more and more extreme," she said.


That includes Gab, an alternative social network that has become notorious for hosting anti-Semitic and white nationalist content. It was used by the accused 2018 shooter at a Pittsburgh synagogue.


"Once you start fact-checking, you're introducing bias..." Matze replied

11/13/2020   So Let's Talk about Parler, Where did it come from? By Dave Troy, Twitter ThreadReader

Founder John Matze met his now wife, Alina Mukhutdinova, in May 15, 2016 in Las Vegas. Alina is from Kazan, Russia. She was on a two week road trip “vacation” across the USA with a friend.

11/12/2020   Americans Were Primed To Believe The Current Onslaught Of Disinformation, By Kaleigh Rogers, FiveThirtyEight

11/12/2020   Twitter Says Steps To Curb Election Misinformation Worked, by Shannon Bond, NPR

11/12/2020   Twitter Keeps Some Measures It Says Slowed Election Misinformation, by Shannon Bond, NPR

11/11/2020   She fell into QAnon and went viral for destroying a Target mask display. Now she’s rebuilding her life., by Travis M. Andrews, The Washington Post

A later video shows her in the garage of her home, after her husband has summoned the police. She’s telling them that she’s the “QAnon spokesperson” and explains that she has been on the phone with President Trump “all the time.” They detain her to bring her to a nearby psychiatric facility, as she yells, “You’re doing this to me because I’m Jewish.”

11/9/2020   Ex-RNC Chair Michael Steele Says Republican Party Needs A 'Political Enema', by Ed Mazza, HuffPost US

Michael Steele, former chair of the Republican National Committee, said it’s time to clean house within the GOP now that President Donald Trump has lost reelection to President-elect Joe Biden.


“It’s particularly disappointing when I see members of my party’s leadership sycophantically kowtow to an egomaniacal henchman who has one view of the world and that’s himself,” Steele told Larry Wilmore.


Steele, a senior adviser to the never-Trump conservative group The Lincoln Project which endorsed Biden, said he doesn’t want to fight his own party.


“But you gotta deal with stupid,” Steele said. “What the party’s gonna need when this is all said and done is a political enema. And I’m happy to deliver it.”

11/8/2020:   The media never fully learned how to cover Trump. But they still might have saved democracy. by Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post 

Over the past four or five years, I’ve been sharply critical of the media, including that subset I like to call the “reality-based press” — as distinguished from, say, the mendacious bilge spewed by the likes of Sean Hannity and Alex Jones. My continuing complaint has been that mainstream journalism never quite figured out how to cover President Trump, the master of distraction and insult who craved media attention and knew exactly how to get it, regardless of what it meant for the good of the nation.


He was a deeply abnormal president, but we constantly sought to normalize him, treating his deranged tweets like legitimate news and piously forecasting, every time he sounded the least bit calm, that he was becoming “presidential.”


From the beginning, TV news far too often took his public rallies and speeches as live feeds, letting his misinformation pollute the ecosystem. And we took far too long to call his falsehoods what they often were: lies. And far too long to call his world view what it clearly was: racist.


Maybe worst of all, we employed the time-honored method of treating both sides of a controversy as roughly equal. This might have been fine at an earlier moment of history. But it was almost criminally misleading in the Trump era, particularly when it came to the coverage of his Republican enablers in Washington.


Few have expressed this problem better than Thomas E. Mann of the (mildly left-leaning) Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the (traditionally conservative) American Enterprise Institute in a piece titled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”


“We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story,” they wrote. “But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.” Mainstream journalists have been so worried about being called biased by the rabid right that they’ve spent the past four years in a defensive crouch, far too often favoring this false balance over simple truth-telling.

11/7/2020:   Stephen Miller Will Have Some Free Time Soon, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The New York Times

James Baldwin once said, “What white people have to do is try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a [Negro] in the first place, because I’m not a [Negro], I’m a man, but if you think I’m a [Negro] it means you need it.”


I understand the context of this quote in the Black struggle, but it also had meaning for me as an undocumented immigrant. I have noticed that when people try to be nice, they often call immigrants “undocumented laborers.” I think it’s a funny little thing to be hated for your essence and loved for the dialectical small of your back and the apparent jointlessness of your hands.

11/7/2020:    QAnon Lost and Confused After Trump’s Election Showing, by Will Sommer, The Daily Beast

Now, it’s starting to look to even some of the most dedicated followers—some of whom have sacrificed family in their devotion to the conspiracy theory—that QAnon might actually have been nonsense. And they aren’t sure what to do.


“It's hard to keep the faith when your wife and daughters have left you and we didn't get the decisive MOAB win we deserved on election night!!” complained one QAnon supporter on a QAnon forum on Friday, as QAnon believers tried to cheer one another up. “No win for me-PERIOD!!”

11/6/2020:   Former Trump Advisor Steve Bannon Loses Lawyer After Suggesting Beheading of Fauci, By Benjamin Weiser, Michael S. Schmidt and William K. Rashbaum

Mr. Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump, said the heads of the F.B.I. director and Dr. Anthony Fauci should be put on pikes, leading Twitter to ban one of his accounts.


Mr. Bannon, in his comments, invoked punishment from the medieval era.

“I’d actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England,” Mr. Bannon said. “I’d put the heads on pikes, right? I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats: You either get with the program or you’re gone.”


On Friday, a prominent lawyer who was defending Mr. Bannon against fraud charges in federal court in Manhattan abruptly moved to drop him as a client, one person familiar with the matter said.


The loss of his white-shoe representation was just the latest setback for Mr. Bannon, 66, who has struggled for political relevance since losing his job at the White House eight months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.

