Both Sides of His Facebook

Via @RobertMaguire, I saw a Tweet storm from techo-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci that elegantly summarizes how Facebook got played by the alt-right and why social media companies are just as susceptible as old media institutions to “both sides” hogwash. You can find the Twitter thread here, but to spare the blog the pain of waiting for multiple embedded tweets to load, I’ve rendered it below in paragraph form:

1. If you don’t like viral misinfo, fake news & Russian ads—you’re just uncomfortable with “ideas”.
2. This is what getting played looks like.

First, the idea if you are getting criticized by “both sides”, you must be doing something right is nonsense—though touted often by media.

Second, the right/alt-right playbook has been to criticize Facebook (or some institution) baselessly, and then watch it cave to appease.

This happened before the election. Facebook got criticized as being anti alt-right (for minimal quality control) so it dropped even that.

What I see that works on Facebook is intense public pressure—no market competition—or employee discomfort. Right/alt/right does the first.

Through intense public pressure, right/alt-right played Facebook into being passive to deliberate misinfo campaigns before the election.

Expect more of the same, especially as whomever Zuck is listening to is advising him to play the useless & weak media “both sides” playbook.

Point is NOT that Facebook should censor right wing views. Of course not. But it’s always been a super helpful platform for Breitbart right.

Facebook has also been super helpful to Trump campaign, working as their competent embedded ad-agency when they were so disorganized.

But the right/alt-right knows the naive, liberal weakness: buckle under tiniest criticism and cave even more. So it keeps hitting. Works.

Facebook, like most trad media, has never managed to grow a backbone—not censorship or bias, but a backbone—and defend ethics & fairness.

Hence Facebook keeps getting played. This is the same distortion/stupidity that made mass media cover both candidates badly before election.

BS “both sides” arguments and getting played and caving when someone flicks a finger: congrats. FB arrives as a traditional media company.

As we discussed the other day, Facebook (and Twitter, Instagram, etc.) let us use their platform at no charge because our eyeballs are the product they sell to advertisers. Zuckerberg’s platitudes about building a community and providing a platform for all ideas is a steaming load of horseshit, as is the notion that when “both sides” are angry, the object of their anger has reached a sweet spot of nonpartisan purity.

In addition to being misleading about Facebook’s mission and full of crap about “both sides,” Zuckerberg is eliding the foreign interference question. That’s what liberals are complaining about: not that Facebook helped Trump but rather that their Wild West approach to ad placement allowed a foreign government to perpetrate a PSYOP campaign to swing our election.

I remain convinced that it will take rules such as those that (inadequately) regulate political advertising in traditional media to address the problem of foreign interference, and that’s not going to happen as long as a) Republicans are in a position to prevent it, and b) foreign interference redounds to the benefit of Republicans.

In the meantime, it’s up to us to work the refs in favor of our side and perhaps to fight fire with fire. Maybe NATO could come to our defense by setting up troll farms in Provence, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, etc., to counter attacks by Russian trolls during our next election. (I’m kidding. I think.)

Open thread!



Hirsutes with your Parachute Flutes

There’s a great long read in the NY Times by Caitlyn Dickerson today about how fake news rocked and roiled a small Idaho town, with Jihadwatch, Fox, Drudge, and the rest of the usual suspects whipping the town in to a damned frenzy about Syrian refugees and rape mobs (Brown is the local reporter):

“We have been made aware of a situation,” said the first speaker, an older man with a scraggly white beard who had hobbled up to the lectern. “An alleged assault of a minor child and we can’t get any information on it. Apparently, it’s been indicated that the perpetrators were foreign Muslim youth that conducted this — I guess it was a rape.” Brown recognized the man as Terry Edwards. About a year earlier, after The Times-News reported that Syrian refugees would very likely be resettled in Twin Falls, Edwards joined a movement to shut the resettlement program down. The group circulated a petition to put the proposal before voters. They failed to get enough signatures to force a referendum, but Brown was struck by how much support around town the movement attracted. In bars after work, he began to overhear conversations about the dangers of Islam. One night, he heard a man joke about dousing the entrance to the local mosque with pig’s blood.

After he finished watching the video, Brown called the police chief, Craig Kingsbury, to get more information about the case. Kingsbury said that he couldn’t discuss it and that the police reports were sealed because minors were involved. Brown made a couple phone calls: to the mayor and to his colleague at the paper who covers crime. He pieced together that 12 days earlier, three children had been discovered partly clothed inside a shared laundry room at the apartment complex where they lived. There were two boys, a 7-year-old and a 10-year-old, and a 5-year-old girl. The 7-year-old boy was accused of attempting some kind of sex act with the 5-year-old, and the 10-year-old had used a cellphone borrowed from his older brother to record it. The girl was American and, like most people in Twin Falls, white. The boys were refugees; Brown wasn’t sure from where. In his article about the meeting, Brown seems to anticipate that the police chief’s inability to elaborate was not going to sit well with the people whose testimony he had just watched.

