America’s Information-Age Coup

trump-putin-image It appears that Vladimir Putin and like-minded Americans captured the electoral college by manipulating the flow of information and disinformation. Was the U.S. election an information-age coup?

In the most familiar kind of traditional coup, members of a minority faction in the military seize the reins of power at gunpoint and install leaders who share their goals. That would not have worked in the United States in 2016. While there are dissenters in any group, America’s military remains broadly committed to our 200-year-old experiment in democracy, even when things don’t go as some might prefer. So, when Russia’s leadership and intelligence community decided they wanted an ally in Washington D.C., they had to take a different approach.

And they found one.

Since World War II, Russia’s government has relied heavily on disinformation to manipulate public opinion, both at home and in Eastern Europe. From the heavy-handed propaganda posters of the Stalin era, the Kremlin has transitioned to increasingly sophisticated and targeted messaging, as has the advertising industry more broadly.

Manipulation works best when people don’t feel manipulated—when the agent doing the manipulating simply identifies and amplifies specific fears, hopes, and attitudes in their target audience, or else feeds doubt and confusion, which then increases the likelihood of the targets behaving as desired. On occasion this can be accomplished even by spreading factual information but in a way that skew proportions relative to other kinds of factual information, and so skews perceptions and priorities. For example, in the U.S., the Right uses “fair and balanced” presentation of null-effect climate research for this purpose.

Russia’s government aggressively distorts information related to their own international behavior—for example painting themselves as the victims during their 2014 invasion of Crimea. But until recently, the Kremlin had limited ability to manipulate the internal affairs of other countries beyond the Balkans. Rapid changes in media and information technology have changed that. The Kremlin now finances * a $400 million media operation that reaches over 100 countries and includes extensive social media operations. The Russia Today network broadcasts a wide range of news and entertainment, but with a selective filter on issues relevant to the Putin administration’s economic and political objectives.  *[This link lead to a speech given by the US ambassador to Germany: “Ambassador John B. Emerson gave the opening remarks at “Exposing Russian Disinformation in the 21st Century,” a conference sponsored by the Atlantic Council, the European Council on Foreign Relations, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation on June 25, 2015 in Berlin.” The article was pulled from the Atlantic Council website on December 14, 2016 but can be viewed at the cached site, or I have a copy.]

Countries around the world are waking up to the fact that their own populations and internal affairs are more vulnerable than ever to manipulation from the outside—especially by social media.  Putin sees this as a way to regain superpower status –by using media to redirect the machinery of outside democracies to serve Russian interests. Not that Russia is alone in this attempt. Since World War II, the U.S. State Department has produced Voice of America radio, which broadcasts across borders into other countries in an attempt to shape their internal affairs. The game isn’t new; it’s just being played on a new platform—online—and on a whole new scale.

This has been a year of aggressive moves for Putin, and not only in the Syrian conflict. It appears that Russian operatives may have pursued their known goal of  undermining the European Union by influencing Britain’s Brexit vote and the upcoming German election. As is becoming clear, this fall Putin also saw an opportunity to influence America’s election thanks to a storm of factors:

The Candidate: Donald Trump, with his strong business ties to Russia and otherwise ignorance of geopolitical affairs, emerged as the Republican candidate.

The Spys and Hackers: Security weaknesses allowed likely KGB hacking of DNC emails, which were given to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and selective released to maximize election impact. (Note that Assange continues despite electronic evidence to deny that the KGB played a role.) Meanwhile Russia had the benefit of a valuable ally in FBI Director, James Comey, who kept public outrage about email security focused on Clinton’s server. I don’t mean to imply that Assange or Comey was intentionally working for a foreign state. My best guess is that they, like many others, had their own reasons for wanting a Trump presidency. In any coup, participants do what they do as a means to their own ends. In any war, including a propaganda war, the role of the generals is to see a pattern of opportunity in the existing landscape, and to use it.

The Social Media: By spring of 2016, a majority of American adults said that they get news via Facebook and other social media. This means their news is filtered by mathematical algorithms that monitor what kinds of titles and topics go viral among what kinds of people. It also means that media, increasingly, are generated not by venerable institutions with ethics standards and reputations at stake, but by well-heeled opportunists or back room hackers seeking “click count” and ad dollars. News is whatever sells, whether or not it is true, proportional, or important—and unfortunately things that are true, proportional and important often are far less interesting than oversimplified hype.

