Dear Individuals Across America (and the World)

 

 

Dear Individuals Across America,

I have remained silent on the political front. I have not written anything where I talk directly about politics, how people act regarding politics or how the election cycle played out. I did not want to wade into a war over the internet where the people I confront are unequipped for combat. However, when I received a few comments on my writing page, I had to act. This is my response to the comments, and the countless articles (their authors) with titles such as: “Stop Whining Liberals!”

 

popular vote results.png

 

The weekend after the election a pair of individuals tried to bring to my attention that Donald Trump had won both the Electoral College and the Popular Vote by November 13th. They did so by dropping comments on a picture I posted of the popular vote count, the morning after the election. Curiosity took over me and I had to investigate this claim. Within twenty minutes I had discovered what I believe to be the source of their comments. Next I tried to determine if this information was biased or slanted in any political direction. By the end of my investigation I learned that these comments were derived from just a few of the very slanted (fake?) news sites that populate the internet.

The origin of my investigation came from a handful of comments posted to my writing page. The first two were from a woman quoting (and not citing) some election results. She said that: “Not all states had been fully counted by that point” (2), referring to the results she quoted. This woman used numbers that I later found on “70news”; whether that was where she gathered the information or not, I cannot be sure. The second comment appeared several hours later. This time a man commented saying that “Trump did win both as of 11/13!” (2).

While I was drafting this response, another lady commented on the post, issuing several brutal and uncalled for attacks against me; these were of course ad hominem attacks. These are attacks directed at the person, sometimes at their character or at some essential quality someone possesses. This is a very common fallacy (or misleading argument) that people use. It is often found in the political arena. She called me a “commucrat” (2), which sounds like an insult, although I am still not completely sure what this term means, even after searching online. However, Urban Dictionary claims it is an “American-hating Socialist” (8). If this is true, then the term is very offensive. It also presupposes my political affiliation and beliefs. The word appears to be made up, or at least primarily used in common language. This might explain why I only found a definition on Urban Dictionary. Breaking the word down, it seems to be made of two root words “commu” which I must assume is short for community or communist, although again, I cannot be sure. The second root word is “crat”, which is Latin and means “rule”. It is also translated as “ruled by”. Putting these two rough definitions together I can make an educated guess about the definition of “commucrat”. I take it to mean community rule, rather than communist rule which would refer to communism, rendering “commucrat” a redundant and useless word. Community rule seems to suggest someone who supports ideas such as “the general will” and “the majority rules”, which seem to be ideas found in any democracy. There are many examples of this here in the United States, local officials, state officials, school boards, sheriffs, US senators and members of the House of Representatives are all elected through the popular vote or the majority’s opinion. This lady also presupposed that I am a “Social Democrat” (2) and that I am unhappy. She seemingly presupposed this without investigating my personal Facebook page and my writing page, which is where she left the comment. This means she assessed me without looking at any information other than the picture she commented on. This was an overgeneralized judgement reached on very limited information.

After reading the initial comments I began searching for the source of their information. It took a bit, because the numbers were not on any of the major networks. I found them on a WordPress blog called “70news”. This site is a biased (and fake) news outlet. It is a blog filled with posts about “Hillary’s Health, Politics, News, Religion, Showbiz” (1). None of these categories would appear to be harmful until you consider the information is being presented as actual news. The name of the blog indicates this. There also is not a warning on either 70news’ Facebook page or WordPress site that the information is fake or satirical. On 70news’ Facebook page they claim to share “news liberal media won’t tell you” (4). They also claim to “uncover” (4) what the “liberal media will try to hide” (4). This is a problematic situation because people generally do not research and double check information before they embrace it. To research or double check information involves more than looking up a sentence or two on Wikipedia or the first blog that appears on Google. Research involves cross checking the select piece of information with at least one other, established and reputable news outlet. Scrolling through any branch of social media can provide countless examples of ineffective or nonexistent research. Furthermore, there was no author listed on either Facebook or the WordPress site. This is concerning because it makes it so I cannot confirm who is posting (and therefore presenting) the information as news. There is no one I can message to seek redress or launch an inquiry with, about individual posts. Leaving both sites authorless leaves someone, as an avid reader, disadvantaged because there is no one to thank for sharing the information. By not listing anyone as the author of either site the true author(s) can escape into the depths of the internet if their audience dwindles or there is a rally against their site without losing credibility.

I followed 70news’ source to Twitter where I found these numbers glued to Michael @Koxinga8’s feed.  On his public Twitter page, he claims to “Discuss current issues on language+social+political+sport” (5). He also claims to be a “#Christian” (5) and he says he rides (or rode?) the “#TrumpTrain” (5). I have no problem with his religion affiliation or his discourse. I read over many of his tweets, though I left many of his 65 thousand tweets unviewed. He seems to post and retweet stories, pictures and tweets that appear to be exclusively sympathetic to Republican ideals, which I (may disagree with but) have no problem with. I respect Michael’s opinions, though I strongly disagree with them. What stuck out to me about Michael’s Twitter activities is that he tweets (or retweets) information from sources that seem to be biased or at least slanted. For example, tweets from jihadwatch.org are going to be biased, given that the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies the leader as an “America’s most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists” (9). Again, this would be fine if the information is being presented in a context that can safely be called opinion based. However, in my investigation, Michael is not a major player. He is just another example of someone sharing information that has been made up by a fake news site. Specifically, I am interested in the information Michael shared (and seemingly did not double check) from usasupreme.com.

