With the election a week away, I thought I’d share some random, but loosely connected observations that I hope will help guide you through what is likely to be a long, long seven days.
In the last few weeks, I’ve come across no fewer than three news stories heralding what is sure to be with us beyond Election Day — disinformation.
Here’s one from the New York Times, published Oct. 19: “As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place.” Reporters Davey Alba and Jack Nicas shed light on a network of “nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country.
“Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public relations professionals.”
And there is a River Forest connection here. Brian Timpone plays a notable role in this project.
It’s one thing to read stories like these on the internet; quite another to go into the 7-Eleven on South Boulevard to pick up the thick Sunday print edition of the New York Times, glimpse the cover story, “How an Obscure Newspaper Became a Bullhorn for the Far Right,” and see what appears to be a print edition of said obscure newspaper, the Epoch Times, on the rack just below the Gray Lady.
The Epoch Times looks newsy, authoritative (its motto, just under the masthead: “Truth & Tradition”), but don’t buy it. I bought it and read it, so you don’t have to. Perhaps I’ll share the experience in detail some other time, but suffice it to say now: reading Epoch for 30 minutes before reading the Times for 30 minutes is, well, quite Orwellian, to use an overused phrase.
Most data gurus have Donald Trump actually getting more Hispanic votes than he did in 2016, in part because of “a web of disinformation sites aimed at Latino Americans” started by a YouTuber named Sean Reynolds.
Politico first reported the existence of the network and FiveThirtyEight obtained an exclusive interview with Reynolds, who said he’s really not political at all — just profit-seeking.
“I am non-discriminating towards opportunities where there is demand and no supply,” Reynolds told reporters Kaleigh Rogers and Jaime Longoria.
If Joe Biden wins this thing, we have to make federal funding for media literacy and genuine local newspapers and real journalism, a real policy priority. Perhaps it’s time that journalists learn to be our own advocates and lobbyists.
Which brings us to the big ‘if.’ I’ve spoken to people in the past week who say they feel differently about 2020 than they did about 2016 — despite the lingering PTSD.
Those accounts have shored up my fragile optimism. So have a few other indicators that signal 2020 is much different than 2016, among the brightest: Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, saw trouble for Clinton four years ago, when he noticed (and Clinton’s people ignored, apparently) Trump’s support surging in Congressional district-level polls. Now, he sees Trump’s support significantly diminished (like 10 points, on average, down from ’16) in most of those same district-level polls that silently spelled doom for Clinton.
Plus, there’s a good chance of record youth turnout in key swing states like Florida and Texas, and record voter turnout overall, which spells doom for the GOP every time. Hopefully, there are enough votes (that get counted) to overwhelm the steal, as the invaluable Greg Palast might say.
What gives me pause — the way our political elites just accept, as a given GOP voter suppression efforts (Democratic strategist James Carville said casually on MSNBC the other day that D’s have to win by at least 5 million votes nationally to be confident of an Electoral College victory); the conservative Supreme Court for reasons that don’t need to be mentioned; and the susceptibility of US voting machines to hacking (please follow election security expert Jennifer Cohn on Twitter to learn more).
I’ll stop here. I have no predictions, but I do have a plea: go vote and then read Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” for a guide to navigating the ensuing chaos.