Opinion | Fox’s Fake News Contagion – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“You can relax, Sean Hannity, I’m not going to sue you.

Some people are suggesting that there might be grounds for legal action against the cable network that you pretty much rule — Fox News — because you and your colleagues dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis in the United States. Some might allege that they have lost loved ones because of what was broadcast by your news organization.

But lawsuits are a bad idea. Here’s why: I believe in Fox News’s First Amendment right as a press organization, even if some of its on-air talent did not mind being egregiously bad at their jobs when it came to giving out accurate health data.

And, more to the point, when all is said and done, my Mom will listen to her children over Fox News. One of us — my brother — is an actual doctor and knows what he is talking about. And the other is a persistent annoyance — that would be me.

I’m a huge pest, in fact. “I’m going to block your number, if you don’t stop,” my mother said to me over the phone several weeks ago from Florida, after I had texted her the umpteenth chart about the spread of coronavirus across the country. All of these graphs had scary lines that went up and to the right. And all of them flashed big honking red lights: Go home and stay there until all clear.

She ignored my texts, so I had switched to calling her to make sure she had accurate information in those critical weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March. She is in the over-80 group that is most at risk of dying from infection. I worry a lot.

But she was not concerned — and it was clear why. Her primary source of news is Fox. In those days she was telling me that the Covid-19 threat was overblown by the mainstream news media (note, her daughter is in the media). She told me that it wasn’t going to be that big a deal. She told me that it was just like the flu.

And, she added, it was more likely that the Democrats were using the virus to score political points. And, did I know, by the way, that Joe Biden was addled?”

David Lindsay: Excellent piece, thank you Kara Swisher. Here are a few of many good comments I recommended:

Todd
San Fran

@The Owl Wrong. A visit to any red state will quickly demonstrate that Fox/GOP/Russian talking points are the community discourse. Of course, it’s not just Fox, it’s the entire right-wing propaganda apparatus that parrots the same party line. Dissension is met with anger and, as your post demonstrate, derision. That’s one of the many geniuses of the far-right Fox rhetoric: it not only teaches a single-minded message, but also trains its viewers to become angry and dismissive when presented with opposing points of view. In that way they remain prisoners to the GOP agenda, and are convinced to vote and act against their own self-interest.

In Reply to Phyliss Dalmatian
866 recommeded
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BenR
Philadelphia
Times Pick

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, abolished by President Regan in the 80’s, a federal policy requiring television and radio broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance. That would be the death knell of Fox News and all the Limbaugh ‘conservative’ talk radio and hopefully lead to a more informed public.

23 Replies752 Recommended

Opinion |  Mike Bloomberg Is Hacking Your Attention – by Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

“This is certainly true from a media buying standpoint. Mr. Bloomberg has blanketed the airwaves with television and radio ads, spending over $250 million since beginning his campaign in November. Online, his campaign is even more prolific — NBC News calculated that he’s spent more than $1 million a day on average during the past two weeks on Facebook. He’s spent so much that marketers suggest the flood of ads might be driving up prices for the Trump campaign and taking eyeballs away from the president’s own buckshot campaign to own voters’ news feeds.

At the heart of these tactics is a genuine shamelessness that fits perfectly not just with politics but also the internet at large. Mr. Bloomberg is unapologetic about — and unafraid to hide — the money he’s spending. That transactional approach is an excellent match for online influencer culture, where young internet celebrities aren’t often overly particular about accepting good money to endorse suspect products. In the Instagram meme influencers, the former mayor seems to have found a kindred spirit of attention economy capitalists. “I would be down — bread is bread,” a teenager who runs the meme page @BigDadWhip, told The Times’s Taylor Lorenz when asked about posting sponsored content on behalf of the candidate.

On Twitter, where some Democratic hopefuls have adopted a “they go low, we go high” mentality, Bloombergians have instead opted to wade into the mud and wrestle with Mr. Trump’s Twitter feed. The strategy plays up controversy at every available opportunity to generate attention.

