With tech companies testifying on Capitol Hill for the second straight day, The New Yorker’s Stephen Marche pieces together a theory of why the US is so susceptible to social-media distortion. I’m not sure there’s a clear answer, but this is an interesting examination of the question; and at this moment in time, there are few questions more profound. “The parameters of social-media conflict are difficult to grasp because Facebook posts seem irrelevant when compared to war or geopolitics—one is an online amusement, diversion, and sometime news source, while the other is life and death. But Marshall McLuhan predicted that the Third World War would be ‘a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation,’ and that’s exactly what it has turned out to be. America seems more vulnerable than other developed countries to the kind of distortion that Facebook and Twitter bring to news and politics. Arguably, the social-media distortion affects America more profoundly than other countries because of the very specific, even unique, way that Americans make meaning.”
+ Facebook now says Russian disinfo reached 150 million Americans.
+ Recode: These are some of the tweets and Facebook ads Russia used to try and influence the 2016 presidential election. (One of the key things to note is that most of the efforts were aimed at voter suppression.)
+ One thing that makes it easier to influence Americans is that we’re all hanging out in the same places at the same time. Here’s Andre Staltz with a very interesting look at the consolidation of internet attention: The web began dying in 2014, here’s how. “It looks like nothing has changed, but Google and Facebook now have direct influence over 70%+ of internet traffic.” A lot of the other 30% is pooled among news sites. And, aside from my links, they get most of their internet traffic from Google and Facebook.
From Bloomberg: Almost two-thirds say this is the lowest point in US history. Americans are officially freaking out. “For those lying awake at night worried about health care, the economy, and an overall feeling of divide between you and your neighbors, there’s at least one source of comfort: Your neighbors might very well be lying awake, too.” (Unfortunately, they’re using the extra period of wakefulness to post things on social media that will make you freak out even more…)
“I approached to see if I could help and they did not need help — they appeared to be dead. They were bloody and unconscious, with some limbs hanging,” he added. “It was gruesome. It was grisly. It was surreal. These people were gone. I’m in shock. I’m looking at dead bodies.” From the NYT: Mangled School Bus, Bodies Everywhere in Manhattan; ‘It Was Surreal’.
+ “He did this in the name of ISIS. He appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out in its social media channels before with instructions to their followers on how to carry out such an attack.” Authorities say the NYC truck attacker had been planning his rampage for weeks. And from a hospital bed, he’s now bragging about the attack. From Vox, New York City terror attack: what we know so far.
+ “Through the decades — despite job changes, marriage, children, moves to far-flung corners of the world — they remained close friends. And on Saturday, eight of the former classmates gathered to fly to the United States to celebrate their 30th graduation anniversary.” From WaPo: Old friends from Argentina reunited in New York. Five died together in a terrorist attack.
+ You keep waiting for a rock bottom to the depravity from the Oval Office. But Trump is a bottomless pit. WaPo’s Amber Phillips explains Trump’s modus operandi at moments like this, when real leadership is called for: “He watches cable news and comments on it … He jumps out ahead of the publicly stated facts to come to a conclusion … He comes to a conclusion that is politically beneficial to him … He seeks to cast blame elsewhere … He plucks theories directly from right-wing media and states them as fact … He says stuff that gins up his base.” (After that warm-up, he called our justice system a joke and a laughing stock. It turns out that’s the right description, but the wrong branch of government…)
“The pistol came from a thriving supply chain that provides criminals in Florida tens of thousands of guns. In 2016 alone, at least one gun was reported stolen, on average, every hour.” From The Center for Investigative Reporting: 82,000 stolen guns are missing in Florida.
+ Remember how, right after Las Vegas, it was too soon to talk about gun regulation, but we were allowed to talk about bump stocks? Well, now it’s a month later. We still haven’t talked about gun regulation. But bump stocks are back on the shelves.
“For the first time since the investigation began, the prospect of impeachment is being considered as a realistic outcome and not just a liberal fever dream. According to a source, advisers in the West Wing are on edge and doing whatever they can not to be ensnared. One person close to Dina Powell and Gary Cohn said they’re making sure to leave rooms if the subject of Russia comes up.” Gabe Sherman: Inside The West Wing, Trump Is Apoplectic As Allies Fear Impeachment. (Interestingly, as the shit hits the fan, Trump is turning to Bannon.) A NextDraft prediction: Jared won’t be in the White House much longer.
“They say that the government’s efforts to control the news media, curtail the authority of the Supreme Court and undermine once-hallowed institutions like the military threaten the future of [the country’s] democracy. Their warnings have thrown [the country] into an impassioned debate over what kind of country it is becoming, and if its democracy…can survive.” This is story about the Middle East, but when you read the details, it hits pretty close to home. NYT: Is the End of Israeli Democracy Nigh? Israelis Debate Its Future
The sexual harassment claims against Harvey Weinstein have Hollywood insiders wondering how many other perpetrators will be outed by victims now empowered to come forward. So far, there’s been a steady stream. The latest from the LAT: Six women accuse filmmaker Brett Ratner of sexual harassment or misconduct.
+ And Kevin Spacey faces more accusations.
“Rosa Maria is being taken care of by strangers. Imagine sending your child to the hospital for surgery, only to have law enforcement sweep in and take them away from you.” Remember the little girl with cerebral palsy who was arrested by Border Patrol following a surgery? She is now in deportation proceedings.
Paul “Ryan initially kicked the naming over to Trump because of his knack for branding, according to a senior Hill aide.” And what does President Trump want to call the tax reform bill? The Cut Cut Cut Act.
“If going to church called for sweatbands instead of prayer books, salsa music in the place of scripture, and a near-insane amount of neon, it might look something like this.” I spent a week with 8,000 worshippers of the fake, fantastical cult of zumba.
+ “But this singular product of 1980s mall culture sprang to life in a test kitchen across the street from Gas Works Park. Its unrepentant decadence remains lodged in our psyche.” The Sticky, Untold Story of Cinnabon.
+ An analysis: Who starts whining earlier in the morning: Donald Trump or an actual baby?