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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – October 21, 2018

You knew it would turn out to be this:

The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight.

The announcement, which came in a tweet from the Saudi foreign ministry, said that an initial investigation by the government’s general prosecutor found that Khashoggi had been in discussions with people inside the consulate when a quarrel broke out, escalating to a fatal fist fight.

And who would ever doubt the House of Sawed?

They came, they sawed, and they concocted a story, after two weeks of trying. Trump was correct, it was “Rogue Killers” who did it. Trump told reporters he thought the explanation from the Saudi foreign ministry of Khashoggi’s death was “credible”. He’s one of the few. Wrongo sees very little downside to never again reporting a single word he says.

The Trump Kabuki play rolls on:

We’ve lost the moral high ground:

Another reminder that we’ve lost the moral high ground:

Times change, and nobody’s running on tax cuts in the Mid-terms:

How some people overthink election day:

Sadly, no Republican sounds like a Democrat:

Voter suppression has become a core competency:

 

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Saturday Soother – October 20, 2018

The Daily Escape:

Fall near Halifax, Nova Scotia – October 2018 photo by zenox

Trump visited Montana on Thursday, where he praised Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) for assaulting a reporter in his bid for Congress last year:

Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my kind of – he’s my guy… By the way, never wrestle him…

He said that even though the US is hip-deep in the Jamal Khashoggi mess.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to assaulting Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs during the final days of Gianforte’s special election race in May 2017. When Jacobs tried to interview him about the GOP health-care plan, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs, threw him to the ground and punched him. Gianforte won the special election, and later pleaded guilty, receiving a six-month deferred sentence.

There was way more Trumpiness at his rally in Missoula, Montana. Trump framed the midterms as:

An election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order, and common sense. That’s what it’s going to be. It’s going to be an election of those things: law and order, Kavanaugh, remember common sense and remember that it’s going to be an election of the caravan, you know what I’m talking about…

And Trump debuted a new campaign slogan:

Democrats create mobs. Republicans create jobs.

Then he pivoted to the caravan.

Facing a sharp increase in unauthorized immigration, President Trump on Thursday lashed out at Democrats and the leaders of Latin American nations, seeking to deflect blame and mitigate political damage by riling up his base just weeks before the midterm elections.

Trump signaled with zero proof, that Democrats are somehow behind the caravan of immigrants moving toward the US:

But a lot of money has been passing to people to come up and try and get to the border by Election Day, because they think that’s a negative for us. Number one, they’re being stopped. And number two, regardless, that’s our issue.

He has also tweeted that he might summon the military to guard the southern border, cut off aid to Central American nations and upend the new trade deal with Mexico if those governments fail to stop a caravan of migrants from Honduras making its way toward the US.

He wants to use the military to mow them down at the border.

Stop in the name of your sanity! It’s time for a Saturday Soothing. Fall is upon us, and yard work beckons, but let’s take a few minutes to unplug from the mid-terms and focus on…quiet.

Start by brewing up a tall cup of Esmeralda Estate Porton Geisha Natural ($75/8oz.) It’s expensive, but you donate more than that to candidates who have zero chance of winning two weeks from now. So why not treat yourself? It’s from Dragonfly Coffee, a Boulder, Colorado-based micro-roaster that also supports worthy causes.

Now, move outside with your coffee, put on a pair of Bluetooth headphones, and listen to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, played in the original version by the Dover Quartet. Barber finished the arrangement in 1936. In January 1938, Barber sent an orchestrated version of the Adagio for Strings to Arturo Toscanini. The conductor returned the score without comment, which annoyed Barber.

Toscanini later sent word that he was planning to perform the piece, and had returned it simply because he had already memorized it! It was performed for the first time by Toscanini in November, 1938. Here is the quartet version of “Adagio for Strings”:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Russia and Kavanaugh

The Daily Escape:

Moscow supermarket – October 2018 photo by Wrongo

The two topics in the headline are not related.

Wrongo and Ms. Right are back in the US, jet-lagged, and at home in the Mansion of Wrong. Our Russia trip was an eye-opener. In St. Petersburg and Moscow at least, Russia seems to be a wealthy country by global standards. People seem to be well-informed about their history, and about the current geopolitical climate in the west. They are consummate consumers.

We saw quite a few churches, but the Russians we spoke with didn’t seem to put much emphasis on their faith. Increasing their income and getting ahead in a career sense seemed to be the primary thing that interested them. “Pragmatic” best describes the people we met. They are strivers, and hope that their government won’t screw up what the citizens finally have going for them.

