Brett Kavanaugh And The Information Terrorists Trying To Reshape America

from Wired

SINCE THE ADVENT of Donald Trump’s candidacy, there’s been a ton of focus on botnets and sockpuppets—automated and semiautomated social media accounts that use disinformation to manipulate public opinion.

But the spotlight on bots has overshadowed the importance of the people who often initiate the flood and flow of information, and how the narratives they build over time influence how we see politics, ourselves, and the world around us.

Last month, the attorney of Christine Blasey Ford, the California professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault at a long-ago high school party, revealed that Blasey Ford and her family were in hiding and had hired private security after Blasey Ford received death threats over email and social media. Among those cheering on the hate-trollers were many familiar faces from the sewers of the modern far-right disinformation metropolis: dandified Republican rogue (and likely Mueller investigee) Roger Stone, his alt-media protégés Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec, anarchist turned Kremlin propaganda employee turned Bernie backer turned Trump backer Cassandra Fairbanks, and breathless Infowars conspiracist-in-chief Alex Jones. And not surprisingly, alt-right super-troll and white nationalist fund-raiser Chuck Johnson had his own connection to players in the scandal.

This is an operational unit of information terrorists helping to transform the way Americans consume news in the age of Trump—some of the central nodes that give order to the information deluge and around which bot armies and human amplification networks can be organized, wiped out, reconstituted, and armed for attack.
Because that is what they do: attack. Many reporters who cover this phenomenon have themselves been swarmed by attacks and harassment from the digital insurgency that these information terrorists—call them the cadre—command. Information terrorism is not a term I apply lightly. But if you accept the core definition of terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims,” then there are few terms more apt to describe what this group has unleashed against their fellow Americans.
The cadre coalesced and sharpened its edge starting in 2014 with Gamergate before throwing in with then-candidate Trump. It has promoted toxic conspiracies like Pizzagate and QAnon, and was ever-present around movements from Unite the Right to #releasethememo.
This same information architecture was used to attack Blasey Ford and exonerate Kavanaugh. The attacks on Blasey Ford aimed to discredit and silence her using the same tactics that have been deployed to discredit and silence others over the past few years. As others have come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of wrongdoing—including Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick—they have been similarly harassed and smeared by the same machinery and themes.

More here.

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3 Responses to Brett Kavanaugh And The Information Terrorists Trying To Reshape America

  1. Jazmyne Fletcher October 11, 2018 at 8:41 pm #

    As Brett Kavanaugh has been inducted into the supreme court, it has many females just sick and filled with plenty of disturbing thoughts. Any individual that could commit a crime such as this one must be handled. Unfortunately, it has been handled in the wrong way. Praising Kavanaugh and punishing Christine Blasey Ford for trying to do the right thing when it came to putting away a human being for harming another; it does not seem to be adhering to the standards of the supreme court. Now that he has that seat on the court it makes it even harder to fight against him knowing that there are people that, in the end know what he did was wrong, but still support and encourage him. How is that suppose to encourage Americans knowing that this type of person can determine someone’s fate and no one can determine his?

    • Mackenzie Greenfield October 11, 2018 at 9:48 pm #

      I really had a Wow! Moment when I read this story. I felt like I have been living in a box because I was not aware of “Gamergate” or “Pizza Gate”. I also did not know what botnets or sockpuppets were.
      I was aware that Christine Blasey Ford was receiving threats and had to basically go into hiding. I am astounded that people would threaten her. Also astounded about some of the threats that were going in the Gamergate situation. I feel like these people are acting like kids but actually they are acting worse than I think young kids might act. They can probably take a lesson from kids today about bullying. These people were worse than bullied. As the article suggests they were terrorized. If we had someone in middle school/high school do such a thing I am sure they would be expelled and may even face charges. We put so much effort these days on preventing bullying in schools and then we allow adults to act like this.
      I tried to find information on those involved in the threats associated with Gamergate and it looks like no charges were ever filed against them (https://www.businessinsider.com/gamergate-fbi-file-2017-2). I believe that may stem from the case of Elonis v United States (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/02/us/supreme-court-rules-in-anthony-elonis-online-threats-case.html). In this case Elonis posted threatening language on Facebook – threatening his ex-wife and others. He was arrested and charged with violating Federal anti-threat statute 18 U.S.C 875 (c). He appealed on the basis that he did not intend to threaten – that he did not mean what he said in a literal sense. The US Court of Appeal upheld conviction. It then made it to the Supreme Court and they overturned the conviction on grounds that the intent to threaten proven. Lower courts used the objective reasonable person standard in upholding conviction – that a reasonable person would view language as threat. Supreme Court said reasonable person standard was not enough to determine that there was the intent to threaten. It is not the post that is illegal but the threat – so was there really a threat? Are you confused? – I sure am having read some of what was posted. Maybe that precedent led to lack of charges in Gamergate situation because I believe they said they were just joking and never intended to threaten/harm.
      This story also remined of a news story I saw the other day about families suing Alex Jones, InfoWars founder, for his pushing of the Sandy Hook conspiracy – that Sandy Hook was a staged event https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/six-more-families-sue-alex-jones-over-sandy-hook-conspiracy-n876881). Families involved were threatened and abused by Alex Jones followers. Glad to see that the families are fighting back. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

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  2. Lauren F October 19, 2018 at 4:21 pm #

    The trump presidency has truly changed the country in ways more terrifying than I originally thought. All these alt right wing conspiracy terrorists like Yiannopoulos and Cernovich actively support Trump because he is one of them. Before 2016 elections had been civil and boring. Of course there were smear campaigns and false allegations but they weren’t as widely publicized or believed. So many people were swayed by fake news articles they read on Facebook during the 2016 election. That fact alone is simply terrifying. People are taking to the internet to spread blatantly false rumors about political figures in order to discredit them and ruin their careers. Pizzagate is an example of an absurd conspiracy gone wrong. People openly believed there was a pizza shop running a child sex ring despite there being no proof of it. Public figures like Alex Jones, who hosts “Info Wars”, takes these conspiracies and presents them as facts. This does so much damage to the political world.

    It’s very ironic that the same people who believe these crazy conspiracy theories, that have no evidence to back them up, don’t believe women who claim they’ve been sexually assaulted. Christine Blasey Ford was harassed and received death threats when she claimed that Kavanaugh assaulted her back in high school. She’s not even the only woman who’s been threatened for speaking up. Women who speak out against industries that degrade and exclude women are constantly trolled online. The internet and social media seem to have made the world a scarier and crazier place. People have no problem threatening or harassing other people because they’re safely behind a screen. It seems like now a days when we see something we don’t like the automatic response is to send a ton of hate towards it. This is completely counterproductive because we’re just shouting opinions at each other instead of actually talking and understand why everyone believes what they believe. This is such a dangerous trend but hopefully it won’t last forever.

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