The next leg in my investigation took me to usasupreme.com (7), which, like 70news is a WordPress site. However, the author(s) of usasupreme pay WordPress for additional services and features like SEO analytics and a completely custom domain name. The custom domain name is important, I think, because it makes usasupreme seem like a more legitimate news source. The web address “usasurpeme.com” carries more weight than the address “usasurpeme.wordpress.com”. This address appears “cleaner” and much more official than one stamped with “wordpress” or “blogspot”.

On usasupreme’s Facebook page they wrote that they share “information that mainstream media is trying to hide from you!!!” (6). I did not add the exclamation points. This claim makes me question usasupreme and their ability to supply the world with information that is seemingly being suppressed by the mainstream media. If they are sharing information that is not being shared by the media, how are they getting the information? If usasurpeme is getting information from other sites that do not have any authors listed or disclose where they are getting their information from, how can usasupreme be trusted? By not disclosing where you get your information from, you cut away the readers’ ability to investigate the issue further. This makes the reader rely on usasupreme more for their information or the reader will go elsewhere. The biggest problem this adds is that readers cannot easily doublecheck or “fact check” any information on usasupreme without doing research on many websites. From my own experiences, people are unwilling to do this.

Like on 70news, I did not find any authors listed on usasupreme.com. This is troubling, even more so, because the individual(s) in charge of usasupreme are pretending to be a news outlet; a news outlet that has access to information that is unwanted or tossed aside or discredited by the “mainstream media”. Without an author, I am unable to issue complaints about an individual misreporting information; I am however able to complain about the website. This tactic, again, allows the author(s) to retreat into the internet if the website is discredited or abandoned by readers. By itself, a lack of an author’s name, in my opinion, makes the website much more questionable. Why is the author (or authors) hiding? It appears they would have something to hide, given that they are indeed not sharing their names.

On a final note, it bugs me that the “mainstream media” is never detailed or described. It is, however, written about in a negative light. This is worrisome because without defining what news outlets are “mainstream”, any news outlet can be classified as “mainstream” if it fits one’s agenda or world view. This ambiguous way of thinking causes problems and leads to miscommunication. Communication errors are confusing in themselves and lead to further confusion; especially when news outlets are issuing confusing remarks and statements.

Once I landed on usasupreme’s website I concluded my research. I had met my goal; the information presented to me through comments were indeed biased or perhaps fabricated. Along my way, I ventured through Facebook and Twitter, learning that many people do not double check information, they simply pass it on. It seems that the phrase “it’s on the internet, so it must be true!” has taken on a new, and much less sarcastic meaning, that it once had. I believe that all confusion can be cleared up if people took time to conduct research and cross check their information with more reputable and established new sites. If people did not double check their information, and they began every post or share with a small sentence indicating they did not double check the information but they thought it was still an interesting thought or bit of writing, then, perhaps, the confused atmosphere we find ourselves in might be lessened. However, if we are to fully rid ourselves of this confusion, research still must be conducted and people must be willing to dig to find out where the information they are sharing came from and who first uploaded it.

 

Sources:
1) 70news article:  https://70news.wordpress.com/2016/11/12/final-election-2016-numbers-trump-won-both-popular-62-9-m-62-7-m-and-electoral-college-vote-306-232-hey-change-org-scrap-your-loony-petition-now/

 

2) My writing page comments: https://www.facebook.com/PatrickEwellWriting/photos/a.10151766824371428.1073741825.372137536427/10153843904741428/?type=3&comment_id=10153853139171428&force_theater=true&notif_t=photo_comment&notif_id=1478987527104160

 

3) Michael’s popular vote numbers: https://twitter.com/Koxinga8/status/797399664853032960/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

4) 70news’ Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/70-News-1618431398462742/about/?ref=page_internal

 

5) Michael’s Twitter page

https://twitter.com/Koxinga8

 

6) usasurpeme’s Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/usasupreme/about/?ref=page_internal

 

7) usasupreme’s site

http://www.usasupreme.com/

 

8) Commucrat definition

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Commucrat

 

9) jihadwatch hate group/Robert Spencer

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/robert-spencer

 

Popular Vote results (I collected my data in the evening of 11/13/16)

 

http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president

http://www.cnn.com/election

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/elections/2016/presidential-election-headquarters

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election

http://www.cbsnews.com/elections/2016/election-center/

https://www.google.com/search?q=election+results&oq=election++results

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

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