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New hope to end gerrymandering, the cancer of democracy

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I’m really excited about this, and more hopeful about the US than I have been for a long time.

David Daley writes in Salon:

Gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy, is as old as our republic itself. Just as ancient: the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to get involved and determine a standard for when a partisan gerrymander has gone too far.

That might be changing. During the 2000s, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed openness to a judicial remedy, if an evenhanded measure could be devised to identify when aggressive redistricting was no longer just politics as usual.

When the pivotal swing justice looks for a standard, law professors and redistricting nerds get to work. There are now several cases related to the extreme maps drawn after the 2010 census – by Republicans in Wisconsin and North Carolina, and by Democrats in Maryland – on a collision course with the Supreme Court.

The case with the most promise to deliver a lasting judicial remedy is Whitford v. Gill, from Wisconsin, which advances a fascinating standard called the “efficiency gap.” It is the brainchild of law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee, but has an elegant simplicity that is easily understandable outside of academia. If gerrymandering is the dark art of wasting the other party’s votes – either by “packing” them into as few districts as possible, or “cracking” them into sizable minorities in many seats – the efficiency gap compares wasted votes that do not contribute to victory.

In November, a panel of federal judges smiled upon this standard and ruled that the state assembly districts drawn by a Republican legislature in the Whitford case represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “Although Wisconsin’s natural political geography plays some role in the apportionment process, it simply does not explain adequately the sizable disparate” advantage held by Republicans under these new maps, wrote the court.

The judges ordered new state assembly maps in time for the 2018 election – a big deal, considering these district lines have helped give Republicans their largest legislative majorities in several decades, despite years in which Democratic candidates receive more votes. But just as important, it accepted the “efficiency gap” rationale and sent it toward Justice Kennedy. If Kennedy finds it workable, it would become much more difficult for politicians to choose their own voters and rig maps in their favor.

If this case makes history, it will be thanks to the commitment of lawyers and political scientists, but also to the Wisconsin citizens who launched it, starting with regular meetings at a Madison tea room. The plaintiff whose name could become synonymous with taming the gerrymander and restoring fairness and competitiveness to our elections is a retired law professor named Bill Whitford. We sat down at a redistricting conference at Duke University this month to discuss his case, the efficiency gap and all the luck it has required along the way.

Let me start with the obvious questions: How did you become interested in redistricting? And how did you become the plaintiff in what could be the most important Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering ever?

I’ve been a political junkie from the word go. I grew up in Madison. My mother was very political. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was a big-D Democrat, working on campaigns. I was chairman of the Young Democrats as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Then I went to law school straight out of college, mostly interested in constitutional law. Baker v. Carr was decided [in 1962] while I was in law school. I wrote my very first academic article, as a student, on Baker v. Carr.

That’s amazing: Baker v. Carr is the decision that allows the federal courts to get involved in redistricting matters. The hunt for redistricting’s holy grail – a standard to measure partisan gerrymandering, the goal of Whitford – begins there.

Yes, it argued even then about what the standard should be. I got a job as a law school professor teaching assigned contracts, and then went a different way in terms of my academic specialties. But I always remained a Democratic activist interested in politics and redistricting. That’s my birthright, I guess!

Your retirement comes 50 years after the Baker decision, and at a time when Wisconsin is the new ground zero of the gerrymandering fight. Republicans captured both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, Scott Walker became governor, and the maps they enacted in 2011 are some of the most tilted any state has seen in four decades. Democrats win more votes, but Republicans win an outrageous 2012 Assembly supermajority anyway. How did you join the fight?

There was a group that met and talked in the Watts Tea Room in Madison that grew out of the lack of success of the first legal challenge to these maps. [The court found an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in that case and forced several largely Latino districts in Milwaukee to be redrawn.] I wasn’t a part of the original group, but the guy who was as responsible as anybody for it was a Wisconsin legislator and redistricting guru named Fred Kessler. We’d been active in Young Democrats as undergraduates. He knew that I was retiring and asked me if I would like to join the group. That’s how I became involved in this case.