Tabloid and social media horror stories about Clinton built seamlessly on top of a 100 million dollar campaign to discredit Bill and Hillary Clinton, waged by American conservatives over almost 20 years and conducted largely through repeated tax-funded and privately investigations. This disproportional and distorted scrutinizing of Clinton’s actual failings was supplemented by fake news, some motivated by profit and some motivated politically. Many members of general public didn’t realize how pervasive and dangerous fake news had become until a gunman showed up in a D.C. restaurant armed with an assault rifle, intent on disbanding a fake child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and colleagues.

The Left-Right Divide: In the field of neurology, doctors who are trying to treat uncontrollable seizures sometimes sever the connection between a person’s left and right hemispheres. With a severed corpus callosum, the right and left brain literally can’t communicate with each other, and each may have a different perception of what’s going on. America’s Left and Right have a similar split-brain problem. Geography, religion, and those social media algorithms now separate us so completely that corrective information can’t flow across the divide. This makes a disinformation campaign cheaper and easier to conduct, and harder to protect against.

The Desperate and Declining Working Class: Pulling off a coup in a democracy means moving votes, and while security experts had concerns about our voting machines being hacked, it appears that the Russians and their American allies did a brain-hack instead. They didn’t hack the vote; they hacked the voters. And to do so they tapped in to the lived experience of economic decline, genuine distress about decaying communities and overwhelming culture shifts, and racial resentments that are painfully common among members of the struggling white working class. Nobody in Russia created these struggles and resentments or even suggested that Trump make them his campaign platform. They simply amplified what already existed—as Trump himself did via his campaign megaphone.

The Archaic Electoral College: As we all now know, the archaic peculiarities of our electoral system mean that the person who wins the vote doesn’t necessarily win the presidency, and in fact we can expect that that the vote winner will be denied the presidency with increasing frequency as population demographics shift. The electoral college system means that a vote from a California resident counts about half as much as one from a Wyoming resident, for example. It also means that a disinformation campaign doesn’t have to toggle the whole vote; it can selectively target the electoral college via swing states, which is exactly what happened.

A military coup is fantastically expensive and disruptive. By contrast, a disinformation coup—especially one that can be selectively targeted to a few voters because the country is divided and corrective information doesn’t flow across tribal boundaries is cheap. In this case, it was made all the cheaper by the structure of the archaic electoral college, and the fact that one doesn’t need to win the vote to get the presidency.

Under normal circumstances, leaders of the Republican party fiercely defend American independence and reject anything that might compromise our autonomy, including treaties, trade pacts and global bodies like the United Nations and World Court. But It is remarkably hard for people in power to push back against the system that put them there. In a successful coup, the people who end up in power have what they want. And in a perfect disinformation coup, they feel like they would have wanted it even if they hadn’t been played.

How many Republicans will find it in themselves to stand up for America’s democracy given that, at least in the short run, their party has just benefited from foreign interference? And if they don’t stand up, what will be the message to the rest of the world, and to the Russians themselves?

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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32 Responses to America’s Information-Age Coup

  1. My inner hobbiest-historian wonders if this could come back to bite Putin: enabling a proto-fascist to take power in America, an America that only knows how to get out of hard times by having wars. Trump is not smart enough to know that 21st century wars are to expensive to make the military industrial complex profitable for the nation/government as a whole.

    Like

  2. docatheist says:

    Valerie, you nailed it. The split brain comparison was particularly appropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wostraub says:

    Dearest Valerie –

    Thank you for having the courage to enter into the political fray, but I believe you missed a golden opportunity to reflect on the conflation of politics and religion in this country. Donald Trump’s refusal to recognize science (particularly global anthropogenic climate disruption) as a legitimate human endeavor and his veiled threat to stop climate research and destroy our country’s climate databases is the same as carrying around your Bible but not bothering to read it or really consider what Jesus actually taught. This is tantamount to the Nazis burning books in the 1930s and trying to literally destroy Einstein (“Er ist noch ungehangt!”) and all vestiges of “Jewish physics.”