After news broke that the president mocked Mr. Bloomberg’s height in a Super Bowl interview with Sean Hannity, the Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman Julie Wood fired back with a Trumpian line of her own: “The president is lying. He is a pathological liar who lies about everything: his fake hair, his obesity, and his spray-on tan.” “

Opinion | Can Democrats Compete With Trump’s Twitter Feed? – By Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

Illustration by Ricardo Santos; photographs by Joshua Lott/Reuters and Parker Michels-Boyce for The New York Times

 

 

“A long time ago, on a different internet — where Photoshopped images of “God Emperor” Donald Trump riding atop a velociraptor were just a faint glimmer in a young meme lord’s eye — the Republicans were in trouble. Barack Obama’s 2008 win over John McCain was heralded as a digital over an analog. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s technological secret weapon to track voters in real time crashed on Election Day. A 2012 profile of Mr. Obama’s digital team in The Atlantic exclaimed that the “nerds shook up an ossifying Democratic tech structure.” By 2014, the conventional wisdom was that progressives had lapped the Republican Party in the tech space. I heard rumors swirling that some of the Republican National Committee staff were scouring Silicon Valley churches for tech-company hoodies, looking for programmers to hire.

Two years later, the narrative flipped completely. Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was quickly cast as a digital triumph. The campaign successfully harnessed its candidate’s divisive, populist rhetoric to plaster Facebook with ads. The ads worked, in large part because of their incendiary messages. Mr. Trump’s grass-roots support online came from a legion of posters, message board communities and Twitter pundits who flooded the internet with memes, toxic trolling and hyperpartisan pages glorifying the candidate and vilifying his opponents. Democrats were flummoxed.

The Trump wing of the Republican Party appeared to have a structural advantage in online politics — and there was no clear lane in sight for a wonky, hopeful, progressive message. And for the past three years, as Donald Trump has governed by Twitter, Democrats have watched and winced. An unspoken question hangs over the looming presidential election: On an internet built to favor controversy, can Democrats (or anyone less controversial than Mr. Trump) win online in 2020?”

Opinion | George Soros: Mark Zuckerberg Should Not Be in Control of Facebook – The New York Times

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Mr. Soros is a philanthropist.

 

 

Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

“At a dinner last week in Davos, Switzerland, I was asked if I thought Facebook was behaving more responsibly today than it did during the 2016 presidential election.

“Not at all,” I answered. “Facebook helped Trump to get elected and I am afraid that it will do the same in 2020.” I explained that there is a longstanding law — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — that protects social media platforms from legal liability for defamation and similar claims. Facebook can post deliberately misleading or false statements by candidates for public office and others, and take no responsibility for them.

I went on to say that there appears to be “an informal mutual assistance operation or agreement developing between Trump and Facebook” in which Facebook will help President Trump to get re-elected and Mr. Trump will, in turn, defend Facebook against attacks from regulators and the media.

“This is just plain wrong,” a Facebook spokesman told Business Insider.

I disagree. I believe that Mr. Trump and Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, realize that their interests are aligned — the president’s in winning elections, Mr. Zuckerberg’s in making money.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you George Soros, I second your points and demands. Facebook has become a menace, and while extremely useful for many little things, it is getting the big stuff really wrong. It has to play by the rules of other news outlets and publishers, and might need its own rules, which are even stricter.

Opinion | Trump’s Digital Advantage Is Freaking Out Democratic Strategists – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

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Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

“In a blog post published in November, a year before the 2020 election, Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote.org, a socially conservative advocacy group, announced that in Wisconsin alone his organization had identified 199,241 Catholics “who’ve been to church at least 3 times in the last 90 days.”

Nearly half of these religiously observant parishioners, Burch wrote, “91,373 mass-attending Catholics — are not even registered to vote!” CatholicVote.org is looking for potential Trump voters within this large, untapped reservoir — Republican-leaning white Catholics who could bolster Trump’s numbers in a battleground state.

Burch, whose organization opposes abortion and gay marriage, made his plans clear:

We are already building the largest Catholic voter mobilization program ever. And no, that’s not an exaggeration. Our plan spans at least 7 states (and growing), and includes millions of Catholic voters.

How did Catholic Vote come up with these particular church attendance numbers for 199,241 Catholics? With geofencing, a technology that creates a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a cellphone enters or leaves a particular area — a church, for example, or a stadium, a school or an entire town.

