Category Archives: media

This Is Your Periodic Reminder That Trump’s Twitter Is Fake

Looks like the dumb housewife has struck again.

Last year I had a sneaking suspicion that there was something very phony about Trump’s most active Twitter followers. I’d see people — some of them prominent journalists and public figures — get in weird debates with Trump supporters. But there was something really strange about these supporters. They always had 32 supporters or 32,000 — no middle ground. They universally had “Deplorable” in their names and the #MAGA hashtag in their bios. Their profiles usually represented a minority of some kind — African Americans, Hispanics, women, etc. — i.e., people who were not supposed to be Trump supporters, according to conventional wisdom (and polls). Their bio pics were always extremely physically attractive, not a dog in the litter. And their Twitter feeds were all virtually identical. They all repeated the same pro-Trump lines, and re-Tweeted each other. Many were re-Tweeted by Trump himself. It was all just a little too “straight out of Central Casting” for me, and my bullshit meter went off. I finally wrote about it here.

Since then we’ve learned more about Trump/Russia’s use of social media to spread Trump memes. The goal is to establish the idea that Trump’s agenda and Trumpism in general is more widely accepted among Americans than it actually is. Another goal is to attack opponents — Hillary during the campaign, but post-inauguration, the tactic is deployed against anyone opposing Trump.

Why Twitter? Because our idiotic news media uses Twitter as its assignment editor. There are news shows that literally cover “trending topics” like they’re real things. Last week a WSMV morning news report had the “breaking news” (not making this up) that Trump Tweeted five times overnight. So it’s important to remind everyone that Twitter is often fake, and Trump’s Twitter in particular is super fake. Trump-related Twitter activity does not equate with support for his regime.

For example, a Twitter audit reveals that over one quarter of Trump’s Twitter followers are fakes:

twitteraudit

This isn’t necessarily Trump’s fault, as bots and zombies can attach themselves to anyone without the account holder knowing about it. But when this zombie bot army is Tweeting identical pro-Trump messages, it’s not out of line to question what the hell is going on. For example, see this string of identical Tweets from different pro-Trump accounts. Hmmm …

And there’s this from Facebook (I know I’m talking primarily about Twitter here but the same shit goes on over at Facebook):

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Just before the inauguration Forbes did an analysis of Trump’s Twitter following and found not only are there an unusually large percentage of zombies and bots, but the majority of accounts are not U.S.-based:

In Trump’s case, many of those followers come from Moscow or elsewhere in Russia, India, Nigeria and Latin American countries, primarily Venezuela and Mexico.  It’s not surprising that our PEOTUS is followed by people around the world, but those people should not be counted as part of Trump’s electoral base in the U.S.

If you limit the scope of analysis to accounts of users who self-identify as living in the United States, those 20 million total followers worldwide become more like 3 million active domestic Twitter users who included a location setting in their Twitter profile, and thus are likely to represent actual people and businesses. Affinio says they often see large shifts in audience size by applying this kind of geography filter.

So of Trump’s 20 million followers, only 3 million represent actual Americans. That’s … pathetic. Mashable recently noted:

It’s been estimated that up to 80 percent of Trump’s Twitter traffic is perpetuated by bots, singing his praises and hawking Trump-related merchandise. The most famous item they sold was a now-infamous “Liberal Tears” mug.

Tolulope Edionwe at The Outline uncovered that the mugs were a scam, with many customers never receiving their much-desired liberal-shaming swag.

As the Mashable piece explained, a change in Twitter’s mobile app has made the creation of spambots moot. They’re still there, but not as prominent. But of course, whenever technology creates a wall, savvy manipulators figure out how to build ladders.

I have long suspected that a major reason Trump was so enamored with Twitter in the first place is because it’s so easy to manipulate. It’s so easy to create an army of adoring followers on Twitter, which is what Trump craves. And who knows, maybe it’s not him, maybe it’s someone smarter than him — a Steve Bannon type, maybe — who’s figured out how to pull Turmp’s strings by using bots to up the “likes” on whatever asinine thought comes to him at 3 a.m. I don’t know if he’s using Twitter as part of a massive propaganda campaign or an ego gratification campaign or if someone else is using it to manipulate him; regardless, it’s time everyone wised up and started acting accordingly.

So, I don’t want to hear any more “breaking news” about trending topics, or Trump Tweets. If Trump wants to threaten opponents with his Twitter army, bring it on: the “army” is fake. It’s one thing for the news media to cover the latest cute kid viral video, but when this stuff involves our acting leader, and the information affects world events, the news media needs to seriously check itself.

