Category Archives: U.S. Elections

The Media Bubble is Real — And Worse Than You Think

Jack Shafer and Tucker Doherty report for Politico Magazine:

Lede-Shafer-ByDataPoint.jpg[…] The answer to the press’ myopia lies elsewhere, and nobody has produced a better argument for how the national media missed the Trump story than FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, who pointed out that the ideological clustering in top newsrooms led to groupthink. “As of 2013, only 7 percent of [journalists] identified as Republicans,” Silver wrote in March, chiding the press for its political homogeneity. Just after the election, presidential strategist Steve Bannon savaged the press on the same point but with a heartier vocabulary. “The media bubble is the ultimate symbol of what’s wrong with this country,” Bannon said. “It’s just a circle of people talking to themselves who have no fucking idea what’s going on.”

But journalistic groupthink is a symptom, not a cause. And when it comes to the cause, there’s another, blunter way to think about the question than screaming “bias” and “conspiracy,” or counting D’s and R’s. That’s to ask a simple question about the map. Where do journalists work, and how much has that changed in recent years? To determine this, my colleague Tucker Doherty excavated labor statistics and cross-referenced them against voting patterns and Census data to figure out just what the American media landscape looks like, and how much it has changed.

The results read like a revelation. The national media really does work in a bubble, something that wasn’t true as recently as 2008. And the bubble is growing more extreme. Concentrated heavily along the coasts, the bubble is both geographic and political. If you’re a working journalist, odds aren’t just that you work in a pro-Clinton county—odds are that you reside in one of the nation’s most pro-Clinton counties. And you’ve got company: If you’re a typical reader of Politico, chances are you’re a citizen of bubbleville, too.

The “media bubble” trope might feel overused by critics of journalism who want to sneer at reporters who live in Brooklyn or California and don’t get the “real America” of southern Ohio or rural Kansas. But these numbers suggest it’s no exaggeration: Not only is the bubble real, but it’s more extreme than you might realize. And it’s driven by deep industry trends.

READ MORE…

Shattered: New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton Campaign

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Hillary Clinton[…] Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

If you’re wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.

What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters’ need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how “Because it’s her turn” might fly as a public rallying cry.

READ MORE…

Clinton 2016: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Christian Parenti wrote for Jacobin in November 2016:

It is now becoming clear that Clinton’s ground game — the watchword for defenders of her alleged competence — was actually under-resourced and poorly executed. Like so much else in this election, her field strategy was hostage to the colossal arrogance and consequent incompetence of the liberal establishment.

At the heart of the failure was the notion of the “new emerging majority.” According to this argument — pushed by, among others, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira — women, Latinos, blacks, and skilled professionals who support the Democrats were becoming the demographic majority. Thus the traditional white working-class base of the Democratic Party could be sidelined.

Back in July Chuck Schumer summed it up: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

From this theory and strategy flowed a deeply flawed set of tactics, and a badly fumbled get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort.

READ MORE…

This Isn’t the Foreign Policy Trump Campaigned On

Robert W. Merry writes for The American Conservative:

It may be too early to tell for sure, but Donald Trump is looking more and more like a phony. He’s also looking like a weakling. And a political ingrate. All this is coming into stark relief with accelerating events involving Syria. The United States launched dozens of missiles against Syrian military installations to retaliate for the chemical attack on rebel-held territory. Thus did Trump demonstrate that, to the extent that his foreign policy differs from that of his predecessor, it is more aggressive and adventuresome than Obama’s. That’s the opposite of how he campaigned.

So let’s start with the crucial civic adhesive of political gratitude. This is the virtue that impels politicians to give special consideration to the people who put them in office. That can generate anger and frustration on the part of people on the other side of the major issues in play, but those people have to accept that they were on the losing side. The winning side sets the agenda, based on the political conversation of the last campaign. That’s how democratic politics works.

Thinking back to the political conversation of the last campaign, we recall that Trump attacked the Iraq War as a mindless foreign adventure with bitter and ongoing consequences, including ongoing Mideast chaos. He said he certainly wouldn’t make the same mistake in Syria and that joining the struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would put the United States on the side of the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in the region. He said that, if Assad were deposed, the country likely would fall to unsavory elements that hate the West—in other words, some of our worst enemies. He touted his oft-expressed desire to develop better relations with Russia, an Assad ally, and said he would work with Russia toward an end to the horrendous Syrian bloodshed.

