Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Media Lameness, a Gullible Public, and GOP Political Whores Enable Russian Propaganda

Yes, I view Donald Trump as a dangerous, foul and unprincipled individual.  The same holds for his buddy, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB thug who appears to have encouraged the murder of his political opponents, assuming he didn't order the murders himself.   Yet despite the un-savoriness of both men, one is president elect of the United States and the other seems to have actively worked to throw the election to Trump.  How did this happen?  A piece in Salon suggests that Russian covert action was added and abetted right here in America by a lazy and largely irresponsible media - the same folks now trying to normalize the Trump nightmare - ignorant and gullible voters (mostly Trump voters) and unprincipled Republicans only too happy to sell their soles to Trump and, by extension to Putin.  Here are article excerpts:
Much attention has been paid in the past month to the role that fake news — a combination of conspiracy theories from places like Infowars and stories from hoax websites — influenced the course of the U.S. election, helping Donald Trump win the presidency. But over the weekend, we were reminded that sometimes effective propaganda can be misleading without being fake at all.
The Russian government, according to the CIA, pulled off an astonishing bit of psy-ops on the American electorate without ever technically lying to anyone. CIA agents reportedly presented a formal analysis to lawmakers last week, arguing that the Russian government hacked the email accounts of Democratic Party leaders and then used WikiLeaks to strategically release the emails, sowing conspiracy theories and paranoia to dampen voter turnout for Clinton.
Assuming this was the Russians, their strategy worked because too many power players in the American political ecosystem were too short-sighted, lazy and selfish to look past their own immediate self-interest and consider the big picture. What the Russian email hack ended up doing was illustrating the various weaknesses in our political systems and culture, weaknesses that Trump, likely with Vladimir Putin’s assistance, was able to exploit to claw his way into the White House.
Here’s a short list of the various political weaknesses that Russian hackers were able to take advantage of.
Mainstream media outlets are more interested in appearing fair than actually being fair. Trump is so corrupt that he coughs up more genuine scandals before breakfast than most dirty politicians can come up with in a lifetime. Hillary Clinton, in contrast, is a clean politician, which we know because she’s been under some kind of dogged investigation for the better part of three decades, without a speck of real dirt coming up on her.
But to report this basic truth — that one candidate was irredeemably corrupt and the other was not — would have drawn accusations from the right that the media was in the tank for Clinton. So, in order to appear fair, mainstream media outlets embraced a policy of being incredibly unfair to Clinton, blowing every non-scandal out of proportion.
WikiLeaks and its Russian buddies were able to exploit this media bias towards “balance” over truth by slowly releasing emails regarding the Clinton Foundation, Democratic National Committee strategy, and other hot-button topics.
Most people don’t really read the news, but just glean general themes from headlines and cable TV. Those who actually bothered to read the stories under the blaring headlines about the email leaks would generally find that the headlines were wildly misleading. As Matthew Yglesias at Vox wrote, one hacked email chain “doesn’t raise the question of whether Clinton Foundation staff got special access to passports from the State Department. It answers the question. They didn’t, as the story says.”
Only 31 percent of the people who read online articles, going by statistical averages, read more than a few paragraphs. But the big reveal — that there’s no scandal — usually came well into an article, after the part where most readers had disengaged.
Most Republican politicians put party before country. One of the scariest revelations in the Washington Post piece about the CIA report was that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a secret meeting between Democratic and Republican leaders, “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.”
The threat, and it was a threat, seems like it was effective, because the White House decided against the release. But the whole thing is a neat distillation of the entire Republican attitude towards any Trump-based corruption: They’re happy to look the other way as Trump and his supporters plunder the country, spread racism and bigotry and undermine our democracy, so long as they get a crack at destroying Social Security and Medicare.

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