11/6/2020:   How Claims of Dead Michigan Voters Spread Faster Than the Facts, by Jack Nicas, The New York Times

The tweets began to arrive Wednesday night, carrying explosive claims that people in Michigan were voting under the names of dead people.


Austen Fletcher, a former Ivy League football player turned right-wing internet journalist, said in videos posted to Twitter that he had discovered registration documents on a State of Michigan website that showed that four people with reported birth dates from 1900 to 1902 had submitted absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s election. “How long has this been going on?” he asked.


By Thursday morning, Mr. Fletcher’s videos were the talk of the Republican internet. “Why is it taking regular Americans to expose this level of obvious corruption?” said Candace Owens, a conservative commentator, sharing one of the videos to her 2.7 million Twitter followers.


Yet a few phone calls by Mr. Fletcher would have revealed evidence that indicates that what appeared to be fraud were run-of-the-mill clerical errors.


Follow this story on Twitter

11/6/2020:   Alleged QAnon Goons With AR-15 Arrested Near Philadelphia Vote Center, by Pilar Melendez, Blake Montgomery and Jamie Ross, The Daily Beast

The Inquirer reported that a Hummer matching the description was seen with stickers linked to the QAnon conspiracy movement, including a large “Q” and “#WWG1WGA,” which the pro-Trump conspiracy theorists use to stand for “Where we go one, we go all”—the group’s motto. Photos of a silver Hummer parked near the Convention Center show a parking violation envelope tucked under the windshield.

11/6/2020    Incendiary texts traced to outfit run by top Trump aide, by FRANK BAJAK and GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press

“This kind of message is playing with fire, and we are very lucky that it does not seem to have driven more conflict,” said John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at the University of Toronto’s online watchdog Citizen Lab. Scott-Railton helped track down the source.

11/2/2020    How Trump Could Attempt a Coup, By Barton Gellman, The Atlantic

The battle for American democracy will not be fully joined until the counting starts. That’s when Trump will tell us that his predictions have come true—that the whole procedure is rife with fraud, that the tally is rigged against him, and that no one can be trusted except Trump himself to tell us who won and who lost. The vital questions are whether and how he will try to use his power to subvert the results.


He will use every means at his disposal to maintain a grip on power.  That qualifier, “at his disposal,” is important. It marks a distinction between wishes and commands that Trump can expect to be carried out. We know Trump’s intent. He is indifferent to any interest but his own and ruthless in its pursuit. What we need to know, in self-defense, is his capability. Trump stands atop a vast apparatus of government, ostensibly under his control but not entirely so in fact.


Justin Levitt, a Loyola Marymount University law professor and a former deputy assistant attorney general, said, “I fully believe that Trump and,

unfortunately, Barr will seize every advantage they can because they have shown that they are willing to,” he said. “My firewall is that there’s very little that they can do themselves.” The equivalent of asking DOJ lawyers to seize ballots “based on completely visible pretext” is “asking the military to line up and shoot a crowd of peaceful civilians in the face.”

11/1/2020:   How Trump and Barr’s October Surprise Went Bust, By Murray Waas, New York Magazine

Shortly after the resignation of his prized deputy and with the election looming on the horizon, Durham phoned Barr. He forcefully told the attorney general that his office would not be releasing a report or taking any other significant public actions before Election Day, according to a person with knowledge of the phone call. Dannehy’s resignation constituted an implied but unspoken threat to Barr that Durham or others on his team might resign if the attorney general attempted to force the issue, according to a person familiar with Durham’s thinking.

11/1/2020:   My party is destroying itself on the altar of Trump, by Benjamin L. Ginsberg, The Washington Post

Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.


This is as un-American as it gets. It returns the Republican Party to the bad old days of “voter suppression” that landed it under a court order to stop such tactics — an order lifted before this election. It puts the party on the wrong side of demographic changes in this country that threaten to make the GOP a permanent minority.


These are painful words for me to write. I spent four decades in the Republican trenches, representing GOP presidential and congressional campaigns, working on Election Day operations, recounts, redistricting and other issues, including trying to lift the consent decree.


Catholicism’s increasingly powerful political right reflects fringe America, fueled by paranoia, conspiracy, racism, and the threat of apocalypse.


Donald Trump has pinned his 2020 hopes, in part, on dissident Catholics who view the church as compromised, the pope as an unorthodox interloper, and their theology as not just compatible with, but spiritual backbone for conspiracy theories like QAnon. What happens after Tuesday, in the Church and in this country, in some ways will mirror this battle.

10/29/2020   QAnon Is Supposed to Be All About Protecting Kids. Its Primary Enabler Appears to Have Hosted Child Porn Domains. By AJ Vicens, Ali Breland, Mother Jones

One dark irony of QAnon has always been that the conspiracy theory, which holds that President Trump is waging a war on a cabal of elite liberal pedophiles, rose to prominence on 8chan, an imageboard where users swapped child pornography.


But that irony may have a darker, deeper layer: Mother Jones has uncovered that Jim Watkins, the owner of 8chan and its successor site, 8kun, controls a company that hosted scores of domains whose names suggest they are connected to child pornography.


[ Today's psychological concept: Projection.  As if there were any doubt that QAnon believers are the dumbest simps on this planet.]


10/20/2020   The Right’s Disinformation Machine Is Getting Ready for Trump to Lose, by Renée DiResta, The Atlantic

First, the machine that moves information through the far-right ecosystem is preparing its audience for the very real chance that Trump will lose. Its goal is simple—to preemptively delegitimize any outcome but a clear victory by the incumbent. Second, QAnon, whose adherents have deep ties to countless other large communities, has become a linchpin in that ecosystem, and the absurdity of its claims in no way reduces its political influence.

