Confirmation bias is a helluva drug

A news article is out from the Washington Post discussing the disinformation campaign waged by the Russians during the 2016 election.  For me, it’s old and new news as this is something I recognized in 2016 when it was going on.  The new aspect is the depth and breadth of the whole campaign.  It seems there was no social media outlet that was not weaponized in some capacity.

It was easy for me to pick out some of the stories in 2016 because they were just plain stupid to begin with.  There were obvious stories that were too dumb to believe unless those stories were things that you already believed anyway.  Other stories were not as easy to spot as they were not outright obvious nor did they carry any particular overt partisan message.

That was the genius of the whole Russian attack.  They did nothing more than feed into biases that Americans already held close to their hearts.

The report traces the origins of Russian online influence operations to Russian domestic politics in 2009 and says that ambitions shifted to include U.S. politics as early as 2013 on Twitter. Of the tweets the company provided to the Senate, 57 percent are in Russian, 36 percent in English and smaller amounts in other languages.

The efforts to manipulate Americans grew sharply in 2014 and every year after, as teams of operatives spread their work across more platforms and accounts to target larger swaths of U.S. voters by geography, political interests, race, religion and other factors. The Russians started with accounts on Twitter, then added YouTube and Instagram before bringing Facebook into the mix, the report said.

Facebook was particularly effective at targeting conservatives and African Americans, the report found. More than 99 percent of all engagement — meaning likes, shares and other reactions — came from 20 Facebook pages controlled by the IRA, including “Being Patriotic,” “Heart of Texas,” “Blacktivist” and “Army of Jesus.”

Together, the 20 most popular pages generated 39 million likes, 31 million shares, 5.4 million reactions and 3.4 million comments. Company officials told Congress that the Russian campaign reached 126 million peopleon Facebook and 20 million more on Instagram.

The Russians operated 133 accounts on Instagram, a photo-sharing subsidiary of Facebook, that focused mainly on race, ethnicity or other forms of personal identity. The most successful Instagram posts targeted African American cultural issues and black pride and were not explicitly political.

People are more likely to follow and believe sources that they agree with as opposed to digging deeper to determine whether they are reading true factual information to begin with.  Some of these Russian accounts started off by posting actual stories before veering off into numpty land while some other sites mimicked existing news outlets and posted fake news.  We, as a country, basically got mind f**ked by an adversary because of our tendency to lazily accept things we agree with without verifying the authenticity of the information we’re agreeing with.

This has been going on for a while, and there were numerous topics the Russians screwed around with.  They went from stirring up things with Jade Helm all the way to jumping onto the Black Lives Matter bandwagon.  No group or demographic was left unscathed.  We know they were successful because we’re still dealing with the fallout over the whole campaign.

The reports referenced by WaPo state without a doubt that the intent was to help get Trump elected.  That can be seen in the manner of which they targeted specific groups.  I don’t do much with social media because of my job, so I’d like to think that I was somewhat inoculated from the things posted by Russians.  I know that I was not completely untouched by the stuff though as I remember several of the stories they pushed as well as some of the rallies they put together.

As long as we use confirmation bias as a crutch, we will always be very susceptible to being harmed by an attack like this.  We better defend ourselves when we seek out information or evidence contrary to what we believe to determine whether or not we are getting the entire story when we’re forming our beliefs.  Relying on half-truths or outright false information to inform ourselves is a recipe for disaster.  It’s not always a bad thing to be wrong just like it’s not always a good thing to be right.  It’s never a good thing to be ignorant though, and letting confirmation bias dictate what you believe is a good way to becoming ignorant.

A link to the report titled The Tactics & Tropes of the Internet Research Agency can be found here.

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Clueless

Can someone please hide Trump’s phone or change his Twitter password?  I guess he does not understand what a solar eclipse is does he?

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and the earth, temporarily blocking the light necessary for life itself.  It is only temporary and the sunlight returns to continue the circle of life.

Using the logic of his retweet shown above, Trump is claiming that he is temporarily blocking the life-sustaining light that Obama provided to the world and will move out of the way so that Obama can continue to shine.  In other words, Obama is the light and life giving while Trump is dark and void of life.  SMDH…

I could continue on and on with this, but I imagine that you get the picture.  If anything else, this meme is poking fun of Trump more than it makes him great.  As Trump has posted and retweeted numerous things that have done the same, I doubt that he recognizes how much he demeans himself on social media.

Will someone in DC please fight to save America and destroy that phone or change the Twitter password?  Please???

#Covfefe

Because sometimes, posts just write themselves…

That’s cold.  That’s also funny.  🙂

Hehehehe…

The Urban Dictionary was quickly updated.  Folks don’t play around with humor.

Doggone it Joe!!!  You’ve really gone too far with the practical jokes now.

