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FakenewsBook

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Whether it's adding President Obama to Mount Rushmore or giving free cars to welfare recipients, notes MediaMatters, Facebook's fake news problem means that biased BS is pushed to nearly five million followers:

"The Facebook page for Proud To Be Conservative, with more than 1.5 million followers," notes MediaMatters, "also exclusively shares content from the AmericanNews.com website:"

American News posts -- whether sharing fake news or pushing highly partisan and heavily spun content -- have several traits that are common to the content pushed by fake news purveyors: They use classic clickbait headlines, actively seek to confirm far-right ideology, and exploit bigotry and biases.

MediaMatters continues by noting that "the distinct problem of fake news has several unique symptoms, including a startling level of opacity, which is exemplified by American News:"

Hyperpartisan pages that push fake news stories [....] like American News, often make it nearly impossible to find any information about the people contributing to their pages or the entities operating them -- even as they rake in tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue. This secrecy allows them to remain unaccountable for the content they share, which often includes copied or plagiarized content from other such sites, shared to further spread patently false information.

In summary, "the social media giant clearly has more work to do in addressing its fake news problem; without action, it remains complicit in American News' deceptive fake news tactics."

Trump's fake news

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AlterNet's Kali Holloway writes about Trump's history with fake news, noting that "Fake news is the one thing Trump hasn't claimed to have invented that he actually deserves at least partial credit for inventing:"

He has been spreading fake news since it was just called "lies," and he's shown that winning the presidency will only increase his fake news output. Trump puts out so much misinformation he is a fake news factory unto himself, an artisan of lies, a curator of untruths. Real estate may be his job, but lying is his career, hobby and passion project.

Trump has put thousands of fake news stories out there, some enormous and others so small you wonder why he bothers.

Holloway lists 14 fake news stories that Trump has "created or promoted:" Lying about anti-Obama birtherism and anti-Hillary health scares, spreading rumors about JFK's assassination, demanding the death penalty for the (innocent) Central Park 5, inventing thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11, proposing that Scalia was murdered, spreading "completely fabricated numbers for black murder rates," alleging millions of illegal voters, claiming that climate change is a Chinese hoax, promoting the nonexistent vaccine/autism link, suggesting that Cruz and Rubio weren't eligible to run, and blaming "professional protesters, incited by the media" for the demonstrations against him.

All that, and he hasn't even been sworn in yet!

The ACLU provides a hopeful note that dissent is a powerful antidote to propaganda:

Fifty-five years ago this January, the ACLU of Northern California was busy filling orders from across the country for copies of its recently produced film, "Operation Correction." The film was a response to a piece of Red Scare propaganda, "Operation Abolition," which was produced by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and depicted civil liberties activists in San Francisco as violent "communist agents" bent on destroying the fabric of America.

"College students from UC Berkeley and Stanford mobilized to protest the hearings and take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of association," the piece continues,

Through manipulative editing and voiceover narration, HUAC's "Operation Abolition" used real news footage to portray the student activists as violent and dangerous "hardcore Communist agents" and "indoctrinated and trained dupes." [...]

While "Operation Abolition" was being viewed by millions of Americans at town halls and colleges across the country, the ACLU produced "Operation Correction." Our executive director at the time, Ernest Besig, narrated the exact same footage and explained the propagandistic tactics being used to mislead the public.

"People flocked to see it," the piece continues, and "Historians credit HUAC's 'Operation Abolition' with backfiring spectacularly:"

Young people across the country were shown the film at school, saw right through it, and decided they should make their way to Berkeley -- after all, that's where all the action was. Four years later, the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement began.

Let's remember this moment in history as a lesson in the power of free speech and free thought. And let's remember it as proof that if we remain vigilant, lies can wither in the face of truth.

That worked against HUAC's lies, and it will work against Trump's as well.

O'Keefe owned

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James O'Keefe got owned, and it's delightful:

Here's a stinging quotation from narrator Lauren Windsor:

Convicted criminal and right-wing con artist James O'Keefe and his cohorts in the Trump Foundation-funded Project Veritas are at it again; this time, infiltrating progressive groups in an attempt to create a storyline smearing progressives by promising to fund money for violent schemes to unsuspecting advocates. But this time the tables were turned. We received a tip on suspicious behavior and immediately recognized O'Keefe's malicious handiwork. We partnered with Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action and launched a counter-sting.

The question, "is James O'Keefe still conducting political hit jobs on the president-elect's behalf?" is all too pertinent.

The whole picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words cliché is sometimes true, but here it's worth a thousand shaking heads:

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H/t to Daily Kos for both the hilarious meal above, and the dessert below:

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Comey

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Vox's team bluntly states that Comey cost Clinton the presidency:

Donald Trump has called his election a historic landslide, but it was anything but. Only two other presidents have been elected with smaller popular vote margins since records began in 1824. His edge in the Electoral College, while decisive, depends on less than 80,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) out of more than 135 million cast nationwide. It was a very close election.

Despite this, conservatives "have scoffed at the claim that the [Comey] letter changed the outcome of the election, suggesting that it's a convenient excuse for a weak candidate who made some questionable strategic decisions:"

But the Comey effect was real, it was big, and it probably cost Clinton the election. Below, we present four pieces of evidence demonstrating that this is the case.

After detailing the historical uniqueness of Comey's letter, Vox notes that "Clinton's margin over Trump falls dramatically in national polls directly after the Comey letter and never recovers:"

It's worth noting that Comey also made headlines in July [...] every time Comey and emails were driving the news cycle, Clinton's national polling numbers took a significant hit."

"Democrats," writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, "didn't lose because their message was unpopular or because they're out of touch or because they're insufficiently centrist or insufficiently leftist:"

That just wasn't the problem. The Democratic message was fine; Democrats are perfectly well in touch with their constituencies; and they weren't perceived as too unwilling to shake things up. Even with eight years of Democratic rule acting as a headwind, Hillary Clinton's default performance was a substantial win.

The only reason it didn't happen is because James Comey basically decided to call her a liar and a crook--based on absolutely no new evidence and with everyone in the world advising him not to--with 12 days left in the election. That was something she couldn't overcome, and it has nothing to do with the basic Democratic message.

In his piece "Welcome to the Vortex," Todd Gitlin decries "the sheer breakdown of the truth-telling imperative" and observes that "the mainstream media are only part -- a significant part, but only a part -- of an interlocking ecology of falsification that has driven the country around the bend:"

I've decided to devote myself this coming year to an effort to take seriously the far-flung warp-world, the force-field of distortion and derangement that generates and circulates propaganda, fabrications, sloppy thinking and straight-out nihilism which dominates the beliefs, if we can use that word, of the Republican Party, and which large numbers of Americans have come to accept as a baseline for what they call reality. What bent world do the purveyors live in? What's the method to their legacy? Can we say anything to clarify what they're on about? [...]

Over recent decades, a poison cloud of right-wing propaganda has been pumped into living rooms. The poisoners have been called an "echo chamber," a "vast right-wing conspiracy," Fox and Friends, "barking heads" or, most anodyne, "conservative media" [and] This propaganda enterprise owns a major political party which has floated crazy, fruitless, indictmentless investigations and insinuations with apparently permanent standing in the Congress of the United States and all over the airwaves for a quarter century now. Whitewater! Vince Foster! Benghazi! Emails! Emails!

"I am going to call the totality of this enterprise The Vortex," he writes, "which stands for: VOices of RT-wing Extremism." He then excoriates the lot of them:

Breitbart "News" and its fellow travelers do not belong to news organizations. [...] business is to circulate propaganda. And in this benighted age of low-cost internet access, they have a business model that works. By keeping their base in a state of simple frenzy, they win back, and back, and back their core of customers.

