Did Fake News Give Us Trump?

Can you stand one more discussion of “fake news”?

The Washington Post has reported on a study that strongly suggests Trump owes his 2016 upset win to the same “fake news” he regularly excoriates.

The study from researchers at Ohio State Universityfinds that fake news probably played a significant role in depressing Hillary Clinton’s support on Election Day. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed but which may be the first look at how fake news affected voter choices, suggests that about 4 percent of President Barack Obama’s 2012 supporters were dissuaded from voting for Clinton in 2016 by belief in fake news stories.

Here are the false stories, along with the percentages of Obama supporters who believed they were at least “probably” true (in parenthesis):

  1. Clinton was in “very poor health due to a serious illness” (12 percent)
  2. Pope Francis endorsed Trump (8 percent)
  3. Clinton approved weapons sales to Islamic jihadists, “including ISIS” (20 percent)

The researchers determined that twenty-five percent of those who had voted in 2012 for Obama believed at least one of the three stories. Of that group–that is, of the voters who believed at least one of the fake news stories– 45 percent voted for Clinton. Of the Obama voters who did not believe any of the fake news stories, 89 percent voted for Clinton.

This alone does not prove that fake news made a difference, of course. A recent Princeton-led studyof fake news consumption during the 2016 campaign found that false articles made up 2.6 percent of all hard-news articles late in the 2016 campaign, with the stories most often reaching intense partisans who probably were not persuadable. And it wouldn’t be surprising if Obama voters who weren’t reliable Democratic supporters were more apt to believe fake news stories that affirmed their decision not to vote for Clinton.

So the researchers sought to control for other factors such as gender, race, age, education, political leaning and even personal feelings about Clinton and Trump using multiple regression analysis, a method to measure the relative impact of multiple independent variables. According to the researchers, all of these factors combined to explain 38 percent of the defection of Obama voters from Clinton, but belief in fake news explained an additional 11 percent.

Other researchers ran a variety of other simulations using the data from the Ohio State study, and the consensus was that fake news cost Clinton about 2.2 or 2.3 points apiece in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Clinton lost Michigan by 0.2 points, Pennsylvania by 0.72 and Wisconsin 0.76 points.

Disinformation, propaganda, “fake news”–whatever we want to call it– is a significant and growing problem, and that problem isn’t limited to political campaigns. Recognition of the proliferation of unreliable information has undercut public trust in government and in other important institutions. As Anne Applebaum recently wrote, also in the Washington Post, it isn’t just Russian bots we need to worry about.

Fox News and the Trump-friendly media operate in exactly the same way. As I’ve written in the past, Donald Trump openly used Russian slogans and narratives during his 2016 election campaign.

At the moment, though, he doesn’t need to borrow from them anymore. A recent New York Times analysis of how the president came to be obsessed with the “caravan of illegal aliens” listed the ways the original story came to be enhanced and misreported, deliberately, by what we would in another country call pro-regime media. As retold on “Fox & Friends,” or hyped by Frontpage Mag, “Beltway pundit,” and thousands of bots and trolls (both voluntary and professional), the story lost some critical details: that many of the group were refugees from Honduras’s drug wars, or that many planned to stay in Mexico, or that others hope to cross the U.S. border legally to apply for asylum. By the time the tale of the caravan reached the president’s Twitter feed — which has featured faked or mislabeled video in the past, as well — it was an “invasion” requiring the presence of the National Guard.

We can’t do much about the expression of opinion, but gatekeepers can verify or debunk factual assertions. The problem is, except in what we now call “legacy media” we no longer have gatekeepers. And thanks to the ubiquity of social media, disinformation spreads.

As someone once said “A lie can travel around the world three times while truth is still putting on its pants.”

That’s a big problem, and we need to solve it.

35 thoughts on “Did Fake News Give Us Trump?

  1. Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential primary due to fake news such as the Washington Post.

    This is a fun period of time watching a lot of glass houses tumbling…they were warned not to toss stones.

