The “Liberal” NY Times Focuses on the Next Disastrous GOP Daddy

It is never enough for the “liberal” media. Despite how the “liberal media” gets relentlessly dumped on and marginalized by the right wing nut machine, they are ALWAYS there to hand out some candy to the nutters.

Here are the estimable Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns in the Only Bunk That’s Fits To Print Gray Lady:

WASHINGTON — Senators Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse have already been to Iowa this year, Gov. John Kasich is eyeing a return visit to New Hampshire, and Mike Pence’s schedule is so full of political events that Republicans joke that he is acting more like a second-term vice president hoping to clear the field than a No. 2 sworn in a little over six months ago.

Well, crikey, good that the paper of record is covering this. What else they got?

It may get worse, said Jay Bergman, an Illinois petroleum executive and a leading Republican donor. Grievous setbacks in the midterm elections of 2018 could bolster challengers in the party.

“If the Republicans have lost a lot of seats in the Congress and they blame Trump for it, then there are going to be people who emerge who are political opportunists,” Mr. Bergman said.

Well, sorry I asked, turned out it was some entitled crap from a “petroleum executive”. Great call guys!

Swell. Excellent follow up to all those “Ignorant average Trump voters still ignorantly averagely love Trump” reports that are rampant in the beloved balanced media.

Today’s GOP, fronted by Trump and his ilk, is NOT an aberration, but rather the culmination of where the Republican party has been headed for decades, since at least Reagan’s bigoted opening salvo in Philadelphia Mississippi. It is the party of nationalism, racism, bigotry, scientific ignorance and revanchism.

But, hey, never underestimate the ability of the national media to keep on singing like they don’t know their actions helped put this country in the lurch it is in (Her Emails!!). And that their continued refusal to unequivocally call out the current President for the blithering dangerous loon he is, may lead to making the lurch far worse.

The answer to America’s ills do NOT come from the discredited daddies in the GOP, whether older like Mike Pence and John Kasich, or younger like Ben Sasse. We have seen this movie before, and it sucks in a very disastrous way.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

The Banality Of Evil Access Journalism

A tweet from a talented, but maybe Stockholmed, journalist favorite of Mr. Trump:

This reporter is old enough and smart enough to know and understand exactly what Rudy and Trump are, but still evinces this blithe acceptance bullshit?

Please stop, yer killing me. With every passing day, the initial criticisms as to the lameness of Haberman, Baker and Schmidt’s on and off duality of record “interview” of Trump look smarter. Greg Sargent was early with this:

President Trump’s extended, rambling new interview with the New York Times provides perhaps the clearest picture yet of his conviction that he is above the law — a conviction, crucially, that appears to be deeply felt on an instinctual level — and of his total lack of any clear conception of the basic obligations to the public he assumed upon taking office.

There are numerous worrisome moments in this interview, from his incoherence on the health-care debate (“preexisting conditions are a tough deal”) to his odd asides about history (Napoleon “didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death”).

But, frankly, the entire tenor and credulity of the interviewers – and the interview – as a whole is simply beyond belief. NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen hit on the latter in a very cogent tweetstorm, as to the interview itself.

But I have to ask the same questions about the journalists conducting this interview. There were a lot of knee jerk defenses, mostly by other journalists, of the manner in which the interview was conducted sans followup questions and factual corrections of Trump’s blatant and rampant absurdity and lying, early on Twitter. The thin skinned “interviewers” of course blanched and professed how much they were just “doing their job”.

At what point does it become journalists’ “job” to stand up for truth, have the guts to speak it to power actually during their access, and not just in seeking it? But, hey, maybe these NYT journalists can deflect it all by comparing the current American crisis to the not even close to analogous bogosity from 20 years ago in the Clinton era. You know, the same misdirection horse manure their access point Donald Trump relentlessly tries to foster.

