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  • Right-wing media continue to push myth that Trump can get a better deal than Paris

    Blog ››› ››› LISA HYMAS


    via flickr creative commons user neurotic_buddha

    Within hours of President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intends to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and negotiate a better deal, other world leaders made it clear that renegotiation is not an option. But right-wing media and the administration are continuing to push the fanciful notion that Trump can negotiate a more favorable pact.

    Trump claims Paris was a bad deal and he can get a better one

    When Trump made his announcement on June 1 -- a move cheered by many in conservative media -- he said he intended to renegotiate:

    [T]he United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord … but but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an -- really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.

    The White House talking points about the decision stress the idea that the Paris accord was a bad deal for the U.S. -- bad in all caps, lest you miss the point:

    The Paris Accord is a BAD deal for Americans. … The deal was negotiated BADLY.

    Right-wing media push bad-deal/good-deal frame

    This frame -- that Paris is a bad deal and Trump can get a good deal -- had been pushed by right-wing media in the days leading up to his decision, and the claim continued to make the rounds after the announcement was made, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

    On May 30, David Bossie -- a former deputy campaign manager for Trump and a Fox News contributor who is being considered for a role in the White House -- went on Fox News Radio and called for the Trump administration to renegotiate the Paris deal:

    My recommendation is: You get out of Paris, you get out of the Paris treaty, you get out right now, and then you let Scott Pruitt, your EPA administrator, who is very good and a great negotiator, go out and negotiate new deals, deals that are good for America and the rest of the world combined.

    On June 1, before Trump made his announcement, Stuart Varney of Fox Business' Varney & Co. argued that former President Obama did a terrible job negotiating the Paris deal and Trump could do much better:

    The Obama team gave virtually everything away -- our money and our jobs -- and received only vague promises of future good behavior. In my opinion, it was a lousy deal. So maybe our president will do the same as he did with NAFTA -- that is, threaten to withdraw, then negotiate a better deal. … He did, after all, write the book The Art of the Deal.

    And Fox Business tweeted out the point too:

    During Trump's speech, Breitbart's Curt Schilling tweeted out his approval of the president's plan to renegotiate the deal:

    Nobody wants to renegotiate with the U.S.

    But other world leaders are not interested in sitting down at the table with the U.S. again, as they quickly made clear.

    Shortly after Trump's announcement, the leaders of France, Italy, and Germany issued a joint statement refuting the notion that the Paris deal is up for renegotiation:

    We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.

    And a group of ministers from 24 nations -- known as the High Ambition Coalition, which pushed to make the Paris agreement as strong as possible -- also threw cold water on the idea of renegotiating:

    Our commitment to the Paris Agreement is unshakeable. We have every reason to fight for its full implementation.

    “Apparently the White House has no understanding of how an international treaty works," said Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who led the negotiation process leading up to the Paris agreement. "There is no such thing as withdrawing and then negotiating.”

    And the current secretariat of the UNFCCC also put out a statement saying that the agreement "cannot be renegotiated based on the request of a single Party."

    Bloomberg summed up the situation in headline: "Everyone But Donald Trump Is Standing By the Paris Climate Agreement."

    Right-wing media still insist Trump can negotiate a better deal

    Even after world leaders made their opposition to renegotiation crystal clear, right-wing media continued to push the myth that the president could get a new and improved deal.

    "One of the [things] I'm looking forward to, and I've seen some of: Donald Trump's ability to renegotiate a better deal and better positioning for the United States of America," said Eboni Williams, a co-host of The Fox News Specialists, on June 2.

    "If the Paris accord was actually meant to save the environment, the globalists would be happy to renegotiate the deal with President Trump," wrote Kit Daniels at Infowars on June 3.

    Administration officials also went on Fox News to keep pushing the "better deal" idea.

    Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox & Friends on June 2, "You also heard [Trump] leave the door open to renegotiating a better arrangement, to maybe re-entering the Paris accord under new terms and new conditions. … In withdrawing from the Paris accord, and in offering to renegotiate it in a way that is more fair, more equitable to our economy and every economy in the world, again you see President Donald Trump is being leader of the free world." Fox & Friends host Ainsley Earhardt did not push back on that assertion.

    And Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke went on Fox News' America's Newsroom on June 2 to defend Trump's move: "It was a bad deal. I think the president has said he’s going to renegotiate it, offer to renegotiate it. … If we're going to sit down, let's make sure the agreement has shared burden." Fox host Bill Hemmer neglected to point out that other countries have said they will not sit down to renegotiate the deal with the Trump administration.

    Informed commentators mock renegotiation claims

    New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, speaking on The New Yorker's "Politics and More" podcast on June 2, slapped down the renegotiation idea: "When Trump says, 'I'm going to negotiate a better deal,' well that's a lie, that's just not possible."

    Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who played a key role in negotiating the Paris agreement, was even more forceful on this point during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on June 4:

    When Donald Trump says, well, we're going to negotiate a better deal, you know, he's going to go out and find a better deal? That's like O.J. Simpson saying he's going to go out and find the real killer. Everybody knows he isn't going to do that.

    The U.S. already had a favorable deal

    Even if other countries were willing to sit back down at the table, it's highly unlikely the U.S. would get a better deal. That's because the U.S. already got a favorable deal when the Paris agreement was negotiated in 2015.

    The Paris deal "is more fair to the U.S. than previous agreements because it includes all the major economies of the world, not just the rich countries, so both developed countries and developing countries have skin in the game," Jody Freeman, director of Harvard Law School's Environmental Law and Policy Program, told The Washington Post after Trump made his announcement.

    "Paris already gives countries tremendous flexibility, and no penalties," Michael Gerrard, a professor of environmental law at Columbia and director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, told the Post.

    The Obama administration had wanted to take part in the agreement, but it knew that a climate treaty couldn't get ratified by the U.S. Senate. So the entire global community bent over backward to accommodate the U.S. political system -- crafting a nonbinding accord that's looser than a treaty and making action pledges voluntary with no enforcement mechanisms. 

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said before the negotiations that a good agreement would be “binding,” but she and other like-minded leaders gave in to the U.S. on this point.