9/24/2020   Telling the Truth About Slavery Is Not ‘Indoctrination’ by Clint Smith, The Atlantic

Our country is made better, not worse, by young people reckoning with the full legacy of the institution.

9/23/2020   THE ELECTION THAT COULD BREAK AMERICA, by Barton Gellman, The Atlantic

“Our Constitution does not secure the peaceful transition of power, but rather presupposes it,” the legal scholar Lawrence Douglas wrote in a recent book titled simply Will He Go? The Interregnum we are about to enter will be accompanied by what Douglas, who teaches at Amherst, calls a “perfect storm” of adverse conditions. We cannot turn away from that storm. On November 3 we sail toward its center mass. If we emerge without trauma, it will not be an unbreakable ship that has saved us.


Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged. 

9/22/2020    We Live in a Potemkin Autocracy Now, by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

The White House memo declaring New York City, Portland, and Seattle “anarchist jurisdictions” isn’t federalism; it’s half-baked feudalism.

An American president seizing the fallout of political protests to defund cities seems rather terrifying. Sources I spoke with, however, said the move reflects a kind of Potemkin autocracy, where the appearance of absolute power serves to mask a paper-thin threat. 

9/22/2020:    The men behind QAnon, Experts and researchers said the key to "Q" is hiding in plain sight., by Chris Francescani, ABC News

Earlier this month, the fact-checking website Logically identified QMap’s developer, or operator, as an IT expert living in New Jersey. The IT executive denied any association with Watkins to Daily Dot, a tech-centric website.


Until it went offline, QMap was hosted by the same content delivery network (CDN) service as 8kun. The CDN only hosts two other domains: Watkins' domains and The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website.


The host service company “was started right … at the end of October, 2019,” Brennan said. 8kun launched weeks later.

9/20/2020   The Supply of Disinformation Will Soon Be Infinite, by Renée DiResta, The Atlantic

Disinformation campaigns used to require a lot of human effort, but artificial intelligence will take them to a whole new level.


Someday soon, the reading public will miss the days when a bit of detective work could identify completely fictitious authors. Consider the case of “Alice Donovan.” In 2016, a freelance writer by that name emailed the editors of CounterPunch, a left-leaning independent media site, to pitch a story. Her Twitter profile identified her as a journalist. Over a period of 18 months, Donovan pitched CounterPunch regularly; the publication accepted a handful of her pieces, and a collection of left-leaning sites accepted others.


Then, in 2018, the editor of CounterPunch received a phone call from The Washington Post. A reporter there had obtained an FBI report suggesting that Alice Donovan was a “persona account”—a fictitious figure—created by the Main Directorate, the Russian military-intelligence agency commonly known as the GU. Skeptical of the Russia link, but concerned about having potentially published content from a fake person, the CounterPunch editors pored over Donovan’s oeuvre, which spanned topics as varied as Syria, Black Lives Matter, and Hillary Clinton’s emails. They found her to be not only suspicious, but also a plagiarist: Some of the articles bearing her byline appeared to have been written instead by another woman, Sophia Mangal, a journalist affiliated with something called the Inside Syria Media Center.


The ISMC’s “About” page claimed that the group, ostensibly a cross between a think tank and a news outlet, was founded in 2015 by a team of journalists. But as the CounterPunch editors dug further, they realized that Sophia Mangal was also a fabrication. So, it seemed, were the others at ISMC whom they tried to track down. CounterPunch published a January 2018 postmortem detailing what its investigation had found: articles plagiarized from The New Yorker, the Saudi-based Arab News, and other sources; prolific “journalists” who filed as many as three or four stories a day, but whose bylines disappeared after inquiries were made to verify that they existed; social-media profiles that featured stolen photos of real people; lively Twitter accounts that sycophantically defended the Syrian dictator and Russian ally Bashar al-Assad. The ISMC, it seemed, was a front. Its employees were purely digital personas controlled by Russian-intelligence agents.


Read more


Renée DiResta is the Technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory

9/16/2020   Nearly two-thirds of US young adults unaware 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, by Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian

According to survey of adults 18-39, 23% said they believed the Holocaust was a myth, had been exaggerated or they weren’t sure

9/10/2020   U.S. sanctions Ukrainian lawmaker tied to Giuliani as ‘active Russian agent’ by Paul Sonne, Josh Dawsey and Karoun Demirjian, The Washington Post

Derkach “and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”


The Treasury Department said Derkach had “directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

8/29/2020:  Fox News pulled off the air in Britain, by Charles Riley, CNN 

PDF:  The Conspiracy Theory Handbook, by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook

8/17/2020   THE BUSH-GORE RECOUNT IS AN OMEN FOR 2020, By Ena Alvarado, David A. Graham, Cullen Murphy, and Amy Weiss-Meyer, The Atlantic


8/3/2020:  The Lasting Trauma of Alex Jones’s Lies, by Megan Garber, The Atlantic

The systems that have for so long helped to enforce the notion of collective truth in America are no longer sufficient: Deception is everywhere. And it is dangerous.

7/28/2020   Trump’s Effort to Provoke Violence Is Working, by David A. Graham, The Atlantic

The president sent federal agents into Portland with the apparent aim of inciting a confrontation.

7/21/2020   America Gets an Interior Ministry, By David A. Graham

President Trump is cobbling together something the United States has never had before—a national police force, used to quell protests.


For decades, conservative activists and leaders have warned that “jackbooted thugs” from the federal government were going to come to take away Americans’ civil rights with no due process and no recourse. Now they’re here—but they’re deployed by a staunchly right-wing president with strong conservative support.


