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Steven Rosenfeld

How Social Media Amplifies Trump’s Rants And Disinformation

As 2020 nears, disinformation—intentionally false political propaganda—is increasing and getting nastier. Central to this disturbing trend is President Trump, whose re-election campaign and allies revel in mixing selected truths, half-truths, knowing distortions and outright lies, especially with messaging sent and seen online. Trump’s rants about impeachment, Ukraine, the Bidens, Nancy Pelosi, the media, and any opponent abound: On Twitter, in statements to the press, at rallies, he sets the angry tone. His White House staff, right-wing media, 2020 campaign and surrogates embellish his cues. Hovering above this cultivated chaos is a larger goal, propaganda experts say, to create an omnipresent information operation driving news narratives. Thanks to Trump, Americans have been subjected to a crash course in propaganda. When Russia used similar tactics in the West in recent years, its goals were to increase polarization, destabilize society, and undermine faith in democratic institutions. With the continuing rise of online media, there is no end in sight to the trend of escalating disinformation. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter are the most direct way to target and reach any voter. They share an architecture built to elevate, spread, and track provocative content—designed to push impulse sales. When used by political operatives, these tools favor inflammatory material and its most aggressive purveyors, namely figures like Trump and the messaging that promotes him. That is what disinformation is designed to do. And all signs suggest that there will be more of it than ever in 2020 as the presidential election, congressional elections, state races and impeachment proceed.

WATCH: Russia Expert Denounces “Fictional Narrative” On Ukraine

WATCH: Fiona Hill, David Holmes Testify In The Week’s Final Impeachment Hearing. NPR: “House Democrats are closing their second week of public impeachment hearings Thursday with testimony from two witnesses expected to detail events inside the White House and a key conversation involving President Trump. Appearing are Fiona Hill, the well-known Russia expert who served until this summer as a top director on the National Security Council; and foreign service officer David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. In her opening statement, Hill tells lawmakers that: ‘Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute.'”

Gender Equity Up Front In Fifth Democratic Presidential Debate

Gender equity was at the forefront of the fifth Democratic debate. Vox: “In a marked contrast from several past debates, gender equity took center stage at Wednesday’s Democratic debate, which featured wide-ranging discussion about paid family leave, abortion rights, and the higher standards that women candidates must meet. Though Democrats’ 2020 presidential field is one of the most diverse in history, addressing gender disparities hasn’t always been a major focus on the debate stage, as Vox’s Anna North has written. Previous debates have barely glanced over subjects including equal pay. This week’s debate, only the third primary debate to ever feature an all-female panel of moderators, was different. It kicked off with a major moment on paid family leave, following a question on the subject of child care from the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker. As Parker noted, the costs of child care can be substantial for families. ‘There are only two countries in the world that don’t have paid family leave for new moms. The United States of America and Papua New Guinea,’ entrepreneur Andrew Yang emphasized. ‘That is the entire list and we need to get off that list as as soon as possible.’ Yang’s comment highlighted a startling reality: Among developed countries, the US is the only one that does not have a paid leave program, a policy that’s been shown to increase women’s workforce participation, reduce family’s reliance on public assistance, and improve children’s health outcomes. Sen. Kamala Harris emphasized just as much in her response on the topic, which called out the extensive work that women do on caregiving and how transformative paid leave could be for women’s ability to return to work.”

RAICES Pays $2.1m In Bonds To Free Immigrants

Why one group is paying $2.1 million to free about 200 detained immigrants. CNN: “An advocacy group says it’s paying $2.1 million so ICE will release some 200 detained immigrants in 20 states. The Texas-based nonprofit known as RAICES says it teamed up with a network of organizations and volunteers to make bond payments across the United States on Wednesday. Their aim: bringing more attention to the large number of immigrants who remain in US custody — and giving hundreds of people a better shot at winning their cases ‘It’s ridiculous that people are coming to this country to seek safety, and they’re having to pay these outrageous amounts of money,’ said Blake Vera, interim director of the group’s bond fund. ‘We’re stepping in to eliminate that financial obstacle.’ The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, widely known as RAICES, drew national attention and millions of dollars in donations last year during the family separations crisis at the border. Based on the average contribution amount to the RAICES Bond Fund, more than 25,000 donors funded Wednesday’s bond payments, the organization said.”

AZ Activist Acquitted For Helping Migrants

Arizona border activist acquitted on charges of harboring two immigrants. CBS: “An activist was quickly acquitted Wednesday on charges he illegally harbored two Central American immigrants at a southern Arizona camp operated by a humanitarian group. The verdict by a jury in U.S. District Court came after jurors deliberated for about two hours in what was the second trial for Scott Warren. A mistrial was declared last June after a jury deadlocked on harboring charges. Warren was stoic after the verdict was read. ‘The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness,’ Warren said outside of court. Warren was arrested in January 2018 by U.S. agents who were staking out a humanitarian aid station in Arizona known as ‘The Barn,’ where two Central American men had been staying for several days. The camp is run by a group that tries to prevent immigrants from dying in the desert. Warren, a member of the group No More Deaths, says the group’s training and protocol prohibit advising migrants on how to elude authorities. He said his interest is in saving lives. ‘We need to work within the spirit of humanitarian aid and within the confines of the law,’ Warren said.”

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