READ MORE…

Noam Chomsky: With U.S. History of Overthrowing Govts, Outrage over Russian Hacking Claims is Laughable

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak with world-renowned linguist, author and political dissident Noam Chomsky about the outrage over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (Democracy Now!)

Robert David English: Moscow Sees Hypocrisy in Allegations After U.S. Interfered in Russian Elections in 1990s

Amy Goodman speaks with Robert David English, professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, about allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections to help Trump win. English recently wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs titled ‘Russia, Trump, and a New Détente‘, and is the author of Russia and the Idea of the West. English says: “If we want to understand Russia’s point of view, President Putin and those around him—and of course we do—whether or not we agree with it, we need to understand how our adversaries see us, how all other nations see us, through their eyes. If we do that, we realize very quickly that their frame of reference has a lot to do with the mistakes and, yes, the U.S. interference in Russian politics in the ’90s, when we directly intervened in a presidential election to boost a losing candidate into a winning position—that was Boris Yeltsin.” (Democracy Now!)

The Hottest Story About Trump and Russia You Never Heard

David Talbot, author of The Devil’s Chessboard, writes for the San Francisco Chronicle:

In this March 31, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting with the National Association of Manufacturers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Slim majorities of Americans favor independent investigations into Trump’s relationship with the Russian government and possible attempts by Russia to influence last year’s election according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Photo: Evan Vucci, Associated Press[…] The media has a short attention span. In November, Newsweek called for Comey to be not just fired, but run out of Washington on a rail as “unfit for public service.” But last week, the magazine ran an article praising his honesty and “transparency” and claiming that he had tried to blow the whistle on Russia’s interference in the U.S. election back in July — only to be blocked by the timid Obama administration. Comey’s PR offensive is clearly producing impressive results — from Washington scoundrel to hero in just months!

But not all the media has jumped on the Comey bandwagon. If you want to read the most fascinating new angle about the Trump-Russia-FBI drama, you should check out WhoWhatWhy.org. Last week, the spunky investigative publication broke a major story about the Russia shadow play, reporting that Comey chose not to tell all about the Trump-Moscow connection during the U.S. presidential race “because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.”

But if the FBI can’t reveal the sordid details, WhoWhatWhy does, with a reporting team that included publication founder Russ Baker, a respected investigative journalist, and former Village Voice Executive Editor Jonathan Z. Larsen. The article reveals a fascinating world where mobsters and financial hustlers conducted business out of Trump Tower suites, brokering deals that often led back to Semion Mogilevich, a Russian crime kingpin closely connected to Putin whom one FBI official described as “the boss of bosses.” Some of these deals, reports the WhoWhatWhy team, clearly benefited Trump, whose shaky empire was rescued by a pipeline of Russian credit and investment in the early 2000s.

The shady activity at Trump Tower was closely monitored by the FBI’s New York office, according to Baker and Larsen. But the bureau doesn’t emerge as exactly heroic in the reporters’ article. Two of the FBI agents who investigated the corrupt business operations centered in Trump Tower later went to work as private security contractors for the Trump presidential campaign.

And then there’s the million-dollar question of why Comey chose to sit on this explosive investigation into Trump’s financial dependence on Russian mobsters and oligarchs. Once again, the FBI director — an official who is supposed to be scrupulously above partisan politics — chose to play his shadowy Washington game rather than informing the American people.

READ MORE…

Key Democratic Officials Now Warning Base Not to Expect Evidence of Trump/Russia Collusion

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

From MSNBC politics shows to town hall meetings across the country, the overarching issue for the Democratic Party’s base since Trump’s victory has been Russia, often suffocating attention for other issues. This fixation has persisted even though it has no chance to sink the Trump presidency unless it is proven that high levels of the Trump campaign actively colluded with the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the U.S. election — a claim for which absolutely no evidence has thus far been presented.

The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies — just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected — that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. And they are all waiting for the day, which they regard as inevitable and imminent, when this theory will be proven and Trump will be removed.

Key Democratic officials are clearly worried about the expectations that have been purposely stoked and are now trying to tamp them down. Many of them have tried to signal that the beliefs the base has been led to adopt have no basis in reason or evidence.