    America is now in the hands of brain-dead, God-fearing, neo-confederate hillbillies whose idea of all scientific logic is just incomprehensible ivory tower “elitism,” and that it’s better to bury your head in the sand and trust in the Lord. And if things go awry, then there’s always the Rapture. God help us.

    Thanks, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. bscritic says:

    Great article. As a psychologist colleague, I like your split-brain analogy and wish I had thought of it.

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  5. Sha'Tara says:

    Interesting viewpoint. If I were Putin I’d be reveling in being given so much credit for superior abilities. Maybe Putin is a demi-god after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Perry says:

    “While there are dissenters in any group, America’s military remains broadly committed to our 200-year-old experiment in democracy, even when things don’t go as some might prefer.”

    While that may be true broadly, the military itself is far from a democratic institution. Military people are deeply indoctrinated into non-democratic authoritarian systems of governance. Many of us outside the US find it extremely troubling that authoritarian Trump is surrounding himself with so many authoritarian military men in his cabinet:

    Defense: James N Mattis, retired marine corps general
    Homeland security: John F Kelly, retired marine corps general
    National security adviser: Michael Flynn, retired US army general
    Interior: Ryan Zinke, former Navy Seal commander

    Those appointments don’t bode well for American democracy, nor do any of Trump’s other appointees. Most of those he’s appointed to head various agencies take ideological positions that are directly opposed to the purposes and objectives of those agencies. In some cases, as with Ben Carson at HUD, climate change denier Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry at the Dept of Energy, Tom Price at Health and Human Services, etc, etc, etc, they have publicly vowed to undermine or dismantle the very agencies they are now in charge of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • spencer522 says:

      While I agree with you, a word of caution. They said the same thing back in 1952 about electing a general as president. Eisenhower turned out to be one of our better presidents.

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      • Perry says:

        Yes, I’ve read some analyses that say some of those generals could have a modifying effect on Trump’s war drum beating, for example. And there is always the possibility that Trump knows exactly what he’s doing, as this interesting commentary suggests: “Here’s a thought: Trump knows what he’s doing” http://www.cbc.ca/news/opinion/trump-transition-opinion-1.3894622

        I just find it hard not to be cynical and pessimistic these days, as right wing movements and authoritarian regimes seem to be on the rise around the world. I have a difficult time understanding how they have such wide appeal. The Philippines is a good example, as there are parallels between the recent elections of Trump and Duterte. Having lived there in the past, I’m shocked and sadden to see the murderous Duterte get such high approval rates even as he disregards due process, the rule of law and human rights. Filipinos rose up against one dictator and now, not many years later, are embracing another one in the making.

        Liked by 1 person

    • rorys2013 says:

      Frightening to say the least.

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  7. Kent says:

    Valerie, you have long been one of my all time favorite writers/commentators/thinkers. I treasure many of your essays. You hit the nail on the head with this passage:
    “Manipulation works best when people don’t feel manipulated—when the agent doing the manipulating simply identifies and amplifies specific fears, hopes, and attitudes in their targets, or else feeds doubt and confusion, which then increases the likelihood of the target audience behaving as desired.”
    Clearly, you do not feel manipulated by, for lack of a better term, American propagandists. Sadly, you might as well go back to believing in the Bible as believe the claptrap you have swallowed regarding Russia, Putin, and America.

    Who owns American media? Who determines what is amplified and what is repressed in American media? Or, indeed, most of the world’s media? Many years ago the CIA admitted controlling all of the important figures in American media. (I apologize for the lack of specific details and links. I just don’t have the energy to access that information right now.) More recently, a German journalist published a book revealing how he and most of his fellow journalists published slanted articles on behalf of the CIA. Snowden, Assange, and a host of other whistle blowers, many of whom are former members of the intelligence community, have shown that it is America, not Russia, who dominates and controls information across most of the globe.

    Russia did not invade Crimea. Crimea was overwhelmingly Russian. The Crimeans themselves, almost unanimously, voted to rejoin Russia. Syria, a country fighting to hold on to sovereignty, invited Russia to send troops to assist them in resisting outside aggression.

