Archives for category: Fake News

Donald Trump may be the most litigious person in the United States. On March 24, 2022, Trump filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and various Democratic Party leaders for engaging in a conspiracy against him in 2016. The federal judge tossed the case out yesterday.

Believe me, this is a fun read. The judge is frankly mystified by the legal reasoning and the lack of evidence.

Here is the beginning:

I. BACKGROUND
Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on March 24, 2022, alleging that “the Defendants, blinded by political ambition, orchestrated a malicious conspiracy to disseminate patently false and injurious information about Donald J. Trump and his campaign, all in the hopes of destroying his life, his political career and rigging the 2016 Presidential Election in favor of Hillary Clinton.” (DE 177, Am. Compl. ¶ 9). On this general premise, Plaintiff brings a claim for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), predicated on the theft of trade secrets,

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obstruction of justice, and wire fraud (Count I). He additionally brings claims for: injurious falsehood (Count III); malicious prosecution (Count V); violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) (Count VII); theft of trade secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 (“DTSA”) (Count VIII); and violations of the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) (Count IX). The Amended Complaint also contains counts for various conspiracy charges and theories of agency and vicarious liability. (Counts II, IV, VI, and X–XVI).
Plaintiff’s theory of this case, set forth over 527 paragraphs in the first 118 pages of the Amended Complaint, is difficult to summarize in a concise and cohesive manner. It was certainly not presented that way. Nevertheless, I will attempt to distill it here.
The short version: Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants “[a]cting in concert . . . maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 1). The Defendants effectuated this alleged conspiracy through two core efforts. “[O]n one front, Perkins Coie partner Mark Elias led an effort to produce spurious ‘opposition research’ claiming to reveal illicit ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.” (Id. ¶ 3). To that end, Defendant Hillary Clinton and her campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and lawyers for the Campaign and the Committee allegedly hired Defendant Fusion GPS to fabricate the Steele Dossier. (Id. ¶ 4). “[O]n a separate front, Perkins Coie partner Michael Sussman headed a campaign to develop misleading evidence of a bogus ‘back channel’ connection between e-mail servers at Trump Tower and a Russian- owned bank.” (Id.). Clinton and her operatives allegedly hired Defendant Rodney Joffe to exploit his access to Domain Name Systems (“DNS”) data, via Defendant Neustar, to investigate and ultimately manufacture a suspicious pattern of activity between Trump-related servers and a Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin, Alfa Bank. (Id. ¶ 3). As a result of this “fraudulent
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evidence,” the Federal Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”) commenced “several large-scale investigations,” which were “prolonged and exacerbated by the presence of a small faction of Clinton loyalists who were well-positioned within the Department of Justice”—Defendants James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Kevin Clinesmith, and Bruce Ohr. (Id. ¶ 7). And while this was ongoing, the Defendants allegedly “seized on the opportunity to publicly malign Donald J. Trump by instigating a full-blown media frenzy.” (Id. ¶ 6). As a result of this “multi-pronged attack,” Plaintiff claims to have amassed $24 million in damages.1 (Id. ¶ 527).
Defendants now move to dismiss the Amended Complaint as “a series of disconnected political disputes that Plaintiff has alchemized into a sweeping conspiracy among the many individuals Plaintiff believes to have aggrieved him.” (DE 226 at 1). They argue that dismissal is warranted because Plaintiff’s claims are both “hopelessly stale”—that is, foreclosed by the applicable statutes of limitations—and because they fail on the merits “in multiple independent respects.” (Id. at 2). As they view it, “[w]hatever the utilities of [the Amended Complaint] as a fundraising tool, a press release, or a list of political grievances, it has no merit as a lawsuit.” (Id.). I agree. In the discussion that follows, I first address the Amended Complaint’s structural deficiencies. I then turn to subject matter jurisdiction and the personal jurisdiction arguments raised by certain Defendants. Finally, I assess the sufficiency of the allegations as to each of the substantive counts.

I had not planned to write anything more about the child who was raped in Ohio, became pregnant with the rapist’s semen, but had to go to Indiana for an abortion. But then someone wrote a comment here implying that the whole story sounded like fake news. As I showed in my original post, there have been many reports of children who were raped and impregnated. Some got abortions. Others did not.