    So, with all this fake news and propaganda spreading, who will the Dept of Homeland Security target?

    The government has already asked Google, Facebook, and Twitter for assistance in suppressing the voices of dissidents. We already have a list of victims who the establishment and existing media sources have outlined as “troublesome”.

    As for the WaPo, why do you think Trump is warring with Jeff Bezos?

    Bezos’ Washington Post acquisition was funded by a $600 million contract with the CIA. I don’t think he should be allowed to own any media interest due to his conflict of interest.

    How many advertisers pulled the plug on Fox News personalities?

    Do you think the same advertisers dictate what is and what’s not acceptable media discourse?

    As Chomsky points out, advertisers are responsible for our propaganda media in the first place. They’ve constructed the entire Village of Glass Houses. Now they throw stones at each other…

  2. Did Fake News Give Us Trump?

    Answer: No

    The correct answer is: SYSTEMIC IGNORANCE GAVE US TRUMP

    “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
    ~Professor Albert Einstein

  3. “Did Fake News Give Us Trump?”

    Of course it did; Trump gave us all the fake news he needed, encouraging all forms of racism and bigotry be released and to use violence if deemed necessary by those who continue to follow him. They have just been waiting for an “authority figure” to wave that green flag to set them off. Don’t bother waiting for that checkered flag to indicate the end of this race to save or to end democracy; I fear it will not come in time to save this generation or future generations for years to come.

    “We can’t do much about the expression of opinion, but gatekeepers can verify or debunk factual assertions. The problem is, except in what we now call “legacy media” we no longer have gatekeepers. And thanks to the ubiquity of social media, disinformation spreads.”

    After reading a Facebook post from a friend; a precinct committee person, a Black, married lesbian who learned her long time voter registration had been purged, I decided to check on my own. An E-mail had arrived so used it; to be safe I tried Googling local voter registration sites and to check on my polling place. After three days and trying 15-18 different local sites (kept changing my birth year to 2018) I finally found one that actually worked. Saved it to my Favorite Places for November. You all might want to check your registration status and polling place; Trump and his minions here in Indiana are still spreading the “fake news” which brought us to this point in history.

    Keep in mind Trump’s “expression of opinion” about that deadly fire in Trump Tower this past weekend; Kudos for how well constructed “his” building is, no condolence for the loss of a man’s life. “His” building has no sprinkler system on the upper floors (including his own); grandfathered in due to being constructed in the 1980’s. Also keep in mind that he was against the later bill requiring sprinkler systems in all buildings…unless you believe this is “fake news” about Trump. He cries crocodile tears over Syrians but sheds none for his neighbor.

  4. JoAnn,

    “Don’t bother waiting for that checkered flag to indicate the end of this race to save or to end democracy; I fear it will not come in time to save this generation or future generations for years to come.”

    Why didn’t we stop the “fake news?” Was it some big secret? Were we all blind? I don’t think so. The problem is much more than “fake news.”

    To best simply our predicament, it might be wise and admit that we have been ROYALLY SCREWED. Donald Trump is just a symbol of our political ignorance.

  5. There is a recent development on Facebook that will help in identifying fake news stories. Some posts are now tagged with a symbol (i) that will tell you about the source of the information. The symbol is not attached to stories originated outside of the US, but it is a start. We all need to get use to using it.

  6. A person could spend his life doing nothing but fighting lies. It’s daily. That IS what we need. People to be guardians of the truth. I herby designate you smart regulars to be Guardians of the Truth and use every angle to strengthen and support the truth.

  7. I was up very late last night and witnessed a commercial for “Trumpy Bear,” an orange-haired teddy bear that stands for America. At first I thought I misunderstood what I was hearing – but no. The commercial showed a biker carrying the bear on his motorcycle, amoung others. Wow.

