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Friday, September 30, 2016

Bots, Trolls, Cyborgs

Ben Schreckinger reports at Politico:
When Donald Trump confronted revelations that he used money from his charitable foundation to settle private legal disputes and purchase portraits of himself, a tireless army of tweeters went to work to keep the focus on Hillary Clinton’s foundation instead.
Then Trump stumbled on a debate question about why he refuses to release his taxes, and the same army has since rushed to create the appearance of a grass-roots demand that Clinton be held accountable, instead.

The accounts pumping out the tweets created the appearance of authentic outrage but had all the hallmarks of fakes, according to researchers who specialize in “bot” networks — short for robot — that shower social media with phony messages appearing to spring up from the grass roots.
The pro-Trump networks tweet incessantly, but only to praise Trump and bash Clinton and the media, constantly retweeting Trump staff, pro-Trump pundits and other fake accounts, thousands of which recently added “deplorable” to their usernames.
Indeed, the Clinton Foundation tweets follow a pattern of pro-Trump Twitter activity spotted by professionals throughout the campaign — accounts made to look like real people that are instead run by software and designed to amplify a certain messages — that serves to neuter negative coverage of the New York businessman.
“The bot nets usually turn whatever the issue is back on Hillary,” said Phil Howard, a professor at Oxford University’s Internet Institute and the principal investigator at the Computational Propaganda Project, which has closely tracked the networks. Howard has noted the same pattern in response to stories about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, with bots alleging that Clinton is keeping even bigger secrets from the public. “They tend to be used to confused or muddy,” he said.

In addition to fully automated bots, Trump has benefited from the Twitter activities of “trolls,” dedicated, human provocateurs, and “cyborgs,” accounts that blend automated activity with human input.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Trump and Buchanan

So, why did Trump succeed in leading a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, when Buchanan’s efforts came up so short in 1992? One overriding reason is that the times have indeed changed. When Buchanan warned of globalism and intervention, the successful Gulf War and the Christmas Day 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union weakened that argument. If there really was a “new world order,” America was unquestionably in charge. Today, with memories of the disastrous second Iraq War, China rising and Russia asserting itself again, anti-interventionism is a lot stronger argument. Immigration, too, is an issue far more powerful today. “Back then, there were maybe 3-4 million illegal immigrants,” Buchanan says. “Today, there are maybe 12 million.”

Perhaps the most startling parallel between Buchanan and Trump is the argument of bipartisan betrayal: They both used their pulpit to excoriate elites in both parties for leaving more vulnerable, working-class Americans behind. And on that front, the country has changed profoundly. The central American promise—that our children would live better than we live—has been thrown into grave doubt, at least for those who are part of “the white working class.” Some 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the start of the millennium; incomes for the average factory worker have been stagnant for just about all of the 21st century.
“Those issues started maturing,” Buchanan now says. “Now we’ve lost 55,000 factories. … When those consequences came rolling in, all of a sudden you’ve got an angry country. We were out there warning what was coming. Now, on trade and intervention, America sees what’s come.”
But there’s one other major change that has made Trump’s message far more potent than Buchanan’s: the speed at which a powerful, even divisive idea can travel from one like-minded individual to another. “If Buchanan had had social media he might have done a lot better,” argues Ron Kaufman, a longtime ally of the Bush family, who has spent a lifetime as a Republican operative. “Back then in ’92, people wouldn’t have been hearing about it every 15 minutes. There was no Breitbart, no Politico.”
The rise of talk radio, cable networks and an online echo chamber for political discourse has changed the game for people with an outsider message, whether on the left or the right. Longtime Democratic operative Joe Trippi, who turned the Howard Dean campaign into an online fundraising behemoth in 2004, says: “I think one of the things we have all underestimated is how connected underground networks are these days—from Occupy Wall Street to white supremacists to conspiracy aficionados. … So if a Pat Buchanan came along today, it’s much easier to roll over a party.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Post-Debate Spin and Ballot-Box Stuffing

