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      This post is by Tony Wikrent I have been looking at the work of Cornell University law professor Robert Hockett, who is serving as an economics adviser to Representative Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. I have been delighted to find that Hockett has been working the same angle I have: applying the classical republicanism that informed the creation of […]
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Astroturf and self-censorship

Tweet of the Week:

AstroTurf- Manufactured grassroots activism and commentary.

That’s what happened when the Russian troll farm, Internet Research Agency LLC (the LLC is a nice American touch), spewed thousands and thousands of messages every day on social media about what an old, sick, unexciting, criminal Hillary Clinton was and how Trump was so inspiring, forceful and displayed leadership abilities.

That’s how it works. The public got a constant, steady message about how unappealing Hillary was. Even today, 14 months after she lost, you will still get this reaction from your otherwise nice and lucid relatives who watch Fox News:

It’s awesome to watch. One minute they’re talking about some football game all nice and calm. Then all you have to say is “Hillary”, and they explode into fits of rage that she’s not behind bars for what she did with her email server. Literally nothing Trump has ever done is equal to it. No matter how much you point out that nothing she did was illegal, that the handful of classified materials were classified *after* she sent them and that we are talking about her personal emails, not her work emails, they still think she’s hiding something. And you know what? It will be almost impossible to convince them otherwise because you can’t prove you didn’t do something if there’s no evidence. Short of following her into the bathroom where she should have some privacy, she has revealed more about herself than any presidential candidate or American citizen in HISTORY. And it still won’t be enough.

The name for this phenomenon is “reflexive control”. It might be helpful at this point to reread Steve Hassan’s BITE model. And the way people make decisions as elaborated by Amos Tversky (False equivalence is close but doesn’t completely explain how it works)

I have friends who are now a little embarrassed that they voted for a loser in spite of the fact that she won 3.5 MILLION more votes after all that negativity. They tell me she would have won if she’d just kissed white working class asses a little more. They do not realize how they too have become unwitting repeaters of very sophisticated propaganda.

That’s how effective AstroTurf is. It didn’t help that virtually every news person repeated these lies and narratives until they started to sound true. The question I have is how many of them knew what they were doing and how many were unwitting?

It hasn’t ended. The narrative that stuck after the election is that if she hadn’t blown off Michigan and Wisconsin, she might have won. This completely distorts the reality of the electoral college. Neither state’s electoral votes combined could make up for losing PA. I had some indignant tweeter insist to me the other day that Hillary blew off Pennsylvania and then I knew it had gone too far because I campaigned for her in PA and she was in this state constantly.

We keep coming back to Pennsylvania. I’m waiting for Robert Mueller to drop more shoes. He’s got to tell this story slowly, let the American people ingest it and understand each chapter a little at a time because rolling it out all at once will seem too unbelievable and outrageous to be true. Pulling people out of the jaws of deception and undue influence is a very tricky and delicate operation. Some individuals will never be free. Their susceptibility to reflexive control is hardwired. Others just had to have the right incentives pitched to them, the monsters in the dark corners of their minds unleashed. Insecurity, fear, resentment, racism, sexism, selfishness. The Russians knew exactly which buttons to push.

I can’t wait until it is revealed how Cambridge Analytica data mined the Trump campaign’s marks, their church habits, what kind of clothes they wore, where they lived, how they spent their money, how much they watch reality TV, all plopped into some clever model that predicted just how labile their personal values were. Does the car they drive indicate a desire to impress? An Audi says one thing, a Lexus something different. Are they pre-occupied with the image they show to the world? How many times a year do they have pedicures? Oh, the things we will learn about ourselves.

Slowly, slowly.

“Let all the worms that lie in the mud hatch out”


Prediction: there will be renewed calls for crackdowns on social media, maybe even a measure of censorship. Because how else will we be able to protect ourselves from this happening again?? We have an election this fall. We need to do something NOW, NOW, NOW!

And that’s when the Russians will have truly won. The minute we self censor to protect ourselves from others is the minute we give up our ability to protest our grievances. Then the dark era really sets in. Game, set, match.

What we need to do is educate ourselves to what is going on and recognize it when we see it so we can blow it away from us. It can be done. Just ask any kid brought up in a high control group religion who didn’t become a member as adults. We have radar for this kind of stuff. I can feel it when someone is trying to manipulate me to think things that don’t match my personal value system. It’s like someone hurling photon torpedoes at my brain. I have to deploy my deflector shields. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t listen to NPR anymore or watch cable news or network news on TV. It’s especially important to not WATCH the news. These days, I read multiple domestic and foreign news sources and listen to podcasts. So far, so good.

Also, we need Net Neutrality rules back in place ASAP. I don’t want the telecoms or cable companies owing any favors to this president this fall.


