Disappearances

How data-driven campaigning disconnected Democratic activists from their base; the security of couriers; and more.


  • Speaking to the press briefly at his Mar-a-Lago retreat on New Year’s Eve, President-elect Donald Trump has promised to reveal “things that other people don’t know” about alleged Russian hacking aimed at influencing the 2016 election, saying the information will be released today or tomorrow. As Maggie Haberman reports for the New York Times, he also claimed to know a lot about hacking, saying “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe, I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”

  • Related: Osama bin Laden relied on couriers, which is how the United States ultimately tracked him down.

  • It wasn’t the “Meerkat election,” but it could be the “Snapchat Presidency.” So writes New York Times columnist David Brooks in a perceptive column today. “His statements should probably be treated less like policy declarations and more like Snapchat. They exist to win attention at the moment, but then they disappear.” It’s almost amusing, but only if you don’t read to the end of his column.

  • Related: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declares, in his maiden speech as Senate minority leaders, that “America cannot afford a Twitter Presidency. We have real challenges and we need to get real things done. Many Americans are afraid, Mr. President-elect, that instead of rolling up your sleeves and forging serious policies … that, for you, Twitter suffices. There’s nothing wrong with using Twitter to speak to the American people. It’s a good use of modern technology. But these issues are complex and demand both careful consideration and action. We cannot tweet them away.”

  • Simon & Schuster has rewarded Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart.com’s technology editor, with a $250,000 book deal, despite his being banned from Twitter for racist harassment, Paul Bond reports for The Hollowed Reporter. Yiannopoulos commented, “”Every line of attack the forces of political correctness try on me fails pathetically. I’m more powerful, more influential and more fabulous than ever before, and this book is the moment Milo goes mainstream. Social justice warriors should be scared — very scared.”

  • The Chicago Review of Books tweeted, “In response to this disgusting validation of hate, we will not cover a single ‪@simonschuster book in 2017.”

  • With no advance notice, the House Republican conference voted last night to eliminate the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, subsuming responsibility for investigating ethics complaints inside the House Ethics Committee, which has a bipartisan history of ignoring same. As Daniel Schuman, the policy director of Demand Progress, notes, “With today’s action—taken behind closed doors and with no opportunity for public debate—the House now rolls back the clock to an era of corruption and decay. We will all be the worse for it.” He also points out that the House vote violated the GOP’s Pledge to America which included a promise to make bills available to the public for at least three days before a vote.

  • Media matters: Press-watcher Jay Rosen of NYU has an unflinching look at the weakened state of the American media today, and some sharp ideas about how to fix it. First, his diagnosis:

    Low trust all around, an emboldened and nationalist right wing that treats the press as natural enemy, the bill coming due for decades of coasting on a model in political reporting that worked well for “junkies” but failed to engage the rest of us, the strange and disorientating fact that reality itself seems to have become a weaker force in politics, the appeal of the “strong man” and his propaganda within an atmosphere of radical doubt, the difficulty of applying standard methods of journalism to a figure in power who is not trying to represent reality but to substitute himself for it as a show of strength, the unsuitability of prior routine as professionals in journalism try to confront these confusing conditions, a damaged economic base, weak institutional structure and newsroom mono-culture that hinders any creative response, and a dawning recognition that freedom of the press is a fragile state, not a constitutional certainty.

     

  • Related: Don’t miss Washington Post investigative reporter David Farenthold’s retrospective on how he covered Trump in 2016, including the blow-by-blow details of how he crowdsourced the provenance of two portraits of the billionaire that he used Trump Foundation money to pay for.

  • Here’s how a fake news story about African migrants in Italy supposedly causing an meningitis epidemic in Tuscany spread online, as unraveled by Alberto Nardelli, BuzzFeed Europe editor.

  • More for the history books: This long essay in N+1 by Daniel Schlozman delves further into the problematic ways that data-driven campaigning has disconnected many Democratic activists from their base, while empowering technocrats and careerists.

  • Government-directed internet outages “became the rule rather than the exception” in Africa in 2016, Abdi Latif Dahir reports for Quartz Africa.

  • This is civic tech: The Internet Archive is hosting a White House Social Media and Gov Data Hackathon this Saturday in San Francisco. They’ll be working with White House social media data, government web data, and data from election-related collections.

  • Writing in CityLab, Carter Dougherty says the heart of New York’s Silicon Alley is financial tech.