I’m old-fashioned. I don’t think children should be raped. If they are, they should not bear a child. It’s monstrous. The rapist should be found and punished. In my limited view, those who want a 10-year-old child to have a baby are sadists.

In the Ohio case, Republicans jumped all over the story and called it fake news. It was not. The right showed themselves to be heartless, cruel fools.

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times reports how the Right humiliated themselves in their eagerness to discredit the story and the child.

She writes:

Not long after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, an Indiana obstetrician and gynecologist named Caitlin Bernard told The Indianapolis Star about a call she’d gotten from a doctor in Ohio. The Ohio doctor had a 10-year-old patient who was six weeks and three days pregnant. An Ohio law banning abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected — usually around the sixth week of pregnancy — had just gone into effect, so the girl needed to cross state lines for care. The report, being illustrative of the ghoulish impact of abortion prohibitions, went viral, and Joe Biden mentioned it in a speech.

The right, however, quickly convinced itself that the tale was dubious and probably false. The conservative website PJ Media claimed, last Friday, that the account had “many of the elements of a hoax.” On Monday, Ohio’s Republican attorney general, Dave Yost, went on Fox News to say that he knew of no police reports about a 10-year-old rape victim. “The more you learn about this, the more unbelievable it becomes,” said the host, Jesse Watters.

A Wall Street Journal editorial on Tuesday described the report as “fanciful,” noting that “no one has been able to identify the girl or where she lives,” as if that information should be public. “Hey, so did they catch the guy who raped the Ohio ten year old yet?” the National Review writer Michael Brendan Dougherty tweeted last week, seemingly sarcastically.

The answer to Dougherty’s question is now yes. Officials say that a 27-year-old named Gerson Fuentes was arrested on Tuesday and has confessed. The children’s services department in Columbus alerted the police about the rape in June. Rather than apologize to Caitlin Bernard for calling her a liar, many on the right have started attacking her for not reporting the rape herself, even though the police already knew about it by the time she saw the girl.

On Wednesday, Watters displayed a photograph of Bernard and said, “According to reporting from PJ Media, she has a history of failing to report child abuse cases.” Then Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, appeared on Watters’s show, describing Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” and announcing she was under investigation.

It looks like the only thing Bernard did wrong, though, is to embarrass Republicans. On Thursday afternoon, The Star reported that Bernard reported the abortion to the Indiana Department of Health and the Department of Child Services, as state law requires. In a statement, her lawyer said she’s considering legal action against Rokita and others who have “smeared” her.

This whole hideous episode has demonstrated the extent to which conservatives are unwilling to grapple with the reality of the abortion regime they are imposing on much of the country. There is nothing wrong with seeing a single-source news report and deciding you want to withhold judgment until more information emerges. But that’s not what happened here. Instead there was sneering incredulity, as if a raped 10-year-old being denied an abortion wasn’t an inevitable consequence of an abortion ban without a rape exception.

Surely right-wingers, who love to accuse their enemies of pedophilia, understand that children are raped in America. The Columbus Dispatch, which broke the news of Fuentes’s arrest, reported that there were 52 abortions performed on children 15 and under in Ohio in 2020, roughly one a week in just one state.

In countries that have banned abortion, there have been a number of high-profile cases of very young pregnant rape victims. In Nicaragua in 2003, feminist activists fought to help a 9-year-old obtain a therapeutic abortion. When it emerged that she’d been raped by her stepfather, the activists faced legal harassment over accusations that they’d helped cover up the crime.

Just this year, a judge in Brazil tried to block an abortion for an 11-year-old who had been raped. “Do you want to choose the baby’s name?” he asked her. “Would the baby’s father agree to give it up for adoption? Would you bear it a little longer?” Why would anyone think that similar laws won’t lead to similar results here?

It’s been especially maddening to see people on the right smugly insist that the girl in Ohio could have had a legal abortion in her state. In a New York Post column casting doubt on the story, the law professor Jonathan Turley wrote, “Ohio says abortions are allowed ‘to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,’ which would certainly be the case for a 10-year-old.”