Mostly, we were struck by how similar the Russians we met are to the average American. We had lunch with a couple in Uglich, a poor town of about 30k residents that is about 125 miles north of Moscow. The town hasn’t benefited from the 18-year economic expansion in the Russian Federation, and has unemployment in the 25% range. It also has a declining population, and crumbling infrastructure.

The couple we met had both lost their jobs in the 1985 Perestroika period under Gorbachev. Thirty-three years later, the husband has a part-time government job, the wife is unemployed. They grow most of their food in their ¼ acre garden. Their refrigerator is covered with pictures of the grandkids, who visit every few weeks.

Their message to us was that people everywhere have the same hopes and dreams, but the politicians always want to demonize the outsiders.

We returned to American just in time to start calling Brett Kavanaugh “Mr. Justice Kavanaugh”.

It’s not worth dwelling on his confirmation process, or repeating stale arguments. It is time to gather ourselves, to register non-voters, and turn out all the votes we can on November 6.

It also isn’t the time to overthink the closing arguments for November, despite polls that show Republicans being energized by the Kavanaugh confirmation. But, it is important to understand GOP messaging for the midterms. From the WaPo’s article, ‘An angry mob’: Republicans work to recast Democratic protests as out-of-control anarchy:

Weeks ahead of the midterm elections, Republicans have cast the Trump resistance movement as “an angry mob,” a term used by many of them to describe a faceless amalgamation of forces that they say threaten the country’s order and, they hope, energize their voters.

Think back to the Tea Party protestors who disrupted town hall meetings in 2009. From today’s GOP viewpoint, they were just good citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. And all those people who chant “Lock her up!” at the encouragement of their dear leader? They really don’t mean anything by that, they’re also exercising their right to free speech.

But when a few liberals pound on the doors of the Supreme Court, that’s mob behavior, and it can’t be tolerated. In Trump World, crowds of marching alt-right men with tiki torches = some very fine people.

And crowds of protesting women in Washington = angry mob.

We should remember that the American Revolution wasn’t a polite discussion; it involved mobs making a point, too.

Democrats are on the edge of winning the House. Before Kavanaugh, they had a long-shot chance at taking the Senate. Right now, Dems need to be smart. Richard Nixon won because he scared Middle America with pictures of immoral hippies who were demonstrating against the Vietnam War.

Let’s assume that those of us who are already energized to vote can work to figure out how to reach those who are only half paying attention, or who plan to stay on the fence all the way until Election Day.

It is clear that accusations of the type made by Dr. Ford don’t resonate with GOP voters. Roy Moore’s near-pedophilia didn’t seem to change any Republican minds in Georgia. Whenever a Republican is under attack by the liberals, it’s always the time for the rest of them to circle the wagons.

There is no single, lock-step message that Dems should use to take both Houses in November. The best antidote for those “Energized by Kavanaugh” Republicans is for the rest of us to get, or stay, more energized.

There is zero to be complacent about. The Dems could remain in the minority in both Houses after the mid-terms if they fail to turn out their voters in November.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 23, 2018

When Wrongo saw the headline in the NYT that Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein suggested that he should secretly record President Trump to expose the chaos consuming the administration, he had difficulty believing it.

This is from the NYT’s article:

Several people described the episodes, insisting on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. The people were briefed either on the events themselves or on memos written by F.B.I. officials, including Andrew G. McCabe, then the acting bureau director, that documented Mr. Rosenstein’s actions and comments.

So, no first-hand witnesses. Rosenstein disputed the NYT account:

The New York Times’s story is inaccurate and factually incorrect….I will not further comment on a story based on anonymous sources who are obviously biased against the department and are advancing their own personal agenda. But let me be clear about this: Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Turns out, Wrongo’s skepticism about the NYT was well placed. According to Marcy Wheeler, (who you all should read): (emphasis by Wrongo)

Not a single one of these people…was actually a witness to the episodes. Indeed, by description, none of them have even read the memos memorializing the events directly, but have instead simply been briefed secondhand.

So, where did the information come from? Wheeler quotes Andrew McCabe’s attorney, Michael Bromwich, about how the NYT might have gotten the memos. They were turned over to the Mueller investigation, but:

A set of those memos remained at the F.B.I. at the time of his departure in late January 2018…

The insinuation is clear: Somebody wants to set off the President. Someone at the FBI took McCabe’s memos and read them to people who could then leak them to the NYT. This is the NYT using third-hand sources to start another Saturday Night Massacre. Maybe it’s worth noting here that McCabe was fired for unauthorized disclosures to the news media.

