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Fake News and the Right: the Eastern Wind

On November 23, NPR published an article titled, “We Tracked Down a Fake-News Creator In the Suburbs.  Here’s What We Learned.”  One of the things they learned is described below.

During the run-up to the presidential election, fake news really took off. “It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they’re about to get served,” Coler says. “It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election.”

Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait.

Later in the interview, Coler elaborates on this point in more detail.  He argues fake news did not begin with Trump supporters.  Sarah Palin’s blasting of the lamestream media was in his view a turning point.

When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?

Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarahgettyimages-494330351-2 Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.

We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.

Over 60% of Trump’s supporters are white and have no college education.  Citizens with a college education are going to be in a better position to debunk fake news stories.


There is clearly a sensitivity to this on the right.  If you look on youtube for fake news now, it is dominated by right wingers identifying examples of what they perceive as liberal media bias.  They don’t mention the pizzagate story or any of the stories above.  Kalev Leetaru writes an article in Forbes along these lines.

Buzzfeed reported on November 23 that an analysis they did revealed that fake news stories outperformed real news stories on Facebook during the last weeks of the election.


No one can forget how all the polls for this election were so far off.  They all described Clinton doing better than she ended up doing.  So far no one has been able to explain why all the polls were so far off.


Fake news provides a compelling explanation for the results the polls missed.  The phenomenon tends to support Trump and therefore it is consistent with the empirical results to be explained.  It is unprecedented, so it is reasonable that it would be overlooked by analysts.  Sharing fake news has become much easier now with the internet and social media.

The Washington Post published evidence the Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” during the election in order to help Trump win.  Their efforts were helped by others like Coler who did it for their own reasons.  Together they created an eastern wind that allowed Trump to sail past Clinton and win by 1/16 of one percent of the vote.

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