READ MORE…

Dermokratiya, USA

Sean Guillory writes for Jacobin:

Image result for yeltsin time cover yanks to the rescueIn January, the CIA, FBI, and NSA released their much-anticipated report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. It states that Putin had a “clear preference” for Trump and personally ordered operations designed to get him elected. Russia’s intervention, the report goes on, was the “boldest” in its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.”

The outcry over Russian machinations comes with a heavy dose of irony considering that, twenty years ago, the United States launched an even bolder interference campaign to ensure Boris Yeltsin’s reelection.

The 1990s were one of the most tumultuous and tragic periods in modern Russian history. In 1996, a chaotic mix of Russian schemes — from fraud and profiteering to old-fashioned conspiracy — worked to keep Yeltsin in the driver’s seat. Throughout, American players silently watched, facilitated, and at times, actively helped construct the Faustian bargain between Yeltsin and his oligarch supporters. This pact would have ruinous effects on Russia’s democracy and economy in the decades to come.

READ MORE…

Trump Never Needed a Trump TV — He’s Got the Fox Business Network

Andrew Kirell writes for The Daily Beast:

It turns out Donald Trump never would have needed to launch his own cable-news outlet if he’d lost the election. He already has one: It’s called the Fox Business Network.

Fox News’s sister channel, founded in 2007 as a direct competitor to CNBC, struggled for nearly a decade to gain any steam with viewers. It was only a few years ago that much of FBN was experiencing abysmal ratings, often in the single-digit thousands for its key demographic. The schedule routinely shuffled, programs were slashed wholesale, and the network constantly seemed to be grappling with an identity crisis.

That was until Trump ran for president.

Over the past two years, FBN—which employed this writer from 2009 to 2012—has experienced explosive ratings growth tracking with the ascent of the president to whom it has devoted hours and hours of unabashedly positive coverage. In 2015, it was the fastest-growing network on all of cable, raking in double- and triple-digit growth in almost all relevant ratings factors. And last year, it continued that impressive, record-shattering surge, this time claiming to have beaten CNBC in business-day ratings for an entire quarter—a trend that has continued into 2017.

Of course, a former reality-TV-star-turned-presidential-candidate throwing punches on a daily basis for 17 months was an obvious boon to all of television news, as executives of all stripes have freely admitted. But Trump’s rise was especially integral in shaping Fox Business Network’s identity.

READ MORE…

Are Trump’s Ties to Russia a Dangerous Security Issue or Critics’ Fodder for New Red Scare?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez host a debate between attorney Scott Horton, lecturer at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine, and Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of the website Consortium News. (Democracy Now!)

Democrats Elect Thomas Perez, Establishment Favorite, as Party Chairman

Jonathan Martin reports for The New York Times:

Image result for Democrats Elect Thomas Perez, Establishment Favorite, as Party ChairmanFormer Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, narrowly defeating Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota to take the helm of a still-divided party stunned by President Trump’s victory but hopeful that it can ride the backlash against his presidency to revival.

The balloting, which carried a measure of suspense not seen in the party in decades, revealed that Democrats have yet to heal the wounds from last year’s presidential primary campaign. Mr. Perez, buoyed by activists most loyal to former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, won with 235 votes out of 435 cast on the second ballot.

Mr. Ellison, who was lifted primarily by the liberal enthusiasts of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, captured the remaining 200 votes. But that was only after he had pushed the voting to a second round after Mr. Perez fell a single vote short of winning on the first ballot.

After Mr. Perez’s victory was announced, Mr. Ellison’s supporters exploded in anger and drowned out the interim chairwoman, Donna Brazile, with a chant of “Party for the people, not big money!” When Mr. Perez was able to speak, he immediately called for Mr. Ellison to be named deputy chairman, delighting Mr. Ellison’s supporters.

Taking the microphone from Mr. Perez, Mr. Ellison pleaded with his fervent backers: “We don’t have the luxury to walk out of this room divided.”

READ MORE…

Nomi Prins on the Past, Present and Future of Goldman Sachs

James Corbett speaks to Nomi Prins, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and the author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, about her old firm’s past, present and future. One of her most recent articles is titled: ‘On The Goldmanization Of President Trump‘. (Corbett Report)

While War on Media Escalates, CBS Chief Praises Trump’s Deregulatory Agenda

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

While the Washington press corps is expressing ever-greater alarm over President Donald Trump’s mounting attacks on journalists — culminating in Friday’s banning of some leading outlets from a White House press briefing — the media executives who sign their paychecks are praising the new administration for a deregulatory agenda that would likely boost company profits.

