Fighting Fake News Is Not the Solution

One is a large study of the reach and impact of fake news; the other is opinion-poll data on the tax-reform bill that Congress passed and President Trump signed into law in December. Together, they burst the two-bubble theory by showing that most Americans are better informed and less gullible than you might think. That, in turn, suggests that fighting “fake news” is not the solution, or perhaps even a solution, to our current political problems.

.. The economists’ study suggested that every American adult had been exposed to at least one fake news story in the leadup to the 2016 election, but relatively few people—roughly eight per cent—actually believed them.

.. About ten per cent of news consumers sought out more fake news, and they read an average of 33.16 fake stories, according to the political scientists.

.. rather than two bubbles, there was one, positioned far to the right of the political spectrum. A majority of Americans, the study showed, get their news from a variety of different media. They are routinely exposed to opinions they don’t share; they do not live in an echo chamber.

.. “Not only was consumption of fact-checks concentrated among non-fake news consumers,” the authors wrote, “but we almost never observe respondents reading a fact-check of a specific claim in a fake news article that they read.”

.. language had a way of migrating from Breitbart into the mainstream media.

.. The authors identified the two topics that dominated false conspiratorial narratives—Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the threat posed by immigration—and traced the mainstream media’s disproportionate focus on these topics to the fake-news sites’ obsession with them.

.. ineffectual fact-checking pieces might have been a primary vehicle of that migration—such as, for example, when the Post fact-checked Trump’s claim, made in an interview with the conspiracy-theory purveyor Sean Hannity, that Clinton’s e-mails caused the death of an Iranian defector.

.. Opinion data on Trumpian tax reform is real-life proof that most Americans share a fact-based view of reality.

Faust on the Potomac

Trump is morally and intellectually incapable of being president. He has also exploited his office for personal gain, obstructed justice, and colluded with a hostile foreign power. Everyone who doesn’t get their news from Fox has basically known this for a while, although Wolff helps focus our minds on the subject.

.. Republicans in Congress are dealing with this national nightmare: rather than distancing themselves from Trump, they’re doubling down on their support and, in particular, on their efforts to cover for his defects and crimes.

Remember when Paul Ryan was the Serious, Honest Conservative?

.. Now he’s backing Devin Nunes in his efforts to help the Trump coverup.

.. Republicans have become the Grand Obstruction Party. Why?

The answer, I think, is that the cynical bargain that has been the basis of Republican strategy since Reagan has now turned into a moral trap

.. The cynical bargain I’m talking about, of course, was the decision to exploit racism to advance a right-wing economic agenda.

.. For more than a generation, the Republican establishment was able to keep this bait-and-switch under control: racism was deployed to win elections, then was muted afterwards, partly to preserve plausible deniability, partly to focus on the real priority of enriching the one percent.

.. But with Trump they lost control: the base wanted someone who was blatantly racist and wouldn’t pretend to be anything else.

.. just about everyone in the Republican establishment decided that they could work with that.

.. were willing to overlook it as long as they could push their usual agenda.

.. They guessed, correctly, that this wouldn’t be a problem: Trump didn’t even hesitate about abandoning all his campaign promises and going all in for cutting taxes on the rich while slashing benefits for the poor.

.. some speculated that this would be a temporary alliance – that establishment Republicans would use Trump to get what they wanted, then turn on him. But it’s now clear that won’t happen.

.. Republicans, far from cutting him loose, are tying themselves even more closely to his fate. Why?

.. Trump’s very awfulness means that if he falls, the whole party will fall with him.

.. Republicans could conceivably distance themselves from a president who turned out to be a bad manager, or even one who turned out to have engaged in small-time corruption. But when the corruption is big time, and it’s combined with obstruction of justice and collaboration with Putin, nobody will notice which Republicans were a bit less involved, a bit less obsequious, than others.

..  now have the Republican party as a whole fully complicit in Trump’s crimes

.. expecting the GOP to exercise any oversight or constrain Trump in any way is just foolish at this point. Massive electoral defeat – massive enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and other structural advantages of the right – is the only way out.

The Ezra Klein Show: How the Republican Party created Donald Trump

Mitch McConnell promised bipartisanship in his speech about healthcare and delivered the exact opposite.  The speech had very little “truth content”.  (38 min)

The Koch brothers announced that they had 360 million dollars to spend on the next election if the Republicans passed healthcare and tax cuts.  (48 min)

Tucker Carlson condemned the right wing media ~6 years ago and said the right needs its own institutions comparable to the New York Times.  He started the Daily Caller which now makes money putting up bikini pictures, and then plays a host on Fox News that does nothing to challenge his audience, preferring to embarrass guests and make its visitors feel good. (1 hr 25 min)

Ezra: I think many of the criticism of the mainstream media are right.  It has a cosmopolitan bias.

Tucker Carlson is all about business model.  Dinesh D’hsousa is doing well because the Ann Coulter principle — the more extreme you are, the better you do.  Authors always check their Amazon ratings.

Many Conservatives don’t consume mainstream media.

The media knew that the John Podesta leaks were coming from the Russians, but the business is comptetitive and people were concerned about appearing biased.  (1 hr 38 min)


Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have studied American politics for more than three decades. They are the town’s go-to experts on the workings of Congress. In 2012, they rocked Washington when they published It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, a book that marshaled their considerable authority to argue that the dysfunction poisoning American government was the result of “asymmetric polarization,” notably a Republican Party that “has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

This was a controversial diagnosis then. After Trump, it’s closer to the conventional wisdom.

E.J. Dionne is a columnist at the Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and the author of the classic book Why Americans Hate Politics. He’s one of the sharpest political observers alive.

And now, like a Canadian indie-rock supergroup, the three of them have come together to write One Nation After Trump, a dive into how the Republican Party created Trump, how Trump won, and what comes next.

As Dionne says in this interview, the American system was “not supposed to produce a president like this,” and so a lot of our conversation is about how the guardrails failed and whether they can be rebuilt. Mann, Ornstein, and Dionne may be political sages, but they’re also a lot of fun, and they have a lot of fun together. You’ll hear that in this conversation.


Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal by William Leuchtenburg

Strength to Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The First Congress by Fergus Bordewich

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Democracy for Realists by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels

Trump is hunkering down inside his Fox-Breitbart echo chamber

Rather than avoid addressing the investigation via Twitter, particularly after White House aides suggested that the president might have lawyers vet his tweets, Trump is again seeking to use Twitter to divert attention from the investigation. It’s a sign Trump cannot be restrained from his impulsive Twitter use, and that he’s going to rely on it to draw attention to coverage he considers (somehow) favorable.

.. It is probably not an accident that Trump suddenly tweeted about Page early this morning. That’s because yesterday brought a barrage of negative Russia-related news: CNN reported that U.S. intelligence intercepted Russian communications with Russians saying that had “derogatory” financial information that could give them leverage over Trump and his inner circle.

.. The closer the investigation gets to the full story, the more Trump retreats into the Breitbart-Fox-and-Friends bubble. Inside this bubble, it is a truism that there is a “deep state” conspiracy theory

.. he’s really trying to blind himself, and his followers, from the scandal engulfing him.

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