“A standing military force with an overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty,” James Madison told the Constitutional Convention. “The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”

7/2/2020   What happend with the USA? How come that their is so much hate between the democrats and republicans? Was their a trigger or is it something that is already going on for a long time but due to social media its more widespread and visible? - Adam Austin, Quora

I argue with both conservative and liberal friends about this exact subject often. Both sides are racing away from each other as fast as they can, but the reasons for it aren’t the same.


The trigger was not social media. It was actually this man, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.


Before Trump or McConnell or Ted Cruz, Pelosi or AOC or Bernie, there was Newt MFing Gingrich.


Since the US functionally has a two party system, both parties once knew the only way to govern was through a method that now is viewed as abhorrent: compromise. While the parties often disagreed, there was a loyalty to the institution of the US Government over party affiliation.


Believe it or not, there was a time when the US political parties were not the tribal messes they are now. Nixon, a Republican, wasn’t ousted by Democrats. It was his own party that forced him out of office. Granted, they paid the price for it. Democrats controlled House and Senate, and maintained that control for many years. It looked like Republicans would never win again.


But, during that time, the parties worked together. A party couldn’t always count on their representatives voting on party lines 100% of the time, and so the understanding was that if you needed something done, you reached across the aisle, because both sides were working towards the same goal, albeit in different ways.


Then along came ole Mr. Gingrich. He had a theory, that politics was not about governing for the people. It was a war for power that needed to be won, and the Republican Party wasn’t nasty enough to win it.


“One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal, and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire but are lousy in politics.

-Newt Gingrich

^Newt speaking to West Georgia College. He later stole all their Christmas presents, to teach them a lesson on trickle down economics


Newt identified a hole in US politics. Previously, it was believed you needed to have good ideas to win elections. He disproved that by showing legislators don’t need to legislate to win seats…they needed to make people afraid of an enemy. And that’s what he did. He flung insults, he picked fights, he pushed conspiracy theories against his Democratic and Republican colleagues alike. If he could stop the whole government machine from functioning, he knew the American people would throw it out the window.


“His idea was to build toward a national election where people were so disgusted by Washington and the way it was operating that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”

-Norm Ornstein


Democrats were tyrannical socialists bent on destroying the American way of life. Republicans who worked with Democrats were traitors in the war for seats in Congress. He picked fights with both sides. Those fights were reported on by the media, rare dramas in the dull political landscape. This raised Gingrich’s profile further. The more outlandish his accusations, the more colorful his insults, the more coverage he received and the more his plan worked.



Compromise was no longer an effective form of government. It was now being considered lost ground in the political war. As Gingrich gained power, Republicans began to realize that his strategy was working. The more Americans were willing to believe that Democrats were out to destroy what they held dear, the more Republicans won elections. Conservatives willing to reach cross the aisle to work with their colleagues were getting forced out and replaced by ideologues who viewed their opponents not as colleagues, but as Gingrich did; as the enemy.


Republicans regained the House, which they hadn’t held in 40 years, and the Senate, which they only had for 6 of the previous 40. Since Newt Gingrich was elected, Republicans have held the House for 20 of 26 years, and the Senate for 16 years during the same frame.


Democrats started to realize what was happening too late. And let’s be real, they still don’t totally understand though. Ideas don’t matter in elections. As Jeff Daniel’s character Will McAvoy asked in The Newsroom, “if liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so goddam always?”


It’s because emotions matter, and Newt Gingrich made people afraid of monsters called Democrats. But the Democrats are starting to figure that out. That’s why Bernie, an unknown in 2012 to all but the most politically-focused, has become such a left-wing force. It’s why Warren has made such a name for herself with her “win the fight” attitude. It’s why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez handily unseated Joe Crowley.



Democrats were still trying to govern the old way, and they just kept losing. So now they’re electing people who will fight back against the Republicans in more or less the same way. Conservatives may hate AOC, but she’s a devil of their own design, the next step for Democrats in this new, sick political arms race.

Now, 66% of Republicans and 50% of Democrats don’t just disagree with each other, they believe the opposite parties’ policies are an actual threat to the nation.


That’s how we got here. Not because people argued more on social media, or we opened ourselves up to fake news. It’s because Newt Gingrich had the idea to make his fellow Americans the enemy.  

6/18/2020:  “He's the Chosen One to run America”: Inside the cult of Trump, His rallies are Church and he is the Gospel, by Jeff Sharlet, Vanity Fair

Trump’s rallies—a bizarre mishmash of numerology, tweetology, and white supremacy—are the rituals by which he stamps his name on the American dream. As he prepares to resume them for the first time in months, his followers are ready to receive.

6/16/2020   The Radio Right, by Paul Matzko, OUP

How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement

June 2020:  The Prophecies of Q, by Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

American conspiracy theories are entering a dangerous new phase.

5/21/2020:  Life at the Trump Tailgate: Spiked Slurpees, Culture Wars and the Coronavirus Hoax, by Tim Alberta, Politico

Michigan is beset by disease, floods and joblessness, but it’s voter fraud conspiracies that really frighten the president’s supporters

5/21/2020: Once Again, Democrats Are Caught in the Trump Trap, by John F. Harris, Politico 

5/20/2020:  I Spent a Week Down the Right-Wing Media Rabbit Hole—and Was Mesmerized by It, by Philippe Reines, Daily Beast

Here’s what it’s like to spend a full week of COVID-19 quarantine holed up consuming nothing but Fox News, talk radio, conservative websites, and One America News.

The Atlantic:  Shadowland

Fueled by the internet, partisan media, and the 45th president of the United States—paranoid thinking is more powerful, and more dangerous, than ever, threatening not just individual facts, but the idea that empirical truth exists at all.