Trump is desperate to release documents that will discredit the Mueller investigation. His effort to declassify a raft of documents has been sidelined this week by his administration. Now, out of the blue comes this helpful accusation against Rosenstein. As Wrongo predicted here, the Trump administration has wanted to make a move to fire Rosenstein, and now they have their excuse.

Trump needs to be careful. If he supports the use of McCabe’s contemporaneous notes to fire Rosenstein, then he can’t easily dismiss Comey’s notes on his meeting with Trump.

It looks like the NYT article was a leak from the White House. It’s time for The Times to think about firing the reporters and the editors who approved the article. On to cartoons!

THIS captures the week, month, and year:

Men, blaming women for men’s bad behavior since the Garden of Eden:

What the Judiciary Committee will do with witnesses:

More on the Judiciary Committee’s process of determining truth:

Mitch says that the GOP is pressing on:

The big double standard in DC:

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Let Dr. Ford Testify

The Daily Escape:

The Storseisundet Bridge, Norway. It is one of eight bridges on the Atlantic Highway — via themindcircle

Wrongo has tried to resist the developing story about Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who is accusing him of attempted rape during high school, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

And there are plenty of reasons not to write about it. It’s the subject of an all-out media blitz. Hundreds of new facts will be presented between the time this is posted, and it is read by all of you Wrong patrons. But, it’s an inescapable narrative, so here goes.

Since Dr. Ford is willing to testify, she should be asked to testify. Brett Kavanaugh has said that he would also like to testify in the matter. Marcy Wheeler offers an idea:

But she shouldn’t testify alone. Mark Judge should testify along with her. After all, according to her letter and the WaPo account, he was a witness to the event.

Mark Judge was one of Kavanaugh’s best friends in prep school. He apparently was in the room when the attempted rape took place. Ford describes Judge as watching Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, occasionally egging him on, and eventually jumping on top of her and Kavanaugh — a move that allowed her to escape.

Judge is now a conservative writer who has written for publications such as the Daily Caller and the American Spectator. From Vox:

He’s floated some controversial ideas in his writings — including asking in 2006 whether gay people are perverts….He’s also the author of several books, including one recounting his teenage years of alcoholism and addiction.

At the risk of assassinating Mark Judge’s character, he seems to, um, have a special interest in young women. He had a variety of posts to YouTube that have been taken down in the past day. You be the judge.

And why is it always that one guy who’s in the room when an alleged rape happens, and can testify for the defense that the alleged rape totally did not happen, turns out to be a just a bit creepy?

In any event, Mark Judge should also testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Most Republicans are defending Kavanaugh with the usual tropes and memes about how it was all so long ago, and why does it matter? As Orin Hatch told the NYT:

It would be hard for senators to not consider who the judge is today, because that is the issue….Is this judge a really good man? And he is, and by any measure he is, and everybody who knows him says he is.

By all means, let’s ignore prep school indiscretions: She was a girl, and besides, she wanted it, and it’s much more important that we comfort the comfortable.

On the other hand, a whole lot of us, even when inebriated and underage, never thought we had permission to pull a woman into a room, force her onto a bed, and clamp a hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming.

It really can’t be all that hard to find Supreme Court justices who have never attempted rape. Whether Kavanaugh committed an act of attempted rape yesterday, or 40 years ago, isn’t germane. Attempted rape is just a rape that was stopped.

If that’s in his makeup, then it’s always going to be a facet of his character.

There are plenty of judges who are willing to overturn Roe. There are almost as many willing to shield Trump from Mueller. But, if Kavanaugh can be brought down by one “youthful indiscretion“, no Republican is safe. So the GOP will defend him to the death.

Nothing short of multiple additional accusations will stop him. Maybe not even that.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – September 16, 2018

The Texas Board of Education is taking Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller out of their school curriculum because they aren’t “essential” to learn about. The Dallas Morning News spoke with two teachers from the board that made the recommendations. Both said the state required students to learn about so many historical figures that it resulted in rote memorization of dates and names instead of real learning:

The 15-member work group came up with a rubric for grading every historical figure to rank who is “essential” to learn and who isn’t. The formula asked questions like, “Did the person trigger a watershed change”; “Was the person from an underrepresented group”; and “Will their impact stand the test of time?”