The United States is not dealing with the same paradigm of politics it was even as recently as seven months ago. Both the citizen public, and the press that supposedly serves them, need to understand the fundamental change and adapt. The presumption of normality still being afforded Trump and his Administration is a disservice to both the people and their democracy. It is, in this critical living breathing moment, the banality of evil.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
Trumpnami 2 by Rayne for Emptywheel.net

Trumpnami: Someone Tsurfed the News Tsunami?

It’s a Category 5 hurricane of news when the pros can’t keep up. I laughed when I saw this tweet by Mother Jones’ Clara Jeffrey this Friday. It looked and felt like everyone in the news industry was flailing, dog paddling as fast as possible to stay afloat of this tick-tock:

Around noon: the news day erupted when Sean Spicer’s exit and Anthony Scaramucci’s entrance as White House Communications Director is announced. Media blew up the internet with all manner of content related to Spicer including Melissa McCarthy skits on Saturday Night Live and Scaramucci’s climate change tweets.

About 4:00-ish or earlier: some outlets reported on former national security adviser Susan Rice meeting with Senate Intel Committee about the Russia probe; Sen. Richard Burr disclosed it was Rep. Devin Nunes who created the “unmasking thing.” Again, media generated more chatter.

After 4:00 p.m.: all hell broke loose when the Washington Post reported on Attorney General Sessions undisclosed and intercepted conversation with Russia’s Kislyak. WaPo has a really annoying habit of removing the original time stamp on their story and leaving only the last updated time under the hed; the last update was 9:49 p.m.

There was another important story published amid all the hubbub, but it didn’t get anywhere near the same level of attention as the change in White House comms staff or Sessions’ perjury. I can’t find the original time the Wall Street Journal published its piece on Jared Kushner’s latest financial disclosures, but it was neatly sandwiched between Spicer’s hand-off to Scaramucci, and the Washington Post’s report on Sessions’ convo with Kislyak.

WASHINGTON— Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, on Friday released a revised version of his personal financial disclosure showing his initial filing omitted dozens of assets, including commercial real estate, bonds issued by the New York water and sewer authority, a personal art collection and a New Jersey liquor license.

According to the disclosure, 77 assets were “inadvertently omitted” from Mr. Kushner’s earlier form and were added during what the form’s footnotes describe as the “ordinary review” process with the government ethics office. Some 60 of those were related to one collection of bonds. The updated form also provides additional information about 77 other assets, offering more detail about the structure of Mr. Kushner’s real estate assets. Mr. Kushner’s initial disclosure, released in March, hadn’t then been certified by the Office of Government Ethics.

How interesting — a Kushner-centric story about yet more inadequate and untimely disclosures, published late on a Friday afternoon, closing the window of availability for comment given the impending Sabbath.

And the same story, appearing in WSJ, wouldn’t appear in the print edition until Saturday morning. It’s DOA by the time folks on Wall Street get the story, including the BILLION in loans the WSJ’s analysis team found Kushner had not previously reported — and WSJ itself had been sitting on this information until OGE certified Kushner’s latest report.

Suspicions run high that the White House leaked the intelligence on Sessions’ to WaPo. We know now WaPo had the story a month ago but didn’t run it; they were likely waiting for corroborating source(s). Presto, one just shows up; who had access to that intelligence besides the Gang of Eight?

The White House also had complete control over the announcement of the communications director change-over.

What’s the chances the Kushner story was likewise nudged to fit inside the news storm so that Jared could surf his way out undeterred by the press? Sourcing on the article appears immaculate; perhaps the reporters call the Office of Ethics in Government every day, perhaps they watch a feed, but the timing is so incredibly perfect to assure this particular story doesn’t get a lot of traction.

And dear Crazy-Tweeter-in-Law did his thing from the can the following Saturday morning — tweeting a spume of crazy, ensuring there’s little afterthought given to a gnarly hang-ten off yesterday’s massive wave.

The nifty little kicker is that it wasn’t just Jared Kushner who released belated financial data.

So did Ivanka.

Ms. Trump received $2.5 million in “salary and severance” from her father’s business operations, according to Friday’s disclosure. She also received a $787,500 advance for her book, “Women Who Work.”