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Filed under Donald Trump, media, Social Media

The Alternative Fact That Shook The Nation

[UPDATE]:

I hate it when I’m right about this stuff.

——————————————–

“This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe…”

I confess, even I have been a little taken aback by this. The lie was so blatant, so obvious, that even people who would no sooner pay attention to a White House press briefing than pick up a copy of Scientific American were stunned by it. I mean, I got texts from completely non-political family members about it, and they were shocked at the chutzpah.

Here is a close-up of Sean Spicer’s eyes as he told his lie:

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What I see here is panic. The only thing missing is the gun to his head. The entire charade, as both Michael Moore and Mika Brzezinski noted, looked like a hostage tape. He’s saying this because he was forced to, and he knows exactly the pile of shit his boss is making him wade into, and he knows there’s not a damn thing he can do about it. Indeed, the statement sounds like it was written by Trump himself. The hyperbole, the grandiosity, are straight out of Trump’s Twitter feed.

Ari “We know for a fact that there are weapons there” Fleischer, a man who has told his share of bald-faced lies, said this:

“This is called a statement you’re told to make by the President. And you know the President is watching,” Fleischer wrote.

So while a stunned nation hashes and rehashes What It All Means®, I’m particularly hung up on this one fact:

The President of the United States forced his spokesperson to lie to the American people about how many people watched his inaugural.

This stupid, petty, in-the-grand-scheme-of-things meaningless thing was THAT important to him. He is supposed to be the leader of the free world focused on, you know, important stuff. But he forced his spokesbot to tell an obvious, easily checked lie about how many people watched his inaugural. It is that important for Trump. He must have the biggest, the best, the most, the (fill in the blank superlative), and yes, he will die on this hill. What little political capital he had was squandered on something stupid like crowd size because Trump demanded it.

Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s just … astonishing.

I know there’s been a lot of speculation about some deeper strategy here: that this marks the latest salvo in the Trump Administration’s war on the media, that Trump is attempting to delegitimize the national news media and delegitimize the entire concept of truth, that this marks the end of “access journalism,” etc.

While some of this may be true, I really don’t think it’s that complicated. I really think it’s as simple as this:

Donald Trump requires constant and undiminished reinforcement of his greatness.

This is Pathological Narcissism. It’s scary as hell, because this level of neediness is never sated. This is Tyrant 101. This is how wars happen and freedoms are lost. The fact that this weak-minded man has surrounded himself with sycophants and ego-strokers is not surprising (they all do that), but at some point even Spicer and Kellyanne are going to give up, because even the best enablers can’t keep propping up the naked emperor forever.

Traditionally when that happens, the enablers are marched in front of the firing squad. Or, if they’re smart, they’ve figured out how to get the Pathological Narcissist to self-destruct (see the final scenes of “A Face In The Crowd” for an idea of what I’m talking about … a “leak” for the pre-internet age.)

What will happen here, I don’t know. I see in Kellyanne’s eyes their own special brand of cold-as-ice ambition and craven opportunism:

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She thinks she can manage the Ego In Chief but the thing about Pathological Narcissists is that they are never, ever truly managed. Their emptiness is a bottomless pit. Kellyanne may think she’s smart and has Trump under control but her “alternative facts” flub shows she’s not immune to a screw up herself. She might not be quite smart enough for this situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kellyanne weren’t the first one trotted out before a (metaphorical, let’s hope) firing squad as the Id in charge lashes out those who failed to sell his greatness to the world.

Interesting times, indeed.

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Filed under Donald Trump, media, media manipulation

Real? Or Not Real?

[UPDATE]:

Samantha Bee is on the case.

Frequently when walking our youngest dog Willie we have to play a game I call “Real? Or not real?”

Willie is the most skittish pup I’ve ever met (especially since he’s a ginormous, scary-looking pit bull/Lab mix). He’s a real marshmallow inside though, and is terrified of new things that appear in his space. Once it was a shopping cart that had somehow landed at the end of our street; he wouldn’t get within 15 feet of it for a week. Another time it was a beat-up VW Bug parked on the street that had never been there before. Balloons in front of an open house are extremely suspect, as are the Halloween decorations my neighbors have put up in their yards: those ghosts and witches hanging from trees that catch the breeze are too real for Willie. He’s sure they’re monsters come to life.