His certainty is entirely unearned. The Ohio law actually saysthat abortion is permitted only in cases of “medical emergency” requiring the “immediate performance or inducement of an abortion” in order to prevent death or irreversible bodily harm that “delay in the performance or inducement of the abortion would create.” This language is vague and open to interpretation. It’s obvious to me that a pregnant 10-year-old is an immediate medical emergency. But if you were an abortion provider in Ohio, would you stake your career, and perhaps your freedom, on prosecutors like Yost giving you the benefit of the doubt?

“If states write laws that are completely vague about what the requirements are, they can still have abortion on the books, but have an environment in which no physician is willing to provide it,” said the N.Y.U. law professor Melissa Murray.

Roe has been gone for less than three weeks, and the utterly predictable outcomes are already apparent. Today.com reportedon a woman in Arizona who learned at 21 weeks that her wanted pregnancy was unviable, but whose doctor is unable to induce an early delivery because of the Supreme Court’s decision. “I really can only describe it as feeling trapped,” she said.

As The Los Angeles Times reported, some patients are being denied methotrexate, a drug used to treat certain cancers and autoimmune conditions, because it’s an abortifacient. Medical professionals aren’t necessarily wrong to worry; according to the newspaper, “In Texas, dispensing methotrexate to someone who uses it to induce a miscarriage after 49 days of gestation is a felony.”

Abortions after about six weeks have been illegal in Texas since S.B. 8, the so-called abortion bounty law, took effect last year, and women have come forward to speak about the trauma they’ve had to endure. NPR reported on a woman named Anna whose water broke on her wedding day, when she was 19 weeks pregnant. The fetus had no chance of surviving, and Anna was at high risk of hemorrhaging or developing sepsis. But doctors said they couldn’t terminate the pregnancy until either the fetus’s heart stopped or her condition worsened. She ended up spending thousands of dollars to fly to Colorado for an abortion, sitting in the front row so she could reach the bathroom quickly in case she had to deliver.

If none of this is what anti-abortion lawmakers intended, nothing is stopping them from amending their laws. Ohio’s statute includes examples of medical emergencies in which abortion is permitted, including pre-eclampsia and prematurely ruptured membranes. If Republicans think “being a child rape victim” ought to be included as well, they should add it.

But they’re unlikely to, because the anti-abortion movement would object. On Thursday, James Bopp, general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, told Politico that under model legislation he’s written, the Ohio girl would have been forced to carry her pregnancy to term. “She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child,” he said.

This is, at least, honest. The fury directed at Caitlin Bernard suggests other conservatives aren’t as willing to admit what their laws do.

A regular reader who identifies himself as Joel wrote the following critique of the media’s negative narrative about the economy and crime. He was responding to the Robert Hubbell post about “the Media Doomsday Machine.”

So back in September the BLS [the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics] released the monthly Jobs number. A terribly disappointing 234,000 Jobs +- . It was disappointing because the same economic analysts who could not see a Housing Bubble bigger than the Stay Puff Marshmallow man had predicted 300,000 + . The fact that it was as high or higher than all but a handful of the previous 120 months never seemed to dawn on the talking heads. In October there were 677,000 Jobs added. And at the same time the number for October was adjusted 200,000 higher. It took the media all of 10 seconds to shift the narrative to “oh but inflation”
As stated by some CNBC talking head that day, inflation is an expectations game. If workers expect inflation they will ask for higher wages. If employers expect inflation they will charge more for goods and services. Inflation in September was all of 4.4 ,% high but not earth shaking. Then the (respectable) media ran stories of almost $6 dollar a gallon gas as if that was the norm. Of a Tex-ass couple who goes through 9 gallons of milk a week and was bankrupted by the cost (don’t ask about birth control). Of a Station owner in NJ who spends $1000s a week on gas for his 1970 muscle car and his 2000 Escalade.