Les Moonves, the chief executive and chairman of CBS Corporation, told investors recently that he is “looking forward to not having as much regulation and having the ability to do more.”

Moonves specifically celebrated the appointment of Trump’s new FCC chairman, former Verizon attorney Ajit Pai, calling him “very beneficial to our business.”

The media industry arguably helped Trump enormously in the early presidential campaign with extensive coverage that drowned out his competitors and left little room for discussion of the substantive policy issues facing voters. Now it has a lot to gain if the FCC begins a new wave of ownership deregulation and relaxes certain limits that currently prevent media conglomerates from controlling a large swath of local television stations, and prevent firms from owning television stations and newspapers in the same media market.

READ MORE…

Trump’s Obsession with Faux Election Fraud Sets the Stage for Federal Voter Suppression

Alice Speri reports for The Intercept:

In a 24-hour news cycle in which Donald Trump decreed the construction of a new border wall with Mexico and draft executive orders emerged suggesting an impending ban on refugees and the return of post-9/11 interrogation techniques, the president also hinted at more to come — from sending “the Feds” to Chicago to a Department of Justice investigation into voter fraud. White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed the latter on Thursday, telling reporters that the president plans to sign an executive order “to better understand” voter fraud and voter registration.

The latest development, coming from a sitting president who just won an election, might seem like an odd priority, but it could be the most dangerous of all. In fact, while the president’s insistence on delegitimizing an election that put him in the White House seemed ironic to some, Trump’s decision to double down once again on one of his favorite and most demonstrably false lies — that millions of voters illegally cast ballots on November 8 — should spell trouble to anyone hoping this election is the last one he wins.

Trump, a sore loser even in victory, might have been simply obsessing over the 2.8 million ballots by which he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clintonwhen he announced Wednesday that he would seek “a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD,” which remains virtually non-existent. Although Trump is a master of political distraction, his often preposterous tweets have also been a reliable indicator of policies to come.

READ MORE…

How the 19th Century Know Nothing Party Reshaped American Politics

Lorraine Boissoneault reports for Smithsonian:

CWBWMA.jpgLike Fight Club, there were rules about joining the secret society known as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner (OSSB). An initiation rite called “Seeing Sam.” The memorization of passwords and hand signs. A solemn pledge never to betray the order. A pureblooded pedigree of Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock and the rejection of all Catholics. And above all, members of the secret society weren’t allowed to talk about the secret society. If asked anything by outsiders, they would respond with, “I know nothing.”

So went the rules of this secret fraternity that rose to prominence in 1853 and transformed into the powerful political party known as the Know Nothings. At its height in the 1850s, the Know Nothing party, originally called the American Party, included more than 100 elected congressmen, eight governors, a controlling share of half-a-dozen state legislatures from Massachusetts to California, and thousands of local politicians. Party members supported deportation of foreign beggars and criminals; a 21-year naturalization period for immigrants; mandatory Bible reading in schools; and the elimination of all Catholics from public office. They wanted to restore their vision of what America should look like with temperance, Protestantism, self-reliance, with American nationality and work ethic enshrined as the nation’s highest values.

Know Nothings were the American political system’s first major third party. Early in the 19th century, two parties leftover from the birth of the United States were the Federalists (who advocated for a strong central government) and the Democratic-Republicans (formed by Thomas Jefferson). Following the earliest parties came the National Republicans, created to oppose Andrew Jackson. That group eventually transformed into the Whigs as Jackson’s party became known as the Democrats. The Whig party sent presidents William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor and others to the White House during its brief existence. But the party splintered and then disintegrated over the politics of slavery. The Know Nothings filled the power void before the Whigs had even ceased to exist, choosing to ignore slavery and focus all their energy on the immigrant question. They were the first party to leverage economic concerns over immigration as a major part of their platform. Though short-lived, the values and positions of the Know Nothings ultimately contributed to the two-party system we have today.

READ MORE…

U.S. No Longer a ‘Full Democracy’, But It’s Not Trump’s Fault

Rob Garver reports for The Fiscal Times:

Americans' Trust in Government 1958-2015The United States has fallen from the ranks of what a respected business intelligence provider considers “full democracies” and can now only be considered a “flawed democracy” — but the reason for the demotion may be a surprise.

