by baldilocks

Yesterday was April Fools’ Day and it was fun to watch on various online platforms as known friends and associates plastered various outrageous statements on their accounts. Much of it was political in nature and, because most of my associates are conservative, a lot of it involved switching to the Democrat Party and endorsing Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. My standard response to every blatant April Fools’ joke was, “not today.”

One friend said that he would not believe anything that anyone posted yesterday. A wise, energy-saving attitude.Liar

Lately, I’ve been thinking that the above attitude might be a way of navigating during the other 364-5 days. Perhaps one should disbelieve everything one reads, but view memes/ideas/phenomena/personae with the eyes of a skeptic. I suppose this idea should have been a constant mental shield from as far back as CBS’s Rathergate, but one doesn’t want to believe that everything is Bravo Sierra.

I certainly don’t want to. However, I’m almost forced to believe that too much of what enters into our minds is fabricated. Consider this piece from the New York Times, dated July 21, 2015:

St. Mary Parish is home to many processing plants for chemicals and natural gas, and keeping track of dangerous accidents at those plants is Arthur’s job [Duval Arthur, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for St. Mary Parish, Louisiana]. But he hadn’t heard of any chemical release that morning [September 11, 2014]. In fact, he hadn’t even heard of Columbia Chemical. St. Mary Parish had a Columbian Chemicals plant, which made carbon black, a petroleum product used in rubber and plastics. But he’d heard nothing from them that morning, either. Soon, two other residents called and reported the same text message. Arthur was worried: Had one of his employees sent out an alert without telling him?

If Arthur had checked Twitter, he might have become much more worried. Hundreds of Twitter accounts were documenting a disaster right down the road. “A powerful explosion heard from miles away happened at a chemical plant in Centerville, Louisiana #ColumbianChemicals,” a man named Jon Merritt tweeted. The #ColumbianChemicals hashtag was full of eyewitness accounts of the horror in Centerville. @AnnRussela shared an image of flames engulfing the plant. @Ksarah12 posted a video of surveillance footage from a local gas station, capturing the flash of the explosion. Others shared a video in which thick black smoke rose in the distance.


In St. Mary Parish, Duval Arthur quickly made a few calls and found that none of his employees had sent the alert. He called Columbian Chemicals, which reported no problems at the plant. Roughly two hours after the first text message was sent, the company put out a news release, explaining that reports of an explosion were false. When I called Arthur a few months later, he dismissed the incident as a tasteless prank, timed to the anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Personally I think it’s just a real sad, sick sense of humor,” he told me. “It was just someone who just liked scaring the daylights out of people.” Authorities, he said, had tried to trace the numbers that the text messages had come from, but with no luck. (The F.B.I. told me the investigation was still open.)

The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention. The perpetrators didn’t just doctor screenshots from CNN; they also created fully functional clones of the websites of Louisiana TV stations and newspapers. The YouTube video of the man watching TV had been tailor-made for the project. A Wikipedia page was even created for the Columbian Chemicals disaster, which cited [a] fake YouTube video. As the virtual assault unfolded, it was complemented by text messages to actual residents in St. Mary Parish. It must have taken a team of programmers and content producers to pull off.

It’s a very long layout of a Russian-based agency dedicated to trolling.

Of Course, we all know what the purpose of trolling is: to get under the skin of non-trolls, usually political/social/religious enemies. But one of the most importantly things that purposeful trolling does is to skew the conversation and, therefore, any reasonable view of any matter under discussion. Individual trolls can do this, if one “feeds” it–that is engage it in conversation.

Imagine the distorted view that an entire organization of trolls can create–an organization whose business model is built on twisting views and building “reality” out of thin air.

The Enemy is the Father of lies and his wiles are many. And I’ll bet that many of us have been fooled more times than we know of; fooled by elaborate, well-designed architectures of lies–and I definitely do not leave mainstream information dispensaries out of this equation, as I mentioned already.

It makes me want to shut my computer off forever. But I won’t…not yet, anyway.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.

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One of the easiest ways to produce clicks short of a promise of nude Kate Upton photos on a site is gotcha videos of people being stupid or ignorant.

The way it normally works is this:

Interviewer asks man on the street, on campus etc questions that a moderately educated person would presumably know.