5/17/2020:  “Immune to Evidence”: How Dangerous Coronavirus Conspiracies Spread, by Marshall Allen, ProPublica

Conspiratorial videos and websites about COVID-19 are going viral. Here’s how one of the authors of “The Conspiracy Theory Handbook” says you can fight back. One big takeaway: Focus your efforts on people who can hear evidence and think rationally. 

TweetOfNYMagazineMcEnanyProfile 2020 04 11 800w514

4/11/2020   Trump’s Socially Distanced Campaign Backed by a new loyalist press secretary, the president’s coronavirus briefings have replaced reelection rallies. By Olivia Nuzzi, Art by Barbara Kruger, New York Magazine

“It’s completely discordant. It’s literally a matter of life and death — and a sideshow,” says a senior Republican congressional staffer. “Everyone is kind of amused by Trump and his jokes at a rally. But this isn’t a joke. To say that at a briefing about a pandemic that’s killed 15,000 Americans so far and is going to kill more? It just shows he’s incapable of rising to the occasion.” The staffer adds, “I try not to watch. It’s pretty depressing.”

3/10/2020   The Conspiracies Are Coming From Inside the House, by Renée DiResta, The Atlantic

Four years ago, when Russia’s internet trolls wanted the American electorate to lose confidence in democracy, they had to work hard at it—by recirculating cynical postings from obscure social-media accounts, or by making up their own.


The message then was that everything in American society had been rigged: elections, football games, the stock market, primaries, polls, the media, “the system.” But this litany of conspiratorial messages bubbled up from the lower reaches of the social-media universe—for instance, from Twitter accounts whose Russian owners had worked painstakingly to gain followers.


In 2020, though, the vitriol, conspiracies, and incessant allegations of rigging aren’t coming from outsiders. They’re being driven by real influencers in the United States—by verified users, many from within the media, and by passionate hyper-partisan fan groups that band together to drive the public conversation.

2/10/2020   The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President, by McKay Coppins, The Atlantic

How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election


The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings. Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside.


The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?


As I swiped at my phone, a stream of pro-Trump propaganda filled the screen: “That’s right, the whistleblower’s own lawyer said, ‘The coup has started …’ ” Swipe. “Democrats are doing Putin’s bidding …” Swipe. “The only message these radical socialists and extremists will understand is a crushing …” Swipe. “Only one man can stop this chaos …” Swipe, swipe, swipe.


What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.

2/5/2020   The right needs to stop falsely claiming that the Nazis were socialists, by Ronald J. Granieri, The Washington Post

The Nazis hated socialists. It was the governments that rebuilt Europe that embraced social welfare programs.

1/31/2020   The Conservatives Trying to Ditch Fake News, by McKay Coppins, The Atlantic

Jonah goldberg, the conservative author and longtime fixture at National Review, used to have a go-to metaphor he’d deploy whenever he found himself defending one of his noisier compatriots in the right-wing media.


“I had this whole spiel about how the conservative movement is like a symphony,” he told me in a recent interview. “You need the fine woodwinds like Yuval Levin or Irving Kristol, but you also need that guy with the big gong who just smashes out the notes.” Sure, the talk-radio ranters were shouty and crass, he would reason, but they had their part to play.


These days, Goldberg has abandoned such rationalizations. “We’re holding a lot of symphonies where it’s basically all gong,” he said. “I didn’t think the gong would swamp the woodwinds quite the way it did.” Looking back, he admits even he was part of the problem: “I could be quite loud.”

1/9/2020:  Of Ants and Men: Ant Behavior and Political Polarization May Be Driven by the Same Processes, Princeton University 

In a paper published January 8, 2020, in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Tokita and Tarnita examined two forces known to drive political polarization and added them to an existing model for how division of labor arises in ant communities. They found that a feedback between these two forces simultaneously resulted in division of labor and polarized social networks. 

10/21/2019   When the U.S. Used 'Fake News' to Sell Americans on World War I, by Patricia O'Toole, History.com

8/21/2019   They Just Wanted to Entertain, by Brian Rosenwald, The Atlantic

AM stations mainly wanted to keep listeners engaged—but ended up remaking the Republican Party.


No one set out to turn the airwaves into a political weapon—much less deputize talk-radio hosts as the ideological enforcers of a major American political party. Instead the story of how the GOP establishment lost its power over the Republican message—and eventually the party itself—begins with frantic AM radio executives and a former Top 40 disc jockey, Rush Limbaugh.


In the fight for a devoted audience, allies became foes. Former House Speaker John Boehner explained what that meant for Republicans, telling Politico, “‘I always liked Rush [Limbaugh]. When I went to Palm Beach I would always meet with Rush and we’d go play golf. But you know, who was that right-wing guy, [Mark] Levin?”—Levin launched in New York in 2002 and entered national syndication in 2006—“He went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged [Sean] Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys—I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living shit out of me.”

7/17/2019   The Nationalists Take Washington, by Emma Green, The Atlantic

7/16/2019   Trump’s Greatest Contribution to American Politics, by Todd S. Purdum, The Atlantic

The fight on the House floor about Trump’s racist tweets illustrates, yet again, how singularly unprepared Washington is for a president like him.  In his racist attacks on four Democratic congresswomen of color, Donald Trump violated the norms of civilized public discourse in ways no modern president has come close to doing. And in its effort to condemn the president’s virulent remarks, the House Democratic majority dispensed—by raw party-line vote—with parliamentary niceties dating to the pen of Thomas Jefferson himself.


Welcome to another great moment in Washington 2019, where the 45th president seems more determined than ever to keep defining deviancy down, and to encourage everyone else to see the moral high ground as just another slippery and shifting partisan slope.