As the country’s new president, Donald Trump, sits in the White House and tweets about some sort of federal takeover of Chicago and continues to press false claims of massive voter fraud in an election that he won, it would be easy to assume that the new ranking from the Economist Intelligence Unit is related to his elevation to the White House.

However, the respected 70-year-old research and analysis division of the same company that publishes The Economist newspaper says that Trump’s election is a symptom of broader failings of American democracy, not its cause.

“Popular trust in government, elected representatives and political parties have fallen to extremely low levels in the US,” the report says. “This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of Mr. Trump as US president in November 2016. By tapping a deep strain of political disaffection with the functioning of democracy, Mr. Trump became a beneficiary of the low esteem in which US voters hold their government, elected representatives, and political parties, but he was not responsible for a problem that has had a long gestation.”

The US, it adds, had been “teetering on the brink” of falling out of the ranks of full democracies, and would have done so in this year’s report even if there had been no presidential election at all.

READ MORE…

Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Promoting Russian Hacking Story

Jeremy Scahill reports for The Intercept:

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh said in an interview that he does not believe the U.S. intelligence community proved its case that President Vladimir Putin directed a hacking campaign aimed at securing the election of Donald Trump. He blasted news organizations for lazily broadcasting the assertions of U.S. intelligence officials as established facts.

Hersh denounced news organizations as “crazy town” for their uncritical promotion of the pronouncements of the director of national intelligence and the CIA, given their track records of lying and misleading the public.

“The way they behaved on the Russia stuff was outrageous,” Hersh said when I sat down with him at his home in Washington, D.C., two days after Trump was inaugurated. “They were just so willing to believe stuff. And when the heads of intelligence give them that summary of the allegations, instead of attacking the CIA for doing that, which is what I would have done,” they reported it as fact. Hersh said most news organizations missed an important component of the story: “the extent to which the White House was going and permitting the agency to go public with the assessment.”

Hersh said many media outlets failed to provide context when reporting on the intelligence assessment made public in the waning days of the Obama administration that was purported to put to rest any doubt that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails.

READ MORE…

A Visit to RT: Inside the Belly of Russia’s ‘Propaganda Machine’

Fred Weir reports for The Christian Science Monitor:

[…] Founded in 2005 as Russia Today, the station was handed the modest mission of improving the global discussion about Russia. Its several branches, which now include Spanish and Arabic stations, plus semi-independent operations in the US and Britain, are entirely funded by the Russian government. Last year’s total budget was 18.6 billion rubles, or approximately $310 million.

The network appears to have changed focus about five years ago to become more about promoting the Russian point of view on international affairs, and much less about covering Russia per se. It also became a platform for coverage of social problems in Western societies, government malfeasance, corporate non-accountability, and the dysfunctions of democracy that often contrasts in tone, and sometimes content, with mainstream media fare.

But the ODNI report accuses Russia of launching a multi-faceted campaign to shape the election outcome against Hillary Clinton and in favor of Donald Trump. That included allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and giving them to Wikileaks, as well as unleashing armies of internet trolls and waves of disinformation to skew the national discourse, all on Kremlin orders.

The open face of that campaign, it alleged, is RT and its sister English-language news agency Sputnik, which serve as permanent Kremlin-directed messaging tools “to undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest.”

READ MORE…

Did Fake News Help Elect Trump? Not Likely, According to New Research

James Warren reports for Poynter:

Image result for Did fake news help elect Trump?“Fake news” stories favoring Donald Trump far exceeded those favoring Hillary Clinton but did not have a significant impact on the presidential election, concludes a new survey of social and other media consumption.

The study, which also downplays the political impact of social media in general, is co-authored by economists Matthew Gentzkow of Stanford University and Hunt Allcott of New York University. It will be released Wednesday afternoon on their websites and Monday as a working paper on the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research’s website.

Their paper, “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election,” melds new web browsing data, a 1,200-person post-election online survey they conduct and the assembling of a database of election stories categorized as fake by prominent fact-checking websites, including PolitFact, in the three months leading to the election.

In sum, they conclude that the role of social media was overstated, with television remaining by far the primary vehicle for consuming political news. Just 14 percent of Americans deemed social media the primary source of their campaign news, according to their research.