Geofencing is just one of the new tools of digital campaigning, a largely unregulated field of political combat in which voters have little or no idea of how they are being manipulated, in which traditional disclosure requirements are inoperative and key actors are anonymous. It is a weapon of choice. Once an area is geofenced, commercial data companies can acquire the mobile phone ID numbers of those within the boundary.”

“The explosion of digital technology has created the opportunity for political operatives to run what amount to dark campaigns, conducted below the radar of both voter awareness and government oversight.

In some cases, the technology is very simple: the anonymous transmission of negative images of candidates by individuals to Facebook groups. This activity is neither reported to the Federal Election Commission nor linked to official campaigns.

Steven Livingston, a professor of media and public affairs and director of the Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics at George Washington University, has been tracking this sub rosa electioneering in the current election cycle. He found that supporters of two candidates, Trump and Bernie Sanders, are the primary practitioners.

The Washington Post and The New York Times have both reported on the activities of Sanders supporters, but, Livingston noted in an email, “Our evidence suggests that Trump supporters use automated promotion or cross posting four times as much as Sanders supporters.”

David Lindsay:  Here is a comment that helped  put the bad news above into perspective:

WFGERSEN
Etna NH

The POTUS’ biggest advantage NOW is the circular firing squad underway among the Democrats, a phenomenon that will come to an end once a candidate emerges from the gun smoke. When that day comes, the anti-Trump animus will unite the Democrats in a way that did not happen in 2016 when the “conventional wisdom” saw HRC’s election as a foregone conclusion… and when the Democratic Party’s nominee emerges, rest assured that some of the DNC strategists know how to use digital technology to good effect and they will do so. There are miles to go before this election is over….

6 Replies149 Recommended

Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads – The New York Times

“SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.”

DL: Here is my favorite comment:

Concerned Citizen
San Francisco

Accurate facts are essential to free elections, the cornerstone and heart of our democracy. If Facebook is so arrogant as to not take any responsibility for the accuracy of what it publishes, then it’s time to break them up and shut them down. Really.

Reply26 Recommended

Opinion | Why Politicians Get a License to Lie – Charles Warzel – The New York Times

” . . . .  Throughout the Trump era, the media has often found itself caught in the newsworthiness trap. In his new book, “Why We’re Polarized,” Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox, describes this cycle as “a fortress of tautology: Whatever we are covering is newsworthy because everyone is covering it, and the fact that everyone is covering it proves that it is newsworthy.” Part of the reason for this is, as Mr. Klein writes, “to obscure the fact that the decisions being made [by the press] are decisions at all.”

Mr. Trump exploits the media’s blind newsworthiness adherence masterfully, as the political journalists dance to his tune tweet after tweet. It is even easier for those same politicians to manipulate social media, which is designed to lure users into an endless maze of amplified newsworthiness. The press ultimately must own its editorial decisions; the tech giants refuse to even admit that they make deeply consequential editorial decisions with every approved political ad and rule change.

Incendiary content from a newsworthy individual goes viral. It is given additional coverage because it went viral. The additional coverage makes it even more newsworthy and viral. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. With each iteration misinformation spreads, outrage grows, polarization hardens and politicians and those lucky enough to be considered newsworthy grow ever emboldened.

But newsworthiness is a choice masquerading as an inevitability. Amplifying lies and empowering our most divisive politicians with an endless supply of attention is not inevitable. When the press does it uncritically, citizens rightly demand accountability. We should demand the same from Big Tech.”

Opinion | We Talked to Andrew Yang. Here’s How He’d Fix the Internet. – By Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

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Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

CreditCreditMark Makela/Reuters

“This week’s Privacy Project newsletter is a pre-debate conversation with the former entrepreneur and current presidential candidate Andrew Yang. I wanted to speak to Yang since he’s the only candidate to address data privacy as a campaign policy issue. He’s a proponent of an idea that’s somewhat controversial among privacy professionals, which is that we should own our own data.

Our short conversation turned out to be pretty sprawling, touching on subjects like data dignity, whether Facebook should be able to run political ads, whether any of us have free will and what his proposed Department of the Attention Economy might look like.