Let me get this straight: You’re saying that we’re this close to a national standard on partisan gerrymandering because a group of frustrated old friends and retirees had a regular meeting at a Madison tea room and put this whole thing together?

Well, some of the members of that group were lawyers in the earlier case. They were very aware of the kind of information [about the behind-the-scenes GOP redistricting chicanery] that was available in discovery. We knew we had a lot of smoking-gun evidence that would indicate partisan intent, and it turned out that we had even more than we thought. But by then we also had the results of the 2012 elections, where Democrats got a majority of the statewide vote but only 39 percent of the seats. By any measure for partisan effect, that was pretty good data. Then we began shopping for lawyers and we stumbled onto Nick Stephanopoulos and Ruth Greenwood.

That’s remarkable luck: Nick and Eric McGhee had been studying the Wisconsin redistricting. Using a new standard they developed called the efficiency gap to quantify the impact of a partisan gerrymander, they discovered that you had one of the most unrepresentative legislatures in any state over the last several decades. How did you stumble across this?

One of the roles I played in the group was to reach out to professors in academia, both to feel them out for ideas and to see if they thought we had a decent test case. We thought we had a very good fact situation for a test case, but there was also the issue of whether we should wait for the 2020 cycle before it wound up in court. Rick Pildes of NYU Law School was one of these people. I just called him up cold.

Turns out, Rick got the original Stephanopoulos and McGhee draft paper where they explained the efficiency gap. As part of the election-law community, he’d been asked to make comments. He alerted us to this and suggested Eric would make a good expert witness. I read the article and saw that he talked all about Wisconsin. That’s how we got into the efficiency gap. Then in my initial phone call with Nick, he mentioned that his girlfriend was the incoming voting rights director for the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Ruth and Nick soon came to Madison and started meeting with the group.

How do you explain the efficiency gap to your friends and neighbors? It’s complicated and involves math. What’s the elevator pitch?

I simply start out talking about “packing and cracking.” They’re the essential tools of gerrymandering. I don’t really stress the efficiency gap. If I had to explain the efficiency gap, I’d go to the concept of lots of wasted votes – but I would first start off with packing and cracking, then explain wasted votes in the context of packing and cracking.

And what do we mean by “wasted votes” in this context? . . .

Continue reading.

I’m hopeful.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 9:16 am

” The Clinton campaign warned you about Russia. But nobody listened to us.”

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Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, writes in the Washington Post:

At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last summer, Jake Sullivan and I took to our golf carts one afternoon to make the rounds of the television networks’ tents in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center. It is standard for presidential campaign staffers to brief networks on what to expect during that night’s session. But on this day, we were on a mission to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Sullivan was Clinton’s policy adviser. He had been Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, a deputy to then-Secretary Clinton at the State Department and a lead negotiator of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. He is a widely respected national security expert and, as he does every day, he spoke carefully, without hyperbole. All we had to go on then was what had been reported by the press. We weren’t sure if Russia was doing this to undermine Americans’ faith in our political process or if it was trying to make Trump the next president. But we wanted to raise the alarm.

We did not succeed. Reporters were focused on the many daily distractions, the horse race, the stories they were doing based on the stolen DNC emails and the many other Trump scandals that were easier to explain. Voters didn’t seem worried. Earlier that week, our campaign manager, Robby Mook, was mocked for telling CNN that the leak of stolen emails before our convention was an indication that Russia was trying to help Trump. We did not know, as FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress this past week, that the bureau had already opened an investigation into Russian interference — and into possible links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, including whether they worked together on his behalf. At the time, it seemed far-fetched that Russia would meddle so openly, and reporters and voters alike seemed convinced that it didn’t matter anyway, because Clinton was going to win.

Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher, because the Russian plot succeeded. The lessons we campaign officials learned in trying to turn the Russia story against Trump can help other Democrats  (and all Americans) figure out how to treat this interference no longer as a matter of electoral politics but as the threat to the republic that it really is.

* * *

For me, Comey’s disclosure on Monday brought nearly unfathomable frustration. I will never understand why he would send a letter to Congress 11 days before the election to let lawmakers know that the FBI had happened upon more emails — which they didn’t yet know the contents of — that may or may not have been relevant to Clinton, but he did not think the public should know that federal agents were also investigating Trump’s campaign.