    Yes, Russia, and every other country, seeks to obtain as much information as it can. Russia’s spying and cyber hacking is no more egregious than America’s. And yes, Russia had, and has, profound reasons to prefer Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton – namely self preservation, and, perhaps, the preservation of all human life on earth. But no, Russia did not perform a “brain-hack” on the American people, or some significant swath of the American people. That is absurd.

    Yes, there is political divide in America. But it is no greater than the divide between Christian believers and non-believers and yet many Americans, including yourself, Valerie, successfully crossed that divide. I must quickly add that I believe neither the Clinton supporters nor the Trump supporters embraced what needs to be done for the welfare of the country or the world. Both the Democrats and the Republicans serve the same corporate masters. Eight years of Obama’s presidency did not deal in any significant way with the world’s greatest threat: climate change. Nor did it reduce the threat of nuclear annihilation, Indeed, Hillary’s role in destroying Libya, among many other things, fueled those who were terrified of, what seemed like, her impending presidency.

    Believing something is true just because the “new’s” says it, or because the government says it, is not different than believing something is true just because the Bible “says” it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • spencer522 says:

      Kent, that was so well written and so true. I am a progressive Democratic Socialist, and quite frankly, I am even more fearful of the powers presently in power than I am of Donald Trump. I have enough faith in the American system and its people to believe that we can somehow get through the Trump administration even if it means taking to the streets.

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    • Hi Kent –
      Thanks to comments like yours i have added additional qualifiers and research to this article. I agree with you that the world’s greatest threat is climate change–which is why I found this election so devastating.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Perry says:

      Yesterday’s Democracy Now featured a debate between Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, and Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University.
      part 1 https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/14/slaughter_or_liberation_a_debate_on
      part 2 https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/14/whats_next_for_us_russia_relations

      That debate addresses some of the issues you raise, Kent. Stephen Cohen speaks of multiple narratives and US propaganda creating the fog of war. It’s quite refreshing to hear his point of view, which is rare in US media. Last time I saw him on that show was when Crimea was in the headlines. He had a very heated debate on that issue too, raising similar issues questioning which narrative was the factual one.

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      • Regardless of the merits of Russia’s military intervention in Crimea, Putin lied about it. He lied boldly and later made no attempt to hide the fact he had lied–an approach much like that of Mr. Trump.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Perry says:

        I found that debate “refreshing” not because I take a position on “the merits of Russia’s military intervention in Crimea”, but because its rare to hear debates like that in the media, and it reminded me of the “fog of war”. All sides in all wars lie and engage in propaganda and disinformation. As Cohen points out, the world is in a new Cold War. I don’t think Stephen Cohen was providing disinformation, but merely pointing out that one should be careful about accepting without evidence one narrative over another on any particular issue. He also raises the issue of free speech and being attacked for questioning official narratives, which chills debate:

        excerpt: “But what surprises me is, is that a man who represents human rights, one of which is freedom of speech, or, as Roosevelt would say, freedom of fear of speech, of being afraid to speak out, isn’t worried about this new neo-McCarthyism and isn’t on my side on this, that we should stop this. And he’s kind of—and let me finish. He’s kind of mangled it. I didn’t say that anybody who says something bad about Putin is the target of this neo-McCarthyism. What I said was, anybody who dissents from the orthodox account of how we ended up in this new Cold War—and if Mr. Roth thinks it’s not a new Cold War, he’s welcome to that thought, though he’ll miss all the attendant dangers. It’s the people who speak out who are being called apologists for Putin, and it’s chilling debate here. …
        We’re in the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cuban missile crisis. It needs to be discussed. And at the moment, it can’t be discussed because of these charges that everybody is a client of Putin who disagrees with the mainstream opinion.”

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    • metalnun says:

      I totally agree with you that, “Both the Democrats and the Republicans serve the same corporate masters.” But, you kind of lost me at, “Russia did not invade Crimea.” As far as whether or not a “brain hack” was performed on the American people, I’ve lost track of how many comments I read on social media prior to the election by people saying things like, “No matter how bad you say Trump is, Hillary is obviously MUCH worse and I could NEVER vote for her! She is a convicted criminal, a murderer, an accomplice to rape, pedophilia, Satanic rituals (etc., etc.)… She and Obama are in cahoots with the Muslim terrorists to destroy the U.S.!” If not “brain hacking,” where the hell did all this crazy stuff come from? Whether it came from Russia or someplace else, clearly brains were hacked somehow because no sane person could believe it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jimmy says:

    Where is the evidence that is sorely lacking in your claims that Russia has “stolen” the election?

