Terrifying Read: “‘Nothing on this page is real’”

It is, in truth, one heckuva story. Neither of the main characters have anything but the best of intentions, and yet… Kudos to the Washington Post for demonstrating “How lies become truth in online America“:

NORTH WATERBORO, Maine — The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed. He logged onto his website and began to invent his first news story of the day…

He had launched his new website on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends — a political satire site started by Blair and a few other liberal bloggers who wanted to make fun of what they considered to be extremist ideas spreading throughout the far right. In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.
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Horrorshow Open Thread: When the Amateurs Step on Your Carefully Choreographed Hate Campaign


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Monday Evening Open Thread: Be of Good Cheer!


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Maybe all we have left is sarcasm, but at least it’s an infinitely renewable resource…



Repub Horrorshow Open Thread: Ginning Up His Angry Mob

Steve Scalise was the guy shot and almost killed at the Congressional baseball practice:


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Late Night Puerto Rico Open Thread: Lest We Forget


 
Under normal circumstances, I’d be posting this tomorrow when more readers would see it… but Murphy only knows what skeletons will fall out of various Repub closets for this week’s Friday News Dump…



Saturday Late Night Open Thread: Bad Omens

Serene cluelessness alert!

Some kind of as-yet-unknown ‘massive power surge’ blew out the surge protector, the power bar, and probably the widescreen monitor on my computer yesterday. Ended August having to cancel our planned mini-vacation. My expiring credit card’s replacement got hacked before it reached me. And the drain blockage we’ve dumped a couple thou into diagnosing is now labelled as a pipe collapse where it enters the main sewer under the public road — our responsibility, “normal wear & tear”, insurance won’t cover it — so we’ll be tapping the home equity credit line as soon as we can hire a city-approved contractor. How was your week?

Should’ve known bad craziness would be coming down…



Who Wrote the Op-Ed: Text-Mining Edition

When the cowardly “Resistance” op-ed came out, my first thought was, Gee, I bet we could get some insights on authorship by doing an automated textual analysis. Because of course that was my first thought. Well, somebody was kind enough to do one for us. Specifically, Michael W. Kearney, a journalism and informatics professor at the University of Missouri. Here is the result; I’ll do a layperson’s explanation below, and then some technical links for those so inclined.

https://twitter.com/kearneymw/status/1037700388617629696

Executive summary: This analysis suggests that it was somebody from the office of the Vice President, the State Department, or the Department of Commerce.

What is this?

  • The y-axis is various Twitter accounts, labeled on the left.
  • The x-axis is the textual correlation.
  • Kearney took up to 3,200 tweets from each of the accounts listed, and ran an analysis on those corpuses. He then compared the resulting numbers to the results of the same analysis run on the text of the op-ed.
  • The line at the top shows, of course, a 1.0 correlation with the op-ed itself. The next-highest are the Twitter accounts for the Vice President, Trump (who we can discount), Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Ross, and the State Department.
  • The analysis includes figures for things like comma usage, sentiment, politeness, word choice, first- and second-person preference, and so on.
  • It probably wasn’t somebody at the Department of Transportation.

Caveats

  • Update: I assumed this went without saying, but obviously tweets are not an ideal data source; just most-readily usable with what Kearney had laying around, and within a very short time period. 
  • We know from reporting on the Wolff book that anonymous sources sometimes intentionally steal other staffers’ phrasing when providing quotes.
    • This could explain the use of ‘lodestar,’ a strongly Pence-affiliated word.
    • However, it is harder to fake things like comma usage.
  • Higher-ranking officials are likely, in their Twitter communications, to try to sound more like Trump, or in general use more homogenous language.
    • This could explain the ~0.7 cluster of the most important officials and departments.
  • These are not huge volumes of text, and thus the figures are potentially not representative.

Technical Details

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