There’s just way too much to the story to quote, so you really need to read it all, but this part stuck out:

That weekend, Brown was on his way to see a movie when he received a Facebook message from Jim Dalos Jr., a 52-year-old known to Twin Falls journalists and police as Scanner Man. Dalos is disabled; he works six hours a week as a dishwasher at a pizzeria but spends most of his time in his apartment, sitting in a reclining chair and drinking Diet Pepsi out of a 52-ounce plastic mug, voraciously consuming news. He reads the local paper, old issues of which litter his living-room floor, and keeps the television blaring — usually Fox News. He got his nickname because he constantly monitors an old police scanner, a gift he received as a teenager from his father, and often calls in tips to the media based on what he hears. He also happens to live at the apartment complex, Fawnbrook, where the laundry-room incident occurred.
Continue reading the main story

Dalos told Brown that he had seen the police around Fawnbrook and that the victim’s mother told him that the boys had been arrested. He also pointed Brown to a couple of Facebook groups that were created in response to the crime. Brown scrolled through them on his cellphone and saw links flying back and forth with articles that said that the little girl had been gang raped at knife point, that the perpetrators were Syrian refugees and that their fathers had celebrated with them afterward by giving them high fives. The stories also claimed that the City Council and the police department were conspiring to bury the crime.

There is your GOP base, and there is where the wingnut puke funnel starts- in a barcalounger by some soda guzzling moron who listens to nothing but Fox News and the scanner. Someone like him burps up some sort of racist conspiracy bullshit, and before you know it, like in this case, it’s a fucking headline at Drudge and the top story on Hannity.

America, fuck yeah.



“Let justice be done though the heavens fall”

Richard Cohen, one of the Beltway’s crappier columnists, deposited a steaming turd of a column yesterday entitled “We Would Impeach Trump at Our Peril.” Cohen’s columns are invariably unfunny and obtuse. But this column is worse; it is cowardly. An excerpt:

In a speech last week, Arthur Eisenberg, the legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, warned, “There should be no impeachment unless the case for impeachment were overwhelming.” If that were not the case, he went on, “Trump’s supporters would feel that they were deprived of their electoral victory.”

Eisenberg’s caution is well founded. Trump has already prepped his supporters to believe that an influx of illegal immigrants almost stole the election from him. He has labeled uncomfortable truths “fake news” or, in the Orwellian concoction of Kellyanne Conway, “alternative facts.” He would surely lie in his own defense. He almost certainly would tolerate, possibly even stoke, violence…

After she lost the election, Hillary Clinton called for reconciliation. Al Gore did the same after the Supreme Court, in a partisan vote, handed the White House to George W. Bush. I cannot imagine Trump doing the same after being removed from office. He has been a miserable winner. He would be an even worse loser.

I actually don’t disagree with any of the above, nor do I expect Trump to be impeached, though I fervently hope for it. IMO, the most plausible best-case scenario is that Trump limps through his one, chaotic, embarrassing term under a cloud of scandal, accomplishing nothing of note and whittling his party’s unearned stature down to the rump it truly is.

But the unmitigated fucking gall, the sheer goddamned effrontery of a hack like Cohen mewling about what might happen if Trump fails to confess but is impeached anyway, well, I’m out of fucks to give or can’ts to even.

Trump’s supporters would FEEL deprived of their electoral victory? Fuck their goddamned feelings, sideways and with every oxidized garden implement in the rustiest toolshed in the land.

How about the much larger group (by nearly three million) who were LITERALLY deprived of our electoral victory by a lying demagogue, his gang of corrupt GOP toadies, a murderous foreign autocrat, an albino rat cowering in Ecuador’s basement and James Comey’s sanctimony?

And the certainty that Trump would continue to lie, sow division and behave like an unpatriotic asshole is supposed to stay our hand? Fuck that noise too — those traits make his removal all the more urgent.

The thing Cohen fails to comprehend is that this isn’t just about Trump. Yes, Trump is an unhinged demagogue who poses a clear and present danger to the United States and the world, and booting him from office would be the first step in the generational work of restoring our good name as a nation.

But Trumpism as a concept is even more dangerous. It needs to be drawn and quartered, packed in lye, encased in lead, loaded aboard a rocket and fired into the goddamned sun.

Impeachment or removal via the 25th Amendment is highly unlikely, even though Trump IS on video confessing to obstruction of justice and behaving like a pinwheel-eyed lunatic who would make Richard M. Nixon blush to wear the R label. But the idea that we should take these remedies off the table to appease the mush-brained ninnies who elevated the fool in the first place? Fuck. That.



Visualize Whirled Peas

I know there’s a series of acute global and national crises brewing. There’s climate change, which may have flung hurricanes and typhoons across the oceans like so many martial arts stars targeting our vulnerable coastlines. And the quickening investigation into the role a foreign power played in installing a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue in the Oval Office. And federal agencies repackaged as force-multipliers for rogue police departments and out-of-control border protection units. And smarmy liars trying to gut healthcare and social services to further enrich obscenely wealthy plutocrats. And our escalating showdown with the planet’s other nuclear-armed narcissist with a fondness for nepotism, military parades, sycophancy and preposterous hairdos.