    Wild claims like this with zero evidence only further divide our country. Remember 8 years ago, a few short years after 9-11 we had really only one choice to vote in the election? Turns out the president was very friendly to the religious Muslims. He bowed down to the Saudi princes, visited many mosques around the world. Remember that Obama sounded very similar to Osama? There were a lot of scared people running around on the right.

    What did the people on the right do? They accepted the president as their president even though they didn’t want to. That is what real Americans do. How did they cope with this president? They used the only way they could, to hold him accountable for his actions.

    I am not saying Trump is an ideal president, or the best person for the job. What people on the left fail to realize is that the voters that voted Trump in are sick of the liberal policies that have stripped this country of their freedoms, and their rights. They are sick of the biased media telling them what to think, as opposed to just informing them of what is going on. Yes, FOX news is just as bad, trust me. The “talking points” scandal a few years ago was a clear indication that all media is biased.
    In the name of everything American, the people on the left need to accept that they have a new president and stop blaming others for what is going on. Accept responsibility for what happened and do something about it if you disagree with the outcome of the election. Stop blaming Russia for the misinformation war you believe went on. Belief that it happened without evidence is the same thing as believing in Christianity.

    Like

    • metalnun says:

      I’m sorry, when did the right “accept the president as their president”? I must have missed that. I don’t remember it being announced. Here locally in the Redneck Riviera, I belong to the American Legion (my dad is a veteran) and the space where they normally hang a portrait of the POTUS, where George Bush Jr. used to be, has been EMPTY for the last 8 years. “How did they cope?” As I recall, their right-wing “representatives” in Congress publicly made it their mission to oppose the President every step of the way, even going so far as to shut down the government in order to thwart him – and then blame him for not getting things done. That you believe otherwise makes it difficult for me to accept as “factual” your position about Russia.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. rorys2013 says:

    The mind works with representations. Every thought that we have is a representation, it cannot be anything else. Representations can be of something real or of nothing. Useful thinking produces workable solutions. Representations that represent something real are the only raw material that can lead to useful thinking. Representations that represent nothing simply cannot provide any raw material for useful thinking and the conclusions arising from such thinking will be life threatening if acted upon. It is clear therefore that people need to ensure that the representations, i.e. thoughts, that they have are representing real items. This simple fact about our mental functioning is not consciously known by most people. Consequently people operate in default mode which automatically assumes that any thought must be of something real, i.e. be a representation of something real, just because the thought exists in their heads. Religions that are based on the existence of an unprovable external deity are founded upon this default mode of mental operation. Propaganda of any sort also exploits this default mode of operation. Our only protection from the default mode of mental operation is for people to become aware of its existence, why it exists and its antidote which is this knowledge.

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    • Sha'Tara says:

      That is a rather sad and limiting way of looking at things. Conversely, my Teachers would say, if you can think it, imagine it, in your mind, draw it, paint it, write it, then of necessity, “it” exists on some level of reality. All I need to do is realize which level of reality my thinking is operating on, and when an idea that can comfortably exist on one level cannot be “forced” into another. I just wrote an essay on the concept we call “facts” and what “facts” actually are. It is quite easy for a “materialist” who has given up any belief in spiritual entities, usually for good personal reasons, to claim that spiritual entities, or non-material entities do not exist. That is the faulty claim. They don’t exist in “your” material/physical reality because you reject them, but they certainly exist to those minds who tap into those other realities. One can have some very serious disagreements with the Hebrew/Christian God, as do I, but I know that God exists simply because billions of minds maintain the concept and certainly do act on it. They may not agree on exactly what that God looks like, or what his character is, but they know very well that such an entity exists. Saying it does not changes nothing of the reality created by this belief. Are most of earth’s people delusional? If someone believes in majority rule, I’d say that one has a serious problem denying the existence of entities which billions of mind interact with on a moment by moment basis. Reminds me of the election results in the US: The way the system is set up, the way the votes went, Mr. Trump won. There was no way he could win, but he won. Can those who “lost” invalidate those results by saying they are not legitimate? They tried, got to give them that; they tried to invalidate the system itself. As “materialists” are trying to invalidate a majority belief because… they don’t like it. Personally, until the “Social Darwinists” establish something obviously better than the religions they are so dead set against, I’ll reserve my judgment on God’s demise. Meanwhile, yes, all thoughts are of something real on some level. One cannot think about something that does not exist. All thoughts are facts – on some level.