Intervieweee gives answer indicating they have no idea what interviewer is talking about but are doing their best to fake it

People on TV laugh at them and have their superiority confirmed.

Now the social implications  of taking joy in another’s ignorance is a post for another day but the bottom line reality is most people are too busy or too wrapped up in real life to pay attention to history or current events.  You dear reader are part of a niche that cares about news and what’s happening in the world.  That’s why you’re here.

By extension those in the news profession are a smaller subset of that niche.  Because they are paid to report and know things when they prove to be ignorant about certain things laughter is justifiable.  It’s their job to know and inform the rest of us.  That’s by the way is why media bias is so insidious, it’s designed to purposely keep us ignorant of facts that contradict their worldview.

Now if those of us who are interested in information are a niche, and those in the news profession are a smaller part of that niche, then in a republic like ours our Senators and Congressmen & women are an even smaller subset of that niche.

Their job is to not only know about things but to make decisions based on that knowledge to the betterment of hundreds of millions.  They are bombarded with information and their ability to act on it is the basis for our support of them.

That’s why I absolutely love the this story about Senator Dianne Feinstein on Hillary Clinton:

Golly, I forget what bills she’s been part of or authored. I didn’t really come prepared to discuss this,” Feinstein said in a meeting with the Chronicle’s editorial board to discuss her new water plan for the drought-stricken California. “But she’s been a good senator. There are things outside of bills that you can do, and I know that she’s done them for her state.”

Feinstein explained that because Clinton had served for such a short time – she served for nearly a decade, from 2001-2009 – she wasn’t able to gain the seniority necessary in the Senate to get things done.

Now remember Senator Feinstein has been a professional feminist for decades.  She has been deep in the political world for a long time both on the state and the federal level.  If there is anyone who might be should be able to rattle off the accomplishments of Hillary Clinton without thinking hard it would be someone like her.  As Hotair put it about Feinstein

Assuming she’s still of sound mind, one would imagine that any major accomplishments of such a nationally famous figure would just leap off of her tongue. But essentially in the same breath, Feinstein turns around and pretty much admits that Clinton didn’t do anything because… she wasn’t there long enough? It was nearly a decade… how much time does one need to dig into the job and get things moving, particularly when the Senator in question is so well connected? Elizabeth Warren hasn’t been on the job for all that long and she pretty much drove through the creation of an entire new department.

The fact is that Feinstein isn’t the first to fumble this question and she won’t be the last. The reason is that Hillary Clinton has accomplished essentially nothing in terms of governmental action in her entire career.

We have laughed about voters and Hillary supporter not being able to name a Clinton accomplishment but they are in essence part of the General public so one might excuse that ignorance.  We have marveled at bloggers and then professional reporters not being able to name Clinton accomplishments, and rightly so, because they are part of the information niche that should know better.

But for a Sitting US senator and professional feminist, someone at the top of the information chain, someone who was elected to the Senate the year Bill Clinton entered the White House and has been in politics since 1970 to not be able to rattle off a list of accomplishments to justify electing Hillary president tells you that Mrs. Clinton hasn’t got any.

There are plenty of people who will argue that the candidacy of Donald Trump is a con game, an exercise in narcissism, the election of a person who is completely faking it on issues and knowledge with no accomplishments in the political world.

I submit and suggest that while there may be justification for that argument, the same point can be equally made concerning the election of Hillary Clinton and unlike Mr. Trump, she doesn’t have the excuse of spending a lifetime outside the political niche.

God help us all.


I’m back trying to get that elusive $61 a day for DaTipJar but lately I haven’t reported on my progress. Part of it has been I’ve been busy but the other part being the reports for March would be rather depressing.

If we made our $61 a day my annual Tip jar would come into today at $5185, it currently stands at $2857. That’s a deficit of $2328 an increase of nearly $1000 this month.

Or to put it bluntly As of March 26, we’ve made our goal up to Feb 15th a full 29 days behind our goal.

And it’s not due to a lack of traffic, our number in March remain consistent with the blog’s recovery from our previous doldrums as of today we are over 10,000 visits ahead of last March and on a pace to nearly meet March 2014 the final month before our unexpected traffic crash began.

As I’ve said I’d like to think we do good work here If you’d like to help us keep up the pace please consider hitting DaTipJar

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