Without anyone knowing about the FBI’s interest, it was difficult to bring appropriate attention to the Russia issue and Trump’s curious pro-Putin bent. The week after the convention, we sought out credible national security voices to sound alarms. I was surprised by the enthusiasm with which some, such as former acting CIA director Michael Morell, jumped into the fray. When I worked in the Obama White House, people in national security positions had been uneasy making broad public arguments, particularly about political matters. Not this time. They were so concerned about the situation that, to me, the language they used to describe the threat they believed Russia and Trump posed was shocking. I remember my jaw dropping as I sat in our Brooklyn campaign headquarters and read the op-ed Morell submitted to the New York Times in early August, in which he shared his view that Russia had probably undertaken an effort to “recruit” Trump and that the Republican nominee had become an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But the sheer spectacle of Trump kept the Russia allegations from getting the attention they would have had with any previous candidate. His unconventional campaign had so disrupted the press-political ecosystem that no one could fathom or absorb that — in addition to all the drama they saw on stage — Russia may have been conspiring with Trump or his allies behind the scenes to win the election for him. Compared with the lawsuits women were filing against Trump for alleged assault or his 3 a.m. tweets attacking a former Miss Universe, the details of who hacked whom seemed less interesting and more complicated. And because nearly everyone was sure that Clinton would win, and that she therefore needed more watchdogging, reporters and analysts were faster to jump on the latest batch of stolen emails or announcement from Comey.

We sought moments for Clinton and Tim Kaine, her running mate, to talk about Russia when we knew they would be on live television and couldn’t be edited. The debates offered the best opportunity, and Clinton took advantage, culminating with her famous line calling Trump Putin’s “puppet ” in the third one. It was tough deciding how much of her time to devote to the issue. We were in a Catch-22: We didn’t want her to talk too much about Russia because it wasn’t what voters were telling us they cared about — and, frankly, it sounded kind of wacky. At the same time, we understood the issue would never rise to the front of voters’ minds if we weren’t driving attention to it. It was already pretty clear they weren’t going to hear much about it in the press.

On Oct. 7, I thought the Russia story would finally break through. We were at a debate prep session in Westchester County, N.Y., when the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security put out a joint statementsaying that the U.S. intelligence community was “confident” that not only had the Russian government hacked Democrats’ emails, but “Russia’s senior-most officials” were probably directing their release to influence the election. Incredible. Finally, here was the break we had been waiting for. I was on a conference call with my colleagues to discuss our response when someone said: “Hey, Palmieri. There’s an ‘Access Hollywood’ video that just got released.” Literally minutes later, WikiLeaks put out the first batch of John Podesta’s stolen Gmail. And that was that. The rest is history.

* * *

All of us — the press, Congress, the public, the administration — are still guilty of the soft complicity of low expectations. As president, Trump does and says outrageous and false things every week, from ordering arbitrary travel bans to accusing President Obama of illegal wiretapping with no evidence. The Russia charges blend in, making it all too easy to treat them as just the latest thing the president has blustered his way through. I understand how difficult it is to put the threat in the right context. We trod lightly at times during the campaign because it sounded too fantastic to be credible, too complicated to absorb.

In another era, Americans would have been able to count on both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to stand up to this kind of threat. A lot of Democrats like to play the “If we were Republicans” game. I usually hate it; I don’t want to behave like the Republicans do. But it’s useful here. If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason. No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.

But Democrats can break out of the Catch-22 of the campaign: If we . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

The worst part about our lackluster collective response to Russia’s interference is that it represents exactly what the Russians were hoping to produce: apathy. Their goal, in addition to installing a president sympathetic to their views, was to undermine Americans’ belief in our democracy. For Americans to think that none of this really matters, that it’s all a game. That’s how they truly erode U.S. moral authority and strength over the long term. It’s what they have sought to do to European adversaries for many years, and now they have brought this seed of destruction here.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 7:16 am

What The Heck Is Devin Nunes Talking About? A Guide for the Perplexed

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Benjamin Wittes, Susan Hennessey, and Quinta Jurecic write in Lawfare:

Earlier today, Devin Nunes held a headline-making press conference on Capitol Hill in which he made the following statement:

[F]irst, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trmp transition team members were unmasked. And fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities, or of the Trump team.