Out of 20 points, Keller scored a 7 and Clinton scored a 5. It’s difficult to understand how Helen Keller got 40% more points than Clinton. Eliminating Clinton from the requirements will save teachers 30 minutes of instructional time, the work group estimated, and eliminating Keller will save 40 minutes.

Totally worth it. They’re adding Rev. Billy Graham, but the first woman to win the popular vote for President? She didn’t make the cut.

The board also voted to keep in the curriculum references to the “heroism” of the defenders of the Alamo, and Moses’ influence on the writing of the nation’s founding documents. They added a requirement that students explain how the “Arab rejection of the State of Israel has led to ongoing conflict” in the Middle East.

The problem with Texas eliminating women like Hillary Clinton & Helen Keller from textbooks is that what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. For decades, publishers have allowed Texas to exert control over what gets printed in textbooks nationally because Texas has 5.3 million students, more than other states.

Texas originally acquired its power over the nation’s textbook supply because it paid 100% of the cost of all public school textbooks, as long as the books in question came from a very short list of board-approved options. As Gail Collins said in a 2012 NYRB article:

Texas certainly didn’t single-handedly mess up American textbooks, but its size, its purchasing heft, and the pickiness of the school board’s endless demands—not to mention the board’s overall craziness—certainly made it the trend leader.

History is so hard. Too many facts. Was any history made last week? Time will tell.

The Mueller investigation flipped Manafort. A few people think it means nothing:

Whether you like it when the bird sings, depends upon your perspective:

Actual news about Puerto Rico’s hurricane deaths hurt Trumpy’s feelings:

US EPA loosens rules on methane pollution to stop the crying by energy companies:

Tall tales by the campfire:

What makes the GOP cry? Everything:

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Our Small President

The Daily Escape:

Bryce Canyon NP at sunrise – 2018 photo by ThePeachster

McCain will lie in state in Arizona’s capitol. Then, he will lie in state in the Capitol Building rotunda in Washington. Two former presidents will give eulogies at his funeral. Wrongo mused with a relative about why John McCain is being treated so differently from most other politicians who die in office.

She said: “America has no heroes.”

John McCain was a senator. His own party never fully trusted him. Democrats never knew what to make of him. He was occasionally with them, but he was against them on everything else. He called himself a maverick; he was certainly a pain. Why are we celebrating McCain as an American hero?

We are at the confluence of two tides in our history. First, we lionize our soldiers. We thank them for their service, we call them warriors. McCain spent 5+ years in a POW prison. He was tortured, and survived. So he is a heroic face for a war that we lost, a war we are still conflicted about, 40 years later.

In our intervening wars, there are individual soldier-heroes, but few stand out to us. The wars grind on, and the stories of the war heroes of our current time are fuzzy. The soldiers serve multiple tours, or we hear that they are coping with terrible post-traumatic stress. We have few contemporary genuine military heroes.

Second, our politicians have long since ceased to be heroic. McCain served six terms in the US Senate. He was old school, and some this week are calling him the “last lion” of the Senate. That tells us that despite the longevity of several other politicians of McCain’s (and Wrongo’s) generation, those who remain are merely ordinary.

The media wants us to believe that every American politician who dies is a great American. They seem to think that if that ever breaks down, America may stop being Great. This quasi-religious veneration of politicians is unbecoming of us as a people. It has transformed the majority of public offices into ones that are attractive mostly to people who are unfit to hold them.

In today’s politics, we’re usually trying hard to avoid electing the greater fool among the terrible options available to us. Most of the time, we have done that. But here we are: Donald Trump can’t carry John McCain’s jock, but he’s our president. This is from John Pavlovitz:

As the funeral for Senator John McCain approaches, we find ourselves in yet another occasion of national consequence; one our supposed Commander-In-Chief is intentionally excluded from because he is beneath the dignity and capability the moment requires.

More:

This moment plays itself out whenever there is a national tragedy, whenever compassion or decency or strength or goodness are required; whenever an adult leader would be called upon to actually lead us.

In those moments, he does not lead—he tweets.

It would have required very little energy, or thought, to issue a statement recognizing and honoring Sen. McCain. It would have taken almost nothing to keep the flags over the White House and other federal building flying at half-mast, but he couldn’t do even that.

Unsurprisingly, these minimal efforts are a bridge too far for Donald Trump.

There’s something to be said for being able to display grace and compassion upon the untimely passing of your adversary. After all, you’ve outlived him.

Where will we find our heroes in the next few years? It seems almost certain they will not come from Congress or the White House.