    As The Guardian reported just after the Paris negotiations took place in December 2015, "Under US insistence, the 31-page agreement was explicitly crafted to exclude emissions reductions targets and finance from the legally binding parts of the deal. … The other exclusion zone was any clause in the agreement that would expose the US to liability and compensation claims for causing climate change."

    Ultimately, many world leaders and climate advocates thought the U.S. got too good of deal -- so good that the resulting agreement was disappointingly weak.

    From The Guardian: "The US – and European – position was a huge disappointment for the low-lying and small island states, which argued they needed recognition that their countries could pay the ultimate price for climate change in terms of land loss and migration."

    “The United States has hindered ambition," Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth U.S., said in December 2015. "Using the world’s atmosphere and the suffering of the vulnerable as a guide, the United States is failing -- by a long shot -- to do what climate science and justice demand. This holds true for the United States' greenhouse gas reduction pledge, its provision of funds for developing countries to take climate action and its obstruction of progress on loss and damage.”

    Despite the United States' successful effort to water down the Paris agreement, other countries, both rich and poor, still stepped up to the plate with meaningful action pledges. As The Economist noted just after Trump made his announcement, "All [of the Paris agreement's] signatories—which is to say, every country except Syria, Nicaragua and now America—have undertaken to reduce emissions against business-as-usual targets." This despite the fact that many of those countries have contributed very little to the problem of climate change, while the U.S. is the biggest carbon polluter in history, as The New York Times pointed out.

    So now other countries are moving forward without the U.S. The Europeans are planning to work more closely with China and India. The leaders of France and India have announced that they're going to cooperate jointly on fighting climate change. Instead of getting a better deal, the U.S. is cut out of the dealmaking.

  • The Guardian: Facebook's Attempt To Combat Fake News Is A Total Disaster

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    According to The Guardian, Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news on its platform have been “regularly ineffective,” appear to be “having minimal impact,” and may even be backfiring. These findings from a review of Facebook’s efforts, published May 16, come as experts have warned that Facebook’s tactics against fake news are unlikely to work and have recommended other approaches.

    The outlet reviewed “false news articles” on Facebook and interviewed fact-checkers with whom the social media platform partnered and writers who produce fake news content. Under that partnership, articles shared on Facebook that were labeled by fact-checkers as fake news would supposedly be labeled "disputed" when shared by other users. The Guardian in its review found that “articles formally debunked” by those fact-checkers “frequently remain on the site without the ‘disputed’ tag warning users about the content.” Additionally, “the label often comes after the story has already gone viral and the damage has been done,” and the labeling sometimes has the opposite effect, as the traffic to the story can actually increase. Recently, professors from Harvard and Northeastern universities warned that Facebook’s labeling would likely be insufficient because the "more you’re exposed to things that aren’t true, the more likely you are to eventually accept them as true.” The professors had also urged Facebook to disclose its data so “independent researchers” could analyze the effectiveness of its fact-checking system. But, as the Guardian reported, Facebook refused to share the “data or information” with the newspaper. Thus, the report said it is "unclear to what extent the flag [by fact-checkers] actually limits the spread of propaganda.” From The Guardian’s report:

    A Guardian review of false news articles and interviews with fact-checkers [who have partnered with Facebook] and writers who produce fake content suggests that Facebook’s highly promoted initiatives are regularly ineffective, and in some cases appear to be having minimal impact.

    Articles formally debunked by Facebook’s fact-checking partners – including the Associated Press, Snopes, ABC News and PolitiFact – frequently remain on the site without the “disputed” tag warning users about the content. And when fake news stories do get branded as potentially false, the label often comes after the story has already gone viral and the damage has been done. Even in those cases, it’s unclear to what extent the flag actually limits the spread of propaganda.

    [...]

    While some of the fact-checking groups said the collaboration has been a productive step in the right direction, a review of content suggests that the labor going into the checks may have little consequences.

    ABC News, for example, has a total of 12 stories on its site that its reporters have debunked as part of its Facebook partnership. But with more than half of those stories, versions can still be shared on Facebook without the disputed tag, even though they were proven false.

    [...]

    Facebook refused to provide data or information on the number of articles that have been tagged as disputed, how a flag impacts traffic and engagement, if there are specific websites most frequently cited and how long after publication the flags are typically added. A spokesman said “we have seen that a disputed flag does lead to a decrease in traffic and shares”, but declined to elaborate.

    The Guardian study also found that conservatives are more likely to share fake news in response to fact-checkers disputing it. A former fake news writer told the newspaper, “A far-right individual who sees it’s been disputed by Snopes, that adds fuel to the fire and entrenches them more in their belief.” This statement is not surprising, given that right-wing outlets have repeatedly attacked and tried to delegitimize fact-checking websites and even the term “fake news” itself. From The Guardian's report:

    When Facebook’s new fact-checking system labeled a Newport Buzz article as possible “fake news”, warning users against sharing it, something unexpected happened. Traffic to the story skyrocketed, according to Christian Winthrop, editor of the local Rhode Island website.

    “A bunch of conservative groups grabbed this and said, ‘Hey, they are trying to silence this blog – share, share share,’” said Winthrop, who published the story that falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of Irish people were brought to the US as slaves. “With Facebook trying to throttle it and say, ‘Don’t share it,’ it actually had the opposite effect.”

    [...]

    Jestin Coler, a writer who got widespread attention for the fake news he published last year, said it was hard to imagine Facebook’s effort having any impact.

    “These stories are like flash grenades. They go off and explode for a day,” said Coler, who said he is no longer publishing false news. “If you’re three days late on a fact check, you already missed the boat.”

    He also noted that many consumers of fake news won’t be swayed by a “disputed” tag given their distrust of the media and fact-checkers: “A far-right individual who sees it’s been disputed by Snopes, that adds fuel to the fire and entrenches them more in their belief.”

    The review of Facebook’s ongoing attempts to battle fake news on its website comes just weeks after Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center published a study recommending steps to fight fake news. These steps included making the effort bipartisan by engaging “center-right private institutions” and “news outlets” in dealing with fake news; strengthening reliable and credible information sources and broadening their reach; and having social media platforms such as Facebook and Google actually share their data on fake news with academics so that they may gauge the effectiveness of these companies’ efforts.

