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Trump’s media favorites battle for the Trump trophy – POLITICO

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MAGA nation may be turning its back on Fox News — but it doesn’t know where to go.

Parler, the “free speech”-friendly version of Twitter, saw a massive explosion of growth right after the election — only to be hit with a viral claim that the social media platform was owned by George Soros. QAnon supporters revolted against Newsmax, a conservative cable channel owned by Trump confidant Chris Ruddy, after the network used a photo of a man wearing a hoodie to describe a white nationalist. Nationalist blogs began running hit pieces on Fox News, claiming its viewership was down, and Trump, reportedly mulling his own media enterprise when he leaves the White House, claimed that its ratings had “collapsed,” because “they forgot the Golden Goose.”

While Fox News still easily bests newer networks like Newsmax in viewership, a Newsmax show on Thursday night drew more than 1 million viewers for the first time, according to Nielsen TV ratings. And since Fox News network committed the ultimate heresy — being the first to declare Biden had flipped Arizona, and later acknowledging Biden’s victory — the network’s disenchanted viewers may now be up for grabs.

So the race is on to determine which outlet — cable, radio, internet or otherwise — will embrace Trumpism the tightest. And the competition is driving the far-right MAGA echo chamber to cannibalize itself.

At the center of it all is an impulse for confirmation bias, according to misinformation and extremist researchers. Trump supporters, they said, are looking for a place to migrate that promotes their theories on why their candidate lost. That’s why they’ve increasingly gravitated to places like One America News Network and Newsmax, two Trump-friendly conservative outlets that are more inclined to embrace the debunked ballot-fraud conspiracies Fox News will not touch. Similarly, Parler has fewer compunctions on fact-checking the evidence-challenged claims about fraudulent ballots that Twitter has started regularly flagging.

“The exodus from Fox to Newsmax and Parler is typical of a pattern in social movements, where they blame the infrastructure for their defeat,” said Joan Donovan, the research director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics and Policy, which studies and monitors the spread of misinformation. And with disinformation dominating the right’s debate over why Trump lost, “attempts to moderate that misinformation is being used to allege that the platform companies are colluding with the Dems and Fox.”

Many of the voter-fraud theories Trump and his allies are pushing have bubbled up from internet conspiracy theorists — MAGA influencers, fringe journalists and extremist commentators who would never appear on Fox News, but have massive followings online. None of them have added up to evidence of widespread voter fraud.

But that hasn’t stopped Newsmax from boasting on social media that it is the only network that hasn’t called the election for Biden, citing ongoing questions about the election results, or Gateway Pundit, a site known for trafficking in anti-Democrat conspiracy theories, from attacking Fox for “spewing anti-Trump propaganda.”

And it hasn’t stopped MAGA figures from turning on one another. Populist news sites like Big League Politics have attacked the organizers of Stop the Steal, a loose network of Trump-affiliated groups organizing mini-protests against the election results. MAGA influencers have razed conservative allies expressing slightly more realistic expectations.

“It’s bad. Worse than I’ve ever seen,” Donovan said.

Infighting has been a permanent feature of the MAGA movement since the very beginning: even back in December 2016, the most prominent members of Trump’s base were clashing over inauguration night parties. It hasn’t stopped since then, with various figures and outlets being drummed out of the movement — and then welcomed back in — depending on the vagaries of the news cycle.

Often, the only thing uniting the MAGA tribes was their support for Trump, backing him through his fights with the media, liberals and the so-called deep state. But these bonds quickly break down — and friends can instantly become enemies — when any group or figure shows dissension from each other in the movement, or is deemed insufficiently MAGA by their peers.

Michael Edison Hayden, senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group that monitors extremist activity and hate groups, said this “friend-enemy distinction” is a hallmark of movements peddling propaganda. And the trait goes into overdrive when “dad is wounded.”

“At this particular moment, there are going to be people whose version of infighting involves them just seeing who can be there most for Trump in his hour of need,” said Hayden, who studies extremism and right-wing movements.

Currently, the MAGA movement has loosely agreed that Fox News is the enemy — and attacking the house that Roger Ailes built is guaranteed to win plaudits from the president and his base.

Newsmax, for one, has begun marketing its pro-Trump content as more popular than that of Fox, running ads claiming that the outlet’s cable news channel is drawing more viewers than CNBC and Fox Business combined, citing Nielsen data. And the overt marketing campaign has paid off for the lesser-known conservative network, with its ratings climbing rapidly overnight.

“The President just called me and congratulated Newsmax on our ratings explosion,” Ruddy, the network’s CEO, tweeted on Thursday. “@POTUS @realDonaldTrump is watching Newsmax, and also wants every vote counted!”

Beyond that, however, the competition is chaotic, driven by whatever conspiracy theory bubbles up through the internet first, who leaps on it the quickest and who spreads it the quickest.

A random user in the obscure internet community, TheDonald.win, for instance, kick-started a baseless conspiracy that the voting tabulation company Dominion switched 2.7 million Trump votes to Biden, a claim that immediately went on OAN and Gateway Pundit, then to Trump’s Twitter feed. The allegation appears to have spun out of a minor human error that was corrected.

Separately, Ali Alexander, a pro-Trump operative and one of the organizers of Stop The Steal, fueled a dubious theory dubbed #Maidengate, hoping to find people who used a maiden name to vote a second time in another state.

Then there’s SharpieGate, allegations of dead voters, rumors of ballots being dumped in trash cans, and secret watermarks — all untrue, and all pushed by a network of online influencers and websites, jockeying for eyeballs.

Even Trump’s own government has been repeatedly debunking these allegations.

“These very viral figures have created a kind of alternative media landscape underneath Fox News,” Hayden said. “As Trump embraces this kind of unreality, this sort of fiction world in which he’s won the presidency, it’s not surprising that his base is going to those people who would be willing to go with him.”

