Interesting on its own, this story about how Russian trolls pushed vaccine debates in the US includes several other key points that are worth examining. THREAD
www-m.cnn.com/2018/08/23/hea…
First of all, it's fascinating to me just from the standpoint of how even the most absurd propositions can draw wide audiences, when thinking people should be able to dismiss them out of hand. 2/
Second, the fact that we will argue ad inifinitum about subjects that don't deserve a second look is a serious indictment of something - either our inherently American contrariness or the ground-leveling effect social media has. 2/
By ground-leveling, I mean the ability of social media to amplify even the ideas farthest on the fringe of sanity so they seem to be important and widely held viewponts. 3/ theguardian.com/technology/201…
Cable TV creates the same false equivalence, which I have long blamed for the rise of the radical right. In 1979, hardly anyone had heard of Jerry Falwell. But with the help of cable channels selling time to evangelicals and fledgling channels, his following grew. 4/
Falwell carefully kept the actual membership of his "Moral Majority" a secret, but claimed a highly inflated following of more than 90 million like-minded Americans. newyorker.com/magazine/1981/… 5/
By the time CNN took to the air waves in June 1980, Falwell had a foothold and CNN and other news broadcasts, desperate to fill time and seem relevant to large populations jumped at every chance to interview Falwell and spread his fringe ideas. 6/
When Reagan courted the Right and won in November of 1980, of course Falwell with his grossly inflated 90-million membership got credit as a kingmaker. The false narrative of a broad following of the radical right was set in stone. 7/
This false equivalency created by cable TV in the early days of the radical right movement is precisely what we see carried on today through social media. 8/
Platforms such as Twitter need volumes of comments to keep people interested, so they have a vested interest in not policing fake accounts. A tiny movement, or a tiny office in Russia, can create many accounts to amplify their voices just as Falwell inflated his following. 9/
When you look at real numbers, only about 25.3 percent of registered voters voted for Donald Trump. Given comments by "Christians" who support him, it's not a stretch to correlate this with the "Moral Majority," and 25 percent is far from a majority. 10/
That brings me back to the story at hand. According to a 2015 poll by the Pew Research Center, only 9% of Americans were true anti-vaxxers -- those who believe vaccines cause harm. 11/
Why would Russia, 1) latch onto a subject like vaccinations to troll, and 2) Why would it pick any subject that is so obscure? 12/ washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/w…
In the story today, it notes that of the Russian Tweets sampled, 38 percent were anti-vaccine. That is amplifying the real percentage of anti-vaxxers by a factor of four. 13/
That's not a majority, but it's s enough to get noticed by the mainstream media and cause a string of stories about the "movement," which was actually miniscule and undeserving of the attention it received, much like the Moral Majority. 14/
But why anti-vaccine? Why would a subject like that interest Russia? The answer is that the subject probably doesn't interest Russia, but it interests parents. The lunatic fringe is always loud. But amplified by trolls, it was deafening. 15/
It's so possible the subject could have been brought to Russia's attention by a US friend. Remember, Jill Stein is an anti-vaxxers and is widely believed to have been a Russian stalking horse. 16/
Just as likely, perhaps, is the fact that it could be used as a wedge issue and a distraction. Donald #Trump uses this same strategy. 17/
From the story: "I don't know if it would seem strange once you understand their goal, which is basically to divide both sides against the middle. They're going to grab onto all of those social issues..." 18/
"... So for example: black lives matter, all lives matter; immigrants are destroying America, immigrants are great for America," Warren said." 19/
The sad part is, we take the bait. Does Trump care about #SouthAfrica ? Of course not. He cares about our attempts to #StopKavanaugh. 20/
But by Tweeting about South Africa and supporting white supremacists, he has suddenly elevated a subject that appeals to a handful of lunatics to something hundreds of thousands of Americans are discussing. 21
We need to resist the temptation to argue over fringe issues. They are smoke and mirrors. "Hey, don't look at the felonies I committed, look at the poor white folks massacred by the black savages." This where Trump excels. 22/
He's not smart, he has no morals, but he doesn't care that we hate him. His sole purpose in anything he does is how it benefits him. This benefits him by drawing attention away from his attempt to stack the court and save himself. 23/
#Trump knows he's going to face criminal charges. He's trying to distract us from that so he can get the fix in. Don't fall for it. #Resist the urge to respond to his bullshit. 24/
The only things that matter are:
1. The GOP is a criminal enterprise
2. #MichaelCohen has implicated Trump in multiple felonies
3. Evidence shows he colluded with Russia to steal the election
4. #Mueller must be protected
5. We must #StopKavanaugh
6. The #BlueWave must come. END

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