Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts

30 November 2017

"Dear Mr Trump..." - An Avaaz Open Letter

Donald Trump
Donald Trump 
Dear friends,

Donald Trump just used his giant Twitter following to give the extremist far-right "Britain First" global glory, retweeting their Islamophobic, hate-filled videos. Then he smacked down Theresa May for criticising him!

Let’s show him his brand of dangerous bigotry has no place in our country.

When enough of us sign we'll push the government to cancel Trump’s state visit, and if they don’t, we’ll meet him with giant copies outside 10 Downing St and Buckingham Palace.

 The Open Letter:
Dear Mr. Trump,

This is not what greatness looks like. 

The world rejects your fear, hate-mongering, and bigotry. We reject your support for torture, your calls for murdering civilians, and your general encouragement of violence. We reject your denigration of women, Muslims, Mexicans, and millions of others who don’t look like you, talk like you, or pray to the same god as you.

Facing your fear we choose compassion. Hearing your despair we choose hope. Seeing your ignorance we choose understanding.

As citizens of the world, we stand united against your brand of division.

Sign your name
Instead of dividing us, let's make Trump a force to bring us together, to fight for everything we love.

With hope,

Loup Dargent
On behalf of Bert, Alice, Christoph, and the whole Avaaz team.

Related Articles:

29 November 2017

There's an Insidious Strategy Behind Donald Trump's Retweets


File 20171129 12016 17h56a3.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
‘I’m not saying, I’m just saying.’ (Punyaruk Baingern/
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the article "How Donald Trump Gets Away With Saying Things Other Candidates Can't" published in March 2016

By Jennifer Mercieca, Texas A&M University

On Nov. 29, President Trump retweeted a series of videos that purported to depict violence committed by Muslims. They had originated from the account of a far-right British ultranationalist who had been convicted for harassing a Muslim. The backlash was swift, with British Prime Minister Theresa May sayingthe President is wrong to have done this.”

But Trump’s retweeting of controversial (sometimes outright false) content is part of a pattern.

For example, during the 2016 campaign, George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump about his retweet of a follower who insisted that both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were ineligible for the presidency.

Trump dismissed Stephanopoulos’ question with “it was a retweet” – as if to say that retweeting someone else’s claim meant that he wasn’t responsible for the content.

When pressed, Trump continued:
“I mean, let people make their own determination. I’ve never looked at it, George. I honestly have never looked at it. As somebody said, he’s not [eligible]…and I retweet things and we start dialogue and it’s very interesting.”
It’s a response that can be reduced to I’m not saying it, I’m just saying it.

As a scholar of American political rhetoric, I’ve previously written about the ways that Donald Trump’s rhetorical style mirrors that of polarizing figures like George Wallace and Joseph McCarthy.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that what sets Trump apart is his reliance upon paralipsis, a device that enables him to publicly say things that he can later disavow – without ever having to take responsibility for his words.

Just saying…
The art of rhetoric – or persuasive communication – can include any number of forms: speeches, essays, tweets, images, films and more.

Paralipsis (para, “side” and leipein, “to leave”) is a Greek term that translates to “leave to the side.” It’s thought to be an ironic way for a speaker to say two things at once.

For example, say you wanted to imply that your coworker takes too many coffee breaks without actually accusing him wasting time at work. You might say something like, “I’m not saying that he drinks more coffee than anyone else in the office, but every time I go to the break room, he’s in there.” You might also shrug and make a “something seems kind of off” facial expression.

Paralipsis is a powerful rhetorical device because it can also allow someone to make a false accusation – or spread a false rumor – while skirting consequences.
And Trump has become a master at wielding this tool.

For example, after he was widely condemned for retweeting a graphic of homicide data delineated by race, found that “almost every figure in the graphic is wrong.” His response on the Bill O’Reilly Show was:
Bill, I didn’t tweet, I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert, and it was also a radio show…am I gonna check every statistic? …All it was is a retweet. And it wasn’t from me. It came out of a radio show, and other places…This was a retweet. And it comes from sources that are very credible, what can I tell you?
In other words: I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly used paralipsis to deflect criticism that he’s courting white supremacists.

In January 2016, Trump retweeted a photoshopped image of Jeb Bush from a user with the handle WhiteGenocideTM. In response to the backlash he received for retweeting a white supremacist, Trump simply shrugged: “I don’t know about retweeting. You retweet somebody and they turn out to be white supremacists. I know nothing about these groups that are supporting me.”