Nunes said the HPSCI would be investigating the following questions:

Who was aware of it?

Why it was not disclosed to Congress?

Who requested and authorized the additional unmasking?

Whether anyone directed the intelligence community to focus on Trump associates?

And whether any laws, regulations, or procedures were violated?

Nunes repeated many of his claims at a later press conference at the White House this afternoon, and made the additional claim that there are FISA warrants connected to—though not necessarily targeting—President Trump.

Let’s start with the basics. The full text of what Nunes actually said appears at the bottom of this post. The video is here.

What exactly Nunes is alleging remains a bit opaque. In his initial statement, he makes what seem to be bold and unequivocal claims, but he then spends the question and answer period significantly undercutting several of them.

His statement, for example, says that he has “confirmed” that the intelligence community “incidentally collected” the information in question. But he later says he will say only that it “looks like incidental collection” and acknowledges that he does not know how it was “picked up.”

Nunes repeatedly says he thinks the collection was lawful under FISA, but then characterizes himself as “alarmed.” Furthermore, his statement only references the Trump transition, and it is unclear whether that does or does not involve communications involving President Trump himself. When asked if the President’s own communications were involved, in fact, Nunes gives a number of contradictory responses. It’s not clear at the end of the day whether the issue here is communications about Trump, by Trump transition officials, Trump’s own communications, or a combination of the above.

Still, there’s enough information on the table—assuming any of it is accurate—to begin addressing some questions that lots of people are probably asking. So here’s what we can say based on Nunes’s comments.

Does any of this vindicate or validate Donald Trump’s claims that President Obama wiretapped him?

Answer: Not even close—even assuming that the most flamboyant version of Nunes’s comments are wholly true.

Trump did not wake up early on a Saturday morning and tweet that the NSA or FBI in the course of its normal foreign intelligence operations incidentally intercepted communications or data involving the Trump transition. He didn’t allege that communications were intercepted legally. And he didn’t allege either that the problem—if there is a problem—lay in the masking or unmasking of U.S. persons in lawful intelligence community reporting.

Trump alleged, rather, (1) that his own wires were tapped—with two p’s, no less, (2) that a specific facility in the United States (Trump Tower) and that he personally were specifically targeted for collection, (3) that the surveillance was illegal, (4) that it took place during the campaign, and (5) that it was all ordered by his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama.

All of those claims appeared to be malicious lies when he made them. And nothing that Nunes is saying, even if it’s all true, supports any of them.

Is it surprising or scandalous that Trump transition communications might be subject to incidental collection?

Answer: Almost certainly not.

Nunes concedes that all of the interceptions appear to be lawful. So we’re not dealing here with a situation of scandalous political spying on an American presidential transition. The nature of incidental collection is that the targets are lawful overseas non-US persons who happen to have contact with US persons, whose communications thus get swept up in the course of spying on someone else.

Now remember that the Trump Transition violated a lot of norms under which transitions don’t generally run entirely independent foreign policies before taking office. The Trump transition organized all sorts of calls with foreign leaders (legitimate targets for surveillance) without coordinating with the State Department or, presumably, the intelligence community. Trump himself famously chatted with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, undid (temporarily) the One China Policy by taking a call from the President of Taiwan, and did his best to torpedo a UN resolution against Israeli settlements, leading Egypt to withdraw the resolution (only for the U.S. to abstain from the vote on the resubmitted resolution the next day). His staff presumably had any number of other communications with folks abroad whom the intelligence community would be derelict not to be listening to. So it’s not remotely surprising that some communications by some Trump transition people ended up being incidentally collected. Indeed, it would be surprising if none had.

Is there anything surprising or upsetting here?

Answer: Maybe.

