Fake News Didn’t Influence The Election


Fake News photo

Photo by dougbelshaw

Since Election Day, Americans’ focus has shifted to something that’s considered a new phenomenon.

Some suspect that false news may have swayed the US presidential election. Some also claim this false news was planted by Russian intelligence under orders of President Vladimir Putin, who allegedly supported Trump’s election.

Election

Given that a recount of votes in some states is likely—with some saying Russians might have hacked voting machines—it’s no longer a matter of politics but of geopolitics.

It’s a serious claim. However, the premise that false news was a decisive factor in this election is a bit of a stretch. And I’ll tell you why.

Witnessing propaganda first-hand

I was personally caught in a bit of Russian disinformation following the events in Ukraine. While visiting Moscow, I was interviewed by the leading business paper there, Kommersant.

Discussing the US role in Ukraine, I answered a question by saying, “If this was a coup, it was the most blatant coup in history, since the Americans were quite open in supporting the demonstrators.”

Kommersant published it fairly close to what I said. But Sputnik, a Russian government outlet, quoted me as saying that Ukraine “was the most blatant coup in history.”

Saying it was taken out of context is so lame. The problem is that I was a completely unimportant observer, and Sputnik promoted me to someone significant.

Otherwise, who would pay attention to anything I said?

So the Ukraine story left newspapers and entered the web, where it was incredibly widely circulated and totally ignored. I personally was hoping to pick up some subscribers from it.

Alas, no one has ever brought up the incident with me—even though it was retweeted all over the place and is still out there.

Social media’s echo chamber

Social media has two defects from the standpoint of disinformation. The first is that people tend to only read and follow things with which they already agree. The number of people who consume information with which they disagree is fairly small.

Social media is vast but has massive walls in terms of interest and technology. That means the only people who believed I said what Sputnik quoted were people who already thought it was a blatant coup.

A million views worldwide means mostly that everyone who is ideologically aligned had seen it. The very ideological divide that frightens us serves to contain news in social media.

The second defect is the sheer volume of noise on the internet. In the 1950s, three networks existed, along with a few newspapers that others copied. It was much harder to plant a story on CBS, but the output of CBS was extremely loud with few competing noises.

It is now hard to hear anything above the roar, and the chances of reaching those you want to reach—and persuading them of something in the few characters allowed by a tweet—is limited.

The internet is a wonderful place to communicate with those who agree and know how to find you. It is not so good at finding and persuading those who don’t agree.

So, the story of an FBI agent who had been investigating Hillary Clinton and was found dead with his wife, likely would be believed by someone who thought Clinton was a monster.

Someone pro-Clinton—or even neutral—likely never saw it, and certainly wouldn’t have believed it. The idea that these stories were decisive in the presidential election is dubious

Putin’s Paranoia

It is not surprising that Putin would attempt to play with the election. First, he believes the US is constantly intruding on domestic Russian politics by forming small political groups (nongovernmental organizations) to shape elections. He undoubtedly wanted to pay back the US for that.

If Putin was involved in this disinformation, it would not be a move of strength, but rather weakness. I already have explained in recent articles why the Russians are weak and why Putin wants to project an appearance of significance where he can.

He did manage to make himself appear looming over the US election, but the ability of disinformation to determine elections or other things is severely limited.

Lies are primarily believed by those who want to believe them and frequently make opponents stronger by fueling a sense of outrage over the fact that they are lies. They basically leave everything in place.

I regard the false news issue as a red herring. False news has always existed, and some of it comes from governments. It never has been particularly effective in changing the behavior of nations.

I would strongly argue that social media, with its tribes and noise, makes effective disinformation that much harder. But as the US is in a mood to panic, it’s as good a subject as any.

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  • KKmoderate

    Succinct and credible output. I get the author’s point and I buy it!

  • charles johnston

    Very accurate. People use social media mainly to bolster their own opinion- rarely to research the facts.