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      • Sha’tara —
        Mr. Trump did not win the vote. He did not win even the Electoral College without cheating, hacking, and lying. No-one is trying to invalidate the process; it was and is inherently invalid–a failure of democracy on many levels. Those failures include the lack of accurate information, the deliberate corruption of the democratic process by moneyed interests, and numerous anomalies in our system that misalign representation with the will and interests of those represented.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jimmy says:

        This is the most clearly thought out most balanced opinion I have heard about the subject.

        As I’ve said multiple times, to multiple people, the Russians were not involved in the DNC email scandal. The emails were most likely leaked rather than their servers being hacked. Julian Assange from Wikileaks was interviewed by Sean Hannity (for the record, I do not like Sean Hannity!), but Julien – who has a perfect record in over 11 years of publishing information on Wikileaks – can most certainly be trusted. Remember, it was Wikileaks that announced the truth about what Hillary and the DNC had done.

        Thank you for your post Sha’Tara.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I have been slow to moderate comments on this thread because several pose an interesting challenge, and I haven’t had the bandwidth to tackle this challenge. For some time I have wrestled with the boundaries of free speech, both here and in our society at large. It has become clear that in our pursuit of freedom of speech we have lost sight of accuracy of speech. The result is that all manner of misinformation now proliferates in media and on the web to the point that it threatens our democracy and our future. Climate denial, political disinformation, fake news, baseless opinion that demands equal time with evidence-based research . . . our collective pursuit of truth is being lost in a sea of bullshit.

    I value freedom of speech in part because I believe that through a messy process of discourse and listening we are most likely to understand the complexities of our world. We all are prone to oversimplification and embracing partial truths, and contradictory opinions often contain the missing pieces that can turn those partial truths into a more complete picture of reality. When we shut out those who disagree with us, we cannot learn from them. It is also indisputable that censorship generally tends to serve power rather than the quest for knowledge.

    And that said, it is also clear that people need to step up and stop providing a platform for the proliferation of falsehood. Several people responded to this article about disinformation by writing responses that contain some combination of valuable, sincere disagreement and repetition of the very kind of distortion that prompted the article in the first place.

    On my blog, comments from new commenters have always been put into moderation, and with some exceptions, I have chosen typically not to post those that I perceive to contain factual errors, religious proselytizing, ad hominim attacks against me and others, meandering diatribes, or cut-and-paste articles that the writer is simply trying to proliferate to my readership. Once I approve an initial comment, these tend to slip through because comments no longer require active moderation.

    Moving forward, I intend to take a more active approach to making these judgment calls, and in some cases I will post part but not all of a comment or will add a response of my own in brackets in order to address the same set of issues.

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    • docatheist says:

      You framed this so clearly and so accurately that it should help anyone with bits and pieces of these thoughts floating around in their brain, to coalesce them into a firm foundation from which to view incoming information from every angle. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

      • docatheist says:

        I should have framed my own statement better, e.g. “from which to view incoming information, regardless of the angle from which that information comes.” (Also, I should have left out the comma after “brain.”)

        Like

  11. Pingback: Truth? Or Baseless Opinion? | Nan's Notebook

  12. I just read this article after being referred to it by Nan’s Notebook. Freedom of speech and truth are essential to our’s or any society. Our leaders and our government must never lie or fail to provide a full disclosure on all issues. It is our responsibility to defend all speech even that which we find despicable. Lies and fake news may need to be reviewed somewhat differently. It is our responsibility to have the knowledge to recognize both and to discard and discredit such words. Many people may have voted for Mr. Trump for economic or other reasons. Our greater concern should be about those who voted for him because he represents their actual beliefs. These are the more affluent, often Republicans but not solely, and those in office whose primary concern is being re-elected. Various Christian groups were just as supportive of him. These people all commit the same lie that of lying to themselves. We all need to confront them on their lies and hope the main stream media can rise up to defend and demonstrate truth on their printed pages and in the electronic media. Sorry to be so long winded but I do appreciate what you wrote.