  • Ahead Of Marches This Month, Scientists Are Speaking Up Against Trump And GOP’s Attacks On Science

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    President Donald Trump and the Republican Party have demonstrated an alarming disregard for science and evidence-based policy and decision-making, prompting scientists to voice their concerns.

    Since the election, multiple media outlets have accused the Trump administration and the Republican Party of waging a “war on science.” And with good reason: The Trump administration has appointed a climate denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), proposed budget cuts that would eliminate billions of dollars for scientific research programs, called climate-related government programs “a waste of money,” and banned the use of the term “climate change” at the Department of Energy. As for the rest of the GOP, House Republicans have passed bills that would “stifle science at the EPA,” and the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has endorsed climate science denial and bogus accusations of data manipulation promulgated by propaganda outlet Breitbart.com. The committee has also held a hearing aimed at disputing the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

    These alarming trends have prompted scientists, educators, and other citizens to organize and participate in the March for Science and the People’s Climate March at end of April. But in the months leading up to the marches, scientists have been voicing their concerns in the media. Here are a few recent examples of scientists speaking out against the Trump administration and GOP’s anti-science policies, science denial, and ignorance.

    Ben Santer Rebutted Trump’s “Ignorance” On Climate Science

    On the February 23 edition of Late Night with Seth Meyers, climate scientist Ben Santer appeared on the show as a private citizen, explaining, “It seems kind of important to talk about the science that we do, but I'm not sure how the folks who fund my research will feel about that. So it just seems kind of safer to do it this way.” When Meyers mentioned that Trump has called climate change a “hoax,” Santer answered that it “feels tough” to have his life’s work dismissed as a conspiracy and a hoax, but added, “You have a choice. What do you do with that? You can either retreat to your office, close the door, and be silent. Or you can choose to push back against ignorance and say, ‘Hey, this is not our understanding. We know something about the causes of climate change.’” Santer concluded by stating, “I want to tell people, this is our understanding. These are the likely outcomes if we do nothing about the problem of human-caused climate change. And let's have a respectful, honest debate on what to do about it. But let's not dismiss this incorrectly as a hoax or a conspiracy. We all lose if we embrace ignorance with open arms.”

    Santer also appeared on CBS Evening News the day after Trump took his biggest step yet toward fulfilling his campaign promise to dial back former President Barack Obama's climate policies. In an interview with correspondent John Blackstone, Santer discussed Trump’s anti-science views and policies, a letter he wrote to Trump urging him not to listen to “ignorant voices” denying climate change, and the “new climate of intimidation” that the Trump administration has created for scientists.

    Michael Mann Called Out Lamar Smith And Scott Pruitt For Their Climate Denial

    On the April 7 edition of NPR’s Science Friday, Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann discussed his appearance as the sole witness voicing the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change in a House science committee hearing that The Washington Post described as “an act of gamesmanship from a body intent on manufacturing doubt on scientific issues which have long been settled.” Mann described House science committee Chairman Lamar Smith as a “climate change denier” who has “spent much of his time as the chair of the House science committee going on the attack against climate scientists” and “taken on an adversarial position when it comes to the science of climate change.” Mann added that he thought the hearing was “intended to try to convey [Smith’s] doubts and his critiques of the science.”

    When asked by host Ira Flatow why Mann decided to appear before the committee knowing that he would face opposition, Mann replied:

    My good friend Bill Nye the Science Guy has really demonstrated, I think, that you do sometimes have to take the science straight to the critics. You really do have to take on science denial because if it goes unopposed then some of it becomes sort of accepted. The doubts, the confusion becomes part of the discourse and it clouds the public understanding of science. And so we do need to do our best to inject science into those fora, and so that’s what I saw my role as being, to really communicate why it is that there is such a widespread consensus about human-caused climate change.

    And during the committee hearing in question, after Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) brought up the roles of climate deniers Myron Ebell and Scott Pruitt in Trump’s EPA, Mann lamented that the EPA is now headed by a climate denier for the first time ever, stating that “to have an EPA administrator who has a position that’s so at odds with the scientific evidence -- there is no precedent, even in past Republican administrations, under Nixon, under Reagan, under George H.W. Bush. They each had EPA administrators that embraced science.”

    Gavin Schmidt: House Science Committee Hearing Aimed To “Obfuscate Well Characterized, Oft Reproduced, Inconvenient Science”

    On the day of the House science committee hearing, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt criticized Republicans’ attacks on climate science, tweeting that the committee’s hearing was “being held to obfuscate well characterized, oft reproduced, inconvenient science”:

    Katharine Hayhoe: Appointing Pruitt Head Of EPA Is “Like Putting One Of The World’s Leading Atheists In Charge Of The Church Of England”

    On the April 3 episode of Crooked Media’s Pod Save America podcast, climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told hosts Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett that the selection of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator was “like putting one of the world’s leading atheists in charge of the Church of England. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that?” When asked what worried Hayhoe the most about Trump’s executive order rolling back Obama’s climate legacy, she answered, “The most concerning thing to me is that these regulations are going to be rolling the United States back from an international perspective, from a technological perspective -- back into even possibly a second-world country.”

    TOMMY VIETOR (CO-HOST): It’s hard to overstate what a radical pick Scott Pruitt was to run the EPA. He’s sued the agency 14 times, he doesn’t believe that CO2 is a primary driver of climate change, which is stunning. Even ExxonMobil has said that. Can you talk about his selection -- what it means for U.S. climate policy. Is there anything states, cities, or citizens can do to weigh in and push back?

    KATHARINE HAYHOE: Yeah, I agree, I mean putting somebody who doesn’t believe in something in charge of that very institution is like putting one of the world’s leading atheists in charge of the Church of England. It just doesn’t make sense. Why would you do that?

    [...]

    JON LOVETT (CO-HOST): So, one thing that Trump did, speaking of these standards, is an executive order called the Energy Independence Order, or something like that? But really it’s about rolling back the clean climate plan -- uh, the Clean Power Plan. It was sort of a catch-all, there was a lot in there. What is the most worrisome to you?

