Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post.  As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus.  The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back.  He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.

The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days.  But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal.  If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference.  So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.

A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  I concluded that the goal is two-fold:  vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’.  Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.

The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election.  The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump.  The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections.  According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …

“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”

Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.

But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups.  Consider this example:  The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.”  It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.

Iowa-Hannity Iowa-Facebook

Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate.  Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge.  Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.

Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new.  But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation.  Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see.  My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site.  There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face.  I highly recommend it.

While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech.  Facebook-trump-adsMy earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone.  Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy.  I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day.  Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls.  I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.

Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election.  You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake.  But some will believe it.  Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong?  Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!

Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie?  Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t.  Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …

Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level.  I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio (there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview)  with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine.  It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .

As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days.  If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source.  Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.

Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!

20 thoughts on “Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

  1. Some solid tech advice on self-protection here, Jill.
    I keep telling myself to get off Facebook, which I use rarely, to protest Zuckerberg’s unwillingness to confront and end the damage his “platform” is doing. I agree that greed is probably his motivation; the result, though, is that he’s helping trump.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Annie! Like you, I really want to ditch Facebook to give a finger to Zuckerberg, but … it’s the way I stay in touch with some old work friends, and my nieces & nephews, so I have been hesitant to do it thus far. The last few days, though, I’m strongly considering it.

      Like

  2. Pingback: Discord & Dissension — Table of Contents | Filosofa's Word

  3. Reblogged with this intro.: I’ve been sharing some of the posts from Jill and Jeff in their attempt to counter the Trump administration’s lies. Not all of them, because they aren’t all relevant to followers outside the USA. But where ever you are, if there is an election in the offing you need to know that this is what you are up against. It has been seen in the UK at least since the 2016 Brexit referendum and will continue. The answer is to double check everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Frank Parker's author site and commented:
    I’ve been sharing some of the posts from Jill and Jeff in their attempt to counter the Trump administration’s lies. Not all of them, because they aren’t all relevant to followers outside the USA. But where ever you are, if there is an election in the offing you need to know that this is what you are up against. It has been seen in the UK at least since the 2016 Brexit referendum and will continue. The answer is to double check everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, Frank, for sharing our work. As you say, some of it is really only applicable to the U.S., but I think disinformation campaigns and propaganda machines are hard at work everywhere. Thanks again … we appreciate it!

      Like

  5. Jill, this is a clarion call post. It is easier to fool someone than convince him he has been fooled. What frustrates me goes beyond the actions and words of the corrupt and deceitful president. It is those sycophants that aid and abet the corruption and lies. Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, Rudy Giuliani, Jim Jordan et al, come to mind. They are attacking hard working public servants who testified under oath. They are attacking anyone who dares criticize the president. They are attacking the media for trying to understand the bizarre actions of the president.

    I left the GOP in 2007 for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons is a tendency to make things up. Now, Republicans push back on me saying both sides lie. That is true, but for every one Democrat lie, there are ten Republican lies. I do not care if someone is more conservative or liberal than me, but I do care when politicians lie about the truth. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • I am certainly finding out the truth of what you say — that it is easier to fool someone than convince them that they have been fooled. And you’re right, too, about his sycophants … they denounce and denigrate all who don’t fall in line with Trump, his policies, his rhetoric. For those in the administration who disagree with Trump, retaliation and retribution are a certainty. We all knew he would be bad, but I had no idea he would be this bad, nor did I think the republicans in Congress so readily become his lap dogs. I gave them credit for having more integrity, but now I see that was a mistake. I only wish I had more confidence that the people of this nation would understand what is happening and do the right thing in November.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Have you come across any evidence that Zuckerberg is a trump supporter?

    Also does the FCC monitor TV ads for accuracy or at least not outright lies?

    I so appreciate yours and Jeff’s hard work on all this. I wish they could have been published in a larger venue.

    While the gerrymandering, voter suppression will have an effect for sure, as will the Facebook ads, nothing can touch the real problem of the 40% who blindly foolishly and despicably support trump.

    It’s the rotted morality of this group that holds the key to our future.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on On The Fence Voters and commented:
    My good friend Jill continues our project this week with her take on the massive disinformation campaign that’s already in progress by the Trump campaign. It’ been said that $1 billion will be spent this year. Jill’s awesome post reminds us all that we need to be skeptical and vigilant this year. There’s just too much at stake.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If the person who perpetrates the lies that are spread tol give their side the edge can be found then they should be made to publically retract the lie on TV and in the news and fined heavily.Many of these lies impinge on the candidates personally and not just politically. Either that or it”s time to start striking back.so they’re all unelectable.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 3 people

    • I fully agree, but the problem these days is it’s all done electronically and tracking it, finding who was behind the disinformation campaign may not be easy or possible. While I find many advantages to social media, this is one of the downfalls … it makes it too easy to cause harm while remaining completely anonymous. Now, the FBI has tools for combating this, but … the election security bills are being stalled by your favourite senator, Moscow Mitch. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

        • I agree, and I think the penalty should be that they lose their jobs and can never run for another government office, not even dogcatcher. But, of course, that isn’t the way it works. Seems the more crooked they are, the longer they stay around. I like your flogging idea, though. And it should be in a public venue where We the People can go watch … and maybe throw tomatoes!
          Cwtch

          Liked by 1 person

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