"The Joneses, the Bannons, the Hannitys are not lovers of freedom, democracy, justice or truth," he continues:

Their cynicism is breathtaking. They believe in nothing but raw power, above all the power of their own braying. They believe in nothing else. Nothing. They are hatred incarnate in suits on the payrolls of billionaires. [...] We may not be interested in right-wing lunacy, but it's interested in us, our republic and our capacity to know the truth. So we must know it to someday, somehow, set ourselves free.

Isn't it ironic?

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"Glenn Beck discussed the dangers of 'fake news' on his radio program yesterday," writes Right Wing Watch, but Beck was spreading false information in the process. Beck claimed that CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] "was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist trial," and the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] "recently named David Barton a terrorist!"

The "unindicted co-conspirator" charge against CAIR is a bogus smear that anti-Muslim activists have been baselessly leveling for years, while the claim that the SPLC designated Barton a "terrorist" is entirely false and originated with Barton himself.

Right Wing Watch points out the irony of Beck's claims:

It is more than a little ironic that Beck decried the spread of "fake news" by unreliable sources by repeating false claims that are routinely spread by unreliable sources.

538 says that fact-checking won't save us from fake news, and Brooke Borel (author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking) notes the following:

Fact-checking politicians' statements or articles after they've published -- a close relative of the type of fact-checking that goes on behind the scenes in journalism -- has been instrumental in holding politicians accountable. I know what fact-checking can do, and how important it is. But to combat fake news, it's simply not enough.

I'm as distressed as any journalist is to watch fake news spread, even as available facts can disprove it. But if facts don't matter, what does? The history of news -- and the power structures that control its spread and consumption -- may offer clues on how to wrangle fake news in a way that fact-checking alone can't.

Step one is to consider that fake news may be a fight not over truth, but power, according to Mike Ananny, a media scholar at the University of Southern California.

She asks, "So how can we strip power from fake news? How do we prevent the next Pizzagate?" Andrew Pettegree, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland suggests that media outlets' efforts "to debunk fake news [...] won't work, particularly for readers who have already decided that the traditional press is fake news -- and, fair or not, partisan." He suggests that "the news should stop trying so hard to entertain:"

Political reporting could improve by refusing to force false balance -- an attempt at impartiality and objectivity that can backfire. Science reporters have known this for a long time: Stories about vaccines or climate change shouldn't give equal space to deniers who think that vaccines cause autism or that climate change is a hoax.

Eliminating their false equivalency and bothsiderism would indeed be a substantial improvement.

In describing pushback on the delayed oversight killing, Kevin Drum quotes from the Washington Post:

The House GOP moved to withdraw changes made the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

"Oh please," he comments:

Trump didn't object to Republicans gutting the ethics office. He just thought they should do it later, when fewer people might notice. And that's what they're doing. They'll "study changes" and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.

Meanwhile, media outlets are falsely giving Trump credit for the reversal:

According to CNN, "President-elect Donald Trump dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line Tuesday in his first Washington power play."

While it is true that Donald Trump criticized congressional Republicans, so did many other people.

And it is not true that he opposed gutting the OCE. His response this morning was only to say that while the OCE's existence was "unfair" to Republicans, that there were more important priorities to focus on.

We need to keep hammering on his unparalleled unpopularity, writes Eric Boehlert, who observes that "Trump's contrast with Obama in late 2008 is stunning:"

Obama entered 2009 with a 68 percent favorable rating. Today, Trump's favorable rating stands at an anemic 43 percent. And if history is any indication, that rating is almost certain to go down once the new president takes office.

Given the plurality of Americans who expect Trump to be a "poor" or "terrible" president, he wonders "what explains the press's passive, often genuflecting coverage of Trump since November?"

If Trump had just posted a 49-state, Reagan-esque landslide victory, I could more readily understand why the press would be acquiescing so regularly. But Trump just made history by losing the popular tally by nearly three million votes and remains, without question, the least popular president-elect since modern-day polling was invented.

Yet members of the press seem unduly intimidated by his presence, and have even rewarded him with chatter of an invisible "mandate." (He has none.)

Then he asks the big question:

Does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton had won in November while badly losing the popular vote to Trump, and then posted historically awful approval ratings during her transition, that story would not dominate Beltway coverage day after day, week after week?

And don't forget the press's entrenched fascination with Obama's public approval during his presidency, particularly the desire to depict "collapsing" support when, in fact, Obama's approval rating remained stubbornly stable for years.

There's a glaring Trump transition story hiding in plain sight: He's historically unpopular. The press ought to start telling that tale on a daily basis.

Crooks & Liars snarks that WSJ editor Gerard Baker won't report Trump's lies as "lies" because...reasons:

When Donald Trump says things that are undoubtedly lies, not even just hyperbole, Mr. Baker is of the opinion that calling a lie a lie will alienate readers, as if "readers" are also Trump supporters. You are also forbidden to have any controversial opinions, no matter how factual you are, because certain people don't like the truth. Being honest in a way they perceive as derogatory will cause them not to 'trust' you.

Here is Baker's statement:

GERARD BAKER: I'd be careful about using the word, "lie." "Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.

As long as these returning champions come back every Sunday, it's okay to sugar coat lies as something the consumer decides is true or false, because you gotta get those advertising dollars. [...]

Thanks to this failure to call a lie exactly what it is, Trump's supporters believe the most outlandish fallacies to be true and by golly, no one will convince them of the facts without being labeled something awful, like 'educated' or 'intellectual elitist' or a 'thinker.'

Daily Kos's 9 craziest things that Trump voters believe refers to an Economist/YouGov survey (PDF); here are some of the lowlights, beginning with the question "Is the country better off now than it was eight years ago?"

Most Americans recall that eight years ago the nation was descending into an economic abyss. The stock market dropped 46 percent. Unemployment shot up to 10.1 percent. Home foreclosures hit record figures. And total household wealth declined by more than $19 trillion.

Yet somehow a whopping 60 percent of Trump voters responded to this question saying that the country was better off eight years ago than today. Another 19 percent say there is no difference. That's after stocks climbed back from about 7,000 to nearly 20,000. And unemployment dropped to 4.9 percent. The auto industry that was on the brink of collapse is reporting record profits. And the delusions of the Trumpsters are unique to their breed. Only 21 percent of Democrats thought 2009 was a better year.

That's not the only example, either. Only 36 percent of them realize that climate change is real, "only 26 percent of Trump voters correctly said that [the number of] persons without insurance decreased," and "68 percent of them said that it was definitely/probably true that Saddam had WMDs." Also, Obama's birth certificate is fake ("52 percent continue to say that Obama is definitely/probably a native Kenyan") and Pizzagate is real("46 percent of Trump voters said that this ludicrous fiction was definitely/probably true").

As Daily Kos reminds us, "this epidemic of ignorance was not accidental:"

It was a deliberate act of disinformation by Trump and the Republican Party. And the media bears its share of responsibility for putting ratings and profit before journalistic ethics.

MediaMatters quotes from CNN's Reliable Sources to make a point about skeptical journalists:

BRIAN STELTER (HOST): Let's tell some truths about lying, because the way Donald Trump lies has people rethinking some of the basic premises of journalism, like the assumption that everything a president says is automatically news. When President-elect Trump lies so casually, so cynically, the news isn't so much the false thing he said, it's that he felt like he could just go ahead and say it, go ahead and lie to you. That's the story. Why does he bend and flex and twist and warp and distort the truth? Personally I'm curious because I think Trump does it differently than past presidents. His lies are different and deserve scrutiny.