So, on our walks I often have to spend 5 or 10 minutes playing “real, or not real?” We get as close to the offending inanimate object as possible, I touch it, let him sniff my hand, we eventually get closer, repeat the touch and sniff, until finally he feels safe enough to sniff it on his own. Once he realizes it’s not real and not dangerous, he’s okay. Sometimes it takes more than one round of “real or not real” for him to walk past the object without fear. He’s still not convinced those Halloween decorations aren’t real. I understand why he thinks that; some of them look pretty real to me, too.

I bring all of this up because we have our own little version of “real, or not real” playing out on social media, influencing our national discourse and possibly our elections. I’ve noticed it with Donald Trump’s campaign, or at least people supporting his campaign, and if you spend any time on social media, you’ve probably seen it too: hundreds, maybe thousands, of fake Twitter accounts, many of which look and behave impossibly real, spreading the Trump message du jour, ginning up outrage where none probably exists, and driving the news narrative for the next 48 hours, days, or weeks.

How can you tell who is real and who is fake? It’s not easy. I’ve learned to spot a few clues: people with either absurdly few followers (and who aren’t following anyone), or non-famous people with tens of thousands of followers are big giveaways. Bio photos of young women with “Hollywood” looks are another clue: the hair and makeup are professionally done, the pose is staged, the outfit is professionally styled, etc. This tells me the bio photo was skimmed from a stock house or long-defunct ad campaign. Many of them have the word “Deplorable” in their handles now, a way of reinforcing the false outrage that Hillary calling them Deplorable was just the most offensive, terrible thing ever.

I don’t know where these fake people have come from; frankly, I’ve come to suspect a lot are tied to White Nationalists groups, as these folks seem to have figured out how to use social media as a manipulation tool. I find the whole thing absurd, and fascinating, and frightening.

Here’s an example: Meet Melissa, (now called Deplorable Melissa)

deplorable-melissa

Something seemed fishy to me about this lovely young woman; maybe it was the Pinned Tweet (they all have Pinned Tweets). Maybe it was that her Twitter feed consists almost entirely of re-Tweets. Maybe it was the professionally done hair and makeup, the “head-shot” pose. This looked like a photo skimmed from an old Revlon ad. So I did a reverse image search. I didn’t get any hits from ads, but I did get several links to suspended Twitter accounts. And one of the earliest suspended accounts had this photo as its bio image:

april-2016

Notice the background, the type of backdrop typically found at an entertainment industry red carpet event. The logo appears to be for something called “Sassy Sweet,” a name so generic it returned dozens of hits, from a line of hair care products to a franchise for little girl’s parties.

So, is Deplorable Melissa a real person? I don’t know, but I’m going to guess not. Over time her bio pic has been cropped and recropped, lost a background, her account has been suspended, she doesn’t Tweet anything original. I’m going to guess this photo was skimmed from Facebook or an old magazine. I could be wrong. There are people far smarter than me, with far better tools, who could figure this out in 5 minutes.

What I do know is, fakery on social media is being used by political campaigns to dupe the media and general public into thinking a message or idea has more support than it actually does.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: “So, Beale, basically you’re telling us that stuff on the internet is fake? What next, water is wet?”

Yes, I get that. My point is that in this case, the “not real” is becoming “real,” simply by virtue of its existence. Get enough of these fake Twitter accounts Tweeting and re-Tweeting whatever the VRWC wants people to get hot and bothered about, and it quickly filters from the “not real” to the “real.” Case in point: the “rigged election” meme. It started with Donald Trump repeating “it’s rigged! Rigged, I tell you!” at every campaign event. It was then repeated by hundreds of fake bots and Twitter accounts, ended up on some timelines of real people, and before you know it, they start re-Tweeting it too. Suddenly the idea that election is rigged appears to have substantial support among actual voters.

Did any significant number of people out there seriously believe the election is rigged until the idea was planted in their heads? Doubtful.

And now the news media, which uses socials media as its assignment editor, is reporting on Trump supporters talking about a rigged election. This is the idea which has now been inserted into the national narrative: the process has been tainted, the election now has a pall of illegitimacy surrounding it, you can’t trust the institution. All of these ideas simply weren’t there in any significant way until very recently (hell, I remember the idea of electronic voting machines being hackable was considered a lefty fringe thing a few years ago). Now we have real people like this guy in Cincinnati saying Hillary Clinton “needs to be taken out if she gets in the government” and, “if I have to be a patriot, I will.” Secretaries of State around the country, including Tennessee’s own Trey Hargett — a Republican! — must deny the “rigged” claims.