Well the message was received, the expectation of inflation was created. Wages now contribute 8.5% of the inflationary spike. Raw materials and supply chain issues 27% of the inflation we see. And excess profits contribute 53% of the price hikes we are seeing. (EPI). It would seem the right people got the right message but it was not the American worker who in spite of all the hype does not have the power to demand wage increases on a broad based scale as they did in the past. In previous inflationary spikes inflation was driven 70% by wage increases . The media hype on inflation prior to the Ukraine war enabled corporations to profit vastly. The expectation was there. Corporate America hopped right on the band wagon. Don’t expect the corporate media to hop on board calling for an excess profits tax, or even to harp on those excess profits. Instead we will hear nonsense about low wage workers holding out for a living wage.

Was it a conscious conspiracy ? Probably not . Is it a combination of of group think and inferior reporting (IMHO) absolutely.

Moving on to Crime in NYC . In a nut shell if NYC was the safest big city in America in 2010 (according to Bloomberg) than how did it get unsafe in 2021 when every Crime Stat released by the NYPD is lower than 2010, when people felt the City was safe.

My favorite NYC crime category is rape. In 2021 there were 1491 reported rapes in NYC up from 1427 in 2020. Women be afraid be very afraid!!!. But wait there were 1755 in 2019 and 1791 rapes in 2018, when everyone thought the City was very safe.

The Right wing media generates a narrative and instead of countering it, the supposedly Liberal MSM run with the story. . Cowardly Democratic politicians who call themselves moderates hop right on board not wanting to seem like they are ignoring an issue.

If Trump was President every Republican would be calling inflation fake news and their Ivermectin downing base would be swallowing it hook line and sinker.

Tom Southern writes in WIRED about the spectacular collapse of Putin’s well-oiled disinformation machine after he ordered the invasion of Ukraine. Very few people—other than a small number of extremists on the right and the left—were fooled by his claims that he was “liberating” Ukraine from its “Nazi” government.

Southern writes:

FOR DECADES NOW, Vladimir Putin has slowly, carefully, and stealthily curated online and offline networks of influence. These efforts have borne lucrative fruit, helping Russia become far more influential than a country so corrupt and institutionally fragile had any right to be. The Kremlin and its proxies had economic holdings across Europe and Africa that would shame some of the smaller 18th-century empires. It had a vast network of useful idiots that it helped get elected and could count on for support, and it controlled much of the day-to-day narrative in multiple countries through online disinformation. And many people had no idea.

While a few big events like the US’ 2016 election and the UK’s Brexit helped bring this meddling to light, many remained unaware or unwilling to accept that Putin’s disinformation machine was influencing them on a wide range of issues. Small groups of determined activists tried to convince the world that the Kremlin had infiltrated and manipulated the economies, politics, and psychology of much of the globe; these warnings were mostly met with silence or even ridicule.

All that changed the moment Russian boots touched Ukrainian soil. Almost overnight, the Western world became overwhelmingly aware of the Kremlin’s activities in these fields, shattering the illusions that allowed Putin’s alternative, Kremlin-controlled information ecosystem to exist outside its borders. As a result, the sophisticated disinformation machinery Putin spent decades cultivating collapsed within days.

RUSSIA’S NETWORK OF influence was as complex as it was sprawling. The Kremlin has spent millions in terms of dollars and hours in Europe alone, nurturing and fostering the populist right (Italy, Hungary, Slovenia), the far right (Austria, France, Slovakia), and even the far left (Cyprus, Greece, Germany). For years, elected politicians in these and other countries have been standing up for Russia’s interests and defending Russia’s transgressions, often peddling Putin’s narratives in the process. Meanwhile, on televisions, computers, and mobile screens across the globe, Kremlin-run media such as RT, Sputnik, and a host of aligned blogs and “news” websites helped spread an alternative view of the real world. Though often marginal in terms of reach in and of themselves (with some notable exceptions, such as Sputnik Mundo), they performed a key role in spreading disinformation to audiences in and outside of Russia.

Please open the link and finish this important article.

Pro Publica warns about the fake news and doctored videos that are circulating on the Internet. While some are pro-Ukrainian, most are designed to support Putin’s narrative. The famous Russian troll farm that was active on behalf of Trump in 2016, ProPublica says, is now busily creating phony “fact checks” and disinformation.