To all that, I say, “Blaarrrgh!” Not because it’s not important. Not because I don’t care. But rather because, like the sole remaining team member in a dodge-ball match, I don’t know how to avoid the blows, so I’m curling up in the fetal position. This post is a pixelated manifestation of that phenomenon.

Instead of worrying about these grave crises, I want to know who is trying to shove green peas down our throats. Is there a Pea Council? A Green Pea Growers Association? Because some cabal is pushing peas, and they’ve infiltrated the highest levels of our media organizations and social media platforms.

The first salvo was The New York Times’ unconscionable suggestion that we put green peas in guacamole a couple of years ago, but that was just the beginning:

“Trust us?” How about “fuck no!” Suddenly the food section had become as unreliable as the political coverage. Thankfully, we still had President Obama to protect us back then:

And after that high-profile beat-down, the pea pushers kept a lower profile, but they haven’t stopped. For years now, I’ve stood by helplessly as peas crop up in the most unlikely recipes. I was just looking up ingredients for green goddess salad dressing, and damned if there wasn’t a video ad adjacent suggesting that green peas should be pureed and used to make a sauce for seared sea scallops. As fucking if.

I’ve got nothing against green peas. They have their place, which is alongside carrots, in soups, in a monoculture side dish and even smushed up with mint and served with fish and chips by the more tradition-minded purveyors.

But this business of adding peas to anything green or pretending that they are on the same culinary plane as butter, olive oil, scallions or garlic has to fucking stop.

Please feel free to discuss weightier matters, such as Trump’s wack U.N. speech. I’ll be over here trying not to visualize whirled peas.

Open thread!



Fuck Him

Fuck the Emmys for having him, and fuck the NY Times for this handjob:

During his surprise comedy skit at the Emmys on Sunday, Sean Spicer may have made light of his six-month tenure as the White House press secretary, but a message was also embedded in his performance.

In an interview on Monday morning, Mr. Spicer said he now regrets one of his most infamous moments as press secretary: his decision to charge into the White House briefing room in January and criticize accurate news reports that Barack Obama’s inauguration crowd was bigger than President Donald J. Trump’s.

“Of course I do, absolutely,” Mr. Spicer said.

I’ll just outsource this to Jay Smooth:

Eat a bag of dicks, Spciey.



Russiagate And The Press (Open Thread)

I can’t add much to what Anne said. There are a lot of isolated facts floating around about Trump’s Russia connections and what the Russians may have done in the election, and a lot of speculation on how those facts fit together. My own sense is that there are SO MANY Russian connections that it’s likely that the Russians had more than one route into Trump and his people.

There are still many possible narratives. We need more information to be able to verify one or more. Read more



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Never Bet Against Nancy Smash

Every woman knows that when a guy does something important, it proves how smart & powerful he is; when a woman does something important, it proves some man gave her a (probably unearned) break. Politico, in its best Media Village Idiot suck-up mode, explains how “Pelosi rises again — thanks to Trump”:

Just months ago, Nancy Pelosi’s grip on power was tested again by rebellious Democrats frustrated with her leadership. Now she’s strategizing with President Donald Trump in phone calls and over dinner at the White House.

The dramatic reversal of fortune for the longtime House Democratic leader is forcing even her loudest critics to reconsider.

“While she’s here in this leadership position, I think there’s no one better to do the job,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), who vocally pushed for a leadership change earlier this summer. “I think this is a good start.”…

Both friends and critics of Pelosi within the caucus say her rising leverage is a good thing. Pelosi, who bills herself as a “master legislator,” may be able to broker some wins for her caucus that she likely wouldn’t be able to achieve with a more traditional Republican president, they say.

But some rank-and-file lawmakers say despite Pelosi’s power plays, the caucus could still use fresh leadership after next year’s elections if Democrats don’t take back the House. Other members say they’re watching the current bipartisan bonhomie warily, noting that there’s only so much Democrats can agree on with Trump…

Pelosi has tried to put Democrats at ease, arguing that she can be trusted not to compromise her party’s values.

“I’m a progressive from San Francisco. Proud liberal,” she told reporters Tuesday. “I have my own kind of credibility on these subjects.”

Those close to Pelosi also say she’s no amateur. She’s dealt with several presidents during her three decades in the House, particularly the past 15 years as Democratic leader — and won’t hesitate to call out Trump in areas where they disagree, large and small.

Pelosi was the one who challenged Trump during his first sit-down with congressional leaders after becoming president. At the time, Trump repeated a debunked claim that he lost the popular vote because of voter fraud, upon which Pelosi spoke up to tell him that was false.

For his part, Trump has limited his attacks on Pelosi since coming into office, not targeting her with some of the viciousness that he’s hurled toward others who criticize him…

“[We] are always hopeful that we can find common ground, which we have a responsibility to do,” Pelosi told reporters. “If we can’t find it, we stand our ground.”…

***********

Apart from giving thanks for strong (if underappreciated) women, what’s on the agenda for the day?