Nunes makes two allegations that we put in the category of upsetting if true. The first is that “details with little apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting”—a matter he later alleges took place dozens of times. This should, of course, never happen. When US person information is collected, it is supposed to be minimized unless it has foreign intelligence value. So if Nunes is right here, he’s describing a genuine problem.

He also alleges that he has “confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked”—additional, here referring to in addition to General Flynn. There’s nothing wrong with unmasking in and of itself. But in combination with the previous allegation—that material with little foreign intelligence value was disseminated—unmasking could be a very serious matter. That is, Nunes appears to be alleging that the intelligence community reported a whole lot of material incidentally collected about the Trump transition that was of no foreign intelligence value and then unmasked the US persons involved. This would be a significant abuse if it were true.

But that only raises the question: Is it true?

Color us skeptical—at least for now. Nunes is clearly shooting from the hip here. He clearly does not have all the facts himself (he admits as much). And his allegations are a deep challenge to the professionalism of the men and women of the intelligence community in the conduct of some of their most politically sensitive work. So at least until we learn more facts, we’re going to take Nunes about as seriously as we take Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald when they are comparably breathless in alleging intelligence community malfeasance without knowing all the facts in pursuit of their political goals. One shouldn’t presume what he says is false. But we’re not going to presume it true either.

So why is Nunes shooting from the hip here and going public before he has any idea what he’s talking about?

Answer: Beats us.

It’s a bit of a puzzler, really. Nunes says he doesn’t have any reason to think this collection was illegal. In his second press conference, he said that he thinks there is some level of surveillance activity “perhaps legal, but I don’t know that it’s right and I don’t know that the American people would be comfortable with it.” Does Nunes mean to say he believes that there are forms of lawfully authorized surveillance which he believes are ethically wrong? If so, this is an odd format for a HSPCI Chairman to make such a startling revelation to the American people. He says that the Administration was not yet aware of the information and that he would be speaking to the White House later in the afternoon. According to both Nunes and the office of committee Vice Chair Adam Schiff, Nunes did not speak to Schiff prior to the press conference. He says he has spoken to NSA Director Admiral Rogers but not FBI Director Comey. So why is he holding a press conference before getting even his basic facts straight?

Bob Dole once famously quipped that the most dangerous space in Washington was the space between then-Rep. Charles Schumer and a TV camera. Just a hunch, but something similar might be going on here.

Did Nunes publicly disclose anything classified?

Answer: We’re not sure but it’s a question well worth asking.

As Comey said at Nunes’s hearing on Monday, “ . . .

Continue reading.

Also, it’s well worth reading Jennifer Rubin’s Right Turn columns this morning, beginning with the always interesting “Morning Bits.” She’s a conservative Republican, and she’s clearly livid with anger over how Nunes is making things so much worse.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2017 at 10:07 am

Worth watching: Rep. Adam Schiff on Russian interference

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2017 at 8:15 pm

We deserve some good news: Court Blocks Most of North Carolina GOP’s Legislative Coup, Including Election-Board Power Grab

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Mark Joseph Stern reports in Slate:

On Friday, a North Carolina state court ruled that most of the Republican-dominated Legislature’s December power grab—which stripped authority from the incoming Democratic governor—violated the state constitution. The three-judge panel found that the Legislature’s attempt to deny Gov. Roy Cooper control over the state election board violated the constitutional separation of powers, as did efforts to stack his administration with holdovers appointed by former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Presuming Republicans appeal, they face long odds at the liberal-leaning state Supreme Court, which previously blocked the election-board takeover.

The court’s decision was fairly predictable given the North Carolina Constitution’s stringent separation-of-powers requirements. Article I of the state constitution declares that legislative and executive power “shall be forever separate and distinct from each other,” while Article III vests all of “the executive power … in the Governor” and commands that he or she must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

In reshaping the state election board, Republicans ran afoul of these decrees. As the court noted, the state board—which creates and enforces rules regarding voting and appoints members to the state’s 100 county election boards—is “housed in the executive branch.” The board’s composition reflects that fact. Traditionally, the state board consisted of five members—all appointed by the governor—with three from the governor’s party and two from the minority party. In turn, each county election board consisted of three members, with two from the governor’s party and one from the minority party. The structure of the board, in other words, ensured that the governor had a say in the state’s voting procedures. (And under GOP control, Republicans slashed early voting and purged thousands of minority voters from the rolls.)