Likewise, he blamed a faulty earpiece for his unwillingness to disavow David Duke and the KKK in a CNN interview:
I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know – did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.
I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

And when Gawker tricked Trump into retweeting a quote from Benito Mussolini during the campaign, his response was “What difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote.”

Accountability and responsibility
Certainly it’s a good thing to “start dialogue.” Trump knows that “interesting” content attracts retweets, followers, audiences and media attention.

However, there’s danger in circulating accusations and rumors, even if the purpose is to “start dialogue.” Research shows that once an accusation or a rumor begins to circulate, it’s very difficult to retract. Often, a retraction or clarification doesn’t receive as much attention as the initial accusation. Meanwhile, the mere act of retracting misinformation can reaffirm the deceptive assertions as facts, even after the clarification.

So what does it mean when a political figure gains a devoted following and rises to prominence – yet consistently avoids taking responsibility for the content of his public messages?

Political theorists, rhetoricians and historians have grappled with this exact problem since the rise of the “demagogue” in Athens in 429 B.C., when Pericles’ death created a vacuum for “unofficial” leaders of the people to rise to power.

The danger, according to political scientist Ernest Barker, was that “such a leader – having no official executive position – could exercise initiative and determine policy without incurring political responsibility, since it was not his duty to execute the policy which he had induced the assembly to accept.

In the Greek context, Barker described the danger of demagogues who weren’t tasked with implementing the policies for which they advocated. In our current political context, Trump can argue that he can’t be held accountable because he wasn’t the one who originally posted the tweet. He can shrug and claim that he’s simply giving a voice to an idea.
In both cases, the defining feature of demagogues is their refusal to accept responsibility for their actions.
Donald Trump, Reality TV "Star"
Donald Trump, Reality TV "Star"
Yet Donald Trump (the television star) routinely fired people on his show “The Apprentice” for failing to take responsibility for their team’s failures. And he’s often given lectures on “responsibility” to his Twitter followers, like on February 14, 2013 when he invited his followers to “take responsibility for yourself – it’s a very empowering attitude.

To use the President’s brand of paralipsis: I’m not saying that Trump’s a hypocrite and a demagogue. I’m just saying that he doesn’t exactly follow his own advice.
The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:
Jennifer Mercieca, Associate Professor of Communication and Director of the Aggie Agora, Texas A&M University

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Video: CAIR Responds to Donald Trump's Anti-Muslim Retweets

Donald Trump has retweeted Britain First deputy leader (image via The Independent)
Earlier today, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, responded to what it called President Trump's "incitement to violence against American Muslims" after he retweeted Islamophobic videos from Jayda Fransen, an anti-Muslim British political leader who has been charged in the United Kingdom with "religious aggravated harassment."
⏩ Trump Shares Inflammatory Anti-Muslim Videos

⏩ Trump Retweets Anti-Muslim Videos
Joining CAIR at the Capitol Hill news conference in Washington, D.C., were representatives of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

SPEAKERS: (In Order of Appearance) CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad, MPAC Policy Fellow for Religious Freedom Ilhan Cagri, and SAALT Director of National Policy and Advocacy Lakshmi Sridaran.

Video: CAIR News Conference in Response to Donald Trump's Anti-Muslim Tweets

In a prepared statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:
This morning, millions of Americans were shocked but not surprised to see President Trump re-tweet anti-Muslim videos.

One of the videos has already been de-bunked by Snopes. The other two videos are unverified.

The videos were from a hate group known as "Britain First," which calls for a comprehensive ban on Islam in the UK and to deport British Muslims, who've made the UK their home for generations.

President Trump's actions are putting the lives and safety of American Muslim children and families at risk. 

Hate speech leads to hate crimes. When hate speech and conspiracy theories against American minorities go unchallenged, they foster an atmosphere that causes hate crimes.

Throughout this year, CAIR offices nationwide received, on average, at least 1-2 daily reports of hate crimes targeting American Muslims, Muslim houses of worship, or people perceived as Muslim.

As numerous Americans who are Muslim or 'looked Muslim' were shot or beaten severely, we did not hear a word from this President.

During most of these attacks, attackers uttered or expressed the same anti-Muslim slurs repeated daily in mainstream headlines and often by President Trump himself.

This is a continuation of President Trump's pattern of sexual, religious and racial harassment of many Americans. This includes Trump's attempts to turn Americans against each other… and his standing by Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was credibly accused of inappropriate contact with children.