McCain was far from the hero that we are portraying him to be, now that he’s gone. But it shouldn’t require something heroic from Trump or his advisors to do the right thing.

Our culture is on the skids, led by our small president and his party.

Let’s give the last words to Pavlovitz:

In the meantime, just as today, we’ll all have to work together to fill in the spectacular gaps in leadership and compassion and intelligence and dignity that used to be filled by our Presidents.

We simply don’t have one right now.

UPDATE:  After the column above was written, the White House, facing a national outpouring of scorn, relented, and once again lowered flags on the WH grounds to half staff in honor of John McCain. Politicians on both sides, along with veterans’ groups, slammed President Trump as vindictive and petty.

The message was sent, and received by our small president.

Despite re-lowering the flag, and providing a military escort for McCain’s coffin, the point remains that Trump isn’t capable of compassion, or dignity. He’s not a leader.

 

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 26, 2018

The majority of Americans under 18 live in households that receive “means-tested assistance” from the US government. In 2016, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau, there were approximately 73,586,000 people under 18 in the United States, and 38,365,000 of them, 52.1%, resided in households in which one or more persons received benefits from a means-tested government program.

Those programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the National School Lunch Program.

And when the Census Bureau excluded school lunch programs from its calculations, the percentage of those under 18 who lived in a household receiving means-tested assistance (44.8%), still exceeded the percentage in any other age bracket.

We have now had four straight years: 2013 – 2016, during which a majority of those under 18 lived in a household taking means-tested benefits.

The primary reason for this is that most in this category are single parent households headed by a woman. Many can’t find employment paying a decent wage with some benefits. Many have to choose between full-time work and childcare. Some are working 2-3 part time jobs but still can’t cover their expenses.

But, the economy is good, the stock market is great, so why worry about these banana republic statistics, America? On to cartoons.

Trump sings the Lynyrd Skynyrd song, “What’s That Smell?”

Speak to a Trumpist, and you’ll find a reasonable, fact-driven human being:

Trump tweets about “widespread” killings of white farmers in South Africa. Here’s the truth:

Immigration unmasks the hate:

DeVos shows that she’s a helper:

Mitch reserves his looks of disgust only for Democrats:

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Trump’s “Willie Horton” Moment

The Daily Escape:

The Bulgle Bungles, Purnululu National Park, Western Australia

Lost in the news this week was the discovery of the body of missing Iowa college student, Mollie Tibbetts. An undocumented immigrant, Cristhian Rivera guided police to her body, and he is now being held for her murder.

And the much-publicized search for yet another white co-ed comes to a tragic end.

But for Donald Trump, it was a beginning. Trump and other conservatives quickly cited Rivera, who worked on a farm owned by a prominent Republican family, as proof of the flawed immigration system and lax border security the president has long warned about. Here’s Trump on CNN:

You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in very sadly from Mexico. And you saw what happened to that incredible beautiful young woman. Should have never happened. Illegally in our country…We’ve had a huge impact but the laws are so bad, the immigration laws are such a disgrace. We’re getting it changed but we have to get more Republicans.

Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, released a statement saying she was:

Angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community.

Fox News led with the story. After all, why would they voluntarily be talking about Manafort and Cohen?

A side note, Rivera’s employer, Yarrabee Farms, a company that operates dairy farms in Iowa, said that Rivera had been an employee in good standing for four years. They said initially that they had checked his immigrant status with the Fed’s eVerify system. Use of the eVerify system is not mandatory. In fact, the White House dropped its call for mandatory E-Verify in February when trying to reach a DACA deal.

Later, Yarrabee admitted that they hadn’t used eVerify, but had used another verification system. The company is owned by the family of Craig Lang, a prominent Republican who previously served as president of the Iowa Farm Bureau.

We should note that many undocumented workers are hired – often knowingly – by employers, particularly in agriculture. And typically the employers suffer few consequences when ICE raids, and takes their illegal employees away.

Trump and the GOP will try to turn this into a “Willie Horton” moment in the mid-term elections. Willie Horton was serving a life sentence for murder, but was released by Massachusetts for weekend furlough. He never returned, and committed rape, assault and armed robbery before being recaptured. This happened on the watch of Democratic governor, Michael Dukakis. The GOP then used the Horton case very successfully against Dukakis, who lost the presidential election in 1988.