In December, after McCrory conceded defeat, Republicans attempted to overhaul the boards to prevent Cooper from taking control over them. They passed a law merging the state election board with the State Ethics Commission, creating a “New State Board” with eight members. Under their law, the governor and Legislature would each select four members, and the board would require a supermajority of six votes to take any action. A Republican would chair the board in election years, and a Democrat would chair it in off-years. Each county board would be comprised of four members, two Democrats and two Republicans, and would require three votes to act.

Republicans, in other words, ensured that the state and county boards would be perpetually gridlocked. And this, the court explained on Friday, violates the Separation of Powers Clause. Because the board is “primarily executive in nature,” the court held unanimously, the governor “must have enough control over [the appointees] to perform his constitutional duty” to “faithfully execute the laws.” By creating constant deadlock, Republicans ensured that the governor “will have inadequate control” over the board, blocking him “from ensuring faithful execution of the laws.” Thus, the court struck down the law creating a new board, allowing Cooper to appoint Democrats who will reverse Republican-instituted voter suppression.

By a 2–1 vote, the court also blocked a provision of the GOP legislative coup that would’ve filled Cooper’s administration with McCrory-appointed holdovers. This amendment gave McCrory authority to convert temporary political jobs into permanent positions, preventing Cooper from choosing personnel for his own administration. Sure enough, McCrory spent his last two weeks in office converting nearly 1,000 political positions into permanent ones. So when Cooper entered office, the executive agencies typically controlled by the governor were filled with hostile Republicans who could not easily be replaced. The court once again found that this measure violated separation of powers by curbing Cooper’s ability to take care “that the laws are faithfully executed.”

Finally, by another 2–1 vote, the court upheld a new law . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2017 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

“Say It With Me Again: James Comey Elected Donald Trump President”

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post (with chart) that shows the election result was purely and solely due to James Comey. And it’s quite convincing. The chart helps, because you can see it.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2017 at 1:21 pm

Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda

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Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, and Ethan Zuckerman have a lengthy and interesting analysis in the Columbia Journalism Review, a post by Kevin Drumwhich I learned about through (where he presents some of the (extremely interesting) charts in larger format and discusses them). Check out both links, starting perhaps with Drum’s post.

The CJR analysis begins:

THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SHOOK the foundations of American politics. Media reports immediately looked for external disruption to explain the unanticipated victory—with theories ranging from Russian hacking to “fake news.”

We have a less exotic, but perhaps more disconcerting explanation: Our own study of over 1.25 million stories published online between April 1, 2015 and Election Day shows that a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world. This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.

While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.

Attacks on the integrity and professionalism of opposing media were also a central theme of right-wing media. Rather than “fake news” in the sense of wholly fabricated falsities, many of the most-shared stories can more accurately be understood as disinformation: the purposeful construction of true or partly true bits of information into a message that is, at its core, misleading. Over the course of the election, this turned the right-wing media system into an internally coherent, relatively insulated knowledge community, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenged it. The prevalence of such material has created an environment in which the President can tell supporters about events in Sweden that never happened, or a presidential advisor can reference a non-existent “Bowling Green massacre.”

We began to study this ecosystem by looking at the landscape of what sites people share. If a person shares a link from Breitbart, is he or she more likely also to share a link from Fox News or from The New York Times? We analyzed hyperlinking patterns, social media sharing patterns on Facebook and Twitter, and topic and language patterns in the content of the 1.25 million stories, published by 25,000 sources over the course of the election, using Media Cloud, an open-source platform for studying media ecosystems developed by Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and MIT’s Center for Civic Media.

When we map media sources this way, we see that Breitbart became the center of a distinct right-wing media ecosystem, surrounded by Fox News, the Daily Caller, the Gateway Pundit, the Washington Examiner, Infowars, Conservative Treehouse, and Truthfeed. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 March 2017 at 11:34 am

Posted in Election, Media

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