You too Bill???  C’mon man.

We are all covfefe now.  Thanks Obama…

Kudos George.  I’m sure the twins will get covfefe scholarships to cover their college educations.

Geez, now we’ve opened up a portal for wizards and stuff.  Destruction of the world in 3.. 2… 1…

Sorry Tiger, you have to use covfefe in moderation and under strict guidelines from your primary doctor.

Yes you do.  You’ve come close to breaking Twitter today.  Thanks for the laughs.

Bless their hearts

Going into the first full week of the Trump Era in America, I think I know what Trump’s job creation strategy will be.  He and his administration is going to create unheard of job growth in the media field if for nothing more than publications having to hire mass amounts of fact checkers to deal with the onslaught of “alternative facts” that seem to appear from thin air.

When I first heard that term alternative facts, I had one of those WTF moments complete with the head twist like dogs do when they see something interesting.  Facts are facts.  There is no alternative to them.  They exist or they don’t.

This whole issue came because of the new press secretary trying to defend his boss’ ego by claiming the inauguration was attended by far more people than actually were there.  There was no reason to lie about it.  The inauguration was on TV.  When the POTUS has an ego so frail that he has to lie about any and everything, it doesn’t set a good precedent for his term, especially considering we haven’t made it a full week into the four years yet.

From the inauguration speech to his address at the CIA, President Trump is setting himself up for four years of defending the most miniscule crap that he shouldn’t have to waste time dealing with.  Who cares how many people attended your inauguration?  You are not the most popular president in history, not by a long shot.  If you keep acting the way you do, you won’t become more popular than you are now.

I really want to give this president the same respect as I did the two previous that I served under.  However, I don’t trust people who are habitual liars.  Without trust, there is no respect.  Period.  I will always respect the office, but I don’t have to respect the person sitting behind the desk to show respect to the office they hold.

If we can’t get the administration to be honest about the most ordinary of things, what do we do if/when a crisis occurs and they’re responsible for telling us what is going on?  When the press secretary can’t tell an honest fact and has to spin a tale based on alternative facts, the administration should expect for the press to call them on it.  If you spread manure on a plowed field, you can’t complain about the stench afterwards.

I sincerely hope the media doesn’t cower to the threats of intimidation and other schemes to manipulate stories.  We need a strong press to keep fact separated from fiction.  If not, we risk falling for lies and misdeeds and allowing bad things to happen without any repercussions.  At the same time, the media doesn’t need to try to over hype things just to sell ad space.  This administration appears to be one that will be great for the for-profit media as well as the rest of the press.

I purposefully tried to unplug over the past few days, just to spend time with family away from electronics and such.  When you see those closest to you suffering from anxiety over the unknown, you have to do those kinds of things to ensure that they’re okay to function.  If the next four years are anyway like the past few days have been, we’re all going to need to take care of ourselves and others to stay sane and avoid being screwed over.

Paging Mr. Pot to the meeting room

Oh my goodness.  I don’t intend to spend the next four years talking about Trump, but I honestly wish someone within his circle of influence will remove any and every piece of technology that has access to Twitter from his reach.  I don’t follow Twitter, but it’s hard to not know what’s going on when the President-elect has diarrhea of the fingers on a regular basis.

Today, he decided to lash out at the intelligence community and the media about the allegations made against him in regards to Russia having potential blackmail information on him.

I’m guessing that either he has Alzheimer’s or he has completely forgotten about his own adventures in phony allegations.  As I seem to recall, he’s Tweeted and spewed false and phony allegations in the past himself.

“I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,”-Donald J. Trump to Meredith Viera on NBC April 7, 2011

On top of that, there’s his penchant for firing off tweets, many of which involved President Obama’s birth certificate.  Salon has compiled a list of all his birther tweets.  Looking at the list, something tells me that it is not 100% inclusive, but I’ll have to go with them as that’s the most comprehensive list I’ve seen.

Given how Trump himself has fanned the flames of ludicrous, incendiary, and patently false information, I have no sympathy for him if or when people return serve to him.  He had loads of fun poking at President Obama, but now he’s in the hot seat himself.  It’s his turn to be the center of attention, both good and bad.  I personally believe in the adage that you get what you give.  He’s flung fecal matter at others for years, so it’s only right that he gets it flung back at him.

Enjoy yourself Trump.  You deserve all the ridicule that you get.  One word of advice for you, though.  Learn to respect people and treat them with respect.  Otherwise, it’s only going to go downhill from here.  You haven’t even taken the oath of office yet, and you already appear to be on your way to stroking out of office.  Money can buy many things, but it doesn’t buy class or respect.  Even being president only gets you so much in respect.  Think about how you and others treated President Obama while he was in office.  It’s your turn.  I hope you’re ready.