Has Fake News Made us the World’s First #Trascist Idiocracy?

November 24, 2016

Washington Post:

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 Web sites 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. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

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.


At any given time, Coler says, he has between 20 and 25 writers. And it was one of them who wrote the story in the Denver Guardian that an FBI agent who leaked Clinton emails was killed. Coler says that over 10 days the site got 1.6 million views. He says stories like this work because they fit into existing right-wing conspiracy theories.

“The people wanted to hear this,” he says. “So all it took was to write that story. Everything about it was fictional: the town, the people, the sheriff, the FBI guy. And then … our social media guys kind of go out and do a little dropping it throughout Trump groups and Trump forums and boy it spread like wildfire.”

Tell me a little about why you started Disinfomedia?

Late 2012, early 2013 I was spending a lot of time researching what is now being referred to as the alt-right. I identified a problem with the news that they were spreading and created Disinfomedia as a response to that. The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly false or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction.

What got you engaged in this?

My educational background is in political science. I’ve always enjoyed the ideas of propaganda and misinformation. Then I coupled that with an interest in what makes things go viral. So that led me to finding those groups and ultimately to finding contributors. But it was just something I had an interest in that I wanted to pursue.

When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?

Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarah Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.

We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.


18 Responses to “Has Fake News Made us the World’s First #Trascist Idiocracy?”

  1. labman57 Says:

    Congratulations, GOP — you succeeded in putting a Moscovian Candidate in the White House.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Strange times indeed, our technology has moved on in leaps and bounds since the thirties, but have our minds ? This advice from Timothy Snyder (Yale Historian and holocaust expert), seems a little Draconian (this is the 21st century, isn’t it ?), but never-the-less makes a lot of sense and maybe relevant today as it would have been to Germany nearly a century ago. My spidey senses are tingling.

    “Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.”


  3. redskylite Says:

    I am getting worried – I hope I can still freely access this site in 4 years time and read about progress on the climate front. Many sinister things are happening now. I read today that NASA was being told to steer away from Climate Science instead concentrate on the moon, I read that Climate Science was Politicized or Politically Correct. Lord help us the term “Politically Correct” was a term coined sometimes in the 80’s to prevent wars and grievous misunderstandings, also the mistreatment of women at their workplaces, how it has been abused to mean something entirely different now. The worst thing is that education and wisdom is being confused with politics.

    New college professor ‘watchlist’ aims to expose professors who ‘advance leftist propaganda’

    A new website is asking students and others to “expose and document” professors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”


    • Paul Whyte Says:

      I know an old refugee from the eastern block country in the 1950s who fled the Stalinists for not being politically correct. His friends told him its was time. Two party members were coming from Moscow to there little town and they did not muck around. He fled to Australia to start a new life away from the politically correct requirements of that time. He spoke of politically correct being used in the Spanish civil war to target those who strayed from the correct line.

      So politically correct was already well worn by the time the 1980s had come along. Its had its sinister meaning from the start so I have been told by the ones in their 90’s.

      • Somehow don’t think Australia is quite the refuge anymore. With our own increasingly popular alt right “One Nation” party starting to have political sway.(Though there is some comments about them starting to self destruct)

        Is just hope that in the longer term common sense will eventually prevail. Just might take some time to get there…..

  4. Steve Belzak Says:

    Peter, you discredit yourself by indulging in this Russian propaganda nonsense.

  5. Ron Benenati Says:

    I found people on the left, particularly those purporting to be trolling for jill stein to be just as guilty of spreading false narratives about, and heightening fears of doom that could be expected from a Clinton presidency. Challenging people not to vote out of fear of trump and accusing them of being caught in a perpetual cycle of voting for the lesser of two evils…that would never end until they broke it. Of course, never mentioning the necessity of having a viable option for a better result was conveniently never mentioned.

    sharing distorted Right wing media posts and blatantly inflammatory headlines and anti-hillary vitriol disrupted social media conversations on progressive sites with such frequency after the convention, it became intolerable and impossible to have an intelligent discussion

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “….sharing distorted Right wing media posts and blatantly inflammatory headlines and anti-hillary vitriol disrupted conversations” on Crock as well.

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    Many threads back, jimbills and I engaged in a discussion of whether or not the human species was “worthy”. The discussion centered around man just being another animal subject to the laws of natural selection (jimbills) as opposed to a species who had evolved to the point that it was too smart for its own good and lacked the moral and ethical sense to ensure its own survival (DOG). I am still winning the argument. Humans are a scourge, and in just a few millennia (and mostly in the last 200 years) have managed to threaten the survival of all life on the planet.

    PS to Brian. Sorry to be the one to tell you, but common sense is dead, at least in the sense the Romans used it.

    “Common sense is a basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge things that is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people and can reasonably be expected of nearly all people without need for debate…..The second special use of the term is Roman-influenced and is used for the natural human sensitivity for other humans and the community”.


    And AUS never was much of a ‘”refuge” in any sense. I’ve said it before, but it looks like it will be the first developed country to succumb to climate change, and that prospect is NOT being addressed with much common sense by most Australians.

    • jimbills Says:

      Our arguments are essentially the same, though. You are just adding a human veneer of judgment to it all, which I think is a sort of twisted form of anthropocentrism in itself.

      Human intelligence is an evolutionary tangent. It has allowed us to accomplish great things, but it has also allowed us to perform awful things. It could very well result in our own extinction, and it already has and almost certainly will result in the extinction in a great many other species.

      We may impose our own human morality on this situation, and many do, but in essence we are just another biological creature performing its prime directive – to thrive and multiply. Any other species would wipe us out in an instant if it meant great feeding and reproducing opportunities for themselves and if they had the capability of doing it.

