Spin

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The Full Dossier on the Right’s New Radical Kingmakers

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Donald Trump rose to power as a candidate in service to the people. Specifically, two of them: eccentric billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. This essential long read goes deep into their background, motivations, and historically destructive power.


“The Blow-it-all-up Billionaires”
by Vicky Ward
The Huffington Post Highline
March 17, 2017

Last December, about a month before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Rebekah Mercer arrived at Stephen Bannon’s office in Trump Tower, wearing a cape over a fur-trimmed dress and her distinctive diamond-studded glasses. Tall and imposing, Rebekah, known to close friends as Bekah, is the 43-year-old daughter of the reclusive billionaire Robert Mercer. If Trump was an unexpected victor, the Mercers were unexpected kingmakers. More established names in Republican politics, such as the Kochs and Paul Singer, had sat out the general election. But the Mercers had committed millions of dollars to a campaign that often seemed beyond salvaging.

That support partly explains how Rebekah secured a spot on the executive committee of the Trump transition team. She was the only megadonor to frequent Bannon’s sanctum, a characteristically bare-bones space containing little more than a whiteboard, a refrigerator and a conference table. Unlike the other offices, it also had a curtain so no one could see what was happening inside. Before this point, Rebekah’s resume had consisted of a brief run trading stocks and bonds (including at her father’s hedge fund), a longer stint running her family’s foundation and, along with her two sisters, the management of an online gourmet cookie shop called Ruby et Violette. Now, she was compiling lists of potential candidates for a host of official positions, the foot soldiers who would remake (or unmake) the United States government in Trump’s image. Read more.


Meet New Alt-Right Media Power-Broker Robert Mercer

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

He made his money in tech and he’s investing it in new toys — data analytics and international politics. With his sights set on the media, his ultimate target is your heart and mind.


“Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media”
by Carol Cadwalladr
The Guardian
February 26, 2017

Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial thinktank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

Prominent rightwing journalist Andrew Breitbart, who founded the site but died in 2012, told Bannon that they had “to take back the culture”. And, arguably, they have, though American culture is only the start of it. In 2014, Bannon launched Breitbart London, telling the New York Times it was specifically timed ahead of the UK’s forthcoming election. It was, he said, the latest front “in our current cultural and political war”. France and Germany are next. (more…)

How to Diversify Your Biased News Portfolio

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Ever get the feeling you’re being pandered to? You don’t know the half of it. Here’s a company that hedges all bets in order to assure they get your ad dollars.


“This Is How Your Hyperpartisan Political News Gets Made”
by Craig Silverman
Buzzfeed News
February 27, 2017

The websites Liberal Society and Conservative 101 appear to be total opposites. The former publishes headlines such as “WOW, Sanders Just Brutally EVISCERATED Trump On Live TV. Trump Is Fuming.” Its conservative counterpart has stories like “Nancy Pelosi Just Had Mental Breakdown On Stage And Made Craziest Statement Of Her Career.”

So it was a surprise last Wednesday when they published stories that were almost exactly the same, save for a few notable word changes.

After CNN reported White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was “sidelined from television appearances,” both sites whipped up a post — and outrage — for their respective audiences. The resulting stories read like bizarro-world versions of each other — two articles with nearly identical words and tweets optimized for opposing filter bubbles. The similarity of the articles also provided a key clue BuzzFeed News followed to reveal a more striking truth: These for-the-cause sites that appeal to hardcore partisans are in fact owned by the same Florida company.

Liberal Society and Conservative 101 are among the growing number of so-called hyperpartisan websites and associated Facebook pages that have sprung up in recent years, and that attracted significant traffic during the US election. A previous BuzzFeed News analysis of content published by conservative and liberal hyperpartisan sites found they reap massive engagement on Facebook with aggressively partisan stories and memes that frequently demonize the other side’s point of view, often at the expense of facts. Read more.


Reheating the Cold War: Blame it on the Ruskies

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Media Literacy, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.”


Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say
by Craig Timberg
The Washington Post
November 24, 2016

Putin TV

The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.

Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia.

Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem.

There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. Read the rest of the article here.

The Time of Our Lives?

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Parody, Political Challenges, Spin, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a lovely duet:


Trump and Hillary: Time of my life – LuckyTV

RT News Report: What If We Make a Video and Show ‘Em How Everything Really Works Around Here?

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Filed under: Political Pranks, Prank News, Propaganda and Disinformation, Satire, Spin

The highly controversial Russian news network RT (f/k/a and a/k/a Russia Today) pokes a little fun on its own ruble. Clever, but all propaganda none-the-less… as always.