  8. No. What gave us drumpf is a bunch of people that should themselves be investigated – the ELECTORAL COLLEGE members!

  9. Once again, Todd creates a fantasy world of conspiracy of John LaParre’ proportions.

    Yes. No. Maybe. Fake news has been with mankind ever since there was something to pass along. It’s more important to examine what truth we know before we select representation. To wit: Trump was already known as a liar, a cheat, a misogynist and a con man. The disinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton had been going on for 30 years. Clearly, Republicans feared her more than anyone else. Benghazi? Pure bullshit and a waste of our tax money.

    So, we must couple propaganda, the correct term here, with gullibility, prejudice and outright stupidity of the voters.

  10. Manuel,

    “No. What gave us drumpf is a bunch of people that should themselves be investigated – the ELECTORAL COLLEGE members!”

    Not a bad idea. We might also want to throw in Mercer and Bannon while we’re at it. Why not expand our CIVIC COURAGE [while we still can]?

  11. Marv; it is covered in the protection by our Constitution, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, neither of which requires truth or fact in content.

    Just as you and I have butted heads over SPLC and ADL (I agree with your views on ADL based on the little I know about them); but do you not “defend to the death their right to their views” and their freedom to speak them? We use our freedom of speech, in the press and all media when given the opportunity, to deny their “fake news”. We need to outshout and outlast them; I at times need a break, a “time-out” to regroup, research and regain physical and emotional strength to get back into the fight. Tired as I get; my fury, disgust, fear and at times disbelief in what is going on, forces me to take that “time-out” but it also forces me back into the fight.

    “Why didn’t we stop the “fake news?” Was it some big secret? Were we all blind? I don’t think so. The problem is much more than “fake news.”

    Maybe the problem can be compared to 9/11; we couldn’t believe any other country had the audacity to attack the United States of America on our own ground. We were wrong! Even after 40 years of “The Donald’s” sexual, business rip-offs, bankruptcies and seemingly unending source of family money to rebuild being in the news; we didn’t believe our own government (with Russian and 1% wealth support) would be stupid enough to take him seriously. Again we were wrong; this time the attacks are coming from within. I say again; to learn why the Republicans do nothing to stop him now; we must first know why they nominated him in the first place and why they killed off all chance of any of the other 16 possible nominees? And why have they virtually been in hiding since their political deaths at the hands of their own party?

  12. Millions and Millions of dollars of FREE publicity had a lot to do with Trumps win.
    While the real politicians got dressed and went to the TV stations for the Sunday shows, the Orange jack ass would call in from his golden toilet and the networks would put the idiot on the air. WHY? Just ratings? Did they think it was fun or funny?
    The Networks let the jack ass play by his own rules – and he still is.
    It was not just the new media that failed, it was the OLD media that failed.

  13. JoAnn – One of the reasons Republicans are reluctant to rein in Trump and his corrupt administration’s excesses is that they may themselves be the beneficiaries of Russian largesse (see Rubio) and do not wish to stir the pot and risk being found out themselves by a nosy Mueller. The NRA has admitted to being a pipeline for Russian cash for redistribution to Republican candidates and I think it would be very interesting to know just precisely who those candidates were and are (if up for reelection), how much they received, their gun control voting and other quid pro quo legislative history.

    As to free speech and fake news, it appears we are constitutionally vulnerable to misrepresentation of fact and while that is nothing new what is new is that such lies are now funded not only by rich libertarians such as the Mercers and Kochs but by Russians and perhaps others as well – even allies such as Israel anxious to influence American public opinion. We cannot constitutionally shut such speech shysters up but we can agitate for programs leading to civil literacy and critical thinking among voters and hope we have time within which such education will be effective before the likes of Trump, Bolton, Pruitt , Putin et al. crash the scene.

    Since that will take too long and rightly invite Marv to put down “hope” in making policy due to time constraints, we must during the interim keep an eagle eye out for such lies and immediately point out such misrepresentations to the voting public. As in many other countries (see Hungary), our democracy is under attack and nothing is more important that its retention and expansion – nothing.