Trump has infected the Republican Party and I am asking my Republican friends who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, in the 14th Amendment, and in the Constitution's guarantees of equal justice under law, to not sit idly by while all this injustice continues.

This is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an American one.

I am asking our nation's Republican leadership:
  • When will you draw a line in the sand against this bigotry and harassment?
  • What will it take for the Republican Party to say that these actions do not represent the Grand Old Party? 
  • When will you put country over party? 
  • When is the Republican Leadership, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, going to stand up for all Americans? This cannot be the America you want your children to live in. 

Millions of Americans worry about our safety and future. 

We need Republican Party leadership to publicly affirm American values of religious freedom,

We need Republican Party leadership to join us in reminding our fellow Americans that while some may want to divide us, we are, and always will be, Americans, united as one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

CAIR has witnessed an unprecedented spike in hate incidents targeting American Muslims and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.

Earlier today, Awad also tweeted in response to Trump's hate posts: 

"Have you no sense of decency, Sir? Do you know how many anti-Muslims incidents in the US we recorded at #CAIR this year alone? 3,296. And we haven't heard a peep from you. Some president."

Reply from Nihad Awad (CAIR) to Donald Trump on Twitter
To read Nihad Awad's post on Twitter, click here...

More Related Stuff: 
Donald Trump and Britain First: White House scrambles to defend President as global condemnation grows
Donald Trump and Britain First: White House scrambles to defend President as global condemnation grows
Donald Trump is retweeting the deputy leader of far-right group Britain First
Donald Trump is retweeting the deputy leader of far-right group Britain First

Bonus Picture:
(courtesy of Trumpton)
After consulting the White House vet, Mr Kelly decided to tackle Mr Trump’s Twittering
After consulting the White House vet, Mr Kelly decided to tackle Mr Trump’s Twittering

28 November 2017

'Trust Us, We're Lying': Eurozine And Cultural Journals From Across Europe Take A Closer Look At The Power Of 'Post-Truth' In A New Series Of Online Articles And Debates

Vladimir Putin's War on Information
Vladimir Putin's War on Information (Image via
In a new series of online articles launched by the Eurozine network of cultural journals, 13 cultural journalists and academics from across Europe, plus U.S. writers, examine in-depth the phenomena of fake news, post-truth and disinformation.
Eurozine's focal point 'Disinformation and Democracy' combines empirical studies at national levels with theoretical discussion of the politics of post-truth; analyses of contemporary developments with intellectual and conceptual histories; and investigations of the political fringes, asking: what now constitutes democratic 'normality'?

⏩ It's impossible to ignore Russia's role in these phenomena. 

  • Markus Wehner gives an overview of the strategy and techniques of Russian 'infowar
  • Anton Shekhovtsov traces how far-right groups across Europe and the U.S. use Russian web-hosting to spread anti-western propaganda 
  • Daniel Leisegang assesses the effectiveness of Germany's new law on online hate speech and fake news, given the virtual migration to the Runet. Shifting the focus to eastern Europe 
  • Milena Iakimova and Dimitar Vatsov explore how, in Bulgaria, Russian propaganda has co-opted western grassroots criticism of liberalism and globalization since 2013. They note: 'We were ... amazed when we started hearing the talking points identified by our study now coming from the mouth of the new U.S. President, Donald Trump.' 

  • From dialectical materialism to neoliberalism, any politics that lays claims to the truth is both illusory and dangerous, argues Jean-Claude Monod 
  • Political scientist Joseph Uscinski explores the relationship between conspiracy theorizing and partisanship in the U.S., pointing out: 'If one wants to challenge mainstream wisdom, conspiracy theories are an excellent rhetorical device for doing so.' 
  • Providing historical perspective, Marci Shore compares western intellectuals' response to the disappointment of 'real-existing communism' with that of the dissidents who lived under it: can a radical concept of truth counter the threat of 'post-modern dictatorships'? 
  • Valentin Groebner traces a thread of fakery in 'news' right back to the Middle Ages.
Fake News Invasion
Fake News Invasion (image via
⏩All the focal point texts are available in English in Eurozine.

⏩This editorial collaboration within the Eurozine network continued via a series of panel discussions at the 28th European Meeting of Cultural Journals in Tartu, Estonia in October 2017.