"I think fact-checking is important," Stelter continues, "but the framing of these stories is even more important." Digby concurs, writing that "what Stelter is saying is true:"

There's a lot of data out there showing that when people are shown facts it only tends to reinforce their own biases. [...] Journalism cannot rely on simply fact-checking, although it's important to do it. It has to try to promote truth, not just facts, and that means they have to think hard about ways to talk about politics and government that successfully does that.

"We are in big trouble," she observes, "if we don't figure out a way to govern from a common reality."

Hemant Mehta defends Snopes against distractions:

It's been a rough PR week for the people behind fact-checking website Snopes.com. There was a nasty piece against the site's founders and staffers at the Daily Mail and an article drawing attention to those attacks at the New York Times.

Ignore the distractions for a moment. The only question that matters is whether Snopes is reliable. Does it do a good job of setting the record straight on urban legends and (actual) fake news?

Mehta admits to having "no interest in the personal lives of the couple that founded the site:"

The people who accuse Snopes, or PolitiFact, or any other similar site of being biased -- often conservatives unhappy to have their pet conspiracy theories debunked by people who know better -- have no understanding of how fact-checking works. [...]

The personal lives of the people behind it are irrelevant, and anyone who brings that subject up as a reason to discredit the site are simply trying to distract you.

Don't fall for it.

Salon points out that all news is fake news in the Right's war on truth. "Conservatives," writes digby, "are launching an attack on the concept of reality itself"--one that's been brewing since the Reagan Era:

Conservatives learned to challenge the media's alleged liberal bias as a tactic to make reporters leery of any news that reflected negatively on conservatives. It was very effective. By the time right-wing talk radio came along and later Fox News, with its pretensions of being "fair and balanced," conservatives had convinced millions of people that their version of reality was the truth and that mainstream media and major newspapers were all catering to the liberals.

"The right-wing media complex," she writes, "is all-in on this:"

According to the Times, everyone from Laura Ingraham to Erick Erickson to Donald Trump himself is labeling anything they disagree with, including the fact-check sites like Snopes or Factcheck.org, as "fake news." Millions of people have been conditioned to believe their claims for years, which means polarization is only likely to get worse. If Americans can't even agree which facts are real, it's hard to see how we're going to be able to govern ourselves.

Michael Shermer offers some hope by explaining how to convince someone when facts fail:

Have you ever noticed that when you present people with facts that are contrary to their deepest held beliefs they always change their minds? Me neither. In fact, people seem to double down on their beliefs in the teeth of overwhelming evidence against them. The reason is related to the worldview perceived to be under threat by the conflicting data.

He lists Creationists, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers climate-change deniers, and birthers as instances of this tendency:

In these examples, proponents' deepest held worldviews were perceived to be threatened by skeptics, making facts the enemy to be slayed. This power of belief over evidence is the result of two factors: cognitive dissonance and the backfire effect.

For another example, we can consider the question what does the science say about torture's efficacy?

The US president-elect Donald Trump has on several occasions insisted that torture is a good idea and that procedures such as water-boarding are not "tough enough" when dealing with terrorist groups like Islamic State.

"The view is clearly morally and ethically questionable," the piece continues:

Torture has a long history, and despite being prohibited worldwide (in 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations inserted the prohibition against torture in the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the use of torture appears to be increasing worldwide.

"The evidence that torture works appears to be anecdotal [and] the available science simply does not support the argument that torture is effective." Sadly, the Right's anti-objectivity efforts have been quite effective. Sometimes I'm not sure which campaign is more dangerous.

TPM's Josh Marshall expresses skepticism, calling fake news "the bright, shiny object of the post-2016 election America:"

I think there's a legitimate question about how much many people actually 'believe' what we call 'fake news'. In many cases, 'fake news', the latest manufactured outrage, functions as a kind of ideational pornography, ideas and claims that excite people's political feelings, desires and fears and create feelings of connection with kindred political spirits.

NYT's look at conservatives' Bizarro world mentions that Breitbart News "dismissed reports on the intelligence assessment as "left-wing fake news:"

Rush Limbaugh has diagnosed a more fundamental problem. "The fake news is the everyday news" in the mainstream media, he said on his radio show recently. "They just make it up."

The piece notes that "top Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile to their agenda:"

In defining "fake news" so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country's increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.

Trumpian dishonesty

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Trump bragged that 100% of donations to his eponymous foundation go to "wonderful charities," but PoliticusUSA points out that his claim is ridiculous:

Trump's dishonesty is breathtaking in scope, given how he used his foundation to buy portraits of himself to hang in his own properties and an autographed Tim Tebow helmet, not to mention, as Rebecca Berg was quick to point out, "A large chunk of money went to advance Trump's political prospects."

Also, "The Trump Foundation gave a quarter of a million dollars to settle lawsuits involving @realDonaldTrump's businesses." In addition, MSNBC noted about that Trump's announcement "that he would dissolve his namesake foundation to avoid any potential conflict of interest during his time as president:"

The plan may quickly run into a snag, however. [...]

"The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," New York Attorney General spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said in a statement released Saturday.

"We know Trump's lying," the piece continues, "in part because the Trump Foundation has already admitted that some of its money covered non-charitable expenses:"

Trump used foundation money to buy giant portraits of himself. Trump used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions. Trump used foundation money to settle private-sector lawsuits. Trump used foundation money to support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions. [...]

A month ago, the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that "it violated a legal prohibition against 'self-dealing,' which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity's money to help themselves, their businesses or their families." The materials, filed with the IRS, were signed by Trump himself - so it's not as if he can credibly claim he had no idea what was going on.

It's not just the dishonesty, though; "what's alarming about Trump's latest deception is how brazen it is:"

The president-elect knows his claims are false, and he must realize that anyone with a passing familiarity with current events knows it, too. But Trump just doesn't care about getting caught lying, in part because his followers don't care, in part because he's counting on news organizations to push back against his lies with kid gloves, and in part because he assumes much of the public will reject any evidence published by journalists. [...]

The more inclined Trump is to keep this up-is-down experiment going, the more mind-numbing the next four years are going to be.

In other news, Kevin Drum dissects another Trump tweet, this one even more self-serving:

The world was gloomy before I won - there was no hope. Now the market is up nearly 10% and Christmas spending is over a trillion dollars! -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 26, 2016

"In a mere 26 words," Drum notes, "Trump has managed to mislead his audience in three separate ways without quite lying about anything:"

In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't matter. But it's still a fascinating little insight into how Trump gaslights his followers and the nation into believing that he's the savior of the country. Most people have no idea about any of these numbers, so he can say anything he wants and he's likely to be believed. Nor will fact checking change this even a tiny bit.

Is he warming up to be 2017's Misinformer of the Year?

Matthew Yglesias' letter to future historians sounds an ambivalent note about our current situation. "I hope it will all turn out for the best," he writes, "But I fear that it will not:"

The election of a man temperamentally unfit to the presidency and lacking in the basic qualifications to perform the job, backed up by congressional allies who seem determined to ignore his flagrant corruption, is an alarming situation. The odds that he will systematically corrupt American institutions and install an authoritarian kleptocracy or blunder into some kind of catastrophic war seem simply too high to entirely discount.

"No matter how stupid it sounds," he points out, "the dominant issue of the 2016 campaign was email server management." He then reminds us that "Email fever reached its peak on two separate major occasions:"

One was when Comey closed the investigation. Instead of simply saying "we looked into it and there was no crime," Comey sought to immunize himself from Clinton critics by breaking with standard procedure to offer extended negative commentary on Clinton's behavior. He said she was "extremely careless."