44 Responses

  1. Excellent post. I hope it gets the visibility it deserves.

    Hope you don’t mind if I link Clint Watts again here. It is just 4 minutes but he lays it all out so clearly, goes after all the culprits. Mueller primed the audience for what will come next. All that remains now is a bit of self introspection — how much did I contribute to this as a citizen and what do I need to do next time? Some of that self-introspection for the media organizations is a necessity (which Watts mentions in this video calling them out). trump’s tweet meltdown yesterday was expected — no collusion, outcome did not change; but what will you do about the foreign intervention on our own soil, you buffoon?

    • What infuriated me on Friday was Brian Williams reporting on the indictment and insisting that it was the media’s job to filter the information about it to us. No, that is NOT the media’s job. We don’t need filters and narratives and sieves to catch what they think is important or distracting. We need analysis and reporting. Those are different things. And what we have in the mainstream media is a shortage of analysts. That’s why I am listening to podcasts. There are more in depth analytical discussions and less filtering.

      • Yep, media woefully needed and needs more analysts and more investigative reporting. To this day, that Farenthold’s digging up trump’s charity story is a laughable thing for me because there were other things orders of magnitude more important going on.

  2. These kids are smarter than any gun control activists I have seen… going after NRA and shaming politicians for taking their blood money. That is an effective strategy to vote them out and a mediocre career politician fears getting voted out the most.

    • This reaction from the students dispels to some extent the fear of ‘autocracy is coming to America’ others have promulgated in the wake of trump/Russia. No, these next generation voters will not let it happen. They are also not the ignorant/gullible 60+ old trump voters.

    • I saw that. He was shmaht

  3. Ha, a CON will twist the things around. Like the plain meaning of all things he does/says, this too will have an appeal on his cult. But don’t fall for it. This is a nation of laws and a foreign entity ran a shadow campaign on our own soil to disrupt an election and install their preferred candidate in the WH. This is cyberwar at its most sophisticated. Yet the man at the center of it wants the investigations to go away despite him perpetrating it through his participation. This is one more obstruction of justice act but notice how that is not enough and we have raised the bar for evidence to implicate this CON man.

  4. This pose and expression turns my stomach. This is in the backdrop of a mother wailing in front of national TV after planning a funeral for her dead child, after countless students, teachers, parents and others, went on national TV with their grief and anguish at status quo. How can this be?

  5. I’m not sure how much I agree with this short essay, but it held my interest.


  6. America’s Religious Right rewrites its code of ethics.


  7. “The narrative that stuck after the election is that if she hadn’t blown off Michigan and Wisconsin, she might have won. This completely distorts the reality of the electoral college. Neither state’s electoral votes combined could make up for losing PA.”

    True, but basically irrelevant.

    She needed all three. That would have given her a 278-260 victory. Losing *any* of those three would have produced a Trump victory (and did). Even if she’d won PA, she would still have lost nationally (280-258) without both WI and MI.

    Her whole strategy depended on holding the line in those three states. She assumed that traditionally Democratic union voters would carry the day for her in those states. Her models told her that would happen. They were wrong. Yes, she campaigned in PA. She should have campaigned *more* in PA than she did in NY and CA. She didn’t. She should have at least shown up in Wisconsin. She didn’t. She (or rather her campaign) should have listened to people on the ground (like local and state party officials) who told her she was in trouble in WI and MI rather than put blind faith in computer models. She, or rather her campaign, didn’t. Finally, she should have been talking to unemployed auto workers and steelworkers rather than yukking it up with the Goldman-Sachs guys who closed their factories and stole their homes at $50,000/plate dinners in the Hamptons. Yeah, Trump lied to them. He conned them. But at least he didn’t *ignore* them.

    If it weren’t for a last-minute push here in CO, she’d have lost here too (I saw my first Hillary ad two weeks before election day, when early voting was already in progress and large numbers of people had already cast their ballots). I had my first door-knocker after I’d already voted (I live in a 90% Dem precinct where I was the Dem Precinct Committeeperson for years). If he had needed to persuade me, he was already days too late. No noticeable GOTV or registration effort leading up to the election, either. Trump, on the other hand, was here frequently in the Republican-leaning areas. His ads were saturating the airwaves and those stupid hats were all over the state.

    She overcampaigned in states that were sure things for her, because her strategists told he she had the EC locked up and she needed a solid popular vote win to silence any challenges Trump might make if he won the popular vote (and because that’s where her big money donors were). They were wrong.

    Oh, and actually telling people before the election that you have it locked up because MI, WI, and PA are going your way no matter what isn’t particularly bright, either. It depresses turnout among you supporters (why bother – she’s got this in the bag?) and angers those who are on the fence (shes taking us for granted!). Penn and Mook both did this.

    Yes, apparently the Russians stirred up some sh*t. But she lost because her campaign was inept.

    This is the second time Mark Penn snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for her. You’d think she would have learned from the first time.

    • We’ll just have to agree to disagree on that.