  14. JoAnn,

    “Marv…..Just as you and I have butted heads over SPLC and ADL (I agree with your views on ADL based on the little I know about them); but do you not “defend to the death their right to their views” and their freedom to speak them?”

    Hell No. The ADL views have been FAKE. “Fake views” are no better than “Fake News.” In the case of the ADL, probably even more damaging.

    Not only would I not defend the rights of liars, but also I would do everything in my power to expose them which in the case of the ADL, I’ve continued to track and confront for close to 50 years.

    Knowing you, I don’t think you would defend the rights of liars? Am I mistaken?

  15. Marv; I defend their right to be – and speak – wrong, not to take action on their racist and bigoted views. That doesn’t mean I like it and I certainly do not agree with their lies; as I said, we need to outshout and outlast them. This is still America..for now.

  16. I’m normally on Facebook at least a couple times a day; in the morning before ago to work and in the evening. When it comes two reviewing political or foreign policy related information I always go to brand names I know – major newspapers and think tanks that specialize in both that I’m very aware of.

    During the 2016 presidential campaign I saw posts from what I would call fly-by-night outfits that I had never heard of and most of these were anti-Clinton with extreme vitriol. Many of these were sent to me by friends, and not just face book friends but friends, that were from trump and you’ll also, quite frankly, hated Hillary Clinton and the Clintons in general. Often, because the information was so over the top by wood backtrack and check out the actual face book site of these organizations just to see what other stuff they had and realized very quickly that what my friends had sent me was only the tip of the iceberg in regard to what bordered on pure hate speech and very twisted thinking that apparently they had not seen since they were sent these posts by other people that they knew not the parent Facebook site.

    Of all of the ones that I saw there was one that stood out that I saw late in the campaign that I knew immediately was very fake news. This post stated that the New York police department had indicted bill and Hillary Clinton on charges related to their running a secret pedophile sex island resort on an island in the Caribbean. Immediately the headline rang totally false in that I knew personally, from being the son of a homicide detective, at the police do not indict them rather indictments are handed down by either Prosecutors or District Attorneys depending on where you live, in our case here in Indianapolis a Prosecutor. Additionally, one did not have to have that personal experience that only had to watch the TV show “Law and Order” to get the general gist of how things work regarding criminal prosecution in this country.

    It was obvious that my friends either didn’t realize this or just didn’t think it through but that didn’t excuse the hundreds of respondents that voiced their hatred of the Clintons with some calling for their heads literally. Some of the responses were profane where they were almost like you could hear these people screaming their answers in front of their computers. Whether or not this was a Russian BOT site I’d do not know but I remember the experience of reviewing it quite vividly and I also remember, curiously, that Eric Prince, was listed as the source of the information.

    This is but one example of things that I saw where the majority of the respondents were in full tilt and anger mode bordering on being totally out of control, often making comments at were so over the top and apparently so deeply held that they didn’t even relate to what was stated in the post.

    By then I had started to look at these things just out of curiosity to see just how angry the respondents were typically and I got my answers right away. What was also interesting was Facebook’s response when I would turn some of these people in, or at least try to, when some of these responses called for the deaths of the Clintons and also President Obama which is illegal by Federal law. More often than not I was informed that these responses did not violate Facebook’s “code of conduct”.

  17. JoAnn,

    “Marv; I defend their right to be – and speak – wrong, not to take action on their racist and bigoted views.”

    JoAnn, The Supreme Court doesn’t agree with you. There is not an unlimited right to speak. Ask Gerald if I’m not right. He’s out legal expert.

  18. While all y’all are debating about the “fake news” of the 2016 election, I can only stand firm that the election was hacked and is invalid. I seriously think that we should skip that election discussion and worry more about our 2018 election. The Get Out The Vote (GOTV) for 2018 will be successful because we’re all exhausted by the daily crap coming from the White House and we’re on to their denial of the truth. The revolving door at the white house shows the world how unstable our democracy is and how we need to put an end to our misery. Forever the optimist, I’m hopeful for November but it’s April still.