This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation:

You’re the only candidate who has decided to make privacy a campaign issue. How’d you get there?

I’m an avid user of the internet and I understand that users are completely at the mercy of tech companies in terms of what happens to our data. They pretend it’s our choice. In reality, 99.9 percent of people scroll down and hit “I agree.” The trade we’re making is for cost and convenience, but in return we’re forfeiting our data.

That data is packaged and sold and resold and we are none the wiser. We occasionally get notifications of a data breachClose X and think, “Oh, snap, should I change my password?” That’s an irritation but what’s going on with our data is much bigger than that.”

This Is the Moment Rachel Maddow Has Been Waiting For – by Amanda Hess – The New York Times

“Maddow has hosted “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC at 9 p.m. five nights a week for 11 years. But over the past three, her figure has ascended, in the liberal imagination, from beloved cable-news host to a kind of oracle for the age of Trump. If her show started out as a smart, quirky, kind-of-meandering news program focusing on Republican misdeeds in the Obama years, it has become, since the 2016 election, the gathering place for a congregation of liberals hungering for an antidote to President Trump’s nihilism and disregard for civic norms.

CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

Maddow does not administer beat-downs or deliver epic rants. She is not a master of the sound bite. Instead, she carries her viewers along on a wave of verbiage, delivering baroque soliloquies about the Russian state, Trump-administration corruption and American political history. Her show’s mantra is “increasing the amount of useful information in the world,” though the people who watch it do not exactly turn to it out of a need for more information. They already read the papers and scroll through Twitter all day. What Maddow provides is the exciting rush of chasing a set of facts until a sane vision of the world finally comes into focus.”

David Lindsay:

My good friend Vin Gulisano had me over for dinner about a few years before he died, and what he really wanted to share with me was his passion for Rachel Maddow. We watched an episode, and I was ambivalent. She was sharp and articulate, but she gave her opinions loosely, as part of the news she reported, in a way that I thought was unprofessional.

The story above by Amanda Hess describes someone who has perfected a strong story telling style. I taped her show last night, and was deeply impressed. She has truly studied, relentlessly, Trump’s relations with Russia, and it gave depth and gravity to her understanding of the problems Trump now is having with the Ukraine. Her quote, from her recently published book, was shockingly news worthy and to the point. She was the first opinion journalist to say clearly, Donald will be impreached by the house, since he has already admitted to doing what he is accused of doing, asking a foreign government to meddle in our next election to help Trump.

One of my favorite commentors at the NYT.com, Christine McMorrow, had this comment about Maddow:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“By the time she cut to her first commercial break, she had zoomed out so far that Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine appeared to be just one little pushpin on a map of vast global corruption.” That’s what she does, and that’s why some of us love her to death.

Yes, her monologues can be tedious (Get to the point, Rachel!) but always in the end, well worth it. She manages to pack 100 pounds of news into a 5-pound news slot, weaving and integrating building blocks of understanding. It’s truly amazing how she writes her openings, and yet, at a dime, changes them in seconds to meet the latest late-breaking.

I’ve never seen any media person like her, and consider her a rare treasure in a sea of repetitive pundits. She may urge us to watch what Trump does, not says, but in her case, I want to watch what she says, each and every night.

1 Reply625 Recommended

Opinion | Trump Is Too Dangerous for Twitter – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“It’s almost as if Donald Trump is trying to get impeached.

By Twitter, I mean.

That’s where the twitchy fingers of the president of the United States have been working overtime to try to get him tossed off the digital communications service by posting all kinds of rule-breaking things and often in all caps with lots of exclamation marks — just so we don’t miss them.

But just as the internet companies have been gifted with a big hug of a law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which extends them broad immunity from controversial content that is posted on their platforms, Mr. Trump has been given an epic pass on Twitter for whatever he does.

Why? Basically, he’s been deemed newsworthy by the company.

True enough. But that means that every day and literally twice on Sunday, it’s more incendiary tweets and rage-filled tweets and appalling tweets and reckless tweets and misleading tweets and inaccurate tweets and really inaccurate tweets. And the many lies as tweets — so, so many tweet lies.”