    • It hurts to read this comment. Maybe there is some truth to it but let us not lose sight of what else was happening in the moment in those weeks, ‘lock her up’, ‘vote/election rigged’, ‘her emails’, are just some of the things that come to mind. Hindsight is 20/20. And, we have bigger existential crises now and berating her for losing what now appears to be a stolen election through foreign intervention will not get us anywhere.

      • One more thing, even if she had won, trump/Russia and his minions, and the Republicans would have brought her admin to its knees and trump would not have been caught. Now at least we get to see the full extent of conspiracy and corruption and we can put back the country together. 2016 was a no win situation for all Americans.

    • Personally, I don’t think it would have made any damn difference if she had gone to WI and MI given the disparate media coverage, the Comey fiasco, the misogyny and rampant CDS pumped into peoples’ bloodstream for decades. Plus i don’t think the great Obama did her any good either. Don’t get me started on Sanders and the damage he did. You honestly think face time would have made a difference if she were “in trouble” in those two states? If her ground game didn’t work in PA, why would it have worked any better in WI and MI?

  8. Betty White has run out of fucks to give, y’all.

  9. So has Sarah.

  10. You have to watch David Hogg in the last few seconds speaking directly to trump. Why did it take this kid to take on the nincompoop in the WH and none of the other adults all over this country before this tragedy?

  11. Good night, folks.

    More cr@wd@d repellent; the main 4 girls of Non Non Biyori in front of the local candy store.

  12. I hope I live long enough to vote for this girl for President.


    • I do too. In every other tragedy, Republicans and their NRA were quick to SILENCE the gun control advocates by accusing them using a tragedy. But these kids broke that logjam. They called the Republican bluff and called their BS.

  13. Kids to NRA, GOP, Trump, Putin:

  14. For our blogmistress (though all of you can look at it).

  15. Donald Trump ranked worst president in US history by nearly 200 political scientists

    Nearly 200 of America’s top political scientists have voted Donald Trump the worst president in US history.

    According to the 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey, Mr Trump ranks even lower than disgraced President Richard Nixon – even among conservatives. Abraham Lincoln, unsurprisingly, takes the top prize. Mr Nixon sits at 33.

    The study, conducted every four years, surveys social science researchers from the American Political Science Association’s section on presidents and executive politics. It asks the experts to rank each president’s greatness on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being great, 50 being average, and 0 being a total failure.

    Mr Trump averaged a score of 12.34, bumping James Buchanan – the president who saw the US descend into the Civil War – out of the bottom spot. The result comes just months after Trump finished his first year in office as the most unpopular president in modern history.

    Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, jumped 10 places since the survey was last conducted in 2014, to spot number eight. George W Bush also climbs in the rankings, making it five places up to number 30.

    Bill Clinton did not fair was well as the other living presidents, dropping five places down to 14th. Only Andrew Jackson dropped more – down six places – possibly owing to increased attention on how he treated Native Americans.

    The top seven presidents remained the exact same, with Abraham Lincoln on top, followed by George Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

    Mr Trump was accompanied in the bottom five by Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Harrison, and Mr Buchanan.

    Researchers Brandon Rottinghaus, of the University of Houston, and Justin Vaughn, of Boise State University, said they surveyed 170 political science experts for the study. Of those experts, 57.2 per cent identified as Democrats, 12.7 per cent as Republicans, and 27.1 per cent as independents.

    While Republicans and Democrats differed on how they viewed figures like Mr Obama and Mr Bush, they were in fairly close agreement on My Trump: Conservatives voted him 40th out of 45.

    The one area where Mr Trump did come out on top was in the “most polarising” section, in which the researchers asked the scientists to list the five presidents they found most divisive. Mr Trump was ranked most polarising by 90 of the 170 respondents, and second-most polarising by another 20.


    Well, ranked worst by them and every other descent person on the planet!

  16. So Chump is now taunting Oprah to run. I never thought of her as running for president. I really never think of her much at all. And I never really forgave her picking The One over the most qualified person in 2008. But I have to say, I’m warming up to the idea of an Oprah presidency. I think she could be a healing force for the nation, I think she has proven she could go toe-to-toe with heads of states. And I think she would actually hire the best people to work for her and WITH her to get her up to speed on what she would need to learn to effectively do the job. Unlike Chump, she has the desire, and capacity to actually learn. And just as important, she could win. You can do nothing if you can’t do that first. And judging by how vehemently the Chump cult has been attacking her ever since that Golden Globe speech, they know she would win too.
    Plus, the idea of Chump losing to her….well, that would be absolutely delicious!
    Of course, even if she did decide to run, Mueller may take Chump down way before 2020. But I honestly don’t think she’s completely ruled it out, so we shall see…

  17. The last thing our country needs is another celebrity contestant-er-candidate. So, no.

    • Agree, no way. She’s too weak on science; she has shown a certain gullibility in the face of woo.

    • I want a smart lawyer who has government experience to undo the damage done by trump and rebuild our institutions. No more billionaires and celebrities.

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