Friday, November 25, 2016

The Age Of "Firehoses Of Falsehood"

A fair amount of attention has been paid, far too belatedly, to the issue of right- wing "fake news" corrupting social media platforms like Facebook, Google and YouTube.  Now, two teams of researchers have concluded that a main generator of "fake news" was the vicious anti- democratic regime of Russian President Vladimir "Vlad the Invader" Putin, and the intent was to undermine American democracy:
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. 
Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. [snip]
There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. 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. 
The Russians have become increasingly sophisticated in sowing disinformation throughout Western democracies using Western technology and platforms. As one of the research groups noted, the interference in our recent election is by no means an anomaly:
The Rand report — which dubbed Russian propaganda efforts a “firehose of falsehood” because of their speed, power and relentlessness — traced the country’s current generation of online propaganda work to the 2008 incursion into neighboring Georgia, when Russia sought to blunt international criticism of its aggression by pushing alternative explanations online.
The same tactics, researchers said, helped Russia shape international opinions about its 2014 annexation of Crimea and its military intervention in Syria, which started last year. Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the “Brexit” departure of Britain from the European Union.  (our emphasis)
Now Putin's dreams have been realized. An autocratic demagogue in the form of neo- fascist and Putin useful idiot Donald "Rump" Trump has become president- elect (thanks to an archaic, anti- democratic mechanism), after a vicious, post- truth campaign that left America more divided and cynical than perhaps ever before. Furthermore, the concept of a "firehose of falsehood" can be seen to have been successfully deployed not only by the Russian propaganda machine but by their favored candidate himself and his hordes of knuckle- draggers in the wingnut Wurlitzer.

The "firehose of falsehood" that Rump employed during the campaign has been amply documented by PolitiFact, the WaPo fact checker, Politico, and others.  No presidential candidate in modern history has been the source of such outlandish, demonstrably false and inflammatory nonsense as Rump.  No candidate in modern history relied on this deluge of lies, innuendo, and deception more than Rump did, in order to divert attention from that other "firehose":  his encyclopedic range of chicanery, scandals and offenses against decency that overwhelmed the senses on a daily basis. An overwhelmed corporate media whose business models dictated that they gave as much uncritical attention to the demagogue as possible was thus largely precluded from telling the truth about what was plain for all to see. They found it easier to harp on a few Clinton nothingburgers day after day than to deal with the avalanche of evidence that Rump was a fatal bacteria being inserted into the political bloodstream of the country.

As was once said in a different time, a lie will travel around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on. Today we're in a new age -- when you have firehoses of modern technology, combined with a sinister foreign government, a supine media, and a sociopathic demagogue for whom no lie is too outrageous or malicious if it advances him, all working in concert -- and we're not sure the truth has a chance at all anymore.

BONUS:  Another piece of the Putin/ Rump/ neo- Nazi picture emerges.

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