On The Bill Press Show, Media Matters President Angelo Carusone Highlights The Fake News Cycle Of Misinformation

From the December 7 edition of Free Speech TV's The Bill Press Show:

BILL PRESS (HOST): Now what does this mean for Media Matters? Because you know your founder David Brock, who has been in many times. Good friend. And he actually wrote a book about the war -- well it was Fox's war on Media Matters rather than the other way around. But a big focus of yours has been on Rush, and again I know because we use a lot of your stuff and, on Rush Limbaugh, on Glenn Beck when he was at his heyday, and on Fox News, and the misinformation we hear from them, so does this change, this new reality change the focus of Media Matters at all?

ANGELO CARUSONE: The mission remains the same, but the way that we carry out will be different. And that's always the case especially if you are 12 years old. We should always be adapting. And I think that over the course of our history what we’ve done is look at places, or individuals, that are influential in the information ecosystem. And that are part of really amplifying and weaponizing conservative misinformation. And sometimes in the past that’s been Rush Limbaugh, there was a period where Glenn Beck was a big part of that, and Fox News was a part of that, but Fox News was really a big focus not just because they had a bent and because they were so biased and deceitful but because of where they fit in the landscape, what we’ve found is that a lot of them, this fake news stuff, that everybody is talking about we've been monitoring this for years. It’s not new.

The difference is, is that it no longer has to work its way up the food chain in order to reach a wide audience. Previously, you'd have to send it to the send it to the right-wing blogosphere, these message boards, but eventually it would make it’s way on [Fox News Channel's] Fox & Friends, and then they would talk about it on every show on Fox News. And eventually the rest of the media would start to pick up on these things. And that’s how it infected our conversation. Whereas now that stuff doesn't need Fox News as the gatekeeper in order to get access to a wide audience, they can just distribute it themselves because of the way consumption habits of change and technologies. So what we need to do is recognize where the gatekeepers are, who the bad actors are, and adjust our monitoring and our work accordingly so we can neutralize its effects, or stop it from really being amplified.

PRESS: And doesn't Comet Pizza prove your point?

CARUSONE: Totally.

PRESS: I mean this did not start on Fox & Friends, right? This never made it, I believe, to the mainstream media.

CARUSONE: No, in fact and it's a perfect example, of how these organizing systems works. Because what happened is there were media platforms, some of which are allied with Trump's campaign and now his incoming administration --

PRESS: Like Alex Jones

CARUSONE: Like Alex Jones, and what they do is they would do is they would occasionally talk about this. But really this story was on 4chan, which is an extremist message board. Where a lot of white nationalists organize and other bad actors --

PRESS: What's it called?

CARUSONE: 4chan. It's a basically a community with no rules. And it provides total anonymity, and they self organize there. And they move to places like Reddit and Twitter. There is a community on Reddit called “The Donald” which is where all of these conspiracies sort of percolate as well as Alex Jones. Alex Jones talks about it, these communities then go back, they spend a week churning out these conspiracies. And the cycle continues and this exactly what we saw here is that they were building this story for months. It was really getting a lot of traction online. So for most of America, this was a brand new thing, but for a lot of people who overlap with Trump’s core and mostfervent supporters this has been a story they’ve been talking about for months actually. This was nothing new for them.

PRESS: In those conversations, in that conversation or whatever you want to call . Was there any hint that this is something that people should take on as their own responsibility? I mean any hint of violence towards Comet Pizza to step in and stop this, because authorities will not or? Or did this guy who eventually did it go off and do this on his own design?

CARUSONE: Well shortly before this guy took action, one of the more influential voices, again a social media person, put up a post basically offering a couple thousand dollars for anybody that would do an investigation into it themselves. So they weren’t say go out and incite violence but the point it they were escalating it, encouraging it. And this is the same pattern that we saw during the campaign. A lot of the smears about where people were wearing shirts or holding up signs saying “Bill Clinton is a rapist,” those people were actually getting $5,000 from Alex Jones who set up a fund for $100,000 for anybody who could go out and get that message on cable news or other major television. And the idea is it incentivizes, one because there is a clear incentive, but two once they do that it gets more attention and it shows that the model works and there is this pattern of doing this where they basically reward people for taking matters into their own hands and escalating or really what they are doing is taking these online activities and moving them.


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To listen to excerpts from the December 7 edition of The Bill Press Show, click here.