Tuesday: Disinfowar Dust Up

In this roundup: Disinfowar, fossil fuels’ finale, pipeline problems, and a longish short about evolving hope.

The embedded feature video here, Dust by Ember Lab, won a number of awards last year. It’s a gritty blend of real and fantasy, and the closest thing to a American feature film with an Asian lead (there were no true feature-length films with an Asian/Asian-American lead or co-lead last year). It’s a little exposition dense, but this is integral to the challenge of world-building for a sci-fi/fantasy story. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see this story extended into a true feature or a series.

If you haven’t already read Marcy’s latest piece today, you should do so soon. We are now deep in disinfo slung by multiple parties.

The one thing that niggles at me about WikiLeaks’ involvement in this latest volley of disinfo: why didn’t WikiLeaks release the Podesta emails when they originally said they were going to do so?

Or was skanky political operative Roger Stone blowing more disinfo out his ass when he tweeted about the impending Wikileaks’ release?

And how does the concurrent “Trump pussy grab” video story interleave with the WikiLeaks’ disinformation? Let’s take a look at the timing.

Early September — WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange claims to have documents damaging to Hillary Clinton which would be released before the election.

30-SEP-2016 Friday — WikiLeaks cancels release of an info dump on Hillary Clinton due to alleged security concerns. The info dump has been framed by some as a potential ‘October surprise’.

02-OCT-2016 Sunday — 12:52 am: Roger Stone tweets [email protected] is done”.

03-OCT-2016 Monday — Unspecified time: Producer at an NBC entertainment outlet Access Hollywood remembers video of Trump with Billy Bush.

03-OCT-2016 Monday — 5:55 pm: AP publishes story, “‘Apprentice’ cast and crew say Trump was lewd and sexist.”

04-OCT-2016 Tuesday — Date of canceled WikiLeaks’ info dump.

Midweek (no date/day given) — Access Hollywood’s executive producer Rob Silverstein and team have reviewed the video. A script is prepared for airing of video, but it will not appear Friday evening before the next presidential debate on Sunday.

05-OCT-2016 Wednesday — No WikiLeaks’ info dump.

07-OCT-2016 Friday — First thing in the morning, Access Hollywood was still working on story; an NBC source said the story “wasn’t quite finalized.”

07-OCT-2016 Friday — Noon: Washington Post’s David Farenthold asks NBC for a comment on the Trump/Billy Bush tape which had been leaked to him by unnamed source(s).

07-OCT-2016 Friday — 2-4:00 pm (approximately, exact publication time to be confirmed): Washington Post runs Farenthold’s story, “Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005.”

07-OCT-2016 Friday — 11:03 pm: WikiLeaks tweets link to “The #PodestaEmails Part 1.

09-OCT-2016 Sunday — 9:50 pm: During the second presidential debate, Wikileaks tweets, “Hillary Clinton just confirmed the authenticity of our #PodestaEmails release of her paid speeches excerpts.

10-OCT-2016 Monday — 9:36 am: WikiLeaks tweets link with “RELEASE: The #PodestaEmails part two: 2,086 new emails.

A Google Trends snapshot of key words from these two stories also tells the story. To be fair, though ‘pussy’ spiked on Friday, it’s a pretty popular internet search term (in case this had not occurred to some of our readers).

[Source: Google Trends - compare terms:'wikileaks', 'hillary', 'podesta''pussy', 'billy bush']

[Source: Google Trends – compare terms:’wikileaks'(blue), ‘hillary'(red), ‘podesta'(yellow), ‘pussy'(green), ‘billy bush'(purple) – click to expand]

Really convenient timing, no matter the validity of the content in the emails.


  • Germany’s upper house of parliament wants combustion engine cars off the roads by 2030 (Reuters) — This is one of the most important stories so far this year: one of the largest single nation economies in the world wants to end use of gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles within its borders inside 18 years. How will this impact Volkswagen Group, the largest automaker in EU? At least VW now has impetus to move completely away from its failed passenger diesel engines. Political parties across the Bundesrat, the upper house, support ending sales of combustion engine vehicles. What next steps Germany will take is unclear as is the next possible response by the EC in Brussels.
  • VW’s CEO Matthias Mueller knew nothing about passenger diesel vehicle scandal (Reuters) — Might be plausible that Mueller didn’t know anything about VW and Bosch tweaking engine control units to defeat emissions standards since Mueller was the head of Porsche before VW Group appointed him to replace Martin Winterkorn. And we all know Porsche isn’t the first brand you’d seek when shopping for either passenger diesel vehicles or fuel efficiency.
  • Fiat Chrysler and Canadian union Unifor avoid a strike (Detroit Free Press) — The deal includes updates to two plants and a restructuring of workers’ wage scale while working around the impending demise of the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart car models. No mention of self-driving/autonomous cars in FCA’s future lineup, if any.

Pipe meets face

  • Russian facial recognition software IDs 73% of people of of million-person database (Wall Street Journal) — This application developed by startup NTechLab beat Alphabet’s facial recognition software. This gives me the fecking creeps, especially considering the countries interested in buying this software.
  • Facial recognition app failed when used at pipeline protest (Indian Country) — A Crow Creek Tribe activist found he had been ‘identified’ as a pipeline protester by facial recognition software though he had been at a family event elsewhere during the time he was alleged to participate in the protest.
  • Pipeline construction work resumes after appeals court ruling against tribes (ABC News) — In a stunningly callous move, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a decision Sunday evening — before Columbus Day, the observation which offends Native Americans — denying Native American tribes’ request for an injunction to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Work on the pipeline picked up again today, though the tribes vow to continue their protests. Protesters were arrested yesterday for trespassing, including actor Shailene Woodley. Woodley may have been selected in particular because of her high media profile and because she was streaming the protest online.