  19. I consider it propaganda not the politically correct “fake news”. We payed and pay to have the means in every pocket, purse and room. Like feeding Christians to lions it is what keeps our most basic instincts satiated.

    It will be the end of democracy if we don’t smarten up. It’s probably the last gasp of capitalism as we know it.

    Or we can beat it. But we have to get much smarter over the long term. On the short term (2 years) we can use brute force. Vote D’s this year and ‘20 like freedom depends on it.

  20. Ahh, still whipping the dead horse of Hillary’s failed campaign. Fake news, deplorables, Russians, Comey, Bernie Bots, Jill Stein, etc. are to blame. At least Ralph Nader is off the hook.

    As early as 1929, Lieutenant Colonel J. L. Schley, of the Corps of Engineers wrote in The Military Engineer: “It has been said critically that there is a tendency in many armies to spend the peace time studying how to fight the last war.”

    The Corporate Democratic Party has been in a steady decline since 1990 in the US House, Senate and Gubernatorial elections. Odd also how the Electoral College can be blamed for the Trumpet. If Trump wins Michigan he receives the Electoral College votes from there. Like wise if Hillary wins California she receives the Electoral College votes. That is how it works.

    The Corporate Democratic Party has their own version of the Electoral College called the Super Delegates. The Super Delegates are not bound to vote for the winner of the state primary – they can vote for whoever they want.

  21. Marv – Thanks for the compliment but I am not “our legal expert.” Sheila is. I am still wallowing around in Brown v. Board, only awakened from my reverie by Citizens United, which I ardently hope awakened all of us to judicial approval of the decline of our democracy.

  22. When I saw “fake news” I thought this was going to be about the “fake news” media that trump calls out, like CNN. Now it seems the term “fake news” refers to both propaganda (gossip) and news coverage that depends on researched reporting.

    I believe the outcome had more to do with voter nausea than the source or truth of content the saw. Many tuned out and then didn’t bother to vote when it seemed impossible that Trump could possibly be elected. He was just a joke.

  23. From Wikipedia:

    In Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974), the Supreme Court decided that there is “no constitutional value in false statements of fact”. However, this is not a concrete rule as the Court has struggled with how much of the “speech that matters” can be put at risk in order to punish a falsehood.

    The Supreme Court has established a complex framework in determining which types of false statements are unprotected There are four such areas which the Court has been explicit about. First, false statements of fact that are said with a “sufficiently culpable mental state” can be subject to civil or criminal liability. Secondly, knowingly making a false statement of fact can almost always be punished. For example, libel and slander law are permitted under this category. Third, negligently false statements of fact may lead to civil liability in some instances. Additionally, some implicit statements of fact—those that may just have a “false factual connotation”—still could fall under this exception.

  24. While a Constitutional amendment requiring a good-faith effort in reporting accurate facts is unlikely, perhaps the FCC, which currently imposes indecency rules, could institute a regulation for all entities under its purview requiring them to be able to prove that they do their best to substantiate the truthfulness of the facts they broadcast. By allowing law suits with accompanying damages, this regulation would cost the FCC nothing. Thanks to the alacrity of the legal industry, it would be self-enforcing.

    Opponents of this regulation would have a difficult time arguing the case for permission to lie to the public over the airways. Moreover, since intentional lies hold more damaging potential than indecency in speech, and truth serves the public welfare, the FCC would be honoring its mandate by supporting this rule. This could not be construed as “abridging the freedom of speech” since anyone wishing to spread lies would remain free to do so, but not while using broadcast media (do broadcasters have the right to inform their audiences that a Russian missile attack is under way when it isn’t? Are they allowed to report that citizens all over America are all being consumed by flesh-eating bacteria when they aren’t?). Isn’t broadcast lying to achieve a specific goal more dangerous than yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater? Obviously, concomitant rules are required for the internet, an area Congress is currently examining for further regulations.