The discussions can be viewed  below:


SOURCE: Eurozine

26 November 2017

Why 'Judeo-Christian Values' Are A Dog-Whistle Myth Peddled By The Far Right


President Trump recently stated his support for ‘Judeo-Christian values’ … but what does that phrase really mean?
President Trump recently stated his support for ‘Judeo-Christian values’ … but what does that phrase really mean? (Pixabay, CC BY-SA)
By M J C Warren, University of Sheffield

The phrase “Judeo-Christianhas been around since the 1930s but US President Donald Trump recently resurrected it in a deeply problematic speech on October 13, 2017 in which he said: “We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values … We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
It might seem neighbourly, even pluralistic, to include Judaism in a declaration of purported Western values. But in reality this isn’t how the term has functioned, either historically or more recently. Instead, the phrase is used to exclude rather than include. Despite implying that Jews are part of this resurrection of Judeo-Christian values, Trump in no way intends a campaign to Make Hanukkah Great Again. His “Judeo-Christian values” are about protecting Christmas, and about protecting Christians – at the exclusion of others.

Christian-majority nations such as the UK and US often lay claim to laws and ethics based on “Judeo-Christian values”. But it is important to remember that Jews have been systematically excluded from and terrorised by states that claim this Judeo-Christian foundation.

From the 1290 expulsion of Jews from England to Jewish refugees being turned away by Canada, the US and the UK during World War II, Jews have been excluded more often than welcomed.

For centuries, Jews have been made to feel unwelcome in the Christian world and it seems that it is only now that a new demographic of (often Muslim) immigrants fleeing war and economic hardship have reached the West that Jews are being included – and even then only on someone else’s terms.

A right wing slogan
Judeo-Christian” is now most often used to draw a line between imagined Christian values and a perceived (but false) threat of Muslim immigration. It’s in this context, that right wing figures such as Nigel Farage use the phrase. Talking about radical Muslim clerics such as Anjem Choudary, he said for example:
My country is a Judeo-Christian country. So we’ve got to actually start standing up for our values.
But in this statement, Farage connects his fears of radical Islam with the idea of “Judeo-Christian values”. It appears that it isn’t so much about including Jews as it is about excluding Muslims. And since Farage has also come under attack for anti-Semitic comments, including being called on to apologise after recent comments about the threat of “the Jewish lobby” to American politics, it seems hard to view the “Judeo-” in his “Judeo-Christian” as actually valuing Jewish people or Judaism as a religion.
Farage’s statement even prompted the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to demand an apology.

Time and again, when Farage and Trump use the term, what they really imply is an “us-versus-them” division between the West and Islam. This is not about the inclusion of Jews in the values of these nations, then, but about the xenophobic exclusion of an “other”.

Invoked in anti-immigration rhetoric with the goal of excluding Muslims, this phrase is actually used to scaffold a false narrative about Christians being persecuted, threatened or besieged, which gives motivation for the protection of “Judeo-Christian values”. In fact, Christians are not persecuted in the countries where Farage and Trump make their homes.

A quick search on Twitter for the phrase “Judeo-Christian” illustrates that white supremacists have embraced the term – and that Jews reject it.

It’s not surprising that many Jews are not falling for this dog-whistle phrase, especially since the myth of a Judeo-Christian society rests on the false – and dangerous – idea that Judaism and Christianity hold the same ideas and values.

There are many fundamental differences between these two religions – and that’s OK. To respect and value Judaism means to do so on its own terms, and not only if it conforms to Christian ideas about what religion should be. Ignoring these differences (and to pretend that Jews and Christians believe the same things) risks subsuming Judaism into Christianity. It risks viewing Judaism as an archaic precursor to Christianity rather than a continuing unique and vibrant tradition. There is nothing “Judeo” about saying Merry Christmas.

Indeed, the phrase “Judeo-Christian” erases Judaism by implying that Christian values are Jewish values. Erasing Judaism by subsuming it into Christianity is called supersessionism, a tactic of Christian polemicists for centuries, and one that is currently in use by the Christian religious right.

The ConversationIt seems, then, that the idea of Judeo-Christian values excludes both Jews and Muslims. The phrase tacitly excludes Jews by subsuming Judaism into Christianity, and it explicitly excludes Muslims in its use in anti-immigration rhetoric. In reality, “Judeo-Christian values” actually point to a particular type of right-wing Christian values. Continuing to use this phrase only contributes to exclusionary and divisive political rhetoric. When we hear it, we should call it out for what it is.

