Accuracy in Media


As President Trump’s popularity appears to be inching up and hopes for bombshells to emerge from the Mueller moving down, the mainstream media has begun to provide a convenient set of excuses should Democrats not prevail in 2020.

Politico says Democratic presidential candidates already are subject to a “wide-ranging disinformation campaign … with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity.”

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with former congressman Robert O’Rourke (D-Texas), “appear to be” the “main targets,” wrote Natasha Korecki of Politico in “’Sustained and ongoing’ disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates” – subhead: “A coordinated barrage of social media attacks suggests the involvement of foreign state actors.”

The piece is long on description of the technical means by which Politico arrived at these conclusions, disclaimers that the activity could be organic, inferences of Russian involvement and comparisons to the 2016 and 2018 electoral cycles. But it is mysteriously short on actual examples of disinformation – as opposed to accurately depicting and criticizing candidates’ positions.

From a “Politico review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, Korecki concluded there is a “coordinated barrage” working at “undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions.”

A “broader” look reveals an “effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary.” The “cyber propaganda – which frequently picks at the rawest, most sensitive issues in public discourse – is being pushed across a variety of platforms and with a more insidious approach than in the 2016 presidential election, when online attacks designed to polarize and mislead voters first surfaced on a massive scale.”

It provides but one example of this disinformation – “a false narrative … alleging that a blackface doll appeared on a kitchen cabinet in the background of [Warren’s] New Year’s Eve Instagram livestream.” It did not mention how Politico knows this to be false.

Beyond that, we read of “racially inflammatory memes and messaging,” a tweet that claimed someone had proof O’Rourke left a message using racist language on an answering machine in the 1990s; and “one widely seen tweet” that “employed racist and sexist stereotypes in an attempt to sensationalize Harris’ relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.” It does not say what was in the tweet or why it would be considered racist or sexist; only that it made 8.6 million “’potential impressions.’”

Ominously, it quoted Alex Kellner, who worked in Hillary Clinton’s 2016 digital operation, “I think [cyber security] is going to be a serious part of any successful campaign; monitoring this and working with the platforms to shut down bad behavior.”

It did not say what would constitute “bad behavior” as opposed to normal political dialogue.

Vanity Fair blamed the problem on President Trump. That Russians, North Koreans and Iranians could still meddle in U.S. elections “should come as no surprise,” wrote Eric Lutz in “Is Russia Already Messing With the 2020 Election?”

“Donald Trump, who benefitted from Russian interference in 2016,” Lutz wrote without evidence, “has long resisted holding Moscow accountable for its intervention. He’s been reluctant to sanction the Kremlin, and repeatedly backed Vladimir Putin’s denials. What’s more, he and his allies have appeared to make little to no effort to learn from what happened in 2016 to ensure the security of future elections.”

“As my colleague, Nick Bilton reported last summer, Russia is once again looking to ‘drive a wedge deeper and deeper into the United States, pitting Americans against Americans, breaking the system from within.’ And under a president who has helped further those divisions, it seems the nation is as vulnerable as ever.”




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