The day began normally enough for this non-normal age, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi determined to pass a nonbinding resolution rebuking Trump’s series of tweets attacking the four Democratic members as America-hating socialists who should “go back” to where they came from, even though all but one of them were born in the United States.


But in her floor speech in support of the measure, Pelosi declared, “There’s no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong unified condemnation. Every single member of this institution, Democratic and Republican, should join us in condemning the president’s racist tweets.” That was too much for Republican Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, who rose to ask the speaker whether she’d like to “rephrase that comment.”


“I have cleared my remarks with the parliamentarian before I read them,” Pelosi rejoined before walking away from the lectern in the well of the House. Collins was not satisfied, protesting that the speaker’s words were “unparliamentary” and should be “taken down,” or stricken from the congressional record, in accordance with long-standing House protocols that ban personal invective in floor debate. Among the authorities that govern House procedure in this regard is Thomas Jefferson’s Manual of Parliamentary Practice, published in 1801 and used by the House since the 1830s. It forbids language “which is personally offensive to the president” (and was, of course, written by that greatest of American conundrums: the man who wrote that “all men are created equal,” yet owned slaves).


There is hardly moral equivalence between Trump’s norm-shattering comments about the congresswomen and Pelosi’s protocol-pushing insistence that the president’s words were racist. But there was just enough uncomfortable overlap to prove, once again, Trump’s singular genius: his ability, through his own relentless uncouth behavior, to goad others into actions that leave them subject to criticism as well. The day’s events showed, yet again, how singularly unable establishment Washington is, with all its rules and decorum, to cope with a presidency like Trump’s.


In the hour-long state of confusion and fevered consultation that followed Collins’s objection, the presiding officer, Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, at last lost his patience and stalked off the rostrum. “We don’t ever, ever want to pass up, it seems, an opportunity to escalate, and that’s what this is. We want to just fight. I abandon the chair,” he said, an abdication apparently without precedent in the modern annals of the House.


Soon enough, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland—as it happens, a long-standing rival and frenemy of Pelosi’s—took the chair and was compelled to declare that “characterizing an action as ‘racist’ is not in order” under House rules. But Hoyer also called for a vote on whether Pelosi’s remarks should be excised from the record, and by a strict party-line vote, the majority decided they should not. In another, the Democrats restored Pelosi’s ability to speak on the House floor again before day’s end—a privilege she would have lost if the objection to her words had stood.


Near the end of the debate, Democratic Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of the last living icons of the civil-rights movement—whose skull was fractured by state troopers on Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama—was unblinking in summing up the stakes of the argument over Trump. “I know racism when I see it,” he told his colleagues. “I know racism when I feel it. And at the highest level of government, there’s no room for racism. The world is watching. They are shocked and dismayed because it seems we have lost our way as a nation.”


By day’s end, the original measure condemning Trump passed easily, 240–187, with just four Republicans and the chamber’s lone independent, Justin Amash of Michigan, voting with the Democrats.


Pelosi accomplished what she’d set out to do: make clear to Americans that the House majority uniformly rejects the president’s invective. But rather than grapple with the substance of what Trump actually said, Republican lawmakers chose to focus on the speaker’s breach of protocol and turn their outrage back on the Democrats. “We have rules for a reason,” the minority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, insisted, while the Republican minority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, struck a lugubrious tone. “It is a sad day for this House,” McCarthy said, after reading from the first page of Jefferson’s manual, which declares: “It is very material that order, decency and regularity be preserved in a dignified public body.”


What McCarthy did not read is the passage that comes just before that sentence, in which Jefferson argued for the necessity of rules and norms. “And whether these forms be in all cases the most rational or not is really not of so great importance,” Jefferson wrote. “It is much more material that there should be a rule to go by than what that rule is; that there may be a uniformity of proceeding in business not subject to the caprice of the Speaker or the captiousness of the members.”


It is the utter shredding of that precept—the very idea that there must be an agreed-upon set of rules and procedures and, yes, facts—that remains Trump’s abiding contribution to political debate, not just in the House of Representatives, but in the country as a whole. And it’s a contribution that is likely to echo down through history, long after the particulars of today’s bitter battle are forgotten.

7/15/2019   All About That Base, by Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic

With his attacks on Democratic women of color and his threats to undocumented immigrants, President Trump has only one small audience in mind.


A day after President Donald Trump tweeted that four women of color in Congress should go back to the countries “from which they came,” a reporter asked him today if he’s troubled at all that his comments have been called racist, and that white nationalists have found “common cause” with him “on that point.”

“It doesn’t concern me,” the president replied, “because many people agree with me.”


And perhaps no comment from Trump sums up his approach quite so well as his justification that “many people” share his views. Who are these people? Trump doesn’t say. But it seems clear he believes it’s the people who voted him into office.

July/August 2019:  Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia? By Ali Breland, Mother Jones

The story is the same, from the day-care panics to QAnon: It’s not really about the kids. It’s about fears of a changing social order.


Beck likens conspiracy theories to parables. The ones that stick are those that most effectively validate a group’s anxieties, with blame assigned to outsiders. In a 2017 paper on Pizzagate and pedophile conspiracies, psychology professor Jim Kline, now at Northern Marianas College, argues that conspiracy theories “are born during times of turmoil and uncertainty.” In an interview, Kline goes further: “Social turmoil can overwhelm critical thinking. It makes us get beyond what is logically possible. We go into this state of hysteria and we let that overwhelm ourselves.”

4/20/2019   How Barr’s Excerpts Compare to the Mueller Report’s Findings, by Charlie Savage, The New York Times

When Attorney General William P. Barr sent Congress a four-page letter last month describing his take on the conclusions of Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel investigation, he quoted several fragments of Mr. Mueller’s then-secret report.


But none of the excerpts were in context or even complete sentences, raising the question of whether he was portraying their thrust and tone accurately or skewing them to make them sound better for President Trump.


Now that the report is out, readers can see that:


Mr. Barr took Mr. Mueller’s words out of context to suggest the president had no motive to obstruct justice.

Mr. Barr omitted words suggesting that there was complicit conduct that fell short of “coordination”

Similarly, Mr. Barr truncated the special counsel explanation of what “coordination” meant — and didn’t mean

Mr. Barr omitted the reason Mr. Mueller trumpeted the thoroughness of his factual investigation

Mr. Barr portrayed Mr. Mueller as encountering “difficult issues” in reaching a decision on obstruction


In his letter, Mr. Barr did not explain why the special counsel had demurred from making any prosecutorial judgment on obstruction beyond a cryptic reference to what he said Mr. Mueller had described as “difficult issues” of law and fact. His suggestion was that these unspecified issues prevented Mr. Mueller from making a call “one way or the other.” In fact, Mr. Mueller made clear that the difficulties resided in accusing Mr. Trump of committing a crime; if the facts had exonerated him, he would have been willing to say so.

January 2019:   THE ALARMING SCOPE OF THE PRESIDENT’S EMERGENCY POWERS, by Elizabeth Goitein, The Atlantic

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump reached deep into his arsenal to try to deliver votes to Republicans.


Most of his weapons were rhetorical, featuring a mix of lies and false inducements—claims that every congressional Democrat had signed on to an “open borders” bill (none had), that liberals were fomenting violent “mobs” (they weren’t), that a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class would somehow pass while Congress was out of session (it didn’t). But a few involved the aggressive use—and threatened misuse—of presidential authority: He sent thousands of active-duty soldiers to the southern border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate Central American migrants, announced plans to end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship by executive order, and tweeted that law enforcement had been “strongly notified” to be on the lookout for “ILLEGAL VOTING.”

12/7/2018   How to Teach the Civil War in the Deep South, by Kristina Rizga, The Atlantic


12/1/2018   Truth Sandwich, by George Lakoff

TweetOfLakoff TruthSandwich 2018


11/17/2018   ‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America, by Eli Saslow, The Washington Post

NORTH WATERBORO, Maine — The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed. He logged onto his website and began to invent his first news story of the day.


“BREAKING,” he wrote, pecking out each letter with his index fingers as he considered the possibilities. Maybe he would announce that Hillary Clinton had died during a secret overseas mission to smuggle more refugees into America. Maybe he would award President Trump the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage in denying climate change.


A new message popped onto Blair’s screen from a friend who helped with his website. “What viral insanity should we spread this morning?” the friend asked.


“The more extreme we become, the more people believe it,” Blair replied.


He had launched his new website on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends — a political satire site started by Blair and a few other liberal bloggers who wanted to make fun of what they considered to be extremist ideas spreading throughout the far right. In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.


“Nothing on this page is real,” read one of the 14 disclaimers on Blair’s site, and yet in the America of 2018 his stories had become real, reinforcing people’s biases, spreading onto Macedonian and Russian fake news sites, amassing an audience of as many 6 million visitors each month who thought his posts were factual. What Blair had first conceived of as an elaborate joke was beginning to reveal something darker. “No matter how racist, how bigoted, how offensive, how obviously fake we get, people keep coming back,” Blair once wrote, on his own personal Facebook page. “Where is the edge? Is there ever a point where people realize they’re being fed garbage and decide to return to reality?”


5/10/2018:  Grifter or Grafter: A new parlor game that explains Trumpworld, by Jacob Weisberg, Slate

2/1/2018   What Kids Are Really Learning About Slavery, by Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic

9/25/2017   What, Exactly, Were Russians Trying to Do With Those Facebook Ads? By Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic

From what we know now, it was too small to seriously influence the election, but too big to be an afterthought.

9/7/2017   The RINO Hunters Become the Hunted, by CONOR FRIEDERSDORF, The Atlantic

Over the last 25 years, the American right has embraced the notion that the worst insult one can heap on an elected Republican is to call him or her a RINO, or “Republican in name only,” which is to say, someone who pretends to be a member of the tribe but is closer to a traitor, because he or she lacks the spine for conservative policymaking, or sells out their own to establishment elites or liberal Democrats.


But over time, RINO was hurled at people who were as conservative as anyone else, but less strident in their rhetoric, less averse to compromise, or less reckless in their brinksmanship than their critics (usually blowhard entertainers with no responsibility to govern or even to get their facts right). Most every Republican member of Congress, regardless of their views, harbored the concern that they’d be tarred as a RINO in the next GOP primary by a challenger pandering to a voting base that increasingly mistook fiery rhetoric for a sign of principle or ideological fealty.


A surfeit of bombastic huckster-enablers in right-wing media ensured that, over time, attacks on so-called RINOs were less and less grounded in substantive disagreements. Circa 2012, Jon Huntsman Jr., a man conservative enough to be elected governor of Utah, was utterly unable to attract a constituency to back his presidential campaign, because he had accepted a job as ambassador to China in the Obama administration, had a conciliatory manner, and criticized other Republicans in the media. That so many called him a RINO for those transgressions hinted at the degree to which the term had ceased to be about conservative ideology.

7/9/2017:  Misinforming the Majority: A Deliberate Strategy of Right-Wing Libertarians, by Mark Karlin, Truthout

6/17/2017   The Normalization of Conspiracy Culture, by ADRIENNE LAFRANCE, The Atlantic

Trump’s strategy in the face of all this drama has been to treat real and fake information interchangeably and discredit any report that’s unflattering to him. It’s why he refers to reputable news organizations as “fake news,” and why he brags about “going around” journalists by tweeting directly to the people. He wants to shorten the distance between the loony theories on the left and legitimate allegations of wrongdoing against him, making them indistinguishable.


Pushing conspiracy theories helped win Trump the presidency, and he’s now banking on the idea that they’ll help him as president. He’s casting himself as the victim of a new conspiracy—a “witch hunt” perpetrated by the forces that want to see him fail.


“Donald Trump communicates through conspiracy theories,” Uscinski says. “You can win the presidency on conspiracy theories, but it’s very difficult to govern on them. Because conspiracy theories are for losers, and now he’s a winner.”

5/10/2017   The Technology That Can Destroy a Presidency, by Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

From Xerox copiers to secret tapes to missing emails, machines are still at the center of modern political scandals.

3/17/2017   The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency, By Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.


During the past decade, Mercer, who is seventy, has funded an array of political projects that helped pave the way for Trump’s rise. Among these efforts was public-opinion research, conducted by Caddell, showing that political conditions in America were increasingly ripe for an outsider candidate to take the White House. Caddell told me that Mercer “is a libertarian—he despises the Republican establishment,” and added, “He thinks that the leaders are corrupt crooks, and that they’ve ruined the country.”

2/11/2017   Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again, by Emily Dreyfuss, Wired

You only use 10 percent of your brain. Eating carrots improves your eyesight. Vitamin C cures the common cold. Crime in the United States is at an all-time high.


None of those things are true.


But the facts don't actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth.


Not to go all Godwin's Law on you, but even Adolf Hitler knew about the technique. "Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea," he wrote in Mein Kampf.


The effect works because when people attempt to assess truth they rely on two things: whether the information jibes with their understanding, and whether it feels familiar. The first condition is logical: People compare new information with what they already know to be true and consider the credibility of both sources. But researchers have found that familiarity can trump rationality—so much so that hearing over and over again that a certain fact is wrong can have a paradoxical effect. It's so familiar that it starts to feel right.

3/16/2016   An Outbreak of Conspiracy Theories, by Julie Beck, The Atlantic

Why do emerging diseases like Zika tend to breed tall tales of sinister plots?

10/21/2015   Going Online in the Age of Conspiracy Theories, by Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

A video claiming Back to the Future predicted 9/11 is the latest in a long and often bizarre tradition of questioning key moments in history.


“In statistics, a problem akin to apophenia is a Type I error, or false positive,” wrote Katy Waldman in a 2014 Slate article about the phenomenon. “It means believing something is real when it isn’t, based on a misleading pattern in the data.”

6/2/2015   The Agency, by Adrian Chen, The New York Times Magazine

The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention. The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited the fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish. It must have taken a team of programmers and content producers to pull off.


As Savchuk and other former employees describe it, the Internet Research Agency had industrialized the art of trolling. Management was obsessed with statistics — page views, number of posts, a blog’s place on LiveJournal’s traffic charts — and team leaders compelled hard work through a system of bonuses and fines. “It was a very strong corporate feeling,” Savchuk says. Her schedule gave her two 12-hour days in a row, followed by two days off. Over those two shifts she had to meet a quota of five political posts, 10 nonpolitical posts and 150 to 200 comments on other workers’ posts. 


Employees were mostly in their 20s but were drawn from a broad cross-section of Russian society. It seemed as if the agency’s task was so large that it would hire almost anyone who responded to the many ads it posted on job boards, no matter how undereducated or politically ignorant they were. Posts teemed with logical and grammatical errors. “They were so stupid,” says Marat Burkhardt, who worked for two months in the department of forums, posting 135 comments a day on little-read message boards about remote Russian towns. “You see these people with a lot of tattoos. They’re so cool, like they’re from New York; very hip clothing, very hip tattoos, like they’re from Williamsburg. But they are stupid.” Management tried to rectify their ignorance with grammar classes.

9/16/2014   It’s All Connected.  What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia, by Katy Waldman, Slate

In statistics, a problem akin to apophenia is a Type I error, or false positive. It means believing something is real when it isn’t, based on a misleading pattern in the data. The equal and opposite misstep, a Type II error, involves attributing a true relationship to chance. Defaulting to Type I thinking may have once conferred a survival advantage: Assume every rustle in the grass is a tiger, and you’ll last a lot longer than the carefree naïf who chalks each disturbance up to the wind. So, the theory goes, human brains evolved into “belief engines” and “pattern-recognition machines,” keen to organize jumbled sensory inputs into meaningful data. We are also expert detectors of conspiracies in random events, whispers in radio static, and the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese.


Sometimes these false positives create an orderly perceptual continuum that helps us think. They aren’t strictly necessary, but they are at least usually benign.

1/15/2014   FLASHBACK: The Repulsive Hate Speech That Once Got Sean Hannity Fired, by Carlos Maza, MediaMatters



4/27/2012:   Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, The Washington Post

Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican, was recently captured on video asserting that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party. Of course, it’s not unusual for some renegade lawmaker from either side of the aisle to say something outrageous. What made West’s comment — right out of the McCarthyite playbook of the 1950s — so striking was the almost complete lack of condemnation from Republican congressional leaders or other major party figures, including the remaining presidential candidates.


It’s not that the GOP leadership agrees with West; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.


The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.


Further Reading 

Charlie Savage: Power Wars - Inside Obama's Post 9/11 Presidency, 769pp, Little, Brown & Company @charlie_savage on twitter