Now in Your Inbox: Political Misinformation
A few weeks ago, Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, falsely claimed that the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda, a $1.75 trillion bill to battle climate change and extend the nation’s social safety net, would include Medicare for all.
It doesn’t, and never has. But few noticed Mr. Crenshaw’s lie because he didn’t say it on Facebook, or on Fox News. Instead, he sent the false message directly to the inboxes of his constituents and supporters in a fund-raising email.
Lawmakers’ statements on social media and cable news are now routinely fact-checked and scrutinized. But email — one of the most powerful communication tools available to politicians, reaching up to hundreds of thousands of people — teems with unfounded claims and largely escapes notice.
[OCS: It is a demonstrable fact that the progressive communist democrats continue to assert both their narratives and opinions are representative of the truth and therefore are facts. The great majority of the so-called fact checkers are not, as Facebook admits in a court filing, fact checkers but opinion checkers. And that there is a difference between information published on a public platform and information sent to a private mailbox. Even though we know that some free email providers monitor the contents of emails to provide targeted advertising and to build user profiles, nothing gives them a right to tamper with the message content or add additional warning information in a private message.]
The New York Times signed up in August for the campaign lists of the 390 senators and representatives running for re-election in 2022 whose websites offered that option, and read more than 2,500 emails from those campaigns to track how widely false and misleading statements were being used to help fill political coffers.
[OCS: It is a given that most, if not all, politicians shade the truth or outright lie to advance their personal, professional, and political agenda. It is up to an individual to use their critical thinking skills to filter the information and decide for themselves any takeaways. That some information may reinforce beliefs that are contrary to reality such as distortions of the facts or outright lies is an individual matter that does not involve the government or private enterprise supported by competing interests.]
Both parties delivered heaps of hyperbole in their emails. One Republican, for instance, declared that Democrats wanted to establish a “one-party socialist state,” while a Democrat suggested that the party’s Jan. 6 inquiry was at imminent risk because the G.O.P. “could force the whole investigation to end early.”
[OCS: I leave it up to the readers to determine if the statement “that Democrats wanted to establish a ‘one-party socialist state’” is true. I offer two pieces of evidence: The State of California and the City of San Francisco. As for the Jan. 6 inquiry, I offer the facts that nobody has been charged with insurrection, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi played a major role in the event and is not being questioned, and nobody has adequately investigated the killing of an unarmed protester, Ashley Babbitt, as an unjustified use of police force -- because Babbitt was standing next to three armed police officers and less than one-hundred yards from an armed and armored SWAT team when she was shot.]
But Republicans included misinformation far more often: in about 15 percent of their messages, compared with about 2 percent for Democrats. In addition, multiple Republicans often spread the same unfounded claims, whereas Democrats rarely repeated one another’s.
[OCS: Like beauty being in the eye of the beholder, the veracity of information is in the ideology of the so-called fact-checker. Therefore, it would be next to impossible to identify and quantify misinformation accurately. As for echo-chamber repetition, the left lives in a world of projection where they project their behavior onto their opposition. Just reading progressive emails or listening to progressive pundits who are making the same point and using the same language is enough to raise doubts about this claim.]
The emails reviewed by The Times illuminate how ubiquitous misinformation has become among Republicans, fueled in large part by former President Donald J. Trump. And the misinformation is not coming only, or even primarily, from the handful who get national attention for it.
[OCS: With the tragedy that the progressive communist democrats have inflicted on our nation, the last refuge of Democrat scoundrels is to invoke the evils of Trump. Funny how the progressives seem to overlook a growing mountain of credible evidence of election irregularities while branding any inquiry as a “Big Lie” or an attack on election integrity.]
The people behind campaign emails have “realized the more extreme the claim, the better the response,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster. “The more that it elicits red-hot anger, the more likely people donate. And it just contributes to the perversion of our democratic process. It contributes to the incivility and indecency of political behavior.”