    Worst case? We fail to get the needed regulation but we collect a list of politicians and newscasters who favor lying to the public on a massive scale.

  25. As I recall, the citation is either Clark or Sullivan v. NYT where the court set a high bar for defamation of a public figure, making it almost impossible for a public figure to stay in court with an alleged defamer which, among other reasons and as usual, gives the lie to Trump’s frequent promises to sue the many women who have sued or are waiting to sue him for sexual harassment and tells us that such blather is for the purpose of intimidation, like, tell me how many women he has sued since he made his promise to sue them for defamation. I know the answer – none. He lied; first time, too.

  26. Monotonous; didn’t anyone blame President Obama for Hillary’s loss due to his support? Trump is still blaming him for everything that goes wrong; including the recent gas attack in Syria.

  27. While Todd may be a loon that does not mean that he is always wrong. I don’t know if the Pope endorsed anyone and given that he appears to be a loon, who would care? As for the Clinton health…not fake. As for ISIS not only getting weapons but getting assistance in its formation…not fake. Benghazie is NOT going to be a long term successful cover up NOR is the DOJ/FBI refusal to obey the Intelligence committee demand for FISA materials going to succeed in protecting the perps. Anyone who reads WAPO needs to be a whole lot more intelligent than our thread author because WAPO lies even when it need not, much like the New York Times. WAPO is part of Deep State as you can easily find by reading Silent Coup, 2nd edition, as well as its exposing of Woodward as a liar concerning Deep Throat, and his own connections to Deep State.

  28. Most of us, but apparently not all, were taught that granting credibility to others is a pretty big deal. It has to be earned over time but can be lost in an instant.

    The ability to determine who deserves credibility is a big argument for education and reading and surrounding oneself with people you can reliably learn from.

    Apparently those who don’t learn to be responsible for filtering truth from fiction fall for what makes them feel good over what evidence shows to be real.

    Or, just maybe, they just don’t care. They perceive some value in supporting what’s obviously from a false prophet. Truth is what they don’t value.

    Of course they are the same people that it is smart not to grant credibility to.

  29. Much as we are now wrestling with the damages of fake news, it has done horrendous damage in the past as well. Hitler’s big lies and Joe McCarthy’s labeling of innocents as communists are just two of the most obvious examples. P. T. Barnum also learned the lessons well.

    Today we have fact-checkers at our fingertips – much quicker than days of old when we’d have to go to the public library or media outlet to do time consuming research. It’s noticeable that today’s hard core Trumpites refuse to read, let alone believe any fact checker sharing facts they’d rather not believe. At least among my friends, many read both pro and con Trump media and blogs to know what both sides are saying. Unfortunately too many folks also share anti-Trump news which is too outrageous and people don’t check it before sharing it. I’ve done that myself a few times and regretted it. (I agree that with Trump, he is sometimes more outrageous than the “too outrageous” but that’s no excuse not to check.)

    We could all be better at fact-checking and healthy skepticism. Some schools now teach students how to be more discerning consumers of news and advertising. Perhaps it should be a graduation requirement. It’s a course that would benefit all of us. But then my parents always taught me that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. Unfortunately, too often we succumb to the hucketerism of both political and commercial opportunists.

  30. Leon: “Anyone who reads WAPO needs to be a whole lot more intelligent than our thread author because WAPO lies even when it need not, much like the New York Times. ”

    Good thing you are an anonymous poster and we can’t stand up to, when you speak about the author of this blog in that light, because you would be shouted down as soon as you spewed those words. I don’t know how much longer Mrs. Kennedy is going to put up with your nonsense because as sure I am reading this, I don’t want to read it anymore. Go along now and find some infowars blog to comment on. Go away, k, thanks.

  31. Good news: this morning my friends and I were absolutely giddy over Ryan’s announcement. We need to share good news every chance we get.

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