The facts of life: Further details about Russian fake news

Source: Facebook’s Russia-Linked Ads Came in Many Disguises – The New York Times

An excellent article, with some Facebook page reproductions, so you can see exactly what some of these fakes looked like on your screens.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Russians who posed as Americans on Facebook last year tried on quite an array of disguises.

There was “Defend the 2nd,” a Facebook page for gun-rights supporters, festooned with firearms and tough rhetoric. There was a rainbow-hued page for gay rights activists, “LGBT United.” There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.

Reading this stuff, I’m even more amazed that anyone bought into it. It’s not particularly sophisticated and there are signs these fakeries were not generated by Americans. (There are plenty of fakeries generated by American fake news organizations, like Fox, Breitbart, et al., the purpose of which was and is the same–to disrupt our Democratic system, cause everyone to distrust government and support Trump. Which makes me wonder whether the Russians and American alt-right were working in concert.)

In every case, the voices posed as Americans and presumed to speak for like-thinking fellow citizens: anti-immigration zealots, gun-rights advocates, gay rights supporters, African-American activists — and, more incongruously, dog lovers, according to the two people familiar with the sampling of advertisements.

The LGBT United page and a Twitter account called @LGBTuni, featuring a rainbow symbol, declared: “We speak for all fellow members of LGBT community across the nation. Gender preference does not define you. Your spirit defines you.”

The Defend the 2nd page appeared to have spread messages of support for gun rights.

“Why do I have a gun?” asks a young woman in one image that appears to be associated with the page. “Because it’s easier for my family to get me out of jail than out of cemetery.” (The image and slogan seem to be borrowed from real gun activists, but the dropped “a” before “cemetery” is a characteristic mistake for Russians speaking English.)

Remember back when a sort of paranoia spread around over TV ads? “Subliminal,” was the word then: the idea that in those ads were buried instant subliminal messages which would make us buy the product. Mass hypnosis.

The only “mass” anything was the paranoia. I, for one, don’t remember running out with my eyes glazed over and purchasing something I’d never wanted previously, and days later looking at the package and wondering, “Why the hell did I buy that?”

But that’s what seems to be the ploy of these Russian fakes: target likely suckers, get them to read the stuff and click on further stuff and then…?

Then what? Then they’ll head to the polls with their eyes glazed over and vote for Trump?

It’s fascinating and factual news but I’m not sure how Russian ads actually worked on voters. Unless we’re going to swing back to the paranoid belief that it’s possible to hypnotize masses of unwary people.

Actually, the reality is far more distressing: there are masses of people who believe fake news because they’re not informed enough to know how to distinguish fake from real.

That I do believe.

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