Monday, March 6, 2017

New Research Shows How Breitbart and the Broader Right-wing Hate Media Circulated Disinformation to Help Trump Win the White House

The Right-wing media is a propaganda operation that would make Nazi mastermind Joseph Goebbels proud. It is without peer in its ability to shape the hearts and minds of conservatives by circulating disinformation. The result is extreme polarization and cult-like insularity and behavior by Republicans and movement conservatives. These dynamics installed Donald Trump in the White House. With the help of Fox News, Breitbart, and the white nationalist Stephen Bannon, Trump now has his own state controlled media that he can use to shape the public discourse and political imagination.

A new article in the Columbia Journalism Review uses sophisticated social network and other data analysis tools to map the connections within and dimensions of the Right-wing news disinformation machine. Some key excerpts:
The right-wing media was also able to bring the focus on immigration, Clinton emails, and scandals more generally to the broader media environment. A sentence-level analysis of stories throughout the media environment suggests that Donald Trump’s substantive agenda—heavily focused on immigration and direct attacks on Hillary Clinton—came to dominate public discussions.

Coverage of Clinton overwhelmingly focused on emails, followed by the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi. Coverage of Trump included some scandal, but the most prevalent topic of Trump-focused stories was his main substantive agenda item—immigration—and his arguments about jobs and trade also received more attention than his scandals.

While mainstream media coverage was often critical, it nonetheless revolved around the agenda that the right-wing media sphere set: immigration. Right-wing media, in turn, framed immigration in terms of terror, crime, and Islam, as a review of Breitbart and other right-wing media stories about immigration most widely shared on social media exhibits. Immigration is the key topic around which Trump and Breitbart found common cause; just as Trump made this a focal point for his campaign, Breitbart devoted disproportionate attention to the topic.

What we find in our data is a network of mutually-reinforcing hyper-partisan sites that revive what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” combining decontextualized truths, repeated falsehoods, and leaps of logic to create a fundamentally misleading view of the world. “Fake news,” which implies made of whole cloth by politically disinterested parties out to make a buck of Facebook advertising dollars, rather than propaganda and disinformation, is not an adequate term. By repetition, variation, and circulation through many associated sites, the network of sites make their claims familiar to readers, and this fluency with the core narrative gives credence to the incredible.
The whole article can be read here. I suggest you do so. It is invaluable for those of us who want to understand how the American Il Duce Donald Trump stole the presidency.

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