Below is an archived edition of Ctrl Alt Right Delete, a weekly email newsletter. This edition was published on 12/11/2016. Members of Factual Democracy Project have access to past editions. Subscribe to Ctrl Alt Right Delete.
We have to talk about #pizzagate
The #1 thing people requested that I talk about in their feedback is fake news. I’ll be honest, I was hesitant. I wrote about it recently on Medium but so much has been written about it already. I thought the topic was a bit played out. Then Edgar Welch took #pizzagate from horrible online conspiracy theory to horrific crime and fake news became impossible to ignore.
Given the results, it is hard to argue that I was anything but foolish to have tried to argue sense into these people, but it is important to realize that the phenomenon we are confronting here is not simply fake news, of the sort peddled for profit by apolitical entrepreneurs on Facebook. This is something different: a hoax created and released into the darker reaches of the internet for the express purpose of damaging the reputation of the Democratic candidate for the presidency.As with many other false stories about Clinton that have widely spread online — like the baseless rumor promoted by Infowars and then Trump that millions of non-citizens illegally voted for her, and were encouraged to do so by President Obama — this should be described as what it is: disinformation, or the sort of “black propaganda” intelligence agencies have fabricated in decades past to smear politicians they see as enemies.
So how do we fight back? Long term, there’s a lot more to think through. We need to have a better understanding where misinformation is born, who is creating and why, how it spreads, and the role bots play. But as we’re figuring that all out, here are two immediate action steps we can all take:
- Acknowledge that fake news is a form of attack. Recognize that you and other smart people you know have all been victims. Reframe your conversations around fake news. This isn’t something that just happens. Someone is behind it. When we acknowledge that we start to take power away from our attackers.
- Hold the Trump administration accountable when they amplify fake news and conspiracy theories. We’ve just had a minor victory with Michael Flynn Jr. It should the first and not the last. Shaming the Trump Administration when they aid in spreading misinformation is one of few pressure points we have, and I don’t expect Trump or his transition team to stop anytime soon.
More on Russia
The Obama Administration ordered a full review of Russian attempts to interfere with our election. The Washington Post broke a bombshell story that a secret CIA assessment concluded Russia was actively trying to ensure that Trump won the election. And our President-elect, who never met a conspiracy theory he didn’t like, had his transition team issue a statement dismissing all of this entirely.
- Washington Post: This is what happens when Donald Trump attacks a private citizen on Twitter
- The Verge: DeRay Mckesson on digital activism and Black Lives Matter
- Public Policy Polling: Why Pat McCrory Lost and What It Means in Trump’s America
- Buzzfeed: How Black Lives Matter went Global
I want to thank everyone for spreading the word about this newsletter. We’re over 650 subscribers now, almost entirely from sharing and word of mouth. I’m overwhelmed by your interest but also your trust in me. Thanks also to Nicole Belle for copy editing this email.