In addition, while fake news that favored Trump far exceeded that favoring Clinton, few Americans actually recalled the specifics of the stories and fewer believed them.

READ MORE…

Insane Clown President: Matt Taibbi Chronicles Election of “Billionaire Hedonist” Donald Trump

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to award-winning Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi about his new book, Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus. (Democracy Now!)

The Real Purpose of the Russian Hacking Intel Report: Chris Hedges in Discussion with Abby Martin and Ben Norton

Chris Hedges is joined by journalists Abby Martin and Ben Norton to discuss the declassified U.S. intelligence report on Russia’s alleged “influence campaign” on the U.S. presidential election. They explore the allegations and why a large portion of the report is dedicated to RT America’s programming. (On Contact)

Was RT America ‘Pro-Trump’?

Danielle Ryan writes for The Nation:

RT conferenceUS intelligence agencies have pointed toward the Russia Today television channel as part of an ongoing effort to prove the Kremlin conducted a pro-Trump “influence campaign” in the run-up to the presidential election.

The long-awaited and recently declassified intelligence report into Russian influence in the election claimed that Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” contributed to this influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to both Russian and international audiences. The report dedicated seven of its 25 pages to RT America—an offshoot from RT’s main Moscow-based international operation—which is funded by the Russian government.

But it’s not just intelligence agencies characterizing RT America as a vehicle for pro-Trump messaging. The accusation has become a common theme across traditional US media outlets as anti-Russia hawks and both liberal and conservative analysts seek to discredit anyone who strays from the accepted narrative on RT as a Kremlin stooge.

The problem with the claim that RT America is pro-Trump is that it is simply false. Many of the channel’s biggest names were either ardently anti-Trump or highly skeptical of what a Trump presidency might mean for America.

READ MORE…

Trump Story the U.S. Media Dare Not Utter: They Sacrificed Democracy for Ratings

Thom Hartmann writes for AlterNet:

The Trump story media dare not utter: They sacrificed democracy for ratings

[…] The numbers are easy to find online Trump got between $2 and $3 billion in free media coverage, while Hillary struggled to break into the evening news, and Bernie Sanders was largely ignored until the final months of the Democratic primary.

And it’s not a secret: Les Moonves, the executive chairman and CEO of CBS, said, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter about Trump’s candidacy: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” He added: “Donald’s place in this election is a good thing. . . . Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? . . . The money’s rolling in and this is fun. . . . I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

The networks — whose first priority since Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine is profitability rather than informing the public — are no doubt salivating about the next 4 years of daily eruptions from the White House. They’re clearly betting The Donald Trump Reality Show: POTUS Version will provide an ongoing revenue stream, whereas a Hillary presidency would merely have been competent and boring, and thus not as profitable for the media.

Which raises an important question in this post-Fairness Doctrine, post-consolidation media landscape in the United States.

READ MORE…

Some on the Left Want Democrats to Move on from Russian Hacking

David Weigel reports for The Washington Post:

On Thursday night, after Senate Democrats attended their latest briefing on the potential role of Russian hackers in sabotaging Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Fox News host Tucker Carlson reintroduced viewers to an unlikely guest. Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept, was back on the show to condemn liberals for “more or less openly calling for and cheering for the intervention of the CIA” in U.S. politics.

“[Democrats] are hoping that this unelected faction in Washington will undermine and subvert and destroy the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s presidency,” said Greenwald. “The media has been aligned against Trump and will side with anybody who wants to subvert him, including the CIA.”

Greenwald, while not a liberal, had built a large following as a critic of George W. Bush. He shares a Pulitzer Prize for stories about Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks. Consistently, he has reported and written skeptically about America’s security state and foreign policy adventures. And this month, that was putting him in the unusual position of defending President-elect Donald Trump from accusations that Russians had put him into office.

READ MORE…

U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

Kimberly Dozier, Noah Shachtman and Michael Weiss write for The Daily Beast:

[…] The night-and-day report and reaction hint at either a difficult relationship to come between the president and America’s spies, or a cagey response by a future commander in chief who is only beginning to realize how the chess masters in the Kremlin play the game of geopolitics.

The unclassified report is unlikely to convince a single skeptic, as it offers none of the evidence intelligence officials say they have to back it up—none of those emails or transcripts of phone calls showing a clear connection between the Russian government and the political intrusions. The reason—revealing how U.S. spies know what they know could endanger U.S. spy operations.