And the Mollie Tibbetts murder is another example of Republicans using fear to scare the electorate. Facts never seem to matter, here are a few: (emphasis by Wrongo)

The CDC analyzed the murders of women in 18 states from 2003 to 2014, finding a total of 10,018 deaths. Of those, 55% were intimate partner violence-related, meaning they occurred at the hands of a former or current partner or the partner’s family or friends. In 93% of those cases, the culprit was a current or former romantic partner. The report also bucks the strangers-in-dark-alleys narrative common to televised crime dramas: Strangers perpetrated just 16% of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.

If you say none of that matters to Mollie Tibbetts, or her family, you would be wrong. Sam Lucas, a cousin of Mollie’s, tweeted a response to Candace Owens, a representative of a right-wing student organization:

Hey I’m a member of Mollie’s family and we are not so fucking small-minded that we generalize a whole population based on some bad individuals….stop using my cousin’s death as political propaganda…. https://t.co/xxZNBF0Uv9

— sam (@samlucasss) August 22, 2018

Our hearts should break for Mollie and her family. But why then, is the GOP dragging out the old Horton playbook to whip up racism? Trump wouldn’t have made any mention about her murder if it had involved one of the many white men who rape and murder women (of any race) in our country, every day.

This is an entire political party dedicated to promulgating fear of the “other”, and a huge swath of the media are dedicated to blasting it out to their audience of (apparently) timid white people.

Where the killer comes from shouldn’t have anything to do with the publicity any crime receives. Except in Trumpworld, where it has everything to do with why they pay attention.

Their strategy is: Find one bad apple and then say no one should eat applesauce.

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Monday Wake Up Call – Fake News Edition

The Daily Escape:

On Facebook, this photo is said to be a view from 30,000 ft. of the California fires. But, it’s fake news. In reality, it’s a sunset over Albuquerque. The pic has been on the internet for months. Why would someone lie to their Facebook “friends”, about a picture of the fires?

What has happened to our society that lying about something like the CA fires seems worth the trouble?

Fake news has always been with us, but we’re reaching the point where we no longer can tell truth from fiction without considerable effort. The Atlantic had a story in March about an ambitious and first-of-its-kind MIT study published in Science: (emphasis by Wrongo)

The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

The leader of the MIT study, Soroush Vosoughi, an MIT data scientist who has studied fake news since 2013, offered this:

It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information…And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.

And the data are truly scary. According to the study, false stories reach 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment, it probably isn’t news that fake news about politics regularly does the best at outperforming real news:

Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70% more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.

One of the more disturbing findings was that fake news consistently reaches a larger audience, and it tunnels much more deeply into social networks than real news does. Why do fake news tweets do so well? The MIT team settled on two hypotheses:

  • First, fake news seems to be more “novel” than real news. The study found that falsehoods are often notably different from all the tweets that have appeared in a user’s timeline 60 days prior to their re-tweeting them
  • Second, fake news evokes much more emotion than the average tweet. The researchers found that fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets used words associated with sadness and trust.

The key takeaway is really that content that arouses strong emotions spread further, faster, more deeply, and more broadly, than real news on Twitter.

Most depressing is that users who share accurate information have more followers, and send more tweets than fake-news sharers. They are more likely to be verified Twitter users. In short, the most trustworthy users have every obvious structural advantage that Twitter can give its best users.

And they still fail to connect as efficiently.

We have to wake up. Social media is amplifying falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one knows how to reverse the trend.  We are living in a dangerous moment for a political system that relies on truth as a knowable reality shared by all Americans.

To help you wake up, we have a tune dedicated to Paul Manafort, Bob Dylan’s “Leopard Pill-Box Hat”. Manafort’s trial is revealing his penchant for purchasing, and wearing wild articles of clothing. Many Trump supporters are saying that Manafort had nothing to do with the Russian hacking, and no matter, he’ll be acquitted.

Both of those ideas are fake news.

There are very few good videos of Dylan performing his work. This is from the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert in October, 1992. Here, John Mellencamp performs his best impression of Dylan:

We will have to wait and see if Manafort, or any others in the Trump administration go to jail. Wrongo hopes that’s the case. If it happens, it will be a novel event: We didn’t send Nixon to prison for his crimes, we didn’t send Reagan to prison for his crimes, and we didn’t send Bush or Cheney to prison for their crimes ─ so we ended up with Mr. Fake News himself, Donald Trump.

When there is no punishment for the crimes, the criminals see no reason to stop their behavior.

Sample Lyric:

Well I, see you got your
Brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes I, see you got your
Brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby how your
Head feels under somethin’ like that.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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