Longread: Asymmetry’s role in Trump’s rise
Worth reading NYU’s Jay Rosen on media’s inability to deal with asymmetry in the U.S. political system, and how this permitted Trump’s elevation as a presidential candidate. Personally I take issue with the concept that the “GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics.” In a two-party system where nearly half the population identifies with either one of these parties, neither of the two parties can be insurgent or an outlier.

Instead, this asymmetry — the departure from the past equivalency of either of these two major parties — results from the application of the Overton Window over decades to move nearly half the population toward a more conservative consensus. Applied too much, too often, and nearly half the population has adopted an ideology which is incompatible with the values espoused by a critical mass of this nation before the Overton Window was applied.

And the media, like meteorologists focusing on the day’s weather — is it cloudy or sunny? rain or shine? — missed the entire shift of the political climate toward fascism. Rather like the financial crisis of 2008, for that matter, when they failed to adequately look at the big picture before the entire economy went over the cliff.

That’s a wrap. Make sure you’re registered to vote as many states have deadlines today. Check in with housebound and with college students to see if they are registered and encourage use of absentee ballots where appropriate. Absentee voting has begun in some states.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.
8 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    <a href=””>Board of Election Commissioners, City of Chicago</a>. Information in English, Spanish, Polish, Chinese, and Hindi.

    Early voters can use any of 50 or so locations regardless of their precinct, up till Nov. 7. Most of the locations are branches of the public library system, plus of course the County building downtown. The registration deadline is also Nov. 7, and mail voting applications have to be in the office by Nov. 3.


    (Like the little thingy for resizing the comment box!)

  2. seedeevee says:

    “why didn’t WikiLeaks release the Podesta emails when they originally said they were going to do so?”

    WikiLeaks did release “the Podesta emails” when they said they would and never claimed to be having  “an info dump on Hillary Clinton” on the day you claim.

    Must be Putin?

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The DC Circuit’s (and the Fourth Circuit’s) reputation for arch-conservatism is well deserved.  Both DC and the Fourth were special targets for Shrub’s most conservative appointments.  Brett Kavanaugh, for example, a protege of Ken Starr, was smart, young, and totally lacked judicial experience.  Shrub and the Senate put him on the DC Circuit, in part, as a thank you for his work with Starr and his work shepherding Bush’s other inappropriate judicial appointments through the Senate confirmation process.  Great ideological move, bad for non-partisanship and justice.  Mr. Obama has devoted zero resources to compensating for the plethora of such appointments by his predecessor.  We live in a post-racial, post-partisan time dontchyaknow.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The DC and Fourth Circuits hear most of the legal challenges to federal powers, authority and action.  They are principal farm teams for potential Supreme Court appointments.  Ensuring that they are resolutely conservative is key to protecting executive authority from effective challenge and restriction.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I agree with your comment about the impossibility of one of the two major American political parties being an outlier.  The GOP has the backing of a significant minority of Americans, most especially the most conservative and religious among our neighbors.  People whom Donald Trump would unemploy and pauperize without hesitation, whose religious and family values his actions decimate, are devoted to him.

    The GOP has moved resoundingly to the right for more than three decades: it’s 50-yard line is now where teams used to kick for extra points.  Having leapt to the right with Reagan, it toppled off the cliff with Gingrich and then Cheney/Bush.  Republicans continue to dig their way to the bottom.  The party retains a large following, in part, because so many people see it through old lenses (Eisenhower, Nixon), a testament to the power of propaganda.  Its adherents see it as simply the party of the right, representing conservative values, and the polar opposite of leftist, long-haired hippy Democrats.  That both images are badly out of date (corporatist Dems are to the right of Eisenhower and Nixon), never seems to penetrate the conscious mind.  Perhaps that’s to avoid looking into the abyss of what to do and whom to follow then.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jay Rosen’s article has a news flash. The NYT’s editor, Dean Baquet, finds it hard to integrate into his paper’s journalism that Donald Trump “so openly lies, and that was a word that we struggled to actually utter.” This from a Columbia student and Pulitzer-winning reporter with decades of high-level experience in Chicago, NYC, LA and DC. The pols and their machines in those towns must have loved him.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The news flash is a quote by Rosen from Mann and Ornstein’s 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks:

    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. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

    Rosen adopts the description with regard to Trump.  But he seems hesitant to be direct in critiquing the “symmetry” imposed by the MSM on its political reporting, what I would call the “fair and balanced,” he said-she said stenography that poses as reporting in much of the MSM.

    It’s wired to safely reproduce the image of two comparable parties with different philosophies.

    Rosen’s point is that the MSM “should have found a way to deal with [the fact that] ‘a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality.’”  Indeed.  It has put off the day of reckoning because changing the way political reporters write is too hard.  Needed change might rock too many boats, closing off the access reporters need to do their jobs.  Possibly, but only in transition, although profit- and influence-losing transitions cost media jobs.  I would call that a necessary price if politicians are to be held accountable to their electorates.  A boat whose captain refuses to steer it except onto the rocks needs to a new captain.

    Rosen, I think, draws a false distinction when he says that Trump wants to “break” the press, but Hillary only wants to avoid it, impliedly, to take it out of the election equation.  Both tactics would deprive voters of the information they need to vote.  A better description of broken politicians and a broken political process would be hard to come up with.  Rosen’s piece is ambitious and rare.  That he approaches these fundamental issues with such delicacy is a measure of how broken American politics and its political reporting really are.

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