Background Briefing: May 26, 2020


Our “Bone Spur” President Trolls a Marine Captain on Memorial Day and Promotes a Vile Conspiracy Theory

We begin with Trump’s Memorial Day weekend twitter storm of insults and conspiracy theories in which the “bone spur” president attacked a Marine Captain on Memorial Day with false charges, made fun of Stacey Abrams weight, called Hillary Clinton a “skank” and repeated his vile innuendo that MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough murdered his congressional aide with whom he was having an affair even though Scarborough was in Congress at the time she died and she was in his Florida congressional office. Angelo Carusone, the President of Media Matters For America, joins us to discuss the challenge of responding to the cruel and sick charges Trump throws out without amplifying his conspiracies and contributing to the sliming of reputations of innocent people like the congressional aide whose widower is trying to get Twitter to take down Trump’s attacks on his late wife. And while we have had the Vince Foster conspiracy theory promulgated by right wing media during the Clinton years that the Republicans promoted, and the Seth Rich conspiracy which the Russians and Wikileaks pushed to distract from the GRU’s hacking of the DNC, we’ve never had a president stoop so low as to make personal insults and conspiracy theories a method of political speech and campaign messaging. Furthermore Trump has coalesced around him a movement of conspiracists on the furthest fringes, Q-Anon, which disseminates the contemptible calumny that the Democratic Party harbors a child sex ring, a bizarre belief which appears to be a projection on Trump’s part since his close friend Jeffrey Epstein actually ran a child sex ring and there are reports that Trump may have availed himself of the services Epstein was offering.


The Role of “Fake News” and Twitter Trolls in the Election and in the Future With AI-edited “Deepfake” Videos etc.

Then we look further into the role “fake news” posts and twitter trolls will be playing in the upcoming election and further into the future as misinformation moves from our social media feeds into our everyday lives. Dr. Samuel Woolley, a writer and researcher specializing in the study of Artificial Intelligence, emergent technology, politics, persuasion and social media, joins us to discuss his article at Foreign Affairs “Covid-19 Isn’t the Only Threat to Privacy: In U.S. Politics, Surveillance Was the Norm Long Before the Pandemic“. The author of the new book, The Reality Game: How the Next Wave of Technology Will Break the Truth, he explores the challenges of balancing public health and privacy as the pandemic risks legitimizing and normalizing invasive practices in the name of contact-tracing. Dr. Wooley also warns us of what is to come with humankind automated voice systems, machine learning, “deepfake” AI-edited videos and images, interactive memes, virtual reality, and more. These future technologies will not just have the power to manipulate our politics, but will make us doubt our own eyes and ears and even our feelings.