Reviews | Trump and his disinfo brigade fall flat

It’s probably a bit of each. In a late 2019 article, David Karpf, professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, went against the grain by downplaying the effects of Russian disinformation on the 2016 election. Disinformation deserves our attention, Karpf concluded, but not our obsession, and that the 2016 Russian efforts had been something of a flop. “Generating interactions on social networks is easy; mobilizing activists and persuading voters is difficult,” he wrote.

In an entertaining passage, Karpf illustrates the absurdity of “hacking” the minds of the electorate with digital propaganda. If social media psychometric targeting techniques are so effective, these types of techniques would certainly be used to successfully entice consumers to, for example, purchase gym memberships. But they are not. So why believe that such targeting could rock federal elections – which take place every two years and are therefore difficult to fine-tune – but not with gym memberships that can be constantly tweaked?

Continuing in his article, Karpf points out that misinformation and propaganda have traditionally been blunted by the fact that America has never had a well-informed public. If the public doesn’t pay enough attention to the “truth,” should we be so concerned about their exposure to misinformation?

Speaking of misinformation in the current environment, Karpf finds good news. “The voters, en masse, didn’t buy what Charlie Kirk and his company were selling. If Republicans decide that mass misinformation is an electoral disadvantage, that’s a step toward the country becoming governable again,” he said in an interview. “It’s still a little too early to know what shared narratives will emerge from this election, especially within the Republican Party network.”

Other explanations for the 2022 misinformation flop include the muzzling of serial liar Trump. Previously, he could leave the White House and Twitter. In this election, his message has been stifled by his banning of major social media and the neglect of the press, which grants presidents, not civilians, saturated coverage of their every thought.

It could also be that the voting public, which has never received compelling evidence of a stolen election, was bored with the conspiratorial ideas peddled by the likes of Trump and his pillow-selling supporter, as this story from the Washington Post. People have enough chaos in their lives with Covid, inflation, rising crime, layoffs and an impending recession, all of which can be documented, contrary to the lies of election fraud. The social learning process seems to have convinced most people to pay more attention to real dangers than to imagined dangers.

None of this is to say that we are out of the woods of misinformation yet. “I have long argued that the danger of misinformation and misinformation is not that it will directly change a lot of votes. It’s that it will convince political elites that they can govern like nobody’s watching,” Karpf says. About half of the 370 candidates who had espoused their ideas for a “stolen” presidential election were elected on Tuesday. According to a report by the liberal Center for American Progress, released before the election, misinformation can change and worsen in the post-election period, as we saw after Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Trump, for his part, is doing his best to make post-election misinformation worse than pre-election variety. In a Friday Truth Social article, he urged his supporters to help him end “very obvious CHEATING” by Democrats so Republicans can take the Senate.

Nice try, Donald. But how likely is an audience that didn’t buy your 2020 election lies to adopt your 2022 lies?

All men are liars, and that’s the truth. What’s your favorite Nick Lowe song? Send your choices to [email protected]. No new email alert subscriptions are honored at this time. My Twitter feed wants a Truth Social account. My Mastodon account wants you to follow it. My RSS feed pronounces “disinformation” as “dezinformatsiya”.


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