The Republican's campaign alternately praised and blamed the moderator; insisted Trump went easy on Clinton out of respect to her family, and doubled down on his positions, such as his refusal to release his tax returns, that provided his Democratic opponent with her fruitful attacks.
All in all, Trump turned a 90-minute event that didn't go that well but wasn't fatal, into possibly a three-day spotlight on the key weaknesses jeopardizing his White House hopes.
It was a strategic blunder, some veteran campaign veterans concluded.
"48-hour window post-debate is often just as important as debate itself," tweeted Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who experienced both the highs and lows of post-debate as top communications advisor to Mitt Romney four years ago.
He needed to demonstrate fitness.
Breathing fresh life into Clinton's attacks from the debate — on his treatment of women, how he's run his business, his refusal to release his tax returns, and role in promoting the "birther" conspiracy that President Obama wasn't eligible for the White House — undermines that goal.
Yet that's exactly what Trump did on Monday morning during an interview on Fox News, when he voluntarily defended against Clinton's attack that he once referred to an Hispanic Miss Universe candidate as overweight and "Miss Housekeeping."
The interview ensured that the clip from the debate, among Trump's worst moments, would get replayed all day on cable news, along side the celebrity billionaire trying to defend the indefensible.
Andrew Couts and Austin Powell report at The Daily Dot:
Donald Trump supporters artificially manipulated the results of online polls to create a false narrative that the Republican nominee won the first presidential debate on Monday night.
The efforts originated from users of the pro-Trump Reddit community r/The_Donald and 4chan messaged boards, which bombarded around 70 polls, including those launched by Time, Fortune, and CNBC.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Clinton Trounces Trump in First Debate

Donald Trump had one job: Don’t take the bait.
But he let Hillary Clinton get under his skin minutes into their first presidential debate Monday night, first by her suggestion that he owed his success to his father’s money, and he only got more agitated as the primetime debate at Hofstra University wore on.
Smiling, serene, egged on by each groan and grunt and interruption she goaded from her rival, Clinton provoked Trump again and again—over his refusal to release his tax returns, his years-long “racist lie” about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, his foreign-policy views, and his treatment of women. Meanwhile, Trump drew some blood on the issue of trade, specifically calling out crucial battleground states in the process, but found little on Clinton’s most vulnerable fronts: e-mail, family foundation and policy crises of her tenure as secretary of state.
JenniferAgiesta reports at CNN:
Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night's debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate.
That drubbing is similar to Mitt Romney's dominant performance over President Barack Obama in the first 2012 presidential debate.
Voters who watched said Clinton expressed her views more clearly than Trump and had a better understanding of the issues by a margin of more than 2-to-1. Clinton also was seen as having done a better job addressing concerns voters might have about her potential presidency by a 57% to 35% margin, and as the stronger leader by a 56% to 39% margin.
READ: The complete full CNN/ORC poll results
From PPP:
PPP's post debate survey, sponsored by VoteVets Action Fund, finds that voters nationally think Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the debate, 51/40.

Perhaps most important for Clinton is that among young voters, who she has under performed with, 63% think she won the debate to only 24% for Trump. 47% of voters in that age group said the debate tonight made them more likely to vote for her, to only 10% who say it made them less likely to vote for her. For Trump with that group on the other hand, only 23% said the debate made them more likely to vote for him to 39% who said it made them less likely to.