They may be in competition with each other but Kristen Doerer, the managing editor of Right Wing Watch, noted that MAGA messaging remains the same.

“They have been built off of MAGA world and their success in part depends on Trump’s, so there’s this note of desperation built into their ‘reporting’ and commentary,” said Doerer, who monitors right-wing groups and extremism.

The infighting, too, could also reflect the strange state of the MAGA movement after Trump leaves office. Outside of vocal support for Trump and their reflexive hatred for anything considered anti-Trump, few within the movement can pinpoint anything that keeps them together.

Without Trump in office — or even in public life — it’s more than likely that these disparate groups fragment back into their own separate zones online. White nationalists, after all, can’t exist in the same movement as hardline pro-Israel activists. Anarcho-libertarians don’t naturally fit with more extreme evangelicals. And QAnon supporters can hardly stomach anyone reporting any unfavorable news about Trump, even if it’s from Newsmax.

Disinformation and extremists researchers described current MAGA culture as something of a Schrödinger’s cat, the hypothetical animal that could be either alive or dead, inside a box containing a lethal poison that may or may not have been released. In this case, without knowing if the country truly has an appetite for reversing the election, it’s hard to tell whether the MAGA movement is alive or dead.

Media outlets like Fox News are trying to make that determination right now, while others are positioning themselves for a MAGA movement that remains alive and well.

“Partisan media is fickle and when the incumbent loses, there is a tendency to blame the messenger,” noted Donovan, the Shorenstein Center director. “Here though, there are millions to be made on blaming Fox, so there is a big profit motive to drive the wedge by OAN, Newsmax and Parler.”

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Bill Barr bashed in right-wing media after election fraud comments: 'He is either a liar or a fool or both' – CNN

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Since he was confirmed as attorney general, William Barr has been somewhat of a hero in the right-wing media universe. He has assailed the Russia probe. He has talked a big game about cracking down on Antifa. He has sharply criticized the news media. On and on it goes.
But his celebrity status took a hit on Tuesday when he undercut President Trump’s brazenly false contention that there was massive voter fraud in the 2020 election. Speaking to the Associated Press, Barr said that, “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”
The statement from Barr, which merely recited a simple fact, not only cut against what Trump has been saying, but also what Trump’s propagandists and allies in right-wing media have been feeding their audiences. For weeks, these media personalities have strung their audiences along, suggesting that damning proof of fraud was just around the corner. Which is why the comment from Barr stung so bad.
The comment effectively forced these right-wing stars to pick between acknowledging the reality Barr laid out or continuing Trump’s fantasy. Trump’s most devoted propagandists chose the latter. And so they started to throw Barr under the bus, just as they’ve done with every other conservative who has dared to contradict the president. (Think about how former conservative stars such as Jeff Sessions, Justin Amash, Paul Ryan, and others were treated when they didn’t blindly oblige Trump’s demands.)

“A liar or a fool or both”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, whose conspiratorial program is a favorite of the president, attacked Barr in brutal terms on his show. “For the attorney general of the United States to make that statement — he is either a liar or a fool or both,” Dobbs said. Dobbs then went further, suggesting Barr was “perhaps compromised.” He characterized Barr as having “appeared to join in with the radical Dems and the deep-state and the resistance.”
Dobbs wasn’t the only one. Newsmax host Greg Kelly, who has risen to fame in right-wing media circles in the last few weeks for suggesting Trump could emerge as the winner of the election, went after Barr on his show. “Some of us are wondering if he is a warrior with the Constitution or if he’s just a bureaucrat,” Kelly said. Kelly added that he “can’t believe” if Barr “looked for voter fraud he wouldn’t find any.” And Mark Levin said he “regret[ted] to say” that Barr’s comments were “misleading.”
The far-right blogs were even harsher. The Gateway Pundit, a fringe website which Trump has repeatedly promoted, published a post that said Barr had revealed himself as “totally deaf, dumb and blind.” The post went on to say that Barr’s “masquerade as someone opposed to the criminality of the Deep State” had been “exposed as a venal lie” and that he was a “fraud.” It concluded, “You either fix the damn corrupt system or we will abandon you…Our days of tolerating betrayal are over.”

Some hold fire

While Barr faced strong criticism from some notable names in right-wing media, others refrained from attacking him on Tuesday night. Notably, heavyweights Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity didn’t skewer the AG. It will be interesting over the next 24 hours if this anti-Barr narrative takes greater hold in the Trump-friendly media, or if it dissipates.

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – BarrieToday

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

The Associated Press

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Trump threatens defence veto over social media protections – CTV News

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WASHINGTON —
U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to veto a defence policy bill unless it ends protections for internet companies that shield them from being held liable for material posted by their users.

On Twitter Tuesday night, Trump took aim at Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that can host trillions of messages from being sued into oblivion by anyone who feels wronged by something someone else has posted — whether their complaint is legitimate or not.

Trump called Section 230 “a serious threat to our National Security & Election Integrity,” adding, “Therefore, if the very dangerous & unfair Section 230 is not completely terminated as part of the National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), I will be forced to unequivocally VETO the Bill.”

Trump has been waging war against social media companies for months, claiming they are biased against conservative voices.

In October he signed an executive order directing executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies.

Since losing the presidential election, Trump has flooded social media with unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. Twitter has tagged many such Trump tweets with the advisory, “This claim about election fraud is disputed.”

Tuesday’s veto threat is another potential roadblock for the passage of the annual defence policy measure, which is already being held up in Congress by a spat over military bases named for Confederate officers. The measure, which has passed for 59 years in a row on a bipartisan basis, guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, military personnel policy and other military goals.

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