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  13. The following response was submitted by a reader. I chose not to publish it without editorial comment for the reasons that are in brackets below. I have instead chosen to publish it as an example of how I intend to address such submissions in the future.

    “There are two issues here. One is the alleged interference by Russia. Two is the information which was made available to the voting public as a result of that alleged interference. [Yes. This observation merits publishing.]
    “It seems to me that those who are in hot water because of the information released to the public are directing the public’s attention away from that information in order to minimize or eliminate the damage done by that information. [No actually, the issue of foreign actors hacking into our electoral system and seeking to influence an election is a national security issue.]
    “Take the revelations that the Clinton campaign in collusion with the then DNC chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, deliberately sabotaged Bernie Sander’s campaign as an example. Then add to that the revelations that after Schultz resigned the acting DNC chairwoman, Donna Brazile, gave debate questions to Hillary in order to help her during the debates.
    Should the outcry be that the information was made available to the voting public or more correctly that Clinton and her campaign were involved in criminal and corrupt activity? [Both kinds of behavior are damaging to our democracy, but to the best of my knowledge none of this was criminal. The Right’s incessant refrain that Clinton has engaged in criminal behavior–after Republicans have spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars on investigations over the course of 20 years (including over 65m in taxpayer funds during the Clinton administration alone)–suggests out of the gate that Mr. Camara isn’t interested in sorting out what is real. Here, scheming to undermine an opponent is somehow elevated over assaults on our democracy that include voter suppression, gerrymandering, fake news and a hacking scandal that makes Nixon look like an amateur.]
    “The was a great deal of information released to the public by hackers which opened the public’s eyes to the level of corruption in the establishment here in America. Not only is our political system corrupt, but so is the media. Trump’s election is a direct result of the public being awakened from the fog they were in and having the information needed to make a rational decision during a very turbulent presidential campaign. [Again, the level of intellectual dishonesty here is somewhat hard to address. Yes, our system is corrupt, but differences in degree are consequential. And Trump’s election is the direct result of fog being created, not cleared. He is now acknowledging and dismissing his own lies as boldly as he told them.]
    “As for the electoral college, it is a great example of the level of genius which our founding fathers possessed. Without it we would be ruled by mob mentality. It gives every state in America the right to have it’s voice heard. [That was indeed the objective of the elite old boys club that also denied the vote to women, and black and Indian men.] Without it the more populous states would impose their will upon the less populated states. [ The commenter here makes the bizarre assumption that states are persons–and, by implication, that a person living in a more populous state should have their vote count less than a person living in a less populous state.]

    I do not have time to address every comment like this one and in the future intend to either excerpt from comments like this parts that I perceive as valid criticisms (whether or not they were made in good faith, as this clearly was not)–or i will leave them unpublished.

    Liked by 3 people

    • metalnun says:

      Thank you, Valerie. It’s going to be a lot of work, as evidenced by that post. There is so much disinformation that one hardly knows where to begin.

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  14. allanmerry@allanmerry.net says:

    Valerie: Yes, Good. As was your original post. It WAS important that you posted it, tho it is afield from your top priorities. And I understand it’s not practical for you to encompass the like. (My earlier short comment: the moment I sent it I realized it was Not implicit what I was commenting On. More explicit: Trump’s cozying up to Russia is what I call his most likely catastrophic craziness. Donald is a dangerous know-nothing. Russia is on the move big time for the last decade (and has been since the “cold war.”)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is great. I started my blog Millennial and Political to counter baseless opinion and the rejection of fact. I think we’re a long way from getting people to take fact seriously and stopping the spread of misinformation. Our President Elect can’t seem to stop himself from making inflammatory baseless accusations and critiques as well as completely denying factual, credible information when it best suits his narratives. And his supporters are buying it. In every post, I try my best to cite the facts I state and explain how I come to my opinionated conclusions. Because fake news is a real threat!

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