Donald Trump is being paid millions of dollars by the Russian government, according to ABC News, showing why he’s been deferential to Vladimir Putin. “October Surprise: ABC Uncovers ‘Millions’ of Payments From Russia To Trump,” blares the headline from one outlet.
Hillary Clinton told the Des Moines Register that when she’s elected president she’ll take away your guns. “I will get the NRA shut down for good if I become president,” she told the paper in August 2015. “If we can ban handguns, we will do it.”
Oh, and did you know Chelsea Clinton is married to George Soros’s nephew?
There’s only two things wrong with those stories: They are outright lies and the mainstream media outlets that supposedly reported them never did. They were made up “facts” that have found their way around the internet and given life among the true believers on either side who post them on social media for other like-minded conspiracy theorists to spread.
Welcome to 21st century electioneering, where false rumors and innuendo spread with the click of a button and remain available for, well, ever. Connectivity and technology were supposed to give us access to information but instead have fostered a rumor mill that no one can keep up with. Fake posts, memes, and stories feed the ideological echo chamber of both sides who want to believe and take what they see online as the truth – as long as it aligns with their beliefs.
On social media, especially Facebook, conspiracy theories and the darkest beliefs about candidates emanate from websites that look real but were created – in many cases just in the last couple years – for the sole purpose of cutting out the legs of a candidate or party. World Politicus, Bipartisan Report, Freedom Daily, and Addicting Info are just some of the sites garnering thousands of eyeballs and shares on a regular basis.
Never mind that the posts are baseless; they become embedded in the minds of those who take them as gospel because they confirm their own suspicions, facts be damned. A recent Pew Research poll found not only are voters divided over policy, candidates, and issues, 81 percent don’t even agree on “basic facts.”
The website Buzzfeed did an analysis of a week’s worth of stories comparing what was in the mainstream media compared to these partisan websites. The analysis found regular news outlets got the facts right nearly 95 percent of the time while the ideologically slanted outlets on either side got it right more or less half the time and often with some embellishment.
It’s a trend that is trickling down to the local level as well. In the acrimonious race for Barnstable County sheriff, the incumbent, Republican James Cummings, posted a vague charge on Facebook that his Democratic challenger Randy Azzato, a part-time Department of Correction employee, may have recently changed his employment status with DOC. Cummings insinuated there are some dark marks on his employment record.
“We also have information that his personnel file and internal affairs investigations contain several negative findings against Mr. Azzato during the time he has been employed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said the Cummings official Facebook page.
Azzato responded in kind on his Facebook page, accusing Cummings’ underlings of stalking a supporter of his and intimidating campaign workers.
While the internet was supposed to make it easier to fetch and digest information, it is becoming a vessel for spreading lies. Social media is increasingly becoming the source of news for people, according to numerous studies, making it fertile ground for planting seeds of dishonesty. And the sites know how to draw clicks and ensure sharing.
It should all come with a warning. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t believe everything you see on the internet.”
State Rep. Brian Dempsey, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and potential heir to the Speaker’s post, has the fattest warchest of any House member, with $550,000 on hand. (Boston Herald)
Lowell-area lawmakers vow to give contributions they received from Rep. Garrett Bradley and other lawyers at the Thornton Law Firm to charity after reports that the firm reimbursed lawyers for the donations they made. (Lowell Sun)
Gov. Charlie Baker says having a downtown development plan in Worcester has made all the difference in convincing business officials to invest. (Masslive)
A Framingham police detective who was placed on leave filed a federal suit against the police chief and the town claiming he was the victim of retaliation for filing a corruption charge against the department with the FBI. (MetroWest Daily News)
This summer’s drought dropped the water level in a pond in Brockton’s D.W. Field Park to reveal a car that that had apparently been at the bottom for years without being noticed before. Police said no human remains were found in the wreck. (The Enterprise)
An insurance company will pay most of the $388,000 cost of replacing the turf field at Lawrence’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, which was ruined after an event. (Eagle-Tribune)
The Gloucester Times obtains some internal correspondence regarding the the dismissal of police chief Leonard Campanello, but the documents raise more questions than they answer.
The talk around Boston City Hall is that longtime South Boston district City Councilor Bill Linehan may step down from his seat. (Boston Globe)
Two police officers were shot and killed in Iowa early Wednesday morning in what officials terms were “ambush-style attacks.” (New York Times)
In a troubling sign for Hillary Clinton, black turnout is down in early voting in some of the key battleground states, which many are attributing to the absence of President Obama on the ballot. (New York Times) But Obama is upping his presence on the campaign trail to try to close the enthusiasm gap separating black voters from Clinton. (Boston Herald)
Projections still give Clinton the edge, but a key economic indicator looks favorable for Donald Trump. (Boston Herald)
A pro-Clinton super PAC is returning $250,000 it received from a charity helmed by Boston construction executive John Fish because such nonprofits are prohibited from making political donations. (Boston Globe)
Democrats are holding onto a slim advantage in their hopes of regaining control of the Senate. (Boston Globe)
Joe Battenfeld calls out the media for hypocrisy, saying the guardians of the Fourth Estate are blistering FBI director James Comey for, of all things, transparency.
There is a lot on the line next Tuesday for Gov. Charlie Baker, even though his name won’t appear on the ballot. (Boston Globe)
Moody’s Investor Services says Boston and three other cities could face credit downgrades if the ballot question raising the state’s charter school cap passes. (Boston Globe) Brian Gill, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research, suggests raising the charter cap could actually help district schools. (CommonWealth) Despite a flier by pro-charter forces suggesting otherwise, President Obama has not endorsed a yes vote on Question 2. (WBUR) Jeff Jacoby says don’t just raise the charter school cap, eliminate it. (Boston Globe) US Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes Question 2. (MassLive) A single mother in Brighton says winning a charter school lottery may have saved her son’s life. (Boston Globe)
Cardinal Sean O’Malley speaks out against the marijuana legalization ballot question, which the archdiocese has committed $850,000 to defeating. (Boston Herald)
Evan Falchuk’s United Independent Party may have lost its official party status, but Falchuk isn’t going away. He doesn’t rule out running against Secretary of State William Galvin. (MassLive)
MassMutual lays off 150 people around the country as a result of its MetLife deal. (MassLive)
Suffolk University is pledging to address “microaggressions” among faculty after a blog post went viral written by a Latina student who says a professor doubted some wording in a paper she submitted, writing it was “not your language.” (Boston Globe)
A growing number of experts say the portrayal of e-cigarettes as dangerous is dissuading many smokers from using the devices which are far safer than tobacco and could help save lives. (New York Times)
Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch is seeking proposals from engineering firms to develop a master transportation plan as the city deals with traffic and parking problems with a development boom as well as increased pedestrian safety issues highlighted by at least four deaths so far this year. (Patriot Ledger)
US District Court Judge Mark Wolf seems open to the idea of releasing ailing former House speaker Sal DiMasi early from prison — though he made lots of comments at a hearing yesterday about the need to apply the law evenly and not accord the former powerful pol special treatment. (Boston Globe)
A Provincetown man who had faced charges in a string of arson fires in the Cape Cod town that were later dropped because the statute of limitations ran out and one count was dropped for lack of probable cause is suing the town and officials for libel, slander, false imprisonment, and a slew of other civil rights violations. (Cape Cod Times)
The secretary of state’s office has charged a Hingham man with running a “classic Ponzi scheme” that officials say defrauded family members and neighbors out of more than a half-million dollars that he spent on himself. (Patriot Ledger)
The Worcester City Council seems to look favorably on launching mounted police patrols. (Telegram & Gazette)