    HAYHOE: Yeah. [Laughs] Well, where should I start? So first of all, though, let’s be clear. The Clean Power Plan was what the president could do with the abilities that he had at the time, but it would not take us all the way to the Paris agreement. So the Paris agreement, signed about a year and half ago almost, says that we should limit warming to at least 2 degrees and possibly 1.5 if we can to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. And the Clean Power Plan was only part of the way there. We needed more. Now of course we’re looking at not even that, we’re looking at a lot less. But we’re also looking at things that just lack common sense, like investing in the coal economy when there’s already twice as many jobs in the solar industry, and coal jobs have been dropping like a rock, not because of the Clean Power Plan, but just because it’s not as economically viable a form of energy anymore. It’s like investing in shoring up horse farms when Henry Ford is already rolling out the Model T on his assembly line.

    Honestly, the most concerning thing to me is that these regulations are going to be rolling the United States back from an international perspective, from a technological perspective -- back into possibly even a second-world country. China is already poised to take the leadership, not just in the clean energy economy -- they’re already taken leadership there -- but with the climate plan as well. So the U.S. is losing leadership, and how long will it take to regain, if ever?

    Kevin Trenberth and Reto Knutti: Comments By Trump, Pruitt, And Smith Show A“Woeful Ignorance” Of Science And Climate Change

    Climate scientists Kevin Trenberth and Reto Knutti co-authored an April 5 op-ed published in The Conversation decrying the Trump administration’s climate science denial: “The kinds of statements made by Smith, the president and Pruitt are misguided. They show a woeful ignorance about science and how it works, and in particular about climate science. Consequently, they ignore sound advice on how to best plan for the future.” They added, “The failure of Lamar Smith and his ilk to recognize that climate scientists ask legitimate scientific questions, and moreover, that they that they provide very useful information for decision-makers, is a major loss for the public.”

    From the April 5 op-ed:

    Chairman Smith accused climate scientists of straying “outside the principles of the scientific method.” Smith repeated his oft-stated assertion that scientific method hinges on “reproducibility,” which he defined as “a repeated validation of the results.” He also asserted that the demands of scientific verification altogether preclude long-range prediction, saying, “Alarmist predictions amount to nothing more than wild guesses. The ability to predict far into the future is impossible. Anyone stating what the climate will be in 500 years or even at the end of the century is not credible.”

    At the same time, President Trump has been dismissive of climate change and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in March that “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do…so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

    The kinds of statements made by Smith, the president and Pruitt are misguided. They show a woeful ignorance about science and how it works, and in particular about climate science. Consequently, they ignore sound advice on how to best plan for the future.

    […]

    Accordingly, we have many facts and physical understanding of the Earth’s climate. The role of scientists is to lay out the facts, their interpretation, and the prospects and consequences as best we can. But the decision about what is done with this information is the responsibility of everyone, including and often led by politicians. The failure of Lamar Smith and his ilk to recognize that climate scientists ask legitimate scientific questions, and moreover, that they that they provide very useful information for decision-makers, is a major loss for the public.

    Brenda Ekwurzel’s Message To Scott Pruitt: “Listen To The Scientists”

    During a March 9 report about Pruitt’s comment that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming, CBS Evening News correspondent Chip Reid asked senior climate scientist and director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists Brenda Ekwurzel, “If you were talking to Mr. Pruitt right now, what would you tell him?” Ekwurzel replied, “Listen to the scientists. Ninety-seven percent of scientists who have studied climate change agree that carbon dioxide is the primary cause of human-driven climate change.”

    Victoria Herrmann: “I Am An Arctic Researcher. Donald Trump Is Deleting My Citations”

    Victoria Herrmann, managing director of the Arctic Institute, wrote a March 28 op-ed in The Guardian about “politically motivated data deletions” of her work by the Trump administration. Though Herrmann was able to find archived materials to replace defunct links to her work, she wrote that having to do so evoked “a bit of anger at the state of the country.” She continued, “The consequences of vanishing citations, however, pose a far more serious consequence than website updates. Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.” Herrmann concluded, “While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice. So please, President Trump, stop deleting my citations.”

    From the op-ed:

    At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

    [...]

    All in all, emails about defunct links of sites that weren’t saved are annoying, but harmless. Finding archived materials to replace them add maybe 20 minutes of internet searches to my day – and a bit of anger at the state of the country.

    The consequences of vanishing citations, however, pose a far more serious consequence than website updates. Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.

    […]

    These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs.

    In a remote region where data is already scarce, we need publicly available government guidance and records now more than ever before. It is hard enough for modern Arctic researchers to perform experiments and collect data to fill the gaps left by historic scientific expeditions. While working in one of the most physically demanding environments on the planet, we don’t have time to fill new data gaps created by political malice.

    So please, President Trump, stop deleting my citations.

    Ploy Achakulwisut and Geoffrey Supran: “We Became Scientists To Help The World. Now We Need To Take To The Streets.”

    Scientists Ploy Achakulwisut and Geoffrey Supran co-authored an April 11 op-ed published in Mashable explaining that “the Trump administration's unrelenting attacks on climate science and our generation's future” had motivated them to participate in the People’s Climate March on April 29. They urged readers to do the same, adding, “Their attacks on climate science are an affront to all the scientists working to understand and solve this singular crisis of our time. … Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that the majority of the public understands the realities of climate science and demands clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”

    From the op-ed:

    As scientists and as a couple in our twenties, it's been excruciating to watch the Trump administration's unrelenting attacks on climate science and our generation's future. Knowing that policy decisions made over the next four years could impact the lives of hundreds of generations to come, we're more determined than ever to do not only our best work as scientists, but our best activism as citizens.

    On April 29, we'll stand up for climate science, justice, and democracy in the People's Climate March. If you're appalled at the Trump administration's anti-climate agenda, we hope you'll join us.

    [...]

