One would think we all would have had enough of fake news by now, but to hear some purveyors tell it, the need for it has grown along with the fake news, and making more of it is urgent if we are to save America and the world.
You have heard about fake news disseminated by the right, the alt-right, the Russians and supporters of President Donald Trump. This includes the contention that it was the Democrats who colluded with the Russians in 2016 to throw the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, as well as the story, embraced by Trump, that Ukraine was in cahoots with Democrats to hurt him. That these seem to be pure projection does not keep them from serving as life rafts for those who want to protect the president at all costs.
Facebook, where many Americans get their news, has been turned into one vector for that sort of conspiratorial bushwa, which used to take longer to enter people’s heads and affected fewer souls. Naturally, it and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, have been blamed by Democrats from Clinton to Bernie Sanders.
But if you thought this is the kind of malarkey – to reach for a Joe Biden word – we should expect from modern Republicans only, take a look at a Bloomberg news article from Nov. 25, “The Left’s Plan to Slip Vote-Swaying News Into Facebook Feeds.”
In this case, it is the Democrats more than the left per se, unless you subscribe to the belief that they are synonymous. Here, it is principally Tara McGowan, a 33-year-old D.C.-based Democratic strategist who is rolling out fake local news sites.
Belying her years, McGowan already served as the digital producer for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, then directed digital advertising in 2016 for Priorities USA Action, the biggest Democratic Super PAC. In 2017, she launched the digital firm Acronym, a 501(c)(4) political nonprofit, with Michael Dubin, the wealthy founder of Dollar Shave Club. Together, they have raised tens of millions of dollars for digital ad campaigns supporting Democrats.
Now, and quite openly, McGowan has taken $25 million in donations from wealthy liberals to create a for-profit media company, Courier Newsroom, which has created what it calls digital newspapers, with reporters and editors, in key swing states – such as Virginia’s The Dogwood and Arizona’s The Copper Courier – in order to “deliver the facts favorable to Democrats.”
In late December, Courier launched UpNorthNews in Wisconsin – “Wisconsin’s new digital newspaper with none of the lazy false equivalency that plagues so much of today’s media,” its editor said.
McGowan then pays to place the articles on Facebook the way a bona fide media company might. For McGowan, says Bloomberg reporter Joshua Green, “emulating the homespun, hyperlocal style of the fast-vanishing small-town newspaper is important for building familiarity and trust.”
If you are in the least concerned about fake news, this is a terrible idea. If it were a sci-fi movie, this would be the scene where the disgruntled scientist pours his mind-control drug into the reservoir; you know it is not going to end well – you are just waiting to see how poorly.
On Dec. 5, Denver officials held a sustainability summit. Just before the meeting got underway, the Colorado branch of the Sunrise Movement, which says it is fighting climate change, distributed a fake communique on Denver city letterhead to attendees and on Twitter, apologizing that Suncor, the Canadian energy company, was a summit sponsor, and declaring a climate emergency. Michele Weindling, a coordinator with Sunrise Colorado, told Colorado Public Radio that fighting to address climate change was more important than “disinformation.”
And that is how you poison yourself.