[…]

The disclosure also shows Ms. Trump earned $50,000 for her work overseeing a trust for some of the children of Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of both 21st Century Fox and News Corp . Ms. Trump resigned at the end of last year as a trustee. 21st Century Fox and News Corp, which owns The Wall Street Journal, share common ownership.

There was more, but between the limits of Fair Use and just plain disgust, I won’t excerpt it here.

The question remains: by manipulating media, did Daddy give his girl a little push on her own surfboard, too?

Reminder: this is an open thread. Bring your crazy here in comments but behave.

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 blogs.salon.com, 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.

Sean Hannity Cries Himself A River

There has been a lot of upheaval at Fox News lately. Gretchen Carlson went nuclear on Ailes and the misogynistic rapey culture that Fox cultivated over decades, and nothing has been the same there since.

That is a good thing. It may have been a limited, even if loud start, but Carlson initiated ripples in the Murdoch empire that could not be easily contained, even with the ample crisis suppression talents of hired liar Ted Wells and his firm, Paul Weiss. The once closed barn door was open, and all horses and carts were suddenly out.

The Murdoch cabal, give them an iota of credit, realized the situation….kind of, and cut bait with Ailes in record speed for a bigly man that supposedly was untouchable and was a bff of Trump.

Probably motivated by Rupert’s sons, James and Lachlan, but still correct, even if horribly behind the curve of human decency and sexual harassment law. But so much has happened since Gretchen Carlson cooked the supposed golden goose, Roger Ailes, that common lore held responsible for all the Fox News golden eggs.

Whatever the impetus, Roger Ailes was summarily dismissed when obviously necessary. The Murdochs and Fox News probably thought that might contain the exposure of their decades long belligerent misogyny. But, no, then came the claims against Bill O’Reilly. An odious asshole every bit as despicable as Ailes. And one known as exactly that since the Andrea Makris out of court settlement over O’Reilly’s loofah phone fetishes back in 2004.

Instead, Fox not only kept O’Reilly until they could no longer, they kept Ailes Number Two, Bill Schein and attendant protective underlings in place. Until they no longer could. That started today with Schein’s ouster. And Hannity is floating like an overboard deck chair in the seas away from the Titanic, away from the mothership. (Killer graphic by the one and only Darth – click to enlarge!). But the suddenly disposable Sean Hannity deck chair is drifting away from the ignorant and misogynistic shipwreck he helped perpetuate all these years.

In any normal corporation, especially such a public facing one like Fox News, they would have culled the problems out immediately after the Ailes embarrassment. But not Fox. Oh no. Instead, Fox and Fox News allowed O’Reilly and Sean Hannity to bellow with umbrage about the public admissions of their owners of misogyny and bigotry. Fox, as a company, had not learned their lesson going back to Andrea Makris in 2004, nor insured that their precious bought and paid for “talent” did.

But now the Murdoch sons, James and Lachlan, are protecting the family name by cleaning up their father’s idiocy at warp speed in a way that the gel headed sons in the Trump family can only dream of. Today, the Murdochs the younger have outed Bill Schein. Via Digby, a quote from Andrew Kirell at Daily Beast:

Sean Hannity is looking to leave Fox News, according to sources, following the resignation of Fox News co-president Bill Shine officially on Monday.

Schein was Hannity’s long-time ally whom he personally recommended the network hire two decades ago to produce Hannity & Colmes.

So, cry me a river Sean Hannity you stuporous dolt. In recent days, Hannity warned it would be the “total end” of Fox News should Shine leave, and he rallied conservative activists to back him up.

Initially, insiders said, Hannity’s army of lawyers had hoped to discuss with Fox ways of protecting his 8-year-old primetime show, amid fears that Lachlan and James Murdoch—fresh off the ousting of Bill O’Reilly—were looking to push the network away from hard-right politics.

Yeah, good riddance. See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya, Sean. Go fuck yourself in hell.