[OCS: About those extreme claims, I believe that the media, especially the New York Times, discovered long ago that “if it bleeds, it leads” and that the bizarre and outrageous attracts an audience. In any number of cases, Luntz’s methodology is little more that political show business and there is no proof that there is any real value in his contribution to the GOP. Political behavior is defined as incivility and indecency, and to pretend differently is a gross distortion of reality.]
The messages also underscore how, for all the efforts to compel platforms like Facebook and Twitter to address falsehoods, many of the same claims are flowing through other powerful channels with little notice.
[OCS: I am not aware of any attempts of Twitter or Facebook to filter or fact-check the lies of Communist China, Russia, or the Mullahs of Iran.]
For fact checkers and other watchdogs, “it’s hard to know what it is that politicians are saying directly to individual supporters in their inboxes,” said Jennifer Stromer-Galley, a professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University.
[OCS: It’s none of their business – anymore than what transpires between consenting adults in their bedroom – or kitchen table.
“And politicians know that,” she said. “Politicians and the consulting firms behind them, they know that this kind of messaging is not monitored to the same extent, so they can be more carefree with what they’re saying.”
Email is a crucial tool in political fund-raising because it costs campaigns almost nothing and can be extremely effective: When campaigns invest in it, it routinely accounts for a majority of their online fund-raising. Supporters are bombarded — sometimes daily — with messages meant to make them angry, because strategists know anger motivates voters.
In many cases, candidates used anger-inducing misinformation directly in their requests for a donation. For instance, after his false claim about payments to immigrants, Mr. Kennedy — who began the email by declaring himself “mad as a murder hornet” — included a link labeled “RUSH $500 TO STOP ILLEGAL PAYMENTS!”
Another common line was that the Justice Department was targeting parents as “domestic terrorists” for challenging the teaching of critical race theory, an advanced academic framework that conservatives are using as shorthand for how some curriculums cover race and racism — or, alternatively, for challenging pandemic-related restrictions.
[OCS: This is pure propaganda and misinformation. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo (still not withdrawn) is proof of the first assertion. Critical Race Theory is demonstrably divisive, racist, and without redeeming value.]
Combating misinformation in emails is difficult both because of the private nature of the medium and because its targets are predisposed to believe it — though Emily Thorson, a political scientist at Syracuse, noted that the fact that the recipients were likely to already be staunch partisans reduced the chances of misinformation reaching people whose views would be changed by it.
[OCS: This is the same type of targeting that is being sold by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others in the public arena.]
Professor Thorson said what concerned her more was that — unlike much of the misinformation on social media — these claims came from people with authority and were being spread repetitively. That is how lies that the 2020 election was rigged gained traction: not “because of random videos on Facebook but because it was a coherent message echoed by a lot of elites,” she said. “Those are the ones that we need to be most worried about.”
Mr. Luntz, the Republican pollster, runs frequent focus groups with voters and said they tended to accept misinformation uncritically.
“It may be a fund-raising pitch, but very often people look at it as a campaign pitch,” he said. “They think of it as context, they think of it as information — they don’t necessarily see this as fund-raising, even though that’s what it is. And so misleading them in an attempt to divide them from their money is pure evil, because you’re taking advantage of people who just don’t know the difference.” <Source>
[OCS: It sounds like preparation for a pitch to monitor inboxes.]
The world is run on competition for power, prestige, and profits. We live in a competitive world of ideas. Anything that artificially interferes with that competition is an unnecessary evil that prevents us from decision-making and acting in our own best interests.
Here is how it all works. Some academic does a study. The media amplify the message of the study. Congress forms an investigatory committee. Some public interest group sues the government. The government caves and produces de facto law or Congress then reacts with “needed” legislation to protect consumers and citizens. And our freedom is diminished.
Most voters do not have the time, energy, or motivation to research their own information, so they look to authority figures. A great reason liars like Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) needs to be held accountable for their lies.
We are so screwed.