About Today's Contributor:
M J C Warren, Lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies, University of Sheffield

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

27 October 2017

NewPCgadgets Introduces The 2017 Trump Tweety Bird Christmas Tree Ornament

Trump Tweety Bird Christmas Ornament 2017
NewPCgadgets introduces the 2017 Trump Tweety Bird Christmas Tree Ornament, just in time for the Holidays.
With the combined silhouettes of a Bluebird and the current President, NewPCgadgets has created a one-of-a-kind Christmas tree ornament sure to be a conversation starter this Holiday season.

The new Trump Tweety Bird Ornament is designed to appeal to the disgruntled Democrats, demoralized Republicans and frustrated Liberals. Or, as NewPCgadgets says "About 85% of the population."

Priced at $7.95 each, the laser cut acrylic shape is made from 3/16" clear acrylic and stands 4 ½" high. NewPCgadgets also includes a red, white and blue ribbon to prominently hang the new ornament on the Christmas tree.

As an impulse, under $10 Holiday gift item, the Trump Tweety Bird Ornament provides a little levity in a highly charged political climate. 

  • In addition to the Trump Christmas Tree Ornament, NewPCgadgets also offers the Trump Mousepad and the Trump Commander-in-Tweet Smartphone Stand, all for under $10.

The Trump Commander-in-Tweet Smartphone Stand
Political statement and convenience stand all-in-one
  • For ordering details and additional information visit NewPCgadgets today.

SOURCE: NewPCgadgets

Bonus Pictures:
(via NewPCgadgets)
Make America Great Again - Impeach Trump smartphone stand
Make America Great Again - Impeach Trump smartphone stand
Donald Trump Mousepad
Donald Trump Mousepad

Bonus Videos:

24 October 2017

#MeToo Campaign Not Slowing Down Anytime Soon, But Now What?

S.H.E. Speak.Heal.Empower
S.H.E. Speak.Heal.Empower (via
After the recent Harvey Weinstein sexual allegations have come to light, the floodgates have opened with celebrities using the hashtag #MeToo creating a social-media viral sensation. Many of us have seen and are shocked to hear of female family members, friends and co-workers coming forward publicly on-line with personal sexual abuse and harassment stories. Karney believes, "If men stand with us too, we can stop the sexual assault of women."
"An NBC movie, 'Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story' starring Melissa Gilbert, was written based on the abuse that happened when I was a child. People in my inner circle who never confided in me are using social media now to find their voice but we can't do it alone," said Shari Karney, attorney and legal pundit.
Shari Karney led the charge of changing the laws in California in 1991 and didn't stop there. Karney worked with 40 other states so that survivors across the nation now have legal rights as well. Karney successfully lobbied and testified in Washington D.C. for a Children's Bill of Rights.
"Now what? Men stand with us too! If you are sickened and shocked at what you are reading and hearing about through the #MeToo campaign, be the voice of honor and reason. You can be the ones to hold bosses, co-workers, family members, coaches and churches' feet to the fire. Men listen to other men. Please, be the good man you are and stand with us #MenWithYouToo," said Shari Karney. 
"Basic civil rights laws must be enacted to hold perpetrators accountable and give victims justice. We need to remove statutes of limitations for criminal and civil actions so survivors of sexual violence can have their day in court," said Karney.
Shari Karney
Shari Karney (via
About Shari Karney :
Shari Karney is an attorney, on-air legal pundit, author, speaker, entrepreneur and activist for victims' rights. A widely respected legal expert, analyst and commentator on breaking news cases, she has appeared on hundreds of television and radio news programs. 
  • Visit
  • Follow Shari on Facebook Karney or Twitter @sharikarney .

SOURCE: Shari Karney

Bonus Videos:

1 September 2017

"Post-Truth’ Media Really Is Shifting The News Agenda – And More Subtly Than It Seems


File 20170831 22561 few5ex
Proceed with caution. (Gil C via Shutterstock)
By Precious N Chatterje-Doody, University of Manchester

As stories of Russian “information warfare” in various Western countries continue to mount, governments, intelligence agencies and journalists are fretting over the influence of global media outlets funded by autocratic governments. But while these organisations are clearly meant to serve their sponsor governments’ agendas in various ways, is the West right to be so worried about them?

Information campaigning in various forms is as old as politics itself, and nor is it the sole province of political bogeymen. Research shows that democracies are better than autocracies at influencing foreign public opinion, and businesses, politicians and states all use the mass media strategically for their information campaigns.

Whether this is public relations, public diplomacy, or propaganda is a matter of perspective. But the names we give a particular information campaign not only reflect our inferences about its aims; they can in fact amplify its power and advance its goals.