[Okay, went with that version of Cry Me a River because it is sooo much better audio and video production wise than the one from Mad Dogs and Englishmen (with Leon Russell, of course) that I really envisioned.]

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

When “They” Go Low, The WHCA Grovels In The Gutter With Them

So, Trump accused the American press of being “enemies of the state”:

“A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are — they are the enemy of the people,” Trump told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Well, golly, what did that mean?? Yes, it is soooo hard, hard, to tell….OH, maybe not!

The White House on Friday barred news outlets — including CNN, the New York Times, Politico and the Los Angeles Times — from attending an off-camera press briefing held by spokesman Sean Spicer, igniting another controversy concerning the relationship between the Trump administration and the media.

Yes, it is so hard to tell, for the press, when all your love is in vain. But it is. From the WaPo:

President Trump will not attend the White House correspondents’ dinner this year.

Trump announced his decision on Twitter late Saturday afternoon. The dinner is scheduled for April 29.

Despite many people long advocating that the White House Correspondents Association get out in front of this, they, via their “leader”, Jeff Mason, remained cluelessly behind the Trumpian Eight Ball. The ostrich like action by Mason and the WHCA is almost comical, if not a total clownshow.

Here is the deal Mr. Mason, if you and the WHCA want to get your collective heads out of your asses, there are a LOT of people that would fund your scholarships at a LOT higher level that you do from your craven “Nerd Prom”.

So, does Jeff Mason and the WHCA continue on in the face of total humiliation, or do they do the right thing, cancel their yearly shitshow, and direct the resultant love to their precious scholarships?

I, personally, will be waiting to hear from the recalcitrant Jeff Mason. America wants to love the press. But not if they are unrepentant stenographer fools. So, Jeff Mason, what kind of leader of the WHCA are you? A stenographer, or a fool? Times have changed. If you cannot, you and the organization you purport to lead are dead fish.

What are you going to be, Mr. Jeff Mason? A toad, or a hero that reacts positively to strife? You could have gotten out in front of this blindingly obvious shitshow, but you diddled and twiddled your thumbs. What are you going to do now Jeff?

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Did NYT’s Mandarin Translations Cause Trouble for Apple?

In what was seen as capitulation to Chinese censorship and its own outsourcing interests, yesterday Apple announced it was removing the NYT app from its app store in China, in response to vague “local regulations.”

“For some time now the New York Times app has not been permitted to display content to most users in China and we have been informed that the app is in violation of local regulations,” Fred Sainz, an Apple spokesman, said of the Times apps. “As a result, the app must be taken down off the China App Store. When this situation changes, the App Store will once again offer the New York Times app for download in China.”

Deep in its story on the move, NYT tied the moment China first told Apple to remove the app — December 23 — to a story it would later publish on the subsidies Apple gets in association with the Foxconn iPhone factory in Zhengzhou and to a blog post on “a seven-and-a-half-minute phantasmagoria of the Communist Party’s nightmares of Western subversion.”

In the weeks leading up to the withdrawal of the Times apps, The Times was working on various articles related to the Chinese government. One of them, posted online on Dec. 29, revealed the billions of dollars in hidden perks and subsidies that the Chinese government provides to the world’s biggest iPhone factory. China is also one of Apple’s largest iPhone markets, though sales in that region have slowed.

On Dec. 23, David Barboza, a Times reporter, spoke with members of Apple’s media team about the article. Mr. Barboza had previously been in touch with the iPhone factory owner, Foxconn. He had also contacted the Chinese government as part of his reporting.

Later that day, a separate team from Apple informed The Times that the apps would be removed, Ms. Murphy said.

In another article, published on Dec. 22 as a post on its Sinosphere blog, The Times described an anti-Western internet video that had been widely promoted by Chinese public security offices.

Both of those stories were translated into Mandarin.

Indeed, the more substantive of the two stories — on the Foxconn subsidies — linked to a series of other NYT articles, a number of which were also translated into Mandarin:

Unsurprisingly, the article describing the move was also translated.