It begins:

On March 3, Daniil Bezsonov, an official with the pro-Russian separatist region of Ukraine that styles itself as the Donetsk People’s Republic, tweeted a video that he said revealed “How Ukrainian fakes are made.”

The clip showed two juxtaposed videos of a huge explosion in an urban area. Russian-language captions claimed that one video had been circulated by Ukrainian propagandists who said it showed a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

But, as captions in the second video explained, the footage actually showed a deadly arms depot explosion in the same area back in 2017. The message was clear: Don’t trust footage of supposed Russian missile strikes. Ukrainians are spreading lies about what’s really going on, and pro-Russian groups are debunking them. (Bezsonov did not respond to questions from ProPublica.)

In another post, ProPublica reports that the Russian troll farm is branding current events happening in Ukraine as “fake” and “Ukrainian propaganda.” The same sources are creating phony videos and branding them as Ukrainian propaganda. Experts say a recent wave of pro-Putin disinformation is consistent with the work of Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a network of paid trolls who attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election...

The pro-Putin network included roughly 60 Twitter accounts, over 100 on TikTok, and at least seven on Instagram, according to the analysis and removals by the platforms. Linvill and Warren said the Twitter accounts share strong connections with a set of hundreds of accounts they identified a year ago as likely being run by the IRA. Twitter removed nearly all of those accounts. It did not attribute them to the IRA...

The most successful accounts were on TikTok, where a set of roughly a dozen analyzed by Clemson researchers and ProPublica racked up more than 250 million views and over 8 million likes with posts that promoted Russian government statements, mocked President Joe Biden and shared fake Russian fact-checking videos that were revealed by ProPublica and Clemson researchers earlier this week. On Twitter, they attacked jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and blamed the West for preventing Russian athletes from competing under the Russian flag in the Olympics...

The Internet Research Agency is a private company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian entrepreneur known as “Putin’s Chef.” Prigozhin is linked to a sprawling empire ranging from catering services to the military mercenary company Wagner Group, which was reportedly tasked with assassinating President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The IRA launched in St. Petersburg in 2013 by hiring young internet-savvy people to post on blogs, discussion forums and social media to promote Putin’s agenda to a domestic audience. After being exposed for its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA attempted to outsource some of its English-language operations to Ghana ahead of 2020. Efforts to reach Prigozhin were unsuccessful.

But it never stopped its core work of influencing Russian-speaking audiences. The IRA is part of a sprawling domestic state propaganda operation whose current impact can be seen by the number of Russians who refuse to believe that an invasion has happened, while asserting that Ukrainians are being held hostage by a Nazi coup.

Robert Mackey writes in The Intercept that Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard have become favorites on Russian state television because they praise Putin. The Putin regime loves FOX News.

Carlson’s attacks on Biden and the American government thrills the Russian propagandists.

“These people are so ghoulish,” Carlson said of U.S. officials who provided military aid to Ukraine. “Of course they’re promoting war,” Carlson continued, as his comments were translated into Russian, “not to maintain the democracy that is Ukraine. Ukraine is not a democracy. It has never been a democracy in its history, and it’s not now. It’s a client state of the Biden administration…”

On Wednesday night, just hours before Putin ordered the attack on Ukraine to begin, two excerpts from Carlson’s most recent program were featured in Russian state television’s 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. news broadcasts.

Carlson had started his show Tuesday night with a sarcastic monologue in which he told viewers: “Democrats in Washington have told you it’s your patriotic duty to hate Vladimir Putin. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a mandate. Anything less than hatred for Putin is treason. Many Americans have obeyed this directive. They now dutifully hate Vladimir Putin. Maybe you’re one of them. Hating Putin has become the central purpose of America’s foreign policy. It’s the main thing that we talk about. Entire cable channels are now devoted to it. Very soon, that hatred of Vladimir Putin could bring the United States into a conflict in Eastern Europe.”

Carlson’s comments were so welcome in Moscow that an excerpt from that rant with Russian subtitles was quickly produced by the Russian-language service of RT, the government-funded network formerly known as Russia Today…

Like Carlson, Gabbard sought to blame the U.S. and NATO for supposedly provoking Putin’s attack on Ukraine and suggested that Americans would suffer from higher energy prices if Russia was sanctioned for invading Ukraine

On Thursday, after Russia launched its military assault on Ukraine, Gabbard posted the video of her comments about sanctions on Twitter and suggested, without evidence, that doing anything to press Putin to stop the invasion of Ukraine could lead to a nuclear war.

