Manipulation Again

Further to the articles on “Manipulation of Elections by Hacking”  and  “Hacking and Elections” here is some more of the same.

From the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby (or, if not, from a clever hacker who goes by that name):

The city getting rich from fake news

Goran – not his real name by the way, he’s not confident enough to reveal that – is one of scores, or probably hundreds of Macedonian teenagers who are behind a cottage industry in the small city of Veles which churned out fake pro-Trump news during the US election campaign. Goran began putting up sensationalist stories, usually plagiarised from right-wing American sites, last summer.

After copying and pasting various articles, he packaged them under a catchy new headline, paid Facebook to share it with a target US audience hungry for Trump news and then when those Americans clicked on his stories and began to like and share them, he began earning revenue from advertising on the site. Goran says he worked on the fakery for only a month and earned about 1,800 euros (£1,500) – but his mates, he claims, have been earning thousands of euros a day. When I ask him if he worries that his false news might have unfairly influenced voters in America, he scoffs.

“Teenagers in our city don’t care how Americans vote,” he laughs. “They are only satisfied that they make money and can buy expensive clothes and drinks!”

So is Donald Trump the Macedonian Candidate, or has he been tweeted into the White House by a conspiracy between the Russians, the Chinese, and the Iranians?

And from BBC Trending (or someone else with the same name): The rise and rise of fake news.

15 Responses

  1. Campbell, do you really believe your fellow citizens are that stupid and, if so, why would you want to put governance directly into their hands? And why are stories gleaned from right-wing websites automatically viewed as fake? Besides which, studies of recent UK elections have refuted the argument that the elections have been swung by biased reporting by the likes of News International — the evidence indicates that the media (both MSM and new) track voter preferences rather than exercising a key role in changing them. People tend to vote for a person or party who they think will pursue their interests and are not as open to manipulation as the followers of Antonio Gramsci would have us believe.


  2. The establishment and its news outlets issuing warnings about fake news is just a bit more ironic as the West issuing warnings about human rights abuses.

    Relatedly, the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby doesn’t indicate that she made any attempt to verify the claims made to her by her informant of outrageous profits (mostly supposedly made by third parties). The bar for credibility is very flexible, depending on the extent to which the story fits the establishment narrative.


  3. >”Campbell do you really believe…”
    >” Emma Jane Kirby doesn’t indicate that she made any attempt to verify the claims”
    Who cares what I believe? I posted the links because I thought people on this blog might like to know about these articles. So too for the article by Epstein and the one on Sepulveda. Whether you believe them or not is your business.
    There’s more related stuff at
    and at


  4. >Who cares what I believe?

    It does matter, as your beliefs affect how you would design a sortition procedure. There appear to be three primary views:

    1. Sortition is in order to stop stupid and gullible electors being manipulated by sinister interests (the perspective implied by this post).

    2. Sortition is in order to overcome rational ignorance (my perspective)

    3. Sortition is in order that the interests of the masses should predominate over the elite (Yoram’s perspective).

    I assume you believe (1), otherwise you would not have posted this on a sortition forum.


  5. The interest in the reporting about “fake news” is not in what’s in the stories but in the way they reflect the establishment’s clumsy attempts to explain the public’s rejection of the establishment’s agenda. The notion that this agenda is itself the problem cannot be accepted, it must be something else – racism, sexism, Macedonians, Putin, take your pick.


  6. >”I assume you believe (1),”
    You do far too much assuming about what I believe.


  7. Campbell,

    >You do far too much assuming about what I believe.

    Then why did you post it on this forum, if you don’t believe it has any relevance to the debate on sortition?


  8. Keith,
    I’ve already told you. End of conversation.


  9. *** Keith Sutherland distinguished (December 9) three views about the benefits of sortition, opposed to mass vote : against manipulation by sinister interests, against rational ignorance, against elite dominance.
    *** Others could be added. But anyway all these benefits are « secondary effects », they are the results of the same basic benefit : sortition allows serious deliberation, whereas (except maybe exceptional cases) mass vote excludes serious deliberation. Serious deliberation does not exclude effects of manipulation, ignorance, dominance, inherited bias, opinion waves etc. It does not exclude them, but it minimizes them. That is the basic reason that, given the complexity of modern societies, a modern dêmokratia has to be a democracy-through-minipublics.
    *** Maybe some proponents of sortition are more interested by some secondary effect than by another one. But they will come together.


  10. *** Yoram Gat analysis (December 9) is convincing. The « establishment » – i.e the main elites when they cooperate – does not accept popular rejection, and explains it by disqualifying factors, including complots.
    *** Clearly complots do exist, but usually their effects are limited. « Complotism », i.e. exagerating the occurrence of complots and their consequences, is usually dismissed by the political elite and the culture elite, because they are natural targets for complotism ; but their fear and contempt for « populist » waves they did not foresee lead them to engage into complotist mindset.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. > their fear and contempt for « populist » waves they did not foresee

    A spectre is haunting the West — the spectre of Populism. All the established powers in the West have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: U.S. Democrats and Republicans, French Leftists and German bankers, Australian academics and Belgian authors.

    Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as populistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of populism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?

    Two things result from this fact:

    I. Populism is already acknowledged by all Western powers to be a powerful movement.

    II. It is high time that Populists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish their views, their aims, their tendencies, and meet this nursery tale of the Spectre of Populism with a manifesto of the movement itself…


  12. From Deutsche Welle

    « German lawmaker Patrick Sensburg, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), said in an interview with DW on Tuesday that the government needs to consider “ratcheting up the statutory offenses” against fake news producers and “take action against the people who run these websites.”

    Several German politicians have called for legal measures to combat the growing phenomenon online, with Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) saying “we must stand together” against fake news and “social [media] bots.” »


  13. Andre,

    >sortition allows serious deliberation

    A group constituted by any method could allow serious deliberation, but sortition does not ipso facto lend itself to deliberation. And there is no reason, in principle, that a body appointed by mass voting should not engage in serious deliberation. The leading collection on the topic is Deliberative Mini-Publics (ECPR Press) and the title indicates that minipublics could operate along other lines. Deliberative democracy is a set of procedural norms that have been honed as a result of decades of research and practice, and there’s no reason at all to believe that a randomly-selected group of persons would automatically assume a deliberative style (the claim of some commentators on this forum who are content to create a representative sample and leave everything to them). Depending on the style of deliberation, one or other of the three “secondary” benefits that I outlined (9 December) would be privileged.


    >Populists should openly, in the face of the whole world, publish . . . a manifesto of the movement itself.

    What would the manifesto look like? Could Bernie Sanders, the Tea Party, UKIP, Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen come to a mutual agreement?


  14. *** I think that, for kleroterians who are supporters of the democracy-through-minipublics, it is interesting to consider the phenomena of « populism », and, first, to circumscribe them intellectually. I would propose to define the “class” of populisms, as movements, by four criteria.
    *** First criterion: they occur in a society where there is at least a minimal political life and no acknowledged sovereign, as an ancient republic or a modern polyarchy.
    *** Second criterion: the movements are directed against a specific dominant elite, or an “establishment” of strongly interconnected elites, which is considered as controlling the political power in its own moral and material interests.
    *** Third criterion: the society is widely seen as being morally a community of citizens, a dêmos/people (singular)/peuple/pueblo/populus – the last (Latin) word being the etymology of populism. The populist movement may therefore accuses the elite of some kind of treason of a common good.
    *** Fourth criterion: the movement does not present itself as putting into power a new elite, even better of nearer the people. That excludes for instance “totalitarian” movements, or most reactionary ones.
    *** If this definition is accepted, it is clear that populisms may be very diverse, with different agendas.
    *** As for the political system, there are three outcomes.
    *** First, we can get a personal tyranny, as was the Pisistratus regime in 6th century Athens, which the Athenian people remembered fondly, whatever the hostility to tyranny the Athenian dêmos nourished after the advent of democracy.
    *** Second, we could get a transition to dêmokratia. That may be the origin of some Greek democracies. But we cannot describe this way the process which was the origin of the Athenian democracy, born from a feud inside the (nobiliary) elite.
    *** Third, we can keep the same political system, only with a change in the equilibrium of forces. In France this is apparently the common aim of the two populist movements, the rightist Front National of Marine Le Pen, the leftish Parti de Gauche de Mélenchon. Both movements propose wide use of referenda and proportional representation, both reject the idea of minipublics.
    *** But note that the idea of minipublics may be specially strong in the popular bases of these parties. When Ségolène Royal proposed (2006) minipublics overseeing the elected representatives, it was approved by a majority of polled citizens, but specially by electors of Front National (not by Le Pen – then Le Pen Father!). Given the populist trend of the party under his daughter’s leadership, the appeal of minipublics among its electorate must be even stronger now. Mélenchon was not a populist leader at this time, but it seems from internet that among his supporters there are a number of minipublics suscribers .
    *** That said, the one leading French politicians heading somewhat, cautiously, to the minipublic model are Macron and Montebourg; not populist leaders, but eccentric members of the Establishment. Note that Montebourg’ themes (against global free trade, against the European Posted Workers Directive) have some common points with the populist movements.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Andre,

    >the origin of the Athenian democracy, born from a feud inside the (nobiliary) elite.

    >one leading French politicians heading somewhat, cautiously, to the minipublic model are Macron and Montebourg; not populist leaders, but eccentric members of the Establishment.

    This would certainly support Peter Stone’s argument that significant political changes have always originated within the political class. The claim that sortition will be the result of a popular uprising indicates the long tail of the soixante-huitard delusion. Unfortunately some people never learn from experience and a tiny handful of them peddle this unhistorical nonsense on this blog. This sort of irresponsible sloganising damages the chance of implementing sortition in the real world (as opposed to the fairytale world of neo-Marxist theory).


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