Clinton also won the debate by particularly wide margins with women (54/36) and voters who are either African American or Latino (77/13). Among white voters the debate was basically a draw with Trump coming out ahead 47/45.
Clinton emerges from the debate with clear advantages over Trump on temperament, preparedness to be President, and whether she can be trusted with nuclear weapons:
-By a 17 point margin, 55/38, voters say Clinton has the temperament to be President. On the other hand, by an 11 point margin, 42/53, voters say Trump does not have the temperament to be President. Among independents the gap is even wider- by a 56/36 spread they say Clinton has the temperament for the job, while by a 41/54 spread they say Trump does not.
-By an 11 point margin, 52/41, voters say Clinton is prepared to be President. On the other hand, by a 10 point margin, 42/52, voters say Trump is not prepared to be President.
-By a 21 point margin, 56/35, voters say they think Clinton can be trusted with nuclear weapons. On the other hand, by a 9 point margin, 42/51, voters say they think Trump can not be trusted with nuclear weapons.
Full results here 
Peter Weber reports at The Week:
Every campaign wants to claim victory as soon as possible after a debate, with the hopes that the public will buy into that claim — Clinton's team also declared the night a win for Hillary. Still, if you're on the fence about who actually "won" the first debate, you could do worse that watching GOP pollster Frank Luntz's focus group of undecided voters for CBS News. The group, in Philadelphia, broke for Clinton 16 to 5, a "bigger [margin] than almost any debate I've done in a long time," Luntz said. "This is a good night for Hillary Clinton, it is not a good night for Donald Trump," he concluded, "but there is still time and there are still undecided voters." And, he didn't have to add, two more debates.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Shareblue

Jason Horowitz reports at The New York Times:
At first glance, the Clintonian grass roots seemed to have organically sprouted in anger. But closer inspection yielded traces of Miracle-Gro that led to the sixth floor of a building in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan.
There, surrounded by start-up tech companies, “Star Wars” posters and flat-screen televisions fixed on cable news, Peter Daou sat with his team at a long wooden table last week, pushing the buttons that activate Mrs. Clinton’s outrage machine. Mr. Daou’s operation, called Shareblue, had published the article on Mr. Trump’s comment on its website and created the accompanying hashtag.
“They will put that pressure right on the media outlets in a very intense way,” Mr. Daou, the chief executive of Shareblue, said of the Twitter army he had galvanized. “By the thousands.”
In the sprawling Clinton body politic, Shareblue is the finger that wags at the mainstream news media (“R.I.P. Political Journalism (1440-2016)”) or pokes at individual reporters. It is a minor appendage, but in an increasingly close race for the presidency, it plays its part.
And it is already warming up for the biggest event of the general election so far: the first debate, on Monday night. It has already published a piece calling on moderators to fact-check Mr. Trump on the spot, and will continue through debate night, whipping up support online with the hashtag #DemandFairDebates.
Shareblue is owned by David Brock, the onetime Clinton critic who remade himself into a Clinton supporter and architect of a conglomerate of organizations designed, he said, to be the liberal answer to the conservative messaging of Fox News.
The Brock network includes his Media Matters for America watchdog website; two pro-Clinton “super PACs,” the opposition research outfit American Bridge and the pro-Clinton fact-checking and reporter-spamming operation Correct the Record; and Shareblue, which filled the need, Mr. Brock said, for a progressive outlet that spoke directly to the grass roots and which “was avidly and unabashedly pro-Hillary.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Media Call Out Trump's Lies

Michael Finnegan reports at The Los Angeles Times:
Donald Trump says that taxes in the United States are higher than almost anywhere else on earth. They’re not.
He says he opposed the Iraq war from the start. He didn’t.

Now, after years of spreading the lie that President Obama was born in Africa, Trump says that Hillary Clinton did it first (untrue) and that he’s the one who put the controversy to rest (also untrue).
Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has. Over and over, independent researchers have examined what the Republican nominee says and concluded it was not the truth — but “pants on fire” (PolitiFact) or “four Pinocchios” (Washington Post Fact Checker).
Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns report at The New York Times:
All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating “an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

No Fortune 100 CEOs Give to Trump

Rebecca Ballhaus and Brody Mullins report at The Wall Street Journal:
No chief executive at the nation’s 100 largest companies had donated to Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through August, a sharp reversal from 2012, when nearly a third of the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies supported GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
During this year’s presidential primaries, 19 of the nation’s top CEOs gave to other Republican candidates, including former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of campaign donations.
Since then, most have stayed on the sidelines, with 89 of the 100 top CEOs not supporting either presidential nominee, and 11 backing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. A total of 66 CEOs sat out the 2012 campaign, according to the Journal’s calculation.