RT exposed in leaked video:
Watch how evil ‘Kremlin propaganda bullhorn’ REALLY works

Morally Outraged Hackers Publish Ashley Madison Secrets

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Spin

Red Woman's LipsThe hackers responsible for stealing supposedly secure data from Ashley Madison, the website for married people looking for extramarital trysts, appear to have a conscience. They’re moralists. But not about their actions.

Kim Zetter of Wired reports, “The hackers deflected responsibility for any damages or repercussions that victims of the breach and data dump may suffer.”

AshleyMadison-Data-Dump

Read Kim’s whole Wired article here


Glitter-bomb Prankster Can’t Stop His Own Creation

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Prank News, Pranksters, Publicity Stunts, Spin

It was an idea that practically shimmered with brilliance: Have packages full of glitter shipped to your enemies, assuring they won’t get your sparkly animus out of their sweaters for a long time. It exploded on blogs and social media, and now Matthew Carpenter, its creator, is not having fun anymore. He’s trying to sell the business after just one day. Sounds like a marketing ploy if there ever was one. “This is too successful. Please take it off my hands for a lot of money.”

ViceGlitter-020


“Evil genius behind ‘Ship Your Enemies Glitter’ didn’t quite think it through”
by Andrea Romano
Mashable
January 15, 2015

Mathew Carpenter has made a huge mistake, and much like his creation, it’s not going anywhere for a while.

The 22-year-old creator of ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com — and self-proclaimed person who “live[s] for moolah” on Twitter — is urging his millions of fans to stop using his brilliantly evil website to get revenge on their enemies.

After a boom in sales that also caused a temporary site crash, Carpenter decided he is in way over his sparkly head and put the site up for grabs to anyone who wants to buy it from him.

He also posted on the website ProductHunt.com, pleading with customers to stop buying his shiny and swift revenge methods.

Read the rest here.

 

TV Viewers Disappointed to Not See Host Eaten Alive

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts, Spin

Promotional materials for the Discovery Channel program Eaten Alive led some viewers to expect that they would see host Paul Rosolie devoured by a wild anaconda. When he wasn’t, animal-rights activists and passive sadists alike expressed dismay.


‘Eaten Alive’ Watched by 4.1 Million Viewers
by Lynn Elber
ABCNews
December 8, 2014

eaten aliveLOS ANGELES (AP) – Discovery Channel’s “Eaten Alive” special that pitted snake against man drew more than 4 million viewers, but not all considered it time well spent.

Although the title and a promotional video indicated that naturalist Paul Rosolie would be swallowed by a giant anaconda, Sunday’s pre-taped special didn’t go that far.

Rosolie, described by Discovery as a snake researcher and conservationist, ended his Amazon jungle encounter with the snake after it encircled his body and began squeezing. Wearing bulky protective gear, Rosolie escaped with a sore arm but uneaten.

Online, some viewers jeered the show for falling short of its promise. One posting showed a photo of a mild-looking dog nibbling on a person’s finger, accompanied by a request for their own Discovery show. (more…)

Political Facades

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Russia: Fake facades on unkempt homes ‘to impress Putin’
BBC News…as found by BBC Monitoring
26 November 2013

A Russian city has wrapped its dilapidated buildings in fake facades ahead of a planned visit by President Vladimir Putin, it’s emerged.

suzsalhouse_425

Local authorities in the historic city of Suzdal draped unkempt traditional wooden houses in banners camouflaged to look like well-tended facades, complete with carved window frames and flowerpots in the windows, according to a blog post by a local journalist. The sprucing-up operation earlier in November came ahead of a national conference of local government leaders that Putin was scheduled to attend.

Media websites – such as Moskovsky Komsomolets – were quick to liken the result to fake villages said to have been erected by Catherine the Great’s favourite, Grigory Potemkin, in war-ravaged regions of southern Ukraine in the 18th Century. This was allegedly done in an effort to impress the visiting empress and foreign ambassadors. The window-dressing habit apparently continued in Soviet Russia. Stories abound of regional authorities giving blocks of flats quick licks of paint and stacking fresh goods in usually barren shops ahead of visits by party bigwigs.

In Suzdal’s case, the effort seems to have been in vain. Putin never got around to putting in an appearance after all.

More photos from lgatta-felice.livejournal

fakefacades1

(more…)

Fox News’ Spin Doctors – Keeping the Critics at Bay

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Filed under: Media Literacy, Spin

Fox News Reportedly Used Fake Commenter Accounts To Rebut Critical Blog Posts
by Ben Dimiero
Media Matters
October 20, 2013

New Book Details An Extensive Campaign By The Networks’ PR Staffers

fox-sockpuppet-425

NPR media reporter David Folkenflik writes in his forthcoming book Murdoch’s World that Fox News’ public relations staffers used an elaborate series of dummy accounts to fill the comments sections of critical blog posts with pro-Fox arguments.