      All of our technology, all of our governments and cities, all of our self-justifications, all of our posing and conceit, is just us performing that prime directive, and most often unconsciously. Take Mr. Trump as an example. He’s an ape with a club looking to maximize his mating and social status.

      Humans probably cannot solve a matter like climate change, because we can’t overcome our own biological programming. It’s ourselves first, always (reminds one of Trump’s “America First!” slogan, and with good reason). We can’t accept a less prosperous lifestyle than the already ridiculously over-prosperous one we currently have, which would go a long way towards addressing climate change and other ecological disasters, because of this programming. Our intelligence doesn’t matter in this case – we tend to use that intelligence on detailed rationalizations and long-shot technological solutions rather than addressing the root causes of environmental destruction, anyway. Human morality and ethics doesn’t matter. We define morality in terms of the good for ourselves and our tribe, and its belief systems. This becomes malleable between culture to culture, and within sub-cultures.

      A lot of evangelicals believe deeply in morality, and treating their neighbors as themselves. They will also buy a huge arse pickup truck and shout nationalist slogans.

      We can’t treat matters of morality and ethics (and common sense) with rationality. We aren’t rational creatures. We’re rationalizers.

      A handful of humans truly, deeply care about the environment. Some of them believe (as I do) that adding a gajillion solar panels to an already inherently destructive system won’t prevent an enormous amount of additional destruction. But, we’re the rare case of humans where our morality aligns with environmental causes. Good for us! But, the vast majority votes and behaves with their wallet, and I don’t see that changing.

      Maybe we can learn from our mistakes in the future, but both our past and present tends to show a distinct favoring of the short-term over the long-term. We’ll see. I’m of the opinion that the odds heavily favor a dark future for our species.

      So, humans are BOTH “too smart for our own good” and not smart enough. We ARE subject to the laws of natural selection. It could very well end up that human-level intelligence is an evolutionary dead end.

      Add the word “worthy”, though, and it becomes a matter of – worthy compared to what? We are what we are.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Our arguments are NOT essentially the same, although we do agree on likely final outcomes for the planet and also that the way human societies behave is self-destructive.

        I am sorry that your engineering education apparently did not include much biology, particularly in the areas of evolution, ecology, and population dynamics, where you cling to your confused and simplistic understandings.

        We are NOT just another biological creature performing its prime directive – “to thrive and multiply”. We have evolved to the point that we are the dominant life form on the planet—-not in numbers, but in our ability through our technology to disrupt the laws of nature that have governed the existence and evolution of life on this planet for 100’s of millions of years. NO other species has the capability to “wipe us out in an instant” except perhaps for bacteria and viruses, and even they would take a while and not reach every human.

        Our “prime directive”, as you call it, is now to exploit the Earth beyond its capabilities to recover, and whether it’s done unconsciously or not makes no difference. I am NOT “just adding a human veneer of judgment to it all”, I am speaking of moral and ethical behavior on a societal and global level, which goes far beyond the simplistic idea of “judgment”, and is certainly beyond being “a sort of twisted form of anthropocentrism”. Anthropocentrism is THE problem that will destroy the planet, and what I said comes from my belief in biocentrism and “deep ecology”—look them up—they are the “antidotes” to anthropocentrism. Mankind HAS evolved to the point that we have “philosophies” and religions and notions of right and wrong, responsibility, and “worthiness”.

        I simply can’t understand how you refuse to accept the judgment that the human species is “unworthy “of its dominance on the planet because it has used its exceptionalism to travel down a path that may destroy all life on the planet, and certainly will at a minimum cause much suffering for what humans and life form may survive CAGW.

        What you say in closing after “Humans probably cannot solve a matter like climate change…” is pretty much true, and actually supports my argument (once you strip out the fallacious “biological programming” idea). What sets us apart from “programming” is our brain and what we have done with it.

        In closing this navel-gazing session, PLEASE stop saying things like “We ARE subject to the laws of natural selection”. It is true that “human-level intelligence is (proving to be) an evolutionary dead end”. Our brains and our technology have largely insulated us from “natural” selection, though—-self-inflicted extinction because we can’t sort out the morality and ethics of what we do is UNnatural (and “unworthy”).

  7. mbrysonb Says:

    Entitlement and an over-blown sense of personal security are part of the problem, I think. Those who are disconnected from the processes that make our comfortable life-styles possible (including massively mechanized agricultural production dependent on climate conditions that we are busy undermining and won’t be able to fix when they finally break) see food in their supermarkets, find electricity reliably delivered to their homes, get around easily and comfortably in vehicles safer and less polluting -locally- than those of our childhood, and take it all for granted. Of course they would like more money, and bigger houses, and paying less taxes, because those constraints on their pleasure and privilege are right there in their faces. The press and politicians exploit those concerns to avoid dealing with real dangers, and here we are…

  8. dumboldguy Says:

    “Here we are….” indeed, and when the SHTF with climate change or the Russians hack into and shut down our electrical grid, transportation control systems, and refineries (so that we run out of fuel), there will no longer be a disconnect. When people can’t “see food in their supermarkets, find electricity reliably delivered to their homes, or get around easily and comfortably in vehicles” we will see how the false pursuit of pleasure and privilege taste.

  9. Jean Mcmahon Says:

    I think anything to do w Trump and Russia has something to do w oil/gas..No?

  10. redskylite Says:

    What will be our future ? I won’t be around to know or will I ?

    Here’s some ideas from people far better equipped to judge than I.

    Will Human Evolution Be Shaped By Climate Change?

    “My suspicion is that in the end the super rich will live in mansions in North Dakota or some such place and the rest of us will drown.”


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