Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America  (New York: Tim Duggan Books, 2018):
Trump's advance to the Oval Office had three stages, each of which depended upon American vulnerability and required American cooperation. First, Russians had to transform a failed real estate developer into a recipient of their capital. Second, this failed real estate developer had to portray, on American television, a successful businessman. Finally, Russia intervened with purpose and success to support the fictional character 'Donald Trump, successful businessman' in the 2016 presidential election.
Throughout the exercise, Russians knew what was fact and what was fiction. Russians knew Trump for what he was: not the 'VERY successful businessman' of his tweets but an American loser who became a Russian tool. Although Americans might dream otherwise, no one who mattered in Moscow believed that Trump was a powerful tycoon. Russian money had saved him from the fate that would normally await anyone with his record of failure.
Id. at 219.
Unlike Russians, Americans tend to get their news from the internet. According to one survey, 44% of Americans get their news from a single internet platform: Facebook. The interactivity the internet creates an impression of mental effort while impeding reflection. The internet is an attention economy, which means that profit-seeking platforms are designed to divide the attention of their users into the smallest possible units that can be exploited by advertising messages. If news is to appear on such platforms, it must be tailored to fit a brief attention span and arouse the hunger for reinforcement. News that draws viewers tends toward a neutral path between prejudice and outrage. When each day is devoted to emotional venting about supposed enemies, the present becomes endless, eternal. In these conditions, a fictional candidate enjoyed a considerable advantage.
Id. at 247-248.