A case in point is the Kremlin-funded international broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today. The network has been sanctioned by media watchdogs for its “misleading” coverage, even as it gathered five Emmy nominations for its investigative reporting. It was even cited by Hillary Clinton in 2011 as an example of an “information war” she said the West was losing – unwittingly describing things to come in her own career.
The network’s PR strategy skilfully uses these criticisms to cater to the biases of an anti-establishment generation. Its motto encourages viewers to “Question More”, and its various advertising campaigns have successfully exhibited Western contempt and suspicion as a badge of honour.

Yet despite the concerns of high-ranking figures, the US State Department has claimed none of the US$80m recently allocated by Congress for informational countermeasures, and the bulk of the funds will expire if not claimed by the end of September 2017. Some fear that the US is reluctant to risk a Russian backlash by leading a counter-disinformation offensive, leaving the legwork to initiatives like the controversial new Hamilton 68 dashboard, which claims to track Russian-backed influence campaigns across the web and social media.

But just how much influence RT and similar outlets wield is very much open to question.

Flattering bias
While many in US intelligence and politics seem to take RT’s self-reported audience figures as read, the channel’s official data is optimistic compared to its externally verified viewing figures. And despite RT’s pride at being “the most watched news network on YouTube”, most of its views go to apolitical clickbait human interest stories and coverage of natural disasters.

Some argue that RT’s smaller political audience is self-selecting: those who mistrust the mainstream establishment and are partial to conspiracy theories. However, this is all guesswork: so far, there has been little scholarly attention to RT’s audience engagement, despite its social media advantage over its competitors during breaking news events. (The University of Manchester and Open University will soon address this knowledge gap with the Reframing Russia project, the first systematic examination of RT’s audiences, ethos and multiplatform output.)

While RT may have limited capacity to influence those not already sympathetic to its aims, its reach across social and traditional media, and freedom from any commitment to impartiality, equip it perfectly for an atmosphere of rumour and counter-rumour.

This brings us back to Donald Trump and his ongoing crusade against the mainstream media.

Trump echoes RT’s line that all news reporting is biased in some way, and his social media output clearly flatters the views of his followers and allies. Trump’s tweets are, intentionally or not, perfectly calibrated to exploit the same effect as RT: audiences seek out content that accords with their political beliefs, and ignore information that does not correspond to their biases.

This effect is even clearer where people have strong political beliefs and ideologically segregated social media networks, because algorithms lock our preferences into our social media experience. Counterintuitively, we’re most likely to enter into debate with people with similar views to our own, not those who we perceive as being different and who can offer an alternative world view.

Worst of all, if much of your social media following is made up of automated “bots” primed to repeat, circulate and amplify particular messages – as seems likely in Trump’s case – then the volume of echoes increases exponentially. The result? Political opinions are polarised, with completely fabricated stories more widely shared (and believed) than genuine news.

Playing the mainstream
These patterns are strongest among more ideologically motivated groups, especially those on the political “fringe”. While less partisan audiences still look to the mainstream media, the agenda of the mainstream media is nonetheless shifting in response to fringe groups’ online interactions. As mainstream outlets report on social media trends, they amplify stories that originated in fringe groups, particularly when the stories reflect their ideological stance.

But the effect is not uniform across the political spectrum. Research on the US media shows that conservative news websites are more likely than liberal ones to propagate fabricated stories, and conservative individuals are more likely to believe them – but that liberal media outlets are more likely to change their agenda in response.

Crucially, fact-checking disputed stories does not help. Fact-check articles are less influential than the stories they attack, and can actually help disseminate falsehoods to audiences who are prone to misremember them as fact. More than that, merely fact-checking articles on fringe topics only makes those topics objects of mainstream discussion.

Fears about particular outlets’ “propaganda” stories are misplaced, since those stories generally only influence self-selecting “fringe” groups. What’s really concerning is how these groups repeat and amplify their preferred messages, and how their efforts influence media agendas and shift the parameters of political debate. With trust in the media declining fast, people are increasingly consulting partisan alternatives.

The ConversationThat not only opens the field for players like RT, but polarises social discussion to the point of outright conflict. And as recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia prove, that conflict is not confined to the online world.

About Today's Contributor:
Precious N Chatterje-Doody, Post-doctoral Research Associate, Reframing Russia for the Global Mediasphere, University of Manchester

This article was originally published on The Conversation

Bonus Picture:
There is nothing like a war to divert media attention  So Mr Trump started a war with the media
Image via Trumpton Facebook Page

You Might Also Like