Gabbard has transitioned from being a Democratic candidate for President to being a speaker at the Trump-loving Conservative Political Actuon Conference (CPAC).

Rolling Stone wrote about her transformation:

Tulsi Gabbard, the former Hawaii congresswoman who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is completing her metamorphosis from iconoclast progressive to hardcore conservative by appearing as a featured guest at the Trumpy love-in known as the Conservative Political Action Conference.

CPAC 2022 begins Wednesday in Orlando, where Gabbard will join a roster of GOP loyalists — including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican senators Ted Cruz, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, and Representatives Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn and Marjorie Taylor Greene — in building buzz for the star of the circus, former President Donald Trump.

According to the conference agenda, Gabbard will appear at the Friday night “Ronald Reagan Dinner,” where the keynote speaker is the former Fox News star conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck.

Quislings.

John Oliver explained the Republican hysteria over “critical race theory.” At bottom, as he shows, the GOP goal is to persuade parents to escape “CRT” by abandoning their local public schools and enrolling in charter schools or seeking vouchers. The leading anti-CRT crusader, Chris Rufo, made this linkage explicit, as Oliver demonstrates, as did Betsy DeVos. The big money supporting the anti-CRT campaign is coming from the same people funding school choice. And, as Oliver explains, “school choice” has its roots in the fight to block school desegregation in the 1950s.

The fight against CRT is being used to silence any teaching about racism today. Teachers are supposed to teach slavery and racism as a strange aberration from our founding principles and to pretend that it no longer exists.

But if it really were the terrifying problem that people like Rufo describe, why was there no uprising against it in the past 40 years? Why didn’t George W. Bush speak up about CRT? WhY was Trump silent about it until 2020? Why now? Is it mere coincidence that the anti-CRT madness took off after the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide protests against racism?

Jan Resseger was taken aback to read a major article by Laura Meckler of The Washington Post blaming the public schools for all their problems, in a classic case of blaming the victim. Schools did not cause COVID, and they are doing their best to overcome its consequences. Meckler even blames schools for gun violence, but schools are not handing out weapons or writing lax gun laws.

Resseger writes:

Meckler writes: “For public schools, the numbers are all going in the wrong direction. Enrollment is down. Absenteeism is up. There aren’t enough teachers, substitutes or bus drivers… Political battles are now a central feature of education, leaving school boards, educators and students in the crosshairs of culture warriors. Schools are on the defensive about their pandemic decision-making, their curriculums, their policies regarding race and racial equity and even the contents of their libraries. Republicans — who see education as a winning political issue — are pressing their case for more “parental control,” or the right to second-guess educators’ choices. Meanwhile, an energized school choice movement has capitalized on the pandemic to promote alternatives to traditional public schools.”

COVID-19 has brought a mass of challenges to America’s public schools, our largest civic institution. But there are myriad ways Meckler fails to sort out the issues. She fails to point out that most of the problems she names were not caused by public school leaders and teachers, and few are the result of mismanagement. Almost all of the problems she mentions fall into one category: challenges public schools haven’t been able fully to overcome…

Meckler worries about gun violence as a problem of public schools. School shootings are a problem of a society overrun with guns, but the problem is definitely not caused by public schools.

Meckler quotes a staff person at the pro-voucher Ed Choice about how such pro-privatization think tanks are exploiting today’s challenges for public schools as these organizations work hard to lobby state legislatures for vouchers and charter schools. She utterly fails to consider that almost nobody is celebrating remote schooling; millions of parents all over the country are demanding that their public schools reopen in person. Presumably the privatized online charter academies have suffered in reputation as we all learned that putting school on remote during COVID worked neither for students nor their teachers.

Meckler describes the uprisings by parents across American school districts—parents protesting mask mandates—parents protesting teaching about slavery and “controversial topics” that might make some children uncomfