Friday, August 6, 2021

The Big Lie, Con't

Former Yahoo News WH reporter Hunter Walker now has his own blog, The Uprising (Everything comes around again, does that make me a hipster?) and got a hold of The Former Guy's™ "evidence" of election fraud by apparently asking very nicely, and it's hysterically bad stuff.

The Uprising has obtained an unpublished statement from former President Donald Trump detailing his purported evidence that the 2020 election "was shattered with fraud and irregularities.” The information doesn’t prove any plot to manipulate the vote, but it does clearly show the workings of a complex effort to spread false election narratives.

An analysis of Trump’s evidence demonstrates how instrumental the right wing media ecosystem, dark money, and Republican officials are to fueling and spreading the former president’s so-called Big Lie about the 2020 presidential vote.

First, it’s important to explain why the former president’s inaccurate election diatribes matter.

America's largest social media companies deplatformed Trump during his final weeks as president. After leaving office, Trump has continued to promote false conspiracies about his election loss to Joe Biden and now largely relies on allies and emailed statements to spread his messages.

Some argue that Trump’s false election narratives should be ignored completely, but the former president’s communiques are part of a much larger, influential context.

With Trump hosting rallies and holding meetings with what his allies have dubbed a “Cabinet,” it’s clear that questioning the integrity of President Biden’s election victory is a key part of the strategy and messaging for Trump and the GOP going forward.

As Jane Mayer documented in this week’s New Yorker, the spread of Trump’s conspiratorial narrative by elected officials and partisan outlets is happening in parallel with a pre-existing push by well-financed conservative groups to change election laws and infrastructure around the country. And the Big Lie has already had tragic real-world ramifications: Trump’s claims about the 2020 election were a main driver of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which is another main subject of misinformation from Trump and other Republicans.

Officials from multiple agencies in Trump’s own administration have confirmed the election was the most secure in American history and that there was no widespread fraud. Trump and his allies filed over forty lawsuits challenging the results. Many were plagued with “elementary errors” and all of them failed. Trump supporters also pointed to statistics to suggest the results were questionable. An analysis by Stanford’s conservative leaning Hoover Institution found none of those statistical claims was “ even remotely convincing.” While experts acknowledge instances of small-scale fraud tend to happen in large elections, it is extremely rare and not a significant enough issue to be decisive on the national level. Nevertheless, conservatives have focused on alleged voter fraud for years as they have advocated for restrictions on voting. And Trump has continued to aggressively promote false claims about his loss last year through personal appearances, interviews with conservative outlets, and written statements emailed to his robust press list.

These email blasts have become Trump’s most frequent mode of communication and effectively replaced his once omnipresent tweets. The former president’s emails sometimes come more than once a day and have covered petty personal feuds, political endorsements, criticism of his successor, and his efforts to cast doubt on the election.

While the content is quite similar to Trump’s past social media streams, his emailed statements don’t generate nearly as much coverage. (That is, in part, due to deliberate decisions by mainstream media outlets who are wrestling with how to handle disinformation spread by Trump and his allies.)

Nevertheless, Trump’s statements reach his base through his personal website and by being laundered through his Republican allies and conservative media. As the following analysis illustrates, Trump’s claims would not be possible without the inspiration and support of opaquely-funded partisan groups and websites, as well as major figures in conservative media and politics.

The Uprising’s journey down the rabbit hole of Trump’s election conspiracy theory industrial complex began on August 1, when the former president issued an emailed statement railing against media outlets who note his fraud claims are made without evidence when covering his remarks.

Trump described this contextualization by journalists as the work of a “crooked and collusive media” and insisted there is “irrefutable evidence” the vote was rigged. But Trump’s 280-word public statement insisting there is “massive and unconditional evidence” contained no actual specific evidence.

The Uprising reached out to Trump’s new spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, to ask if he had any specific evidence for his claims. Harrington, who has her own history of promoting false claims about the election and January 6, responded with a statement — which she described, somewhat paradoxically, as “a recent release we have yet to send out” that includes “numerous examples” of Trump’s evidence. Harrington subsequently confirmed that the document was directly attributable to Trump.

That document, which you can read in full here, included at least 9 individual claims. All of them are baseless, and almost all of the faulty evidence cited by Trump drew on the work of right-wing activists and media outlets. Before (and after) being amplified by Trump himself, many of these false and mischaracterized claims about the election were spread by Republican officials and influential pillars of the conservative media ecosystem — outlets including Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and The Federalist — as well as websites further out on the fringe. The result is a massive disinformation feedback loop capable of reaching millions of Americans.
As usual, Trump's biggest weakness is his ego: he can't help but reveal his grand plan to anyone in earshot because he thinks he's the smartest man alive and he has just the plan to prove that if you'll stick around and listen to his 23 hours of garbage.
But as Walker points out, this is being devoured by Trump's death cult, and they believe every word of it, up to and beyond the point that it justifies whatever brutal action that they will undeniably choose to take next. It's not evidence, it's a terrorist manifesto.
It's time we start treating Trump like he's the man who, I dunno, fomented an armed insurrection at the US Capitol.

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