    Then Donald Trump was elected, and our battles to stand up for science became a war. President Trump, EPA head Scott Pruitt, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Chairman of the House Science Committee Lamar Smith are just some of the many politicians abusing their positions of power to advance their ideological agendas. Their attacks on climate science are an affront to all the scientists working to understand and solve this singular crisis of our time. What's more, people's lives are at stake. "The War on Science is more than a skirmish over funding, censorship, and 'alternative facts,'" says scientist Jon Foley. "It's a battle for the future, basic decency, and the people we love."

    Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate that the majority of the public understands the realities of climate science and demands clean air, clean water, and clean energy. That we won’t allow our democracy to be hijacked by Big Oil and billionaire ideologues. We've already seen how concerted opposition by activists, lawyers, and journalists can stop the Trump administration in its tracks on immigration and health care. We are not powerless to change the course of history.

  • Punditry On Syrian Airstrikes Is Encouraging Trump To Escalate Tensions With North Korea

    Similar Media Support Helped Enable Iraq War

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After President Donald Trump launched airstrikes against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in that country, media figures from across the political spectrum praised his “beautiful” attack, with many also linking the action to the growing threat that another country -- North Korea -- poses to the United States. Effusive media support of military conflict was a key precursor to the Iraq War; the danger of such uncritically hawkish commentary has multiplied under Trump, who sources policy ideas -- and defenses for his conduct -- directly from media.

  • Fox Business Host Allows Industry CEO To Continue Denying The Real Reason For Coal’s Decline 

    Blog ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

    Fox Business host Stuart Varney allowed a coal mining company CEO who previously said President Donald Trump couldn’t bring back coal jobs to walk back those comments, while Varney himself pushed the myth that environmental protections are to blame for the loss of jobs in the coal industry.

    A March 27 article in The Guardian reported that Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, the largest privately owned coal company in the United States, acknowledged that technological advances and competition from renewable energies and natural gas are responsible for the coal industry’s decline. Murray warned that Trump should “temper” his expectations for a return of coal mining jobs because he “can’t bring them back.” Trump has repeatedly promised that he will reinvigorate the industry by rolling back regulations.

    A week after Murray spoke with The Guardian, Varney allowed the CEO to walk back his comments. On the April 3 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., Varney repeated Murray’s quote from the news report and asked, “Why can’t the president bring back coal mining jobs if he gets rid of these damaging climate restrictions?” Murray replied, “Well, he can. It’s the degree to which he brings them back. I was asked when I was quoted, ‘Can he bring them back to where they were?’” Murray added that Trump could bring back “at least half” of the 63,000 coal jobs that he said were lost due to environmental protections.

    Numerous experts have debunked the claim that Trump can bring back tens of thousands of coal jobs. As an energy economist at the University of Wyoming told The New York Times, even if coal mines stay open, they are “using more mechanization” and “not hiring people. … So even if we saw an increase in coal production, we could see a decrease in coal jobs.”

    Murray’s comments come at a time when coal mining is vastly overshadowed by employment in the renewable energy sector. The Associated Press reported that “coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.” And a recent analysis by the Sierra Club found that “only six states have more jobs in coal and gas than clean energy -- and the growth of clean energy suggests that won’t be the case for long.”

    A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts found that over the years, Murray has been a frequent guest on Fox Business, where he has repeatedly pushed the lie that coal mining job losses were due solely to environmental regulations. On the rare occasions when Fox Business hosts asked Murray about the impact of technology or natural gas on the coal industry, Murray downplayed the significance of those factors or pivoted back to attacking environmental regulations.

    Methodology

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of Fox Business from the last five years using Robert Murray and coal, Robert Murray and (automat! o technolog!), and Robert Murray and natural gas.

  • Five Things Media Figures Demanded Obama Attorneys General Resign Over That Are Less Serious Than Lying Under Oath

    And Trump’s Chief Of Staff Twice Called For Eric Holder’s Resignation

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Lawmakers began calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation after news reports published on March 1 revealed that he had spoken to Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the 2016 election, when he was serving as a campaign surrogate for then-candidate Donald Trump. The reports contradict sworn testimony Sessions provided during his confirmation hearing, when he said he “did not have communications with the Russians.” During the Obama administration, conservative media figures and Republicans demanded that his attorneys general resign or be fired for supposed outrages far less damaging than lying to Congress, none of which were criminal in nature, and were in many cases completely phony.

  • CPAC Got Rid Of Milo, But Not The Rest Of Their Bigoted Lineup

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has rescinded the speaking offer its leadership made to former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who has a history of bigotry, following the circulation of a video in which Yiannopoulos appeared to endorse pedophilia. Yet Yiannopoulos isn’t the only person scheduled to speak at the 2017 CPAC who has a history of making offensive remarks; the conference’s roster is full of speakers who push xenophobic or otherwise discriminatory agendas and action and buy into conspiracy theories.

  • Pro-Trump Media Defend President After He Included Sweden In List Of Terrorist Targets

    ››› ››› JARED HOLT

    President Donald Trump’s media allies rushed to bolster and clarify his remarks after he called on rally-goers to “Look at what’s happening last night in Sweden” during a February 18 speech before listing three non-Swedish cities recently attacked by homegrown terrorists. Trump later clarified that he was referring to a Fox News report hyping immigrant criminality in Sweden from the prior night, not a nonexistent attack, while conservative outlets, fringe blogs, and fake news purveyors declared that “actually, Trump was right” that Sweden is “experiencing a migrant crime wave,” despite widely cited data that proves otherwise.

  • Yes, Fake News Exists On The Left -- But It's Being Overblown

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    The weaponized fake news stories that have emerged of late are certainly not confined to just one end of the political spectrum and are dangerous to political discourse regardless of partisan tilt. But a recent spate of articles trumpeting the so-called “rise of progressive ‘fake news’” omits the context necessary to understanding why the right-wing fake news ecosystem is so uniquely destructive, and in doing so collapses the collective understanding of fake news into a trite and distracting argument about “both sides.”

    During the presidential campaign, fake news purveyors -- by and large right-wing, hyperpartisan fringe websites -- unleashed a blizzard of politically motivated lies packaged as legitimate news largely designed to undermine Hillary Clinton and boost Donald Trump. The onslaught of fabrications was effective: Fake news stories outperformed real ones on Facebook in the final campaign stretch, and most Americans who saw fake news during the election believed it.

