Background Briefing: December 17, 2018


Assessing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Reports on Russian Weaponization of Social Media

We begin with the bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee analyzing the scope and impact of Russian influence over the 2016 campaign via their use and weaponization of U.S. social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. David Carroll, a professor of media design at the New School whose analysis examines major shifts in the media as it relates to advertising, surveillance, social media and journalism, joins us to discuss the findings in two reports, one by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and another by New Knowledge, a firm that tracks online disinformation. Focusing on the latter, we will look into how the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg owned by Putin’s chef Yevgeny Prigozhin used social media to target right wing Americans promoting Donald Trump’s candidacy while targeting left wing Americans and African Americans with anti-Hillary Clinton propaganda urging them not to vote or to vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein. The Oxford report criticizes technology companies for their “belated and uncoordinated response” while the New Knowledge report criticizes the Silicon Valley tech giants for not being forthcoming and misleading the American people by playing down the Russian influence campaign which has been underestimated and was far more effective having reached 126 million people on Facebook and 20 million more on Instagram.


Trump Celebrates Denying 20 Million Americans Health Care

Then, with a U.S. District Judge in Texas ruling the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional on Friday night just before Saturday’s enrollment deadline, we will try to understand why President Trump is celebrating the move to deny 20 million Americans healthcare and assess the legal justification with Eagan Kemp, the healthcare policy advocate for Public Citizen. He joins us to argue that the president’s and the Republican’s unrelenting efforts to deny healthcare to Americans, particularly those with pre-existing conditions, is why a recent poll found that 70% of Americans including a majority of Republicans now favor implementing Medicare-for–all.


Trump, like Other White Collar Criminals, Believes He Can Get Away with Lying and Cheating

Then finally we speak with an expert on white collar crime, Henry Pontell, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Profit Without Honor: White Collar Crime and the Looting of America”. He joins us to discuss how Trump fits a pattern of rich, powerful people who begin to believe their own reality and start feeling they can get away with lying and cheating because their wealth and status protects them. And while Trump has been documented uttering 6,500 lies since he has been in office, Henry Pontell argues Trump’s illusion of his immunity to truth and consequences is unparalleled.