We now have the news cycle driven by the “rigged election” meme. This is allowed to happen because our political news coverage is almost entirely driven by process stories, with very little time or effort devoted to substance. So the political press can report on the “rigged” story and whose campaign it’s most likely to hurt and what the longterm impacts of such a claim might be, etc. etc. But has anyone bothered to ask if any actual vote rigging has occurred? I read on Twitter that all across the country, “illegal immigrants” are voting and dead people are voting. It’s happening everywhere, you guys! I know ‘cuz I saw it on Facebook!

Except it’s not happening. It’s not even real. Absent any evidence of actual “rigging,” all of this seems to have been cooked up in Donald Trump’s tiny little brain. It’s “not real,” but now Secretaries of State all around the country must prove a negative. And it’s not the first time Trump’s done this, either. Carey Wedler at theAntiMedia.org wrote about Trump’s Twitter fakery during the primary. It’s a fascinating read, all the more interesting because the person who figured it out is an anti-Trump conservative activist. As Wedler wrote then:

Compared to planting pundits and making threats, using fake Twitter followers may seem benign, but the intention remains the same as more extreme forms of media manipulation: to force narratives on the public in the hopes of amassing power and influence.

So, next time a meme picks up steam in the public discourse, it may help to play our little game of “real, or not real?” Where did it originate — before Jake Tapper and Chris Cilizza and Lou Dobbs started talking about it? Was it cooked up in a campaign kitchen and delivered to the public by a bunch of fake bots? If so then it’s not real, you guys.

Unreal.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, media, Social Media

OMG I Knew It

If Trump TV becomes reality I am literally giving up on humanity and moving into a yurt in the desert somewhere:

The Republican presidential nominee’s interest in harnessing his political gains and populist appeal for a slice of the cable TV market has long been rumored. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been in contact with Aryeh Bourkoff, founder of investment bank LionTree, about starting a TV network if he’s defeated in the presidential election in November, the FT reported.

Three days ago I wrote that I didn’t want to see anyone associated with the Trump campaign “falling upwards” after this disgusting campaign. That includes giving anyone associated with it their own TV show or, God forbid, an entire cable TV network. Fuck you, Aryeh Bourkoff and LionTree. I’ve never heard of you but anyone even considering doing business with the Trump organization at this point deserves what’s coming their way. Don’t you know everything Donald Trump touches turns to shit? That he has the original touch of merde?

And what fool thinks there’s a market for a hate channel? TLC didn’t exactly win big with Sarah Palin, did it? We already have WhitePrideTV on the internet, do we really need it on cable? Please.

I’m starting to think this was the grift all along.

Meanwhile, let the parodies begin:

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, media, Media

There’s No Downside To Doing The Right Thing

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”

[UPDATE]:

Drip drip drip ….

One team managed Emily West, a budding musician who later appeared on “America’s Got Talent.” The other managed Luke Bryan, a country singer and songwriter who has gone on to notable success.

During the boardroom session that decided which team did the better job transforming its artist, Trump turned the conversation sharply ― and at times, uncomfortably ― to West’s physical appearance, specifically her skin.

“I assume you’re gonna leave this off, don’t put this shit on the show, you know. But her skin, her skin sucks, okay?” he says, according to the transcript. “I mean her skin, she needs some serious fuckin’ dermatology.”

Mild, compared to “pussy-grabbing,” but I assume this is just the start …

———————————————————-

That Donald Trump is a repulsive, sexist bigot has been the worst-kept secret in media and entertainment circles for years. Everyone who has ever worked with him or been around him has known this. I’ve heard stories from my industry friends of things Trump has said to female entertainers at awards shows, charity events and the like. Things that reveal who he is: a man who sees women as objects, not human beings.

It’s long past time for these people to come forward. Because it’s one thing when you’re talking about a skeevy TV star (paging Bill Cosby!). It’s quite another when that person is seeking elected office — and not just any elected office, but the highest office in the land. He wants to be President of the United States, you guys. This shit’s important. It actually matters.

And to be fair, women have come forward, actually. But they aren’t “names,” they haven’t received traction in the media. We’re now starting to see a trickle of reports make it onto the airwaves, but I just have to wonder why this hasn’t happened already?

A big reason, of course, is how women are treated when they come forward with stories of sexual assault. We’re called liars, sluts, gold-diggers, accused of looking for a payoff. But now that we have Trump bragging about how fame allows him to assault women, maybe more will come forward.

There’s plenty of evidence out there on video, too. The story is that there are “Apprentice” outtakes in which Trump uses the “n” word, and worse. Because TV producer Mark Burnett owns “The Apprentice,” leaking this video could result in costly litigation. Now that a Clinton supporter has perhaps offered to pay those fees, we might actually see that video. We need a whistleblower to put the final nail in Donald Trump’s sad, delusional, despicable campaign.

Because the sad truth is, America doesn’t believe anything unless they actually see it on TV. Someone can tell you Donald Trump pulled you into a bedroom and tried to rape you, but in modern America where we have to “check the kerning” on everything, we are a nation of skeptics.

Women describing sexual assault in particular are viewed with doubt, anyway. So I get why it’s hard. I get why there’s reluctance. But now is not the time to be squeamish. Now is the time to be brave. The fate of the republic is literally at stake.

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Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, Donald Trump, media

When Your RW Media Bubble Backfires

It’s a matter of course that every election, Republican politicians will complain about the “liberal media” being unfair to them. In fact, it’s so ingrained in the conservative zeitgeist that the media is “liberal” and therefore “bad” that years and years ago they were inspired to launch their own “conservative” alternatives. And all was well and good, until it wasn’t. Because conservative spin which is factually wrong doesn’t help conservatives. In the long run, it hurts them.

Those chickens have been coming home to roost for quite a while now, creating an increasingly embarrassing fail parade for the Republican Party. The conservative echo chamber gave rise to the Tea Party, it gave us climate change denialism and birtherism and Sarah Palin and Clint Eastwood yelling at an empty chair representing the right’s fantasy Obama. It gave us “unskewed polls” and Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich going on national TV to explain how Mitt Romney was going to win in 2012, guaranteed. And it gave us the embarrassment that is Donald Trump.

And it’s this last bit which has finally woken some folks on the right up. Not just the National Review, which recently ran a column about how the conservative echo chamber hurts conservatives (though even this piece seems to have missed the point a bit), but right-wing radio hosts like Charlie Sykes of Wisconsin, who was interviewed by Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy and made this very astute observation:

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You know, sometimes facts do have a liberal bias. And when you demonize all of your fact-checkers, your “gatekeepers,” you’ve basically normalized the tin-foil hat conspiracy theories and other nonsense. These are your new facts, and you are as married to them as your audience is because you have no other way of rebutting it. You’ve painted yourself into a corner.

In short, you keep people in the dark and feed them bullshit for so long, all you end up with is a bumper crop of mushrooms.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, media

The Internet Is Full Of Bad Ideas

From what vat of stupid did this monumental piece of crap spring?

Lizza

Ryan Lizza is the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, also a CNN contributor. Not exactly a Fox News pundit. And yet, this is Breitbart-level stupidity. So, the Democratic nominee should willingly relinquish the crown jewel of the election to stop the Republican Party’s petard-hoisting which is providing us all so much amusement? I don’t think so, buddy.

I am so sick of this “Villager” wisdom from our betters in the political-intellectual circle jerk known as the Washington press.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, media

You’ve Come A Long Way, Maybe

The Los Angeles Times is rightfully getting some heat for running a photo of President Bill Clinton to accompany a story about Hillary’s historic nomination.

Like other newspapers, The Times illustrated its main story Wednesday on Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination for president with a photo — of her husband.

Of course, Bill Clinton is no ordinary spouse of a candidate (and neither was Hillary Clinton when her husband was president). Still, many readers detected a whiff of sexism in The Times’ decision to feature a large photo of the former president basking the adulation of the Democratic National Convention crowd when it was the former secretary of State who received her party’s nomination for president.

Gee, I’m not sure “other papers did it, too,” and, “Bill Clinton is no ordinary spouse,” are worthy excuses. And I missed the apology in these two paragraphs, too.

My God but it’s going to be a long three and a half months.

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, feminism, Hillary Clinton, media

troncitis

This is why we can’t have nice things, everybody:

Tribune Publishing, the parent company that owns several storied and proud newspapers in the US including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, announced on Thursday that it would be changing its name to “tronc Inc.”

That’s with one lowercase t and one uppercase I.

In a press release, the company said that tronc Inc would be “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels”.

The name, according to the release, is a shortening of Tribune Online Content.

“tronc pools the company’s leading media brands and leverages innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences to its 60m monthly users,” the release continued, using the lower-case t despite the word coming at the beginning of the sentence.

Ooooh “content curation and monetization”! Just what consumers have been clamoring for! Call me old-fashioned but I don’t want “personalized and interactive experiences.” I just want the fucking news. Is that so hard?

Twitter, of course, went apeshit.

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Filed under media, Media

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Just ….. no.

CNNfail

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Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, media