Troll Hunters

Trolls, you are on notice. You will no longer be safe in your basement caves, high on the Russian equivalent of Mountain Dew. The brave warriors from the DNC, armed with the Trendolizer, intend to win the algorithm wars and prevent the United States from being toppled by the relentless onslaught of social media’s brainwashing tentacles.

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“Both Republicans and foreign actors, like Russia, have an incentive to divide the American electorate and may try to use the Iowa Caucus to further that goal,” the DNC wrote in a “counter disinformation update” sent to campaigns on Thursday. 

Among the new weapons in the Democrats’ online arsenal is a monitoring tool called “Trendolizer.” When stories from websites known to peddle misinformation mention candidates and begin getting shares on social media, Trendolizer detects it and an alert is sent to the relevant campaigns.

I promised myself recently to be less cynical, and to spend less time on things that seem productive in the moment but are really just a waste of time. For example, my occasional Consuming Journalism posts. It’s imperative that … we stop using stupid phrases like it’s imperative that. We need to improve our critical thinking skills, and I think my background helps me show ways to better question and assess information (who what where why when how), but sporadic posts on a small blog aren’t very effective.

I’ll have to settle for being a work in progress. This post is just another mild rant pointing out what I think is a flawed approach.

Disinformation hunters aren’t going to save us from The Red Menace. Are Russian bots spewing propaganda? Oh, I’m sure they are, and I don’t trust Wikileaks (don’t hack me bro), but the DNC is acting like Hillary Clinton, blaming everyone else for criticism directed against them. You didn’t need hacked emails or a love of borscht to be angry about Clinton’s Iraq War vote, private server (yes, I thought that was a bonehead move), or Bill Clinton’s tarmac meeting with the AG. I don’t want to just pick on Clinton. I’m angry at Joe Biden’s inability to recognize that Hunter Biden’s Ukraine job looks and smells like corruption. I don’t question Joe Biden’s official actions in Ukraine. I question his inaction and lack of awareness.

You could argue that you needed the hacked emails to know about the DNC’s stated preference for Clinton and Donna Brazile’s townhall question-sharing fiasco. But golly, you know what, those sorts of things have a way of getting out.

It’s 2020. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. We keep expecting and hoping that billionaires in Silicon Valley are going to protect us from bad information. They don’t care. Besides, it’s impossible. Our ancestors probably used pigeons to spread deceptive information. Each internet platform is a pregnant hydra on steroids. Hercules is knee deep in oxen shit in the Augean Stables and losing ground. Worse, we keep sharing dumbed down information without questioning it. Obama’s buying up all the 9mm ammo and his admin is coming for your guns!

I’m not trying to discount the existence of propaganda and disinformation. or ignore its potential to create false narratives. How long is it before we see a dreaded “deep fake” hit the news cycle? What happens when a convincing fake video goes around Facebook and Twitter showing Donald Trump ordering a quarantine of Los Angeles to contain the deadly spread of the coronavirus? But the DNC’s army of Trendolizers makes me think of an enthusiastic chihuahua chasing cars down the freeway barking “Volga Volga Volga!!!”.

I wish the Trendolizers well in their efforts to shine a light on disinformation, but I hope the Democrats spend less time talking about Putin and more time putting forward a candidate who can communicate with voters and explain why the United States would be better off without Trump and Pence. Because we would be better off without Trump and Pence.

Weird. I’ve been thinking about the 2020 election since 2016, but it has seemed like a distant concept.