Comey then brought the email story back to the center of the campaign in late October by writing a letter to Congress indicating that the email case had been reopened due to new discoveries on Anthony Weiner's laptop. It turned out that the new discoveries were an awfully flimsy basis for a subpoena, and the subpoena turned up nothing.

His details are damning:

• The New York Times dedicated 100 percent of its above-the-fold space to coverage of Comey's letter to Congress.
• Throughout the campaign season, network newscasts dedicated more time to Clinton's email server stories than to stories about all policy issues combined.
• Donald Trump's campaign rallies featured regular "lock her up" chants, centering the email server as the opposition's main criticism of Clinton.
• Across five television networks and six major newspapers, 11 percent of campaign coverage was stories about Clinton's email server.

"Indeed," he continues, "research from Gallup indicates that emails dominated what voters heard about Clinton all throughout the campaign," as these wordclouds demonstrate:

20161226-wordcloud.jpg

Even at the time, some of us found it hardly credible that a decision as weighty as who should be president was being decided on the basis of something as trivial as which email address the secretary of state used. Future generations must find it even harder to believe.

Digby makes a great point--that "It's actually a testament to her rectitude that a vague scandal called 'emails!' was all they came up with:"

They had certainly tried over the course of 25 years to come up with something real and they ended up having to make up this ridiculous fake scandal to justify their Javert-like obsession. Unfortunately, it worked as perfectly as any Clinton-scandal ever worked. It was a complicated story that added up to nothing but fit the "didn't pass the smell test" narrative for the media so they pimped it and pimped it and pimped it like it was Watergate.

Speaking of not passing a smell test:

Now we have Trump, the horror story some of us were screaming about until we were hoarse for the last 18 months, knowing that he could and might very well win unless the media, the Republican establishment and some very silly voters sobered up. They didn't. And now we all have to deal with the hangover.

Eric Boehlert presents the disgusting mental image of NBC in bed with Trump:

The parent company for NBC News, one of the largest news organizations in America, is going to maintain its business relationship with the president of the United States; the same Donald Trump whom NBC announced last year didn't reflect the company's "core values," which was why NBC publicly terminated its business relationship with him.

But now after winning the White House, it turns out Trump is going to stay on as executive producer for the latest incarnation of The Apprentice reality show, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. And all of this we're learning just days after Trump made a big public show about how he was going to remove himself from his business conflicts. [...]

It's impossible to suggest those conflicts for NBC will soon evaporate when Trump's sworn into office. In fact, they'll only multiply.

"Meanwhile," Boehlert writes, "a key point is that this is just the latest in the media's rampant normalization of Trump's wildly abnormal behavior:"

Every modern-day president before Trump, and every modern-day nominee before him, pledged to make sure not only wouldn't there be any conflicts of interest surrounding their presidencies, but there wouldn't even any appearances of conflicts; of cashing in on the Oval Office. (Cue Richard Nixon: "People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.")

Now Trump does the opposite by openly flaunting obvious conflicts and the D.C. press largely shrugs its shoulders.


"false flag" at Fox

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John Bolton is suggesting that Russian hacking is a Democratic false-flag op. "This afternoon on Fox News," John Marshall reports, "John Bolton, the expected incoming Deputy Secretary of State suggested that reports of Russia hacking intervention in the 2016 election may actually be a false flag operation." Here are some tidbits from Bolton's interview with Eric Shawn:

BOLTON: It's not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. [...]

SHAWN: For those who are bothered by your claim of a potential false flag, that's very disturbing as an American.

BOLTON: We would want to know who else might want to influence the election and why they would leave fingerprints that point to the Russians.

Has he been studying the Alex Jones playbook?

The Intercept's Robert Mackey writes that disinformation, not fake news, got Trump elected--reminding us that "a man with an assault rifle had stormed into a Washington pizzeria to 'self-investigate' an online conspiracy theory for which there is no evidence." Mackey writes, "I decided to confront some of the alt-right bloggers who had played a role in spreading the hoax on the social network:"

I'll admit there was something quixotic about the premise behind my intervention, namely the hope that people who have devoted hundreds of hours to spreading falsehoods intended to boost Donald Trump by tarnishing Hillary Clinton would suddenly transform into responsible adults when confronted by the dangerous behavior of a man who mistook the fantasy they peddled for reality.

But watching the campaign of disinformation that lifted Trump to the presidency continue and even accelerate after Election Day poses an obvious challenge for professional journalists, whose careers are dedicated to the premise that facts matter.

He quotes Sharif Silmi, who was at Comet Ping Pong with his family when the "self-investigation" occurred:

I hold @RogerJStoneJr and @RealAlexJones responsible for putting my family in danger today at the @cometpingpong -- Sharif Silmi, Esq (@bayreef) December 4, 2016

Mackey notes that "it is important to realize that the phenomenon we are confronting here is not simply fake news of the sort peddled for profit by apolitical entrepreneurs on Facebook:"

This is something different: a hoax created and released into the darker reaches of the internet for the express purpose of damaging the reputation of the Democratic candidate for the presidency.

When shoveling bullshit leads to flying bullets, we must do more to combat it.

Mark Ames notes that WaPo's blacklist appears to be linked to Ukrainian fascists:

What the Washington Post did in boosting an anonymous blacklist of American journalists accused of criminal treason is one of the sleaziest, and most disturbing (in a very familiar Kremlin way) things I've seen in this country since I fled for home. The WaPo is essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we've seen--a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.

"WaPo's key source," Ames writes, "was an anonymous online group calling itself PropOrNot (i.e., "Propaganda Or Not"):"

The Washington Post cited PropOrNot as a credible source, and granted them the right to anonymously accuse major American news outlets of treason, recommending that the government investigate and prosecute them under the Espionage Act for spreading Russian propaganda.

Because the PropOrNot blacklist of American journalist "traitors" is anonymous, and the Washington Post front-page article protects their anonymity, we can only speculate on their identity with what little information they've given us.

Amanda Marcotte sees fake news spiraling out of control, although it remains "a big deal:"

Recent research suggests that the proliferation of conspiracy theories and other urban legends, vaguely disguised as real news and disseminated widely on social media, played a significant role in helping elect Donald Trump as president.

She notes that "the problem, at least in recent years, is much worse on the right:"

The hoaxers, conspiracy theorists and urban-legend generators have also become far more sophisticated than they used to be. Instead of disseminating their bullshit through ALL-CAPS emails and poorly designed right-wing blogs, they have learned to package urban legends with photos and headlines to create articles that look indistinguishable from legitimate news sources.

"Now that we know fake news is not harmless [after the Comet Ping Pong incident]," she continues, "what can we do about it?"

How should reality-based humans react when they encounter people spreading fake news stories on Facebook or hear someone sharing a dangerous urban legend in person? [...] Conspiracy theories aren't born from rational thought processes, and therefore can't really be addressed or debunked through rational thought processes.

"A lot of Americans hold what we call 'magical beliefs,' beliefs that are not substantiated by empirical evidence or contradict empirical evidence," said Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, in a phone interview. "Magical beliefs serve as emotional palliatives. They are ways to explain the world that actually make us feel better."

This explanation is particularly evocative:

As an example, Oliver talked about his son's fear of monsters, which is the grade-school version of fake news.

"My 5-year-old, I tell him there's no monster in the closet," Oliver said. "And he says, 'If there's no monster in the closet, why am I afraid?'" [...]

"There's no amount of reasoning that's going to convince the 5-year-old there's not a monster in the closet," Oliver said. "What they're looking for, at that point, is acknowledgment that they're having this emotional experience."