  • Medic RN

    Conservatives must work harder, with higher conscience, to present and preserve the absolute, completely accurate, immoveable truth.
    For example: Liberals relish eating their Bullshit then crying and having anxiety attacks that others don’t.

  • Nohwhat

    The Liberals used the mainstream media to Influence the Election and still lost. Nothing was hacked, the machines in Michigan weren’t even hooked to the internet and were unable to be hacked. This is just another case of the Liberals refusing to accept responsibility for their Queen Ho!

    • herb portere

      “Queen HO” is being too nice to “Tyranny”Clinton…she’s going back under that heap of DUNG she and her blob husband came from…ant they are taking 150 million $’s with them! What a disgrace they are!

  • Alan

    I said this from the beginning, and pointed out that IF it were true that “fake news” was responsible, the Main Stream Media itself was then responsible for the rise of “fake news”, with its failure of its own journalistic intregrity.
    The Dan Rather incident was the perfect example of MSM’s failure.

  • Warren Blum

    The only fake news I see has been from the Obama bought and paid for left wing news media scumbags and Bernie sanders blows

  • James Phillips

    They found liberal democrat voter fraud in Michigan with the recount they should have known they would get caught in the recount which proves how dumb they are or they are crooked and just do not care,I believe their trade mark is corruption and being crooked that’s the democrats trade mark and they think every body is to dumb to realize it. How much dumber can they get.

    • Bob

      Phillips – The only voter fraud found so far was the 2 Republicon women in Iowa, but keep putting out your diarrhea – it looks good on you chin. Ah, the “Uneducated.” Nothing like them. Maybe Chump will come and save THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS MORE JOBS, like he claimed in Indiana. Yeah, sure!!

  • Just Wondering

    Election over, time to move on to a much Greater America for American’s first and only !

  • Dave Nettles

    The issue nobody is seeing is that Russia did have a interest in our election, that of keeping a Muslim Commie out of the White House. Remember they’re not Commies anymore.

  • sandyjohn5221948

    Oh! I thought this was about the fake news CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, and NBC put out there. And lets not forget Fox News! I’ve never seen so much garbage as they put out there. Who even bothers to watch that junk?

    • Nicodemus

      And Google and Facebook regularly remove posts that run contrary to the official narrative! I’m surprised there are still Youtube posts showing evidence that we were lied to about 9-11, the “Batman”,Sandy Hook, and Charleston shootings (Orlando was probably fake as well), etc. Oh, and Hitlery is STILL ahead of Trump by 50 points if you believe MSNBC!

  • herb portere

    Liberalism is a mental dis order…thank God our country is coming back to sanity after 8 horrendous years!

  • Bob

    Nohwhat – Is that your high school photo? Actually, the fake news was put out by the obedient little Republicon, James Comey (Commie), when he said we have uncovered this new evidence, then 9 days later said, “guess there really wasn’t anything to it.” But too late, the “Uneducated” had already swallowed. That’s why the gullible, Low IQ, are the Uneducated!!

    • Vrag Naroda

      Looks like he was trying to help Hillary by keeping a lid on the NYPD until after election day.

      • Nicodemus

        BOB is clearly a TROLL (or a loonie!). Don’t waste your time replying to his inane blather! DON’T FEED THE TROLLS!

  • Sheena1a

    Talking about “Fake News”, it seems the DemoRATS were excellent at that, but I would call it Lies, Reid Lied about Romneys Taxes and other things, Obama threw out a bunch of lies against the candidates, so did Hillary and Michele Obama, in fact the entire crooked Lot of DemoRATS are nothing but a bunch of cheating Lying crooks, and its a good thing for this country that they will not do all that they want for the next four years, They had free rein for the past eight years and it just about ruined this country. Hillary dont like the truth being told about her and her husband so she is reverting to calling it Fake News, BS….A Sore Loser is what she is, she had nothing to offer the Ordinary Americans, in fact what she did say would hinder them. And everyone that didnt vote for that dolt should be highly offended by what the ordinary people that finally all got out and voted, are being called by these lying cheating good for nothing crooks!!!!