    But as it becomes clearer how and why right-wing fake news stories proliferated and succeeded, media outlets are now beginning to document an ostensible “uptick in fake news … with a distinctly liberal bent,” as The Guardian’s Sam Levin describes it, and to compare it to the flood of conservative fake news stories shared during the election.

    The Atlantic’s Robinson Meyer similarly writes that progressives have recently embraced fake news just like “conservative Facebook users [shared] stories that had nothing to do with reality” during the election, in what Meyer calls a “funny reversal of the situation from November.” And a BuzzFeed article claims that progressive “alarm, paranoia, and genuine outrage” are ushering in an increase in “ the left’s own distinct brand of the online phenomenon known as fake news.”

    Some examples these outlets point to indeed fit the mold of weaponized fake news and are cause for concern. There are also other recent cases of unsubstantiated claims rocketing through the liberal blogosphere. Yes, fake news-purveying websites that cater to progressive audiences do exist and do, as BuzzFeed contends, “undermin[e] legitimate causes for outrage on the left.”

    But these and other outlets hyping the rise of progressive fake news point to what The Atlantic calls a liberal “panoply of wishful thinking” as evidence of the nascent trend of fake news on the left. Included in their examples is the famous bunch of “rogue,” anti-Trump Twitter accounts and a series of conspiratorial Medium posts about an impending coup d'etat; neither of which fits within Media Mattersoperational understanding of fake news, which is clearly and demonstrably fabricated information deceptively packaged as legitimate news, and is either motivated by profit or ideology. BuzzFeed highlights a parodical story about Trump’s “plan to turn the USS Enterprise into a floating casino,” which comes from an explicitly satirical website. Satire, though damaging when weaponized politically, is in its most basic sense also not fake news. The Guardian points to several-months-old fake news stories as evidence that progressive fake news is a post-election phenomenon.

    But weak examples notwithstanding, this all-too-common lunge toward “both sides do it” analysis not only muddies the understanding of what fake news actually is, but also more critically ignores or even whitewashes how and why fake news on the right thrives in a way that it never could on the left.

    Essentially, there is a larger conversation here than “the rise of progressive ‘fake news’” -- one in which the story isn’t how the fake news universes on the left and right are the same, but rather how they are different. Conflating right-wing, hyperpartisan fake news with left-wing “wishful thinking” glosses over both the vast infrastructure of fake news on the right and the audience pool that cultivates, enables and validates it.

    The Right-Wing Media Infrastructure Enables Conservative Fake News In A Way The Left Doesn’t

    Conservative fake news flourishes because of the right-wing media infrastructure -- both mainstream and fringe -- that has been cultivated for over a decade. A vast constellation of fake news-purveying websites have long lived in the dark corners of the internet, and mainstream conservative news outlets have fomented a toxic alternate reality in which venomous lies can and do thrive -- neither of which the left has.

    Fake news is fertile on the right because of the sea of lies that have been fed to conservative audiences all throughout President Barack Obama’s administration. Years of misleading, out-of-context, unjustified, racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical, and outright false attacks on Obama and the left by the right-wing noise machine have, naturally, paved the way for weaponized conservative fake news to take hold. 

    That’s why a fake news story about Obama banning the pledge of allegiance in public schools can take off -- because in the context of Fox News and other conservative media outlets bellowing for years that Obama was anti-American, that story simply makes sense to the conservative masses. The left has no such equivalent to the might of the right’s loudest conservative voices or the warped worldview they have sold their audiences.

    Moreover, the coalition of extreme right-wing websites like Infowars, Drudge Report, The Gateway Pundit, LifeZette, and Breitbart that serve as bridges between the radical fringes of the internet and the conservative mainstream media are long- and well-established, which consequently helped facilitate the spread of fake news into the mainstream during the election. These direct pipelines by which lies slide from obscurity into the mainstream also do not exist on the left.

    The sophisticated level of coordination among right-wing fake news purveyors also enables fake news -- and the left does not have a similar set of complex and coordinated pathways. Fake news stories on the right typically don’t grow organically; rather, fake news purveyors create a facade of credibility by all publishing the same untrue stories on their sites. Thus, when a dozen right-wing sites are reporting the same lie, its chance of going viral, piercing the mainstream, and being noticed by public figures grows.

    This far-reaching, enduring infrastructure that both creates and boosts conservative fake news took years to build and has credibility in the eyes of millions of political observers. It would be misguided to suggest that progressives have created a similar ecosystem at all, let alone in the last three months.

    Conservative Audiences Believe -- And Right-Wing Giants Validate -- Fake News In A Way That Democrats Do Not

    Comparisons between left- and right-wing fake news that fail to examine the media consumption habits of the Republican base and those (including the president of the United States) who enable fake news on the right are also insufficient.

    Trump is a serial liar. But more than that, he is one of the loudest, most powerful purveyors of fake news around, who both feeds into and draws from the fake news universe. Democrats have no such validating figure.

    Since his election, Trump has peddled false claims about widespread voter fraud; an immigration ban instituted by Kuwait; and thousands of bikers traveling to D.C. for his inauguration. Before November 8, Trump came to be known as the “King of Whoppers” for his unmatched, unrestrained, and disturbing penchant for lying about any issue, great or small. Not to mention that Trump sources his lies regularly and terrifyingly from disreputable fake news purveyors like Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Russian state-sponsored media.

    Supported by a cadre of aides who also propagate fake news, including social media director Dan Scavino and Brad Parscale, Trump himself has become one of the greatest validators of fake news and, relatedly, a prominent catalyst in the breakdown of objective truth. As debunking site Snopes’ editor Brooke Binkowski emphasized in The Atlantic:

    [T]here’s no equivalence between the falsehoods coming from the American left and the right in the past two weeks. Individual Democrats on Facebook may cling to pleasant stories and wishful thinking, but the Republican White House press secretary spouts off lies beneath the presidential seal.

