Monday, November 07, 2016

Trump-Folk Duped By Clickbait-ing Macedonian Teens founder Nate Silver
Well it's General Election Eve at last, and tomorrow won't come soon enough for those who'd prefer to just get the whole thing over after this divisive political slugfest.

The Brian Lehrer Show had some pretty interesting pre-election segments this morning, including a brief interview with political prognosticator-extraordinaire and founder Nate Silver.

Silver a gifted statistician and writer who helped change the way professional baseball evaluates player potential through a different approach to statistical analysis, famously predicted 49 of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election, and all 50 states in the 2012 election.

While he offered an interesting summary of the current polling data with regards to tomorrow's presidential election, he really didn't offer up anything we didn't already know; he emphasized that it's still a tight race, polling data can get it wrong, and people will need to show up to vote.

Considering that Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog was purchased by the New York Times then later sold to ESPN where Silver is not only 538's Editor-In-Chief as well as a special correspondent for ABC News, this guy's got a busy couple days ahead of him - you think YOUR email in-box is full?

Millions of people want to know what this guys thinks about the outcome of tomorrow's election, so it was pretty cool that he took the time to stop by and chat on WNYC this morning.

No doubt Silver is saving his juiciest latest predictions and poll analysis for his own Website tomorrow, so be sure and check out the FiveThirtyEight Website on Election Tuesday - as Brian helpfully pointed out, 538 is the number of Electoral College votes, hence the magic number is 270.

Pro-Trump Clickbait Central: Veles, Macedonia
But the most interesting item from today's BL Show was at the end when Brian Lehrer asked listeners to call in and share the most important lesson they've learned from the 2016 race.

A woman called in to talk about how technology and the internet have played a part in shaping the tone of this year's presidential race by the widespread distortion of Hillary Clinton that has fueled such virulent hatred amongst Trump supporters.

As she pointed out, an article posted on last week reported that an analysis of dozens of different Facebook pages and domain names that promote and traffic in false or misleading stories about Hillary Clinton, President Obama and other Democrats revealed that between 100 to 150 different Websites are based in the small town of Veles, Macedonia.

Yes, Macedonia.

As BuzzFeed reported, Net-savvy teenagers in this former Yugoslavian town of 45,000 people specifically set up Websites to take advantage of the millions of Trump supporters who use social media to peddle in bogus stories about Hillary Clinton with the goal of riling up Trump-folk.

It's admittedly troubling to Democracy but those Macedonian teens are a clever bunch. They simply find the kind of blatantly fake stories that rightwing Websites in the U.S. post about Hillary, then they use free Facebook pages they set up to tempt the gullible Trump supporters with headlines like, "Pope Francis Forbids Catholics From Voting For Hillary!" (Really.)

Don't laugh, phony crap like that may sound like it was ripped from the front page of the National Inquirer's April-Fools Day Edition but it's like red meat for Trump supporters, when they see it on the numerous Facebook or Twitter pages created by the Macedonian teens, they click on it and they're directed to one of their Websites and Google AdSense pays them on a per-click basis.

The Russians were involved in a lot of that nonsense as well too.

Media-consumption survey results reported
by The Daily Mail in 2015
As one university student from Macedonia told BuzzFeed, "Yes, the info in the blogs is bad, false and misleading, but the rationale is 'if it gets the people to click on it and engage, then use it'."

Hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters click on these bogus headlines and even re-post them on their own Facebook pages.

Which is basically like clicking on one of those ads at the bottom of a Website with a photo of a smiling scantily-clad girl with the title "NJ Drivers Won't Believe This New Rule!"

It's Clickbait and Trump supporters in particular fall for it - as The Daily Mail reported in an article about the results of a 2015 survey of 1,100 Americans that analyzed media consumption habits and political preferences, forward-thinking Macedonian Website creators who caught on to this in early 2016 had much less success trying the same scam for Bernie supporters, so it's basically all -pro-Trump and has little to do with politics; the teens are in it for the loot.
You have to wonder how many of those enraged Trump supporters we've seen chanting "Lock Her Up!" at the RNC Convention this summer or at any number of Trump rallies this year were duped into developing a toxic hatred for Hillary based on Clickbait headlines - which are lies.

I think angry Republicans really like a good ole' easy-to-remember chant they can just launch into on an impromptu basis whenever the urge strikes, in 2008 it was "Drill Baby Drill!" (which made no sense either...)

Anyway it's been a long hard slog and here we are. I'm half-tempted to call in sick to work tomorrow and just monitor poll results all day but I'd get too riled up.

The Dow finally climbed out of a nine-day loosing streak to climb 371 points today, probably on a combination of the F.B.I statement that the emails are officially a non-issue which points to good news for Hillary's chances tomorrow.

Wall Street, like Main Street, likes stability and there's little question of which of the two candidates embodies that quality, and which represents chaos and nut-bag unpredictability.

Anyway that's it for tonight, see you on the other side, I'm getting in the sack early so I can get up to cast my vote for normalcy, experience and rational thinking.

Bonus Culturegeist Confession: I KNOW I'm not the only one secretly curious to see what having Bill Clinton back in the White House as the nation's"First Male Spouse" will be like for the next four years.

What do we even call him? First Gentleman? First Bubba? First Dude?

Leave it to the Unsinkable Bill Clinton to step into a role that Washington, D.C. (the land of protocol) doesn't even have an official protocol for - I'm with Her.

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