In a chapter focusing on how Fox utilized its notoriously ruthless public relations department in the mid-to-late 00’s, Folkenflik reports that Fox’s PR staffers would “post pro-Fox rants” in the comments sections of “negative and even neutral” blog posts written about the network. According to Folkenflik, the staffers used various tactics to cover their tracks, including setting up wireless broadband connections that “could not be traced back” to the network.

A former staffer told Folkenflik that they had personally used “one hundred” fake accounts to plant Fox-friendly commentary: Read the whole article here.

via Huffington Post

Concealed Covert Advertising: The New Content

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Media literacy alert! This article about covert advertising does exactly what it talks about. It masquerades as content while advertising products…


When advertising becomes content, who wins — advertisers or publishers, or both?
by Mathew Ingram
PaidContent.org
March 2, 2013

One of the biggest trends in media at the moment is “sponsored content” or what some call “native advertising.” But is it the savior of online media, or just another mirage in the advertising desert?

blankbillboard-200Andrew Sullivan, the former Daily Beast writer who recently launched his own standalone publishing venture, has made it pretty clear that he doesn’t like advertising, which is why his site is supported entirely by reader subscriptions. And he also made it clear in a recent series of posts that he doesn’t like the growing trend of sites like BuzzFeed using what they call “sponsored content” as a replacement for traditional advertising — something he suggested was ethically questionable for media entities of all kinds.

Like it or not, however, this phenomenon is becoming more and more commonplace — and not just at new-media ventures like BuzzFeed but also at traditional publishers like The Atlantic. Is it the savior of online media, or just another mirage in the advertising desert? This is a question we are going to discussing at length at paidContent Live in New York on April 17, including a panel entitled “The future of native advertising: Blurring ads and content.”

If it’s useful, does it matter if it’s sponsored? (more…)

Andrew Breitbart, Conservative Muckraker, Dies

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Filed under: Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Update: Erin submits that this obit from Matt Taibbi, published in Rollingstone, gives a more spot-on assessment of the man.


Andrew Breitbart, 1969-2012
by David Frum
The Daily Beast
March 1, 2012

“Of the dead, speak nothing but what is good.”

It’s an ancient rule and a wise one, but one that does not do justice to the life and career of Andrew Breitbart, dead today aged 43.

It is impossible to speak nothing of a man who traced such a spectacular course through the contemporary media.

But to speak only “good” of Andrew Breitbart would be to miss the story and indeed to misunderstand the man.

Video: Breitbart spews hatred at Occupy Wall Street protestors

Watch more controversial Breitbart video moments here.


Obit continues. (more…)

Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere Revisionism

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Filed under: Spin

Sarah Palin Supporters Attempted To Edit Wikipedia Page On Paul Revere
Huffington Post
June 6, 2011

Last week, Sarah Palin told a local news station in Boston that Paul Revere “warned the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms.” As the news media rushed to point out that Revere was, in fact, warning the American colonists, not the British, Palin’s supporters apparently attempted to update the Wikipedia entry on Revere in order to make the facts conform to Palin’s version of history.

According to the revision history on the Wikipedia page, Palin supports attempted to add the line in italics below:

Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects.

That revision was deleted with the explanation “content not backed by a reliable sources [sic] (it was sarah palin interview videos).” (more…)

The Lomborg Deception – Debunking the Climate Change Debunker

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation, Spin

Submitted by Larry Croft:


Book Review: The Lomborg Deception
by Sharon Begley
Newsweek
February 22, 2010

Debunking the claims of the climate-change skeptic.

In naming roustabout, lumberjack, ironworker, and dairy farmer America’s “worst jobs,” CareerCast.com omitted one whose awfulness is counterbalanced only by its public-spiritedness: fact-checking Bjørn Lomborg.

The Danish political scientist won fame and fans by arguing that many of the alarms sounded by environmental activists and scientists—that species are going extinct at a dangerous rate, that forests are disappearing, that climate change could be catastrophic—are bogus. A big reason Lomborg was taken seriously is that both of his books, The Skeptical Environmentalist
(in 2001) and >Cool It (in 2007), have extensive references, giving a seemingly authoritative source for every one of his controversial assertions. So in a display of altruistic masochism that we should all be grateful for (just as we’re grateful that some people are willing to be dairy farmers), author Howard Friel has checked every single citation in Cool It. The result is Lomborg Deception, which is being published by Yale University Press next month. It reveals that Lomborg’s work is “a mirage,” writes biologist Thomas Lovejoy in the foreword. “[I]t is a house of cards…Friel has used real scholarship to reveal the flimsy nature” of Lomborg’s work. (more…)