And it contains some out-dated information that seems slapdash considering the attention focused on it. Errors in the report were almost inevitable, because of the haste in which it was prepared, said one U.S. official briefed on the report. The report comes in three levels—unclassified, classified and then one so top secret that only a handful of intelligence professionals was able to view the whole thing. That most classified report is the one that went to President Barack Obama, and to Trump. The merely classified version will be briefed to lawmakers in the coming days. The classification issues alone meant it was “hard to transmit around” to be fact-checked, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

READ MORE…

Abby Martin Responds to a New York Times Article Which Falsely Represented Her Work at RT America

Abby Martin responds to a 7th January New York Times article which falsely represented her work at RT America:

AbbyMartinThe long-awaited report by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), allegedly proving Russian “interference” in the US election, includes a section solely dedicated to bashing RT, and specifically calls out my former show Breaking the Set, which ended two years ago, as a propaganda vector marking the beginning of the Kremlin attempt to subvert American democracy.

Desperate to push this US intelligence narrative, The New York Times called the report “damning and surprisingly detailed,” while adding that it includes no actual evidence.

The very next day, on Jan. 7, the Times published another piece titled “Russia’s RT, The Network Implicated in U.S. Election Meddling.”

In the article, NYT journalist Russell Goldman used two blatantly false statements about my work at RT to support the argument that the network is simply a Putin-dictated propaganda outlet.

READ MORE…

Election Interference? The U.S. Has Done It In 45 Countries Worldwide

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh reports for Vocativ:

2016_12_29 USinterferenceForeignElections.r2[…] Political scientist Dov Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie-Mellon University, found that the U.S. attempted to influence the elections of foreign countries as many as 81 times between 1946 and 2000. Often covert in their execution, these efforts included everything from CIA operatives running successful presidential campaigns in the Philippines during the 1950s to leaking damaging information on Marxist Sandanistas in order to sway Nicaraguan voters in 1990. All told, the U.S. allegedly targeted the elections of 45 nations across the globe during this period, Levin’s research shows. In the case of some countries, such as Italy and Japan, the U.S. attempted to intervene in four or more separate elections.

Levin’s figures do not include military coups or regime change attempts following the election of a candidate the U.S. opposed, such as when the CIA helped overthrow Mohammad Mosaddeq, Iran’s democratically elected prime minister, in 1953. He defines an electoral intervention as “a costly act which is designed to determine the election results [in favor of] one of the two sides.” According to Levin’s research, that includes: peddling misinformation or propaganda; creating campaign material for preferred candidates or parties; providing or withdrawing foreign aid, and; making public announcements that threaten or favor certain candidates. Often, it also includes the U.S. covertly delivering large sums of cash, as was the case in elections in Japan, Lebanon, Italy, and other countries. 

READ MORE…

Glenn Greenwald on Russia, Trump, the DNC Emails, Wikileaks, Snowden, Fake News and U.S. Media Culpability

Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and co-founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald as the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on alleged Russian cyber-attacks. (Democracy Now!)

The Washington Post Spreading Its Own Falsehoods Shows the Real Power of Fake News

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

WaPo: Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials sayThe putative scourge of “fake news” has been one of the most pervasive post-election media narratives. The general thrust goes like this: A torrent of fake news swept the internet, damaging Hillary Clinton and possibly leading to a Donald Trump victory.

A primary problem with this convenient-to-some narrative is that “fake news” has yet to be clearly defined by anyone. Vaguely conceptualized as misleading or outright fabricated stories, it can mean anything—as FAIR has noted previously (12/1/16)—from outlets that align with “Russian viewpoints” to foreign spam.

A recent series of events further illustrates this ambiguity. Friday night, the Washington Post (12/30/16) published an explosive report about Russian hackers breaking into a Vermont utility company. The headline splashed all over social media:

Russian Hackers Penetrated US Electricity Grid Through a Utility in Vermont, Officials Say

Quickly, the blockbuster story began to fall apart, after Burlington Electric, the utility in question, issued a statement saying they had “detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to [their] organization’s grid systems.” The Post “updated” the story several times throughout the evening, eventually adding a heavily qualified editor’s note that the only cause for concern was some “Russian code” on a laptop of one of the employees. There was no evidence of a hack or an attempted hack, Russian or otherwise.

READ MORE…