    Additionally, by repeatedly attacking credible news outlets as “fake news,” Trump is attempting to redefine “fake news” in his own terms. Conflating honest mistakes in reporting with fake news (which, to be sure, are clearly distinct issues) helps Trump degrade the Fourth Estate, which, in effect, helps chip away at the biggest barrier to his efforts to gaslight his way through his presidency. Trump’s appropriation of the term “fake news” also effectively validates the worst fake news purveyors out there -- because if The New York Times is fake news, then who isn’t?

    So, when the person carrying the mantle of the Republican Party unabashedly spouts nonsense and bullshit, the idea that “both sides do it” becomes moot.

    Trump’s success in peddling fake news largely stems from the way that conservatives seek out and digest their news. With a greater tendency than liberals to believe false information that plays into their own confirmation biases (facilitated, as aforementioned, by the bitterly hostile alternate reality the right-wing media has created for its base), conservatives are essentially primed to receive fake news in a way that liberals are not.

    As documented by The Washington Post, psychologist John Jost of New York University found that liberals are “slightly more predisposed to think critically than conservatives,” and Stefan Pfattheicher of Ulm University “found that individuals who identified as more conservative were more likely to be duped by nonsense than liberals.” As the Post explains:

    Conservatives may be perfectly able to do the kind of critical thinking and cognitive exploration that would lead them to be more skeptical of nonsense and fake news -- they just choose not to, preferring instead to seek out information that allows them to make quick decisions that reinforce their existing views.

    Take it from one of the most prolific fake news creators, Paul Horner, who claims that “Donald Trump is in the White House because of me”: “Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it.”

    And, as conservative commentator Charlie Sykes wrote in The New York Times, conservatives have been “conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem,” which in turn “essentially destroy[ed] much of the right’s immunity to false information.”

    So yes, fake news does exist on the left. Progressive fake news is dangerous and misguided, and Democrats should absolutely not try to build a parallel fake news universe for the sake of electoral success. But the burgeoning media hype about “lefty” fake news is being oversold, and it’s glossing over the reality of the multifaceted conservative media ecosystem at large, which is unique and unmatched in the way it encourages and rewards right-wing fake news. Myopic, one-to-one comparisons of left- and right-wing fake news stories are leading us to miss the forest for the trees.

  • Media Should Be Reporting About The Consequences Of A Permanent Hyde Amendment

    Senate Approval Would Do More Than Extend This Anti-Choice Funding Rule -- It Would Make It Stricter, And More Harmful Than Ever

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Anti-choice lawmakers in Congress just voted to make abortion care even more inaccessible in the United States -- and the media should be reporting on the potential consequences of their efforts.

    The day after President Donald Trump issued an executive order to reinstate prohibitions on U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations from even mentioning abortion services to their international patients, 235 Republicans and three Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to further block domestic abortion access by making the Hyde Amendment permanent.

    The Hyde Amendment is a longstanding budgetary rider that has barred the use of federal Medicaid funds to cover abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the mother’s life. Nevertheless, right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have long called for further action to prevent taxpayers from funding abortions.

    If the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017” (HR 7), now passes the Senate, it would do more than extend the current restriction; it would also make the rule stricter and more harmful than ever. Media should be taking note.

    While some outlets such as Cosmopolitan, New York magazine, and Broadly have prominently highlighted HR 7’s negative impacts in their headlines -- emphasizing its disastrous consequences for low-income and already marginalized communities -- outlets like CNN, Fox News, and Buzzfeed have framed their coverage around the argument that the bill would prevent federal abortion funding. Here’s what they’re missing:

    1. The Hyde Amendment Would Now Be Permanent (And More Expansive) Law

    The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1977 and has since been extended as a budgetary rider to Medicaid appropriations bills. In practice, this has meant the House has had to vote to apply the rider to every funding bill. If HR 7 becomes law, anti-choice politicians would eliminate this step in the process and make the Hyde Amendment an automatic funding restriction that can be reversed only via future legislation.

    Plus, as permanent law, the ban would apply to more than just federal Medicaid funds. As Mother Jones explained, HR 7 also prohibits federal funds from contributing to any “health benefit plans that include abortion coverage.” Unlike in previous iterations of the Hyde Amendment, this version creates penalties for even private insurance plans obtained through non-religious companies that cover abortion care.

    As the Huffington Post reported:

    The bill also provides incentives for private health insurers to drop abortion coverage, bans abortion coverage in multi-state health insurance plans except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment, and denies women and small businesses tax credits if they choose health plans that cover abortion.

    2. Abortion Providers And Public Facilities Would No Longer Be Able To Support Abortion Services

    In addition to targeting insurance coverage for abortion care, HR 7 also prohibits federally owned or operated facilities and federal employees from providing abortion services:

    “No health care service furnished—

    “(1) by or in a health care facility owned or operated by the Federal Government; or

    “(2) by any physician or other individual employed by the Federal Government to provide health care services within the scope of the physician’s or individual’s employment, may include abortion.

    The impact of the Hyde Amendment has previously been felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans. By expanding the restriction to include prohibitions on federally owned or operated facilities and providers, the bill’s authors have substantially curtailed the number of available care options for these populations. The Guardian explained:

    The bill would also convert a slew of existing, provisional bans on abortion coverage into permanent law. These include bans on abortion coverage for women on federal insurance, such as many Native American women, women in the Peace Corps, in federal prisons, or those enrolled in Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and prohibit the city of Washington DC from using its own local funds to subsidize abortion services.

    3. Low-Income And Marginalized Communities Were Already Disproportionately Impacted

    The Hyde Amendment has already created a significant barrier to accessing abortion care for low-income patients and those from marginalized communities. Given the number of economic and logistical barriers patients already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde Amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication to what is normally a safe procedure.

    In a statement to Refinery29, Destiny Lopez, the president of All* Above All -- a coalition of reproductive rights activists -- explained the dire consequences of HR 7 for low-income patients. She said:

    "Already, too many women are denied abortion coverage because of how much they earn: HR 7 is cruel and callous legislation that would make these discriminatory bans permanent law … This is all part of the Trump-Pence agenda to punish women.”

    Beyond low-income patients, women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and American Indians -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde Amendment's restrictions.

    4. Blocking Abortion Access Doesn’t End Abortion -- It Just Makes It Less Safe

    Abortion is one of the safest and most common medical procedures. By making abortion care less accessible, anti-choice lawmakers don’t decrease the number of abortions -- they make abortion care overall less safe.

    According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “Where abortion is legal, it is extremely safe. … In contrast, historical and contemporary data show that where abortion is illegal or highly restricted, women resort to unsafe means to end an unwanted pregnancy.”

    * Image courtesy of Sarah Wasko

  • After America, Breitbart Plans To Infect Politics Across Europe

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    After the 2016 election, Breitbart.com announced its plan to expand into France and Germany, and Italy is reportedly now a target as well. Breitbart’s current European bureau, Breitbart London, appears to be in charge of the website’s Europe content and has a close relationship with the nativist UK Independence Party (UKIP). That, coupled with its anti-immigrant content, suggests that the site will try to spread its nativism across Europe by continuing to stoke racist sentiment and allying with anti-immigrant political parties.

  • What Pundits At Trump's Inauguration Called Populism Is Bigotry, Misogyny, And A Love Of Big Money

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS & JULIE ALDERMAN

    Some media commentary focused on President Donald Trump’s inaugural address as “populist,” but Trump’s approach cannot be reduced to simplistic advocacy for the "forgotten men and women," which ignores not only the racist and misogynist strains of his campaign and proposed presidency, but also the leanings of a Trump administration poised to favor the very rich at the expense of the already vulnerable.

  • Lindy West Leaves Twitter: “Get Back To Me When Your Website Isn’t A Roiling Rat-King Of Nazis” 

    Writer Denounces Platform’s Refusal To Protect Users From “Alt-Right” Harassment

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Writer Lindy West, who spent years cultivating a reputation for engaging with (and frequently demolishing) social media trolls, has announced she’s leaving Twitter because of the “global repercussions” of the platform’s “refusal to stop” harassment campaigns launched by the white supremacist, misogynist “alt-right” movement.

    In a January 3 opinion piece at The Guardian, West explained that she had deactivated her Twitter account after “half a decade of troubleshooting” to curb personal harassment and threats from anonymous users trolling her on the social media platform. West, who regularly engaged with her tormentors on Twitter and even confronted a user who harassed her while posing as her dead father, concluded that Twitter was “unusable for anyone but trolls, robots and dictators.”

    West explained that her decision to leave Twitter didn’t stem from simply reaching a breaking point when it came to trolls, but rather that it represented her disgust with Twitter’s “refusal” to “intervene and start protecting its users” from coordinated harassment campaigns led by members of the so-called “alt-right.” As West pointed out, “Twitter executives did nothing” for years in which the “alt-right” was “beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities.” This harassment included the deeply racist and misogynist campaign against black actress Leslie Jones last summer, led by “alt-right” Breitbart.com editor and serial harasser Milo Yiannopoulos, and the similarly misogynist Gamergate “hate-storm” in 2014.

    Recent “alt-right” manipulation of Twitter represents a dangerous escalation of the sort of Twitter harassment, abuse, and disinformation West has fought for years. A combination of trolls (e.g., anonymous users goaded and led by the ideologically hateful “alt-right”), robots (bot and spam accounts created specifically, often by the trolls, to amplify the abuse or disinformation), and dictators (or at least leaders with authoritarian tendencies) are using the platform to rile users with fake news stories and general misinformation, confirming and encouraging harmful views that justify the abuse of others. It’s created an ecosystem that’s “feeding into the worst instincts of humanity,” and Twitter’s inaction has amounted to a stamp of approval that West said she can longer accept.

    From West’s January 3 op-ed (emphasis added):

    I hate to disappoint anyone, but the breaking point for me wasn’t the trolls themselves (if I have learned anything from the dark side of Twitter, it is how to feel nothing when a frog calls you a cunt) – it was the global repercussions of Twitter’s refusal to stop them. The white supremacist, anti-feminist, isolationist, transphobic “alt-right” movement has been beta-testing its propaganda and intimidation machine on marginalised Twitter communities for years now – how much hate speech will bystanders ignore? When will Twitter intervene and start protecting its users? – and discovered, to its leering delight, that the limit did not exist. No one cared. Twitter abuse was a grand-scale normalisation project, disseminating libel and disinformation, muddying long-held cultural givens such as “racism is bad” and “sexual assault is bad” and “lying is bad” and “authoritarianism is bad”, and ultimately greasing the wheels for Donald Trump’s ascendance to the US presidency. Twitter executives did nothing.

    On 29 December, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted: “What’s the most important thing you want to see Twitter improve or create in 2017?” One user responded: “Comprehensive plan for getting rid of the Nazis.”

    “We’ve been working on our policies and controls,” Dorsey replied. “What’s the next most critical thing?” Oh, what’s our second-highest priority after Nazis? I’d say No 2 is also Nazis. And No 3. In fact, you can just go ahead and slide “Nazis” into the top 100 spots. Get back to me when your website isn’t a roiling rat-king of Nazis. Nazis are bad, you see?

    Trump uses his Twitter account to set hate mobs on private citizens, attempt to silence journalists who write unfavourably about him, lie to the American people and bulldoze complex diplomatic relationships with other world powers. I quit Twitter because it feels unconscionable to be a part of it – to generate revenue for it, participate in its profoundly broken culture and lend my name to its legitimacy.

  • News Reports Uncritically Portray Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson As Climate Change Advocate

    ››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER & ANDREW SEIFTER

    Several media outlets reporting on President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state have uncritically described Tillerson as accepting of climate change and supportive of a carbon tax. But these reports ignored scientifically inaccurate claims Tillerson has made about climate change, Exxon’s continued financial support of groups that deny climate science, inconsistencies by both Tillerson and Exxon on whether they truly support a carbon tax, and fierce opposition to Tillerson’s nomination from leading environmental groups -- not to mention the fact that Exxon is under investigation in several states for possibly violating state laws by deceiving shareholders and the public about climate change.