I’ve been tracking NYT’s practice of translating select stories into Mandarin since 2015, when a story on what seemed to be retaliation for the OPM hack got translated into Mandarin. While the choice of which stories get translated can seem somewhat arbitrary (which is part of why I’m interested), many of the stories — especially the post on the video, which covers the equivalent of the anti-Russian fever we’re engaging in here — seem focused on highlighting Chinese corruption or counter-propaganda/counter-intelligence efforts.

More recently, I noted that the NYT story on the DNC hack (which was very favorable to the DNC) got translated into Russian.

As the NYT story notes, Apple apps for other major US outlets have not been taken down. But the NYT one has.

As we discuss Apple’s capitulation — and it is that — I want to renew my focus on NYT’s decision-making process on what to translate to make more accessible to the citizens of other countries.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Bible Still Outperforms Facebook in Delivering Fake News

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We’ve reached the stage where articles about fake news themselves engage in fake news tactics.

Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman — who has written many of the stories on fake news in recent weeks — had Ipsos do a poll querying whether or not people believed some of the real and fake news headlines that got shared around during the election. He presented the results, in both tweets and his BuzzFeed article on the results, this way:

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But that’s not actually what the poll showed, though a number of people — even some of the people who are the most dedicated serious commentators on fake news — seemed to believe the headline without reading the article closely (that is, they treated it precisely like fake news consumers might, including sharing it before they had evaluated it critically).

Rather, the poll showed that of the people who remember a given headline, 75% believed it. But only about 20% remembered any of these headlines (which had been shared months earlier). For example, 72% of the people who remembered the claim that an FBI Agent had been found dead believed it, but only 22% actually remembered it; so just 16% of those surveyed remembered and believed it. The recall rate is worse for the stories with higher belief rates. Just 12% of respondents remembered and believed the claim that Trump sent his own plane to rescue stranded marines. Just 8% remembered and believed the story that Jim Comey had a Trump sign in his front yard, and that made up just 123 people out of a sample of 1809 surveyed.

Furthermore, with just one exception, people recalled the real news stories tested more than they did the fake and with one laudable exception (that Trump would protect LGBTQ citizens; it is “true” that he said it but likely “false” that he means it), people believed real news at rates higher than they did fake. The most people — 22% — recalled the fake story about the FBI Agent, comparable to the 23% who believed some real story about girl-on-girl pictures involving Melania. But 34% remembered Trump would “absolutely” register Muslims and 57% remembered Trump’s claim he wasn’t going to take a salary.

The exception should be an exception, because Buzzfeed shouldn’t have treated it as news anyway. Just 11% recalled Mike Morell’s endorsement, titled “I ran the CIA. Now I’m endorsing Hillary Clinton,” which appeared in NYT’s opinion section. All endorsements should be considered opinion, and this one happens to be from a proven liar with a history of torture apology, so for the rare people who knew anything about Morell, I would hope his opinion would carry limited weight.

What all of this shows is that the fake news headline claims Buzzfeed made last month, that “Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook,” should be revised. What that clickbait story actually showed was that the top fake stories received more “engagement” — shares, reactions, and comments — on Facebook than the top real news. But the last paragraph of the article admitted that might not be the same as actual consumption or even non-Facebook moderated engagement.

It’s important to note that Facebook engagement does not necessarily translate into traffic. This analysis was focused on how the best-performing fake news about the election compared with real news from major outlets on Facebook. It’s entirely possible — and likely — that the mainstream sites received more traffic to their top-performing Facebook content than the fake news sites did. As as the Facebook spokesman noted, large news sites overall see more engagement on Facebook than fake news sites.

What this newly reported poll at least suggests (one would need to do a more scientific study to test this hypothesis) is that even the most shared fake news was not really retained, whereas more of the real news was. And that’s true even in spite of the fact that Buzzfeed/Ipsos did not test the most popular real news (in reality this, too, is an opinion piece), “Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?” That’s a pity, because it’d be interesting to see how many and what kind of people remembered and believed that one.