The problem, though, is that emotions aren't self-justifying. How much placating to fear is necessary here: How far away from correspondence with reality must they get before we can call it a problem?

CounterPunch's CJ Hopkins looks at the process of manufacturing normality and asks, "Who's behind this "fake news" menace?"

Well, Putin, naturally, but not just Putin. It appears to be the work of a vast conspiracy of virulent anti-establishment types, ultra-alt-rightists, ultra-leftists, libertarian retirees, armchair socialists, Sandernistas, Corbynistas, ontological terrorists, fascism normalizers, poorly educated anti-Globalism freaks, and just garden variety Clinton-haters.

Hopkins writes that "what we are experiencing is the pathologization (or the 'abnormalization') of political dissent, i.e., the systematic stigmatization of any and all forms of non-compliance with neoliberal consensus reality:"

Political distinctions like "left" and "right" are disappearing, and are being replaced by imponderable distinctions like "normal" and "abnormal," "true" and "false," and "real" and "fake." Such distinctions do not lend themselves to argument. They are proffered to us as axiomatic truths, empirical facts which no normal person would ever dream of contradicting.

However, he continues, "binary oppositions like 'real' and 'fake,' and 'normal' and 'abnormal,' denote nothing:"

They are weapons deployed by a dominant group to enforce conformity to its consensus reality. This is how they're being used at the moment. [...]

In any event, we can all look forward to some serious pathologization of dissent throughout the coming four (and perhaps eight) years. And I'm not referring to Trump and his boys, though I'm certain they'll be in there slinging it too. I'm referring to our friends in the corporate media [who] will be monitoring liberals' every thought to ensure that fascism does not get normalized ... which God have mercy should that ever happen. Who knows how America might end up? Torturing people? Attacking other countries that pose no threat to it whatsoever? Indefinitely imprisoning people in camps? Assassinating anyone the president deems a "terrorist" or an "enemy combatant" with the tacit approval of the majority of Americans? Surveilling everyone's phone calls, emails, tweets, and reading and web-browsing habits?

Imagine the dystopia we would all be living in ... if things like that were considered "normal."

Joseph Natoli's rumination as to whether fake news is subjective quotes Jean Baudrillard and eventually admits that "This all amounts to a very sad situation:"

The scientific method is still around; empirical and rational methodologies are still around. And yet we are now have suddenly stuck our head through a curtain, like John Bunyan's pilgrim, and see nothing sacred or reliable beyond our own subjective responses, as if an objective world we could all rationally determine had vanished and what we now see are conspiracies of truth manipulation supported by equally spurious facts and evidence. Much of this fragmentation of truth and the methods and words that reveal it have been bred and nurtured in cyberspace where everything indiscriminately finds a place. A great democratization not unlike the chaos of an abyss.

A fundamental case of the lopsided world of political propaganda is that "liberals never take the bait" of fake news:

Given the proliferation of fake news, NPR spent some time tracking down one of the kings of this new industry in order to find out more.

Jestin Coler, owner of the fake news site Denverguaridan.com, commented:

"We've tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You'll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out."

Meanwhile, Will Oremus implores us to stop calling everything fake news:

Fake news is a real, specific problem. But in all the furor around who's making it, who's sharing it, its impact, and how to stop it, it's easy to lose sight of something more fundamental: what it is. The broader the definition, the less useful the concept becomes--and it's already verging on counterproductive.

He notes with disdain that "the top fake news stories are often shared even more widely than the actual news [while] right-wingers stopped ignoring the fake news discussion and began to co-opt the phrase as a synonym for liberal bias:"

...throwing the term fake news back at the mainstream media allows the right-wing fringe not only to insult their specific targets, such as CNN, but to devalue the term itself and along with it the idea that there is any clear distinction between truth and fiction. It's no surprise that those on the right who have embraced the meme most enthusiastically include conspiracy-mongers such as Infowars, which built its reputation by suggesting that the U.S. government helped orchestrate the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 attacks. We're now faced with a grim irony in which mainstream news outlets reporting on "Pizzagate" as a fake news story are themselves being labeled fake news outlets by the conspiracy theorists that propagated it. [emphasis added]

At this point, no one can stop right-wing nuts from attaching fake news as an epithet to every CNN report that bothers them. But there may still be time for the reality-based community to find enough common ground to tackle the original problem. If we can't collectively find a way to counter misinformation so egregious that even its authors admit it's a hoax, the outlook for the media--and the truth--in the Trump era is bleak indeed.

Buzzfeed's look at where Trumps gets his news reveals many problems:

Since winning the presidential election, Donald Trump has reportedly skipped out on the majority of his intelligence briefings; this past Sunday, Trump made headlines after sharing false information blaming his loss of the popular vote on mass voter fraud -- a claim previously reported by the conspiracy news site Infowars. It's been widely reported that Trump is an obsessive consumer of cable news ... [...]

To better understand Trump's media consumption, BuzzFeed News turned to the president-elect's largest source of public proclamations and shared news: Twitter. While Trump's media consumption and methods appear opaque and unconventional, the stories he chooses to share with his now 16 million-plus followers offer a unique window into the news and commentary that catch his eye.

"BuzzFeed News reviewed 26,234 of Trump's 34,062 tweets," the piece continues, as well as "the 2,687 hyperlinks tweeted by Trump's personal Twitter account since he announced his candidacy in June 2015:"

The news stories Trump tweets share several characteristics: 1) They often favor sensationalism over facts and reporting; 2) They frequently echo direct quotes from Trump himself or his closest advisers; and 3) They routinely malign his enemies and vindicate his most controversial opinions.

"During campaign season," Buzzfeed continues, "Trump shared more Breitbart links to his more than 15 million followers than any other news organization:"

Trump's preferred content seems to be right-leaning, hyper-partisan sites and opinion blogs including Daily Caller (21 links), Newsmax (18), the Gateway Pundit (14 links), the Conservative Treehouse (11), the Political Insider (1), Conservative Tribune (1), Infowars (1), newsninja2012.com (5), and westernjournalism.com (1).

"Frequently, stories shared by Trump from hyper-partisan outlets sacrifice facts for convenience of narrative," which helps explain why "engagement from his account outperformed Hillary Clinton's substantially:"

In the three months leading up the election day (Aug. 9 to Nov. 8), Clinton's account tweeted 2,449 times with an average of 3,964 retweets; Trump tweeted 587 times with an average of 10,863 retweets.

both sides

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Slate's Jeremy Stahl suggests that liberals have a fake news problem, too:

A BuzzFeed analysis found that 38 percent of posts from three large right-wing politics pages featured "false or misleading information," compared to 20 percent from three large left-wing pages.

Stahl continues by observing that "it has become increasingly clear that the right wing does not have a monopoly on believing things that aren't true [and] don't even have a monopoly on being fooled by propaganda:"

As the Washington Post reported last week, one organization has started to catalogue the worst media offenders in disseminating anti-western Russian propaganda that has proliferated from Putin-sponsored media organs like Russia Today. Many of the offenders called out as "useful idiots" for picking up on and spreading this propaganda are alternative media sites with a left-wing bent like Naked Capitalism, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, Truthdig, and Truth Out. (Some alternative media outlets have pushed back against the claim that some among them are witlessly spreading Russian disinformation.)

Sorry, but those liberal sources are apples and oranges--or chalk and cheese, if you prefer--compared to right-wing sites. Having said that, however, the Buzzfeed piece is worth perusing. Its sample is limited to a mere nine news sources (three liberal, mainstream, and three conservative) over the course of seven weekdays, but "the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook -- far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison:"

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces -- perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention -- that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.

Here's the breakdown:

20161130-bothsides.jpg

It's no surprise, of course, that the Right lies more than the Left, so a factor of two to three is no surprise. I would like to see a follow-up study that's both wider (more news outlets) and over a longer time frame.

Chris Floyd looks at "the modern McCarthyite morass" of PropOrNot, where "long-time critics of various aspects of American foreign policy...were all mixed in with obvious propaganda mills and clickbait factories:"

The story is a smear piece just like Tailgunner Joe and Roy Cohn used to make. It makes a direct equation between dissent and treason, using the crudest, stupidest kind of cod-reasoning...

And here's another odd fact: PropORNot's list of those who peddle "fake news" doesn't include Breitbart.com, which is one of the master bullshit purveyors of the age.

Floyd snarks that, "fortunately, we have the Washington Post and its anonymous experts to guide us through the modern McCarthyite morass." Andrew O'Hehir writes that the 1933 scenario is no longer hypothetical, because Trump's "badness goes well beyond vulgarity, greed and bad hair:"

We don't know whether the election of Trump is an American echo of the winter of 1932-33 in Germany, when a fragile democracy collapsed into tyranny and an infamous demagogue rose to power on a promise of economic renewal and restored national pride, with an unmistakable racial subtext. It's an inflated comparison in many ways: Trump is too lazy and stupid to be a good Führer, and lacks any semblance of a consistent ideology; his true believers are nowhere near a majority, and are unlikely to participate in any form of mass mobilization that involves leaving the sofa. Kristallnacht is more likely to come back as a hashtag than a physical event. But if you're anything like me, the parallels seem far-fetched first thing in the morning and way too plausible in the middle of the night.

"Resistance and renewal and rebuilding," he writes, "will take many forms, and will take a long time:"

It took years for American politics to deteriorate badly enough that Donald Trump could be elected dogcatcher, let alone president. There's plenty of blame to go around. None of us did enough to stop it from happening, quite obviously. So now we confront a national emergency that must not be denied and an old question out of the history textbooks that cannot be avoided: Whose side are you on?

Trump miscellany

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Charles Blow's statement that no, we can't just get along refers to Trump's recent meeting with the publisher and staff of the New York Times:

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn't seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.

He seemed to indicate that he wouldn't encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.

He said that he would have an "open mind" on climate change. But that should always have been his position.

You don't get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can't simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never -- never -- forget that.

His parting assessment is bluntly brutal:

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything -- no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts -- to satisfy your ambitions.

Charles Sykes predicts that the Alt-Reality media is about to get worse:

As a #NeverTrumper, I had hoped that the election would prompt a moment of reckoning and introspection, not merely about conservative values but also the role of the conservative media. As someone who has spent much of his career promoting conservative values on my radio show, I was depending on it.

Clearly, that is not going to happen now. In fact, it's going to get a lot worse.

Trump's victory means that the most extreme and recklessly irresponsible voices on the right now feel emboldened and empowered. And more worrisome than that, they have an ally in the White House. [...]

It's possible that a Trump loss would have led to an exorcism of the worst elements of the conservative media. But they saw Trump's victory as their victory too. The newly weaponized conservative media genuinely believe that they have changed the paradigm of media coverage.

Alex Jones, Fox, and the other right-wing propaganda outlets have forged "the new alt-reality bubble"

This may suggest the role of the new right media--which includes talk radio, websites like Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and dozens of ScamPacs--is to keep dissenters in line. The media outlets function best when the dial is set at outrage and since they are too deeply invested to be outraged at any failures or reversals from Trump world, the anger will inevitably be focused on attacking the left and launching purges of the saboteurs and dissenters on the right.

Salon's look at the crony capitalism of Trump's con notes how "Republicans turned around and put Trump, the ultimate crony capitalist, into the Oval Office:"

To the surprise of exactly no one who paid attention during the campaign, the race had barely been called before the pile of xenophobic tangelo rinds was taking full advantage of his new position to work on business deals that will enrich himself, his family and any business owner wealthy enough to fly a private jet to New York and kiss his ring.

Part of Trump's pitch to Republican voters during the primary revolved around the idea that his wealth had come in part from his ruthless exploitation of this crony capitalist system. That his donations to politicians and cultivation of close relationships with them, for example, had helped him build his enormous business empire. Now, he told the voters, he was ready to fix this corrupt system, which had allowed a genius like him to conquer it and make it work for all Americans.

This is, to put it simply, utter bullshit. Even if you were inclined to believe it, everything Trump has done just in the two weeks since the election puts lie to it, from his staffing decisions for his administration to his continuing to conduct private business related to his empire, to his announced policies, like his infrastructure plan.

In fact, the infrastructure plan will likely go down as one of the biggest cons of the early Trump era.

Rebecca Gordon sees no new normal in the impending era, noting with dismay that "the terror that's shaken us the most is that, in the coming years, we might witness the final collapse of the rule of law in this country." Although "the past two administrations at least gave lip service to the rule of law," she continues, Trump is "a president-elect who has said he will simply ignore the law if it gets in his way:"

In a primary debate last March, he insisted that the military would follow any order he gave--whether to torture detainees or to "take out" the families of suspected terrorists. When debate moderator Bret Baier pointed out that soldiers are prohibited from obeying an illegal order, Trump answered, "They won't refuse. They're not gonna refuse me. Believe me. I'm a leader. I've always been a leader. I've never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they're going to do it." Apparently he got some advice about saying such things in public; the following day found him walking back the comments, acknowledging that "the United States is bound by laws and treaties and I will not order our military or other officials to violate those laws." But it's pretty clear what he really thinks about the binding power of law.

There's so much to worry about with a Trump presidency.

She mentions the SPLC's counting 437 hate-crime incidents since the election, and makes a personal observation:

I've been remembering the times I've been yelled at, contemptuously addressed as "sir," or chased down the street by people who'd discerned that I'm a lesbian. Donald Trump has spent the last year telling people that their hatred is a good thing, and to feel free to express it with physical violence. It's no wonder some of us are a little scared.

The full-time faculty at my university has been working for months without a contract. We've had a change of administration, and the new regime is fighting hard against a demand for a very modest salary increase. To put the struggle into words, my colleagues have made buttons sporting a red circle and the words "new normal" with a red slash through it. I've been wearing one to show solidarity with my full-time colleagues. Since Donald Trump's election, I've taken to wearing it off campus as well. It seems like a particularly appropriate slogan these days for those of us who don't want the new normal to mean a return to a very old normal. Having it on makes me feel a bit braver and a bit more hopeful.

She concludes with a welcome bit of optimism that "Hope is the wall we can build, stone by stone, to fence in a future Trumpian autocracy."

NCRM discusses how the Secret Service will lease space in Trump Tower:

The U.S. Secret Service is expected to lease two full floors at New York City's Trump Tower to protect the incoming president and is family. One floor is currently empty, the second currently houses Trump's campaign HQ. The cost to taxpayers for the real estate rental will be $3 million each year, the New York Post reports. [...]

New York City taxpayers are reportedly paying more than $1 million a day to help secure what has become the Fifth Avenue fortress.

Oliver Willis notes that the Russian propaganda campaign "was behind fake news efforts designed to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, according to a Washington Post report:"

According to the paper, Independent researchers say the fake news flood was aided by "a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy."

WaPo's Craig Timberg concurs:

The flood of "fake news" this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia's increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery -- including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human "trolls," and networks of websites and social-media accounts -- echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia. [...]

The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

Additionally, "researchers used Internet analytics tools to trace the origins of particular tweets and mapped the connections among social-media accounts that consistently delivered synchronized messages:"

Identifying website codes sometimes revealed common ownership. In other cases, exact phrases or sentences were echoed by sites and social-media accounts in rapid succession, signaling membership in connected networks controlled by a single entity.

PropOrNot's monitoring report, which was provided to The Washington Post in advance of its public release, identifies more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season, with combined audiences of at least 15 million Americans. On Facebook, PropOrNot estimates that stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.

Some players in this online echo chamber were knowingly part of the propaganda campaign, the researchers concluded, while others were "useful idiots" -- a term born of the Cold War to describe people or institutions that unknowingly assisted Soviet Union propaganda efforts.

"The speed and coordination of these efforts," the piece concludes, "allowed Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience:"

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied interfering in the U.S. election or hacking the accounts of election officials. "This is some sort of nonsense," Dmitry Peskov, press secretary for Putin, said last month when U.S. officials accused Russia of penetrating the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations.

Sapna Maheshwari demonstrates how fake news spreads with this case study:

Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Tex., had just about 40 Twitter followers. But his recent tweet about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory -- one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting.

Mr. Tucker's post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters.

But that didn't matter.

"The next morning, the frenzy began," the analysis continues, as the rumor spread from Reddit to Free Republic and beyond. "By about noon, Mr. Tucker's initial post had been retweeted and liked more than 5,000 times:"

Around 6 p.m., the conservative blog Gateway Pundit posted a story using Mr. Tucker's images under the headline "Figures. Anti-Trump Protesters Were Bussed in to Austin #FakeProtests." The post, which included a mention of "Soros money," has been shared on Facebook more than 44,000 times, according to statistics on the website. [...] Then, shortly after 9 p.m., Mr. Trump sent this tweet:
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair! -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016

Snopes and other debunked their tall tale, but "None of this seemed to have much impact:"

Mr. Tucker's initial tweet continued to generate thousands of shares on Facebook through Free Republic and pages like Right Wing News and Joe the Plumber.

When this crap flourishes so rapidly, what happens to our crops?

representation

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GLAAD's annual report on LGBT characters on TV, the "Where We Are on TV" study, "looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season:"

  • Of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars GLAAD has ever found. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

Racist and sexist under-representation are still evident:

  • While this year's report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20%), black women remain underrepresented at only 38% of all black series regular characters.
  • This year, 44% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly underrepresents women who make up 51% of the population.

The Advocate proclaims that "TV has never been queerer," although LGBTQ Nation notes that "More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year:"

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium "failed queer women this year" by continuing the "harmful 'bury your gays' trope," the report said. [...] It's part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character's storyline, GLAAD said, sending what it called the "dangerous" message that gay people are disposable.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's CEO, comments that:

"While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it's important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

Salon's Chauncey DeVega wrote a piece on peak propaganda which points out that Fox's viewers:

...are much more critical of Obama; are afraid of Hillary Clinton; and have a much more negative attitude about the future of the United States than the general public. Fox News viewers are also much more likely to believe that the presidential election will somehow be manipulated or subjected to fraud and that the American news media is conspiring against Donald Trump. [...]

In all, Fox News is extremely dangerous to the public discourse and consensus politics in America because it creates a feedback loop among conservatives, one that is almost impossible to break.

"This has a deleterious impact," he continues, "on the ability of Republicans to legislate and govern in a responsible manner:"

CNN and other outlets in the American corporate news media are complicit in perpetuating this alternate reality -- they are reluctant to speaking plainly about Fox News and its role in disseminating Right-wing lies and disinformation because they have been bullied into submission by the myth of the so-called "liberal media."

The sum effect of this is that CNN and other major American news outlets elevate Right-wing talking points and falsehoods to the level of factual "news." This legitimizes them as now being worthy of inclusion as an "alternative point of view" that should be spoken to in serious discussions of politics. CNN and the so-called liberal media then circulate Right-wing propaganda to a broader public outside of the Fox News echo chamber.

"It is clear that Donald Trump is good for ratings," he writes with resignation, "in the fantastical world created by Fox News and the Right-wing media:"

This is also true at CNN and for too many other outlets in the news media as well. Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate should be functioning as a watchdog for American democracy but is instead more beholden to money and profit than it is to civic virtue and truth-telling.

Sophia McClennan describes he entire 2016 election as an insult to our intelligence, and writes that "the real problem [is] not just that we don't have our facts straight:"

It's that we have collectively lost our ability to process information and make good judgments. To be truly stupid, you need to have poor reasoning skills. So our problem isn't just that we have lies substituted for facts; it is that we don't even know how to process information anymore.

In the era of Fox "News," she laments, "lying has become a common part of our political life:"

Now some 15 years into the era of constant political lying, it is time to realize that we don't only have a war on truth; we have a war on logic. If we focus only on the lies and miss the faulty logic, we get only part of the picture of why we have gotten so stupid. To be truly stupid, you have to have no grasp of what legitimate evidence looks like and no ability to process the information you do have.

She writes that "The Trump campaign is literally a lesson in stupidity and poor logic," and "Our political conversations have become dominated by either/or thinking, false binaries, hasty generalizations, slippery slopes, circular arguments, straw men and red herrings:"

As we have moved towards greater fundamentalism -- market fundamentalism, political fundamentalism and religious fundamentalism -- we have lost the ability to practice critical reasoning. Everything we think now is a belief rather than a reasoned judgment. Ideas can't be questioned, critiqued or debated because to do so would be to shake the foundations of our mind palace. [...]

In our current political climate, any correcting information is considered suspicious and threatening. Facts are no longer to be trusted. We live in echo chambers where our biases become truth claims. Any effort to point them out feels like an affront and leads to conflict rather than conversation. Rather than hone our skills of debate, we sharpen our spears to fend off our challengers.

TruthDig's Paul Street looks at the ubiquitous "PBS NewsHour" program and how it is funded:

The claim [of neutrality] has long been contradicted by the string of corporate-image commercials (purchased by leading financial, defense, auto, insurance and rail corporations) that appear before the network's nightly "NewsHour" broadcast--along with a list of corporate-sponsored foundations and superwealthy individuals who pay for the show, along with "regular viewers like you."

It is important that PBS news products exist within "the narrow capitalist parameters of acceptable coverage and debate that typify the more fully and explicitly for-profit and commercialized corporate media:"

Whatever the global issue of the day or week, "NewsHour" anchors and their invited "experts" can be counted on to report and reflect in accord with the doctrinal assumption that Washington always operates with the best of intentions. They almost uniformly treat the U.S. as a great, benevolent and indispensable force for freedom, democracy, security, peace and order in a dangerous world full of evil and deadly actors.

"Today's PBS, Street continues, "is not about to blow the whistle on the moral contradictions:"

There is a natural connection between the "P" in PBS standing for "Plutocracy" and it standing for "Pentagon." The core economic interests of the nation's superwealthy corporate and financial elite have long been global in nature. And, as the arch-neoliberal guru and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explained in New York Times Magazine on the eve of the U.S.-led bombing of Serbia, "The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist--McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the builder of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps." Friedman is a PBS favorite. He has appeared on "NewsHour" and other PBS productions at least 50 times by now.

Of such bricks is a media elite edifice constructed.

The idea of secret Hillary clubs, writes Slate's Michelle Goldberg, is an encouraging one:

One of the emerging themes of the last weeks of the presidential campaign is the resurgence of the right's "unskewed polls" theory, which holds that when Republicans are behind it's because the pollsters are sampling the wrong people. [...]

But the idea that Trump voters are hiding their true allegiance in large numbers strikes me as implausible. It just doesn't track with the swashbuckling, politically incorrect, in-your-face ethos of the Trump movement. Considering the huge gender gap, one would have to assume the shy voters would be a hidden group of Trump men who are telling pollsters they're voting for Hillary Clinton. If you're the kind of man who likes Trump, you're probably not the kind who feels the need to hide it.

On the other hand, there could be some "shy" Clinton voters out there who say they are voting for Trump in order to keep the peace with their aggressively pro-Trump husbands and maintain their standing in their conservative communities.

As usual, the scenario less comforting to conservatives is also far more likely to be true.

Indeed, Goldberg "spoke with several Hillary voters who said they had just decided to keep quiet to avoid confrontation:"

Clinton is the first female presidential nominee from a major party, and the opposition chose an aggressive, rank misogynist to oppose her. The fact that some women are reluctant to support her openly in the face of Trump's overheated followers -- especially women who normally vote Republican -- is a perfect example of why the secret ballot is so important. No matter what your community or your family or your employer says, your vote is your private decision. There may be quite a few women like those Iowa evangelicals who will cast a vote for Hillary Clinton this year, and never tell a soul.

Perhaps they won't even tell exit pollsters, which could drive losing Trumpites mad.

Speaking of the Trumptards, Neal Gabler explains how the media manufactured hatred of Hillary--pointing out that "Hillary Clinton wasn't unpopular when she announced her decision to run in April 2015:"

If you look at the Gallup survey in March of last year, 50 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of Clinton, only 39 percent an unfavorable one. So there was clearly no deep reservoir of Clinton hatred among the general public at the time. On the contrary: Americans liked her; they liked her quite a bit.

Already by June, however, her favorability had not only taken a hit. It had plummeted. By July, according to Gallup, her favorability hit an all-time low with only 38 percent positively and 57 percent viewing her negatively -- putting her 19 points underwater [while] "Trump's deficit was 24 percent"

Gabler writes that misogyny "certainly doesn't explain why her numbers nosedived last July," because "policy wasn't what the media were focused on:"

They were focused on emails. There was a court-mandated dump of Clinton's emails late that month, and the media leapt on it with alacrity. This certainly wasn't the first time the public had heard about Clinton using a private email server while Secretary of State. That news had come out in March 2015 and hadn't affected her favorability at all. But the fixation on emails, which had long been an addiction among Republicans and the right-wing media, suddenly became an addiction in the mainstream media as well.

Gabler writes bluntly, "You could say that Clinton was sabotaged:"

And that wasn't all. As reported in a study by Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on media coverage in the pre-primary period, Clinton received especially negative coverage -- overwhelmingly negative. At the same time, both Sanders and Trump received extremely positive coverage. As the report put it: "Whereas media coverage helped build up Trump, it helped tear down Clinton. Trump's positive coverage was the equivalent of millions of dollars in ad-buys in his favor, whereas Clinton's negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end."

Andrew Marantz's analysis of trolls for Trump looks at an allied dynamic among the more rabid conservative media outlets:

In late August, Hillary Clinton announced that she would soon give a speech, in Reno, Nevada, linking Donald J. Trump to what has become known as the alt-right--a loose online affiliation of white nationalists, neo-monarchists, masculinists, conspiracists, belligerent nihilists, and social-media trolls. The alt-right has no consistent ideology; it is a label, like "snob" or "hipster," that is often disavowed by people who exemplify it. The term typically applies to conservatives and reactionaries who are active on the Internet and too anti-establishment to feel at home in the Republican Party. Bizarrely, this category includes the Republican nominee for President. It also includes extremist commentators, long belittled or ignored by the media, whom mainstream pundits are now starting to take seriously.

Mike Cernovich of Danger and Play pushed the #HillarysHealth meme, and claimed that "Donald Trump has proven me right. People are tired of pussies." Despite asserting "I'm not a pure troll," Cernovich is unabashedly partisan: "If there's a story that can hurt Hillary, I want it in the news cycle," he said. One only wishes that his gleeful taunts that "We're going to make a whole new news cycle about her fucking e-mails again!" weren't enabled quite so vigorously by the "liberal" media.

Salon's look at Clinton's ongoing donor mess is much ado about very little--"once again, the Clinton Foundation's fundraising practices have churned up some politically fraught news coverage and questions about the ethical standards put in place for the former president's global philanthropy:"

In August, the foundation announced that should Hillary Clinton win the presidency, it will cease accepting foreign and corporate donations and spin off the majority of its projects to other charities. That was a good first step toward preventing conflicts of interest and also a recognition that the charity's fundraising practices pose political and ethical problems for the Clintons.

Now comes this Doug Band memo, detailing the ways in which Bill Clinton's personal financial endeavors were intertwined with his charity's fundraising efforts. That memo was written shortly before Chelsea Clinton voiced complaints that Band and his associates were misusing her father's name and influence to drum up business for themselves overseas.

It turns out Chelsea was right to be wary of Band. The memo was basically a how-to guide for leveraging a former president's profile into financial gain with as little ethical oversight as possible.

The piece summarizes the problem by writing that "documents like the Band memo make it impossible to completely separate the Clinton Foundation's charitable activities from the Clintons' personal finances:"

That's a perception problem, which the Clintons -- as political figures and philanthropists -- should have been going to every length to avoid. And it's one of many other ethical gray areas that seem to persistently crop up regarding the Clinton Foundation.

out the window

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The system is rigged, writes the Socialist Worker, but not against Trump:

DONALD TRUMP is lining up his excuses for why he's going to lose: the media is against him, Democrats are faking ballots from undocumented immigrants and dead people, blah, blah and blah.

In reality, few people have ever caught as many breaks in life, and for less good reason, than Donald Trump. But like a five-year-old-playing Candy Land, he has never known how to lose without crying foul...

Not surprisingly, the piece makes a pitch for Green candidate Jill Stein:

While Trump complains about biased media personalities serving as moderators--even after he received an estimated $2 billion in free airtime during the primaries alone, courtesy of the supposedly biased media--it was the Green Party's Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson who weren't even allowed to participate, because the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) only invites candidates averaging 15 percent in national polls.

The piece sees "a vote for Stein is the most practical step you can take in this election towards building a third party alternative." Laura Marsh gives us an overview of the Overton Window (see Wikipedia), which essentially defines the Democratic-to-Republican spectrum (lamented above) as the range of acceptable discourse:

Best known until recently as the title of an overheated political thriller by Glenn Beck, in the last year the Overton Window has been cited everywhere from The New York Times to The Rachel Maddow Show. Despite its peculiar origins and limited applications, pundits increasingly invoke it to describe not only Trumpism, but the Sanders surge, Brexit, and more.

The Overton Window refers to the range of policies on any given issue that are, at that moment, popular enough for a politician to campaign on successfully. Just outside of the window lie "acceptable" policies, and beyond those the "radical" and "unthinkable."

"Where we once talked about shifts in public opinion," writes Marsh, "we now talk about the Overton Window moving, implying an unfair tampering with the consensus:"

There is now a window of policies that are acceptable to the Republican base, and another for Democrats, but on the national level, there is no window. Instead of a consensus edging one way or another, we have a choice between two poles. The Overton Window is ultimately a name for what we have lost, not an indication of where we are headed. Its popularity today represents a powerful nostalgia for the center. It doesn't help us overcome fragmentation or rebuild a consensus. Its attractiveness lies in its reassurance that a middle ground once existed.

In contrast, however, I would say that this election is less a contest between two poles than it is between the center and the far-right fringe.

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