Effectively, then, Buzzfeed was testing the most popular fake news (about the Pope endorsing Trump, with 960,000 engagements) against the third ranking real news (the Melania girl-on-girl story, with 531,000 engagements) and real news still performed better overall in terms of recall. Which would seem to suggest these Facebook engagements don’t actually track how much “news” — fake or not — people will consciously retain (I admit unconscious retention is probably an issue too).

Which is how I get to my claim that the Bible outperforms Facebook for spreading false news. After all, as recently as 2014, 42% of Americans believed in creationism, while just 19% believed in evolution. That number is changing quickly (importantly, as more purportedly fake news consuming youngsters who don’t consider themselves religious get asked). Nevertheless, a significantly larger chunk of the country believes that God plunked us down fully-formed into Eden than believe that an FBI Agent involved in the Clinton case died in a murder suicide.

We should expect more people to believe what they read in the Bible, because it is a story that gets reinforced week after week by people with some authority in the community. It also gets reinforced in institutions like the Creation Museum, where I took the picture of white Adam and Eve above. For people who believe in creationism, their religion is fundamentally tied to their self-identity in a way that politics might not be. It is precisely for that reason it provides important counterpoint to these fake news stories. Especially given the way that a preference for religious stories over scientific ones poisons so much of our ability to deal with crises like climate change.

Don’t get me wrong: algorithmically-delivered sensationalism is a problem (as are polls that get shared to make claims about headlines they don’t really support). But it is one of many problems with our politics, and the evidence from this poll actually suggests it isn’t yet the most urgent one.

Update: Pope Francis, who believes the notion of evolution can coexist with that of creation, just issued a statement calling those who spread shit news sinners.

Francis told the Belgian Catholic weekly “Tertio” that spreading disinformation was “probably the greatest damage that the media can do” and using communications for this rather than to educate the public amounted to a sin.

Using precise psychological terms, he said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement.

[snip]

“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into – no offence intended – the sickness of coprophilia, that is, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things, even if they are true,” he said.

Update: Matthew Ingram covers this issue at Fortune.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The #FakeNews about Iraqi WMD Got Hundreds of Thousands Killed

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This morning, Dana Milbank — who used to have a podcast with Chris Cillizza on which he once suggested Hillary would choose to drink Mad Bitch beer —  wrote a piece warning of the dangers of fake news.

After writing about a threatening email he received, Milbank considered whether episodes like the attack on Comet Ping Pong — which he described as “the family pizza place in Northwest Washington I’ve been frequenting with my daughter ever since she was a toddler a decade ago” — were the new normal. Milbank described the role of Alex Jones in making a “bogus and bizarre accusation” against Hillary. Then he turned the attack on Comet Ping Pong, in part, into an attack on the media.

This would appear to be the new normal: Not only disagreeing with your opponent but accusing her of running a pedophilia ring, provoking such fury that somebody takes it upon himself to start shooting. Not only chafing when criticized in the press but stoking anti-media hysteria that leads some supporters to threaten to kill journalists.

The man whose “Mad Bitch beer” comment targeted Hillary ended his piece by scolding Trump for fueling rage against Hillary and those who support her.

If Trump were a different leader, he would declare that political violence is unacceptable in a free society. Perhaps he’d say it after eating a “Steel Wills” pie at Comet.

But instead he continues to fuel rage against his opponents and his critics.

On Twitter, Peter Singer — who wrote a very worthwhile book that uses fiction to lay out near term threats to the US  — RTed Milbank’s story with the comment, “stop winking and nodding” at fake news because it can get people killed.

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Singer works at New America Foundation, but he used to work at Brookings Institution, which employs people like Michael O’Hanlon and Charles Lister to write propaganda, funded in part by Qatar, designed to generate support for endless wars in the Middle East.

In response to Singer’s tweet, I RTed it and pointed out that “The #fakenews about Iraqi WMD DID get hundreds of thousands killed.” That in turn led to some interesting discussions, most notably with Zeynep Tufekci, who claimed that by “conflating two very, very different types of failure” I was being unhelpful because those different kinds of fake news operated via different mechanisms.

Tufekci is right. The means by which an uncritical press — enthusiastically joined by the WaPo’s editorial page and many, but not all, of its reporters — parroted Dick Cheney’s lies about Iraqi WMD are different than the means by which millions of people sought out the most outrageous claims about Hillary. The means by which the financial press claimed the housing market would never collapse are different than the means by which millions of people sought out conspiracy theories about the people who didn’t prosecute the banksters. The means by which Dana Milbank got to insinuate the Secretary of State might choose Mad Bitch beer are even different than the means by which millions of people sought out news that called the former Secretary of State #CrookedHillary. The means by which the traditional press focused more attention on Hillary’s email server than on Trump’s fraudulent business practices are different than the means by which millions of people sought out claims that Hillary’s email server was going to get her indicted. All of those traditional news examples of fake news included an editorial process designed to prevent the retelling of fake news.

The means by which traditional news media shares fake news are different than social media’s algorithm driven means of sharing fake news.

Until you remember that a week before the election, Fox’s Bret Baier, who eight months earlier had moderated a GOP primary debate, reported that the investigations into Hillary “will continue to likely an indictment.” While Baier retracted the claim just over a day later, the claim was among the most damaging pieces of fake news from the campaign, not least because it confirmed some of what the most inflammatory social media claims were saying and magnified the damage of Jim Comey’s irresponsible announcement about finding new emails.

Baier got manipulated by his sources who knew how to game the means the press uses to avoid fake news. Baier got manipulated into sharing fake news that served the goals of his sources. It turns out Baier was not any more immune from the manipulation of his biases than your average news consumer is.

Now, the NYT (though not, I think, the WaPo) apologized for their WMD coverage and Milbank apologized for his Mad Bitch podcast and Baier apologized for his indictment scoop. No one has yet apologized for focusing more attention on Hillary’s email server than Trump’s own corruption, but I’m sure that’s coming. I’m not aware that the financial press apologized for the cheerleading that ultimately led to millions of Americans losing their homes to foreclosure, but then it also hasn’t stopped the same kind of fake news cheerleading that led to the crash.

Indeed, while it shows remorse after some of the worst cases, the traditional news media still lapses into the habit of reporting fake news, often in a tone of authority and using an elite discourse. Such lapses usually happen when a kind of herd instinct or a rush to get the news first sets in, leading news professionals to tell fake news stories.

And, now that social media has given average news consumers the ability (and after financialization has led to the disappearance of reliable local news), average news consumers increasingly bypass news professionals, listening instead to the stories they want to hear, told in a way that leads them to feel they are assuming a kind of self-control, told in a language and tone they might use themselves. At its worst — as in the case of PizzaGate — a kind of herd instinct sets in, with news consumers reinforcing each others’ biases. On Sunday, that almost got a lot of innocent people — families like Milbank’s own — killed.

Elite commentators may view the herd instincts of average news consumers to be more crude than the herd instincts of professional news tellers. Perhaps they are. Across history, both types of herd instincts have led to horrible outcomes, including to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people.

But as we try to deal with our herd instincts and the mistakes we all make (myself very much included), we might do well to exhibit a little less arrogance about it. That certainly won’t eliminate the mistakes; we are, ultimately, herd animals. But it might provide a basis to rebuild some trust, without which leads all of us — the professionals and the average news consumers — further into our own bubbles.

Update: This Current Affairs piece treats WaPo’s peddling of fake news — including the PropOrNot story — well.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

WaPo Cleans Up a False Michael McFaul Allegation about RT

As I noted in my last post, I’m going to do some posts on the whackjob article WaPo published over the weekend, magnifying the assertions of some researchers (one group of which remain anonymous) alleging that outlets like Naked Capitalism are really Russian propaganda outlets.

In this post, I want to look at a correction the WaPo made after it was posted for a day. The original story featured this claim from former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said he was struck by the overt support that RT and Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.

In the interim, RT appears to have contacted WaPo,refuting the claims in the article (many of the other outlets claimed to be Russian propaganda outlets have yet to be contacted by the WaPo). A paragraph has been added, incorporating a statement from RT’s head of communications.

Now the McFaul claim looks like this:

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, said he was struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.

And the article includes this correction:

Correction: A previously published version of this story incorrectly stated that Russian information service RT had used the “#CrookedHillary” hastag [sic] pushed by then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. In fact, while another Russian information service Sputnik did use this hashtag, RT did not.

The article itself didn’t state that. McFaul did. The article simply paraphrased his claim.

Note, it appears people responding to RT have used the hashtag, which might be easy to confuse if you didn’t look too closely. But then, so do people responding to WaPo tweets.

A proper correction would instead say something like this:

A leading expert on Russia, former Ambassador to Russia and current Stanford University Political Science professor Michael McFaul, claimed that both RT and Sputnik have used the #CrookedHillary hashtag. When we fact checked his claim after publication and after RT refuted the claim, we found the claim to be false, with respect to RT and have altered his reported claim accordingly.

Of course, that would entail admitting that some of the most celebrated experts on Russia — to say nothing of the ones at PropOrNot hiding behind anonymity — get sloppy with their accusations. WaPo chose not to do that though, instead suggesting they, not their chosen expert, had made the error.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

According to PropOrNot’s Conspiratorial Criteria, WaPo Is a US Intelligence Outlet

I hope to have more to say about the whackjob story the WaPo peddled over the weekend about the shady “PropOrNot” effort to identify and blacklist Russian influenced media outlets, which according to the anonymous people behind it include Naked Capitalism, TruthDig, Consortium News, and Truthout. In the meantime, I’ve put some resources below (and am working on a page curating links about all the claimed Russian plots this year, credible and no).

But I wanted to look at how WaPo itself stacks up according to one of the criteria laid out in WaPo’s “news” piece on propaganda.

Here’s how the WaPo’s propaganda hunters identify propaganda outlets directed by the Russian state:

The 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. [my emphasis]

One of the clues, these researchers say, is to ID common ownership between known state entities and other media outlets.

That got printed in the Washington Post, a media outlet owned by Jeff Bezos. Bezos is an oligarch currently worth around $62 billion dollars, largely through his ownership of almost 17% of Amazon’s stock.

And Amazon is a US government contractor, providing cloud services to the Intelligence Community.

In other words, WaPo and the Intelligence Community’s cloud contractor share a common owner, one of the world’s richest oligarchs, the kind of link that if Bezos were a well-connected Russian oligarch would easily mark the news outlet as propaganda.

I’m not making that argument. Thus far, at least, WaPo’s editorial focus doesn’t seem to have changed in the Bezos era (aside from decisions about coverage of DC areas news). It’d be hard to distinguish an IC-directed editorial slant from what the Neocon WaPo editorial page has had for a decade and a half under Fred Hiatt. WaPo’s news, on the other hand, has continued to provide a range of both great and questionable reporting; its reporters are roughly about as tied into the IC as the NYT.

In other words, WaPo remains what it was before an oligarch with financial ties to the intelligence community bought it. But we know that reading its content with a critical view, not by mapping out perceived and real connections. Doing that mapping would mark the WaPo as a clear government propaganda outlet that it is not.

This kind of conspiracy theorizing gets dangerous quickly. Even the WaPo — especially the WaPo — cannot afford such games.

Critiques of PropOrNot

  • Matthew Ingram judges that the effort to expand known Russian outlets to a global conspiracy gets out of hand.
  • Max Blumenthal examines some of the funding and past politics of those involved in campaign.
  • Hannah Gais examines PropOrNot’s weird definition of propaganda and (in an update) wonders whether its secretive team has ties to Ukraine.
  • Ben Norton and Glenn Greenwald map out how sketchy the PropOrNot group is.
  • Matt Taibbi notes that the left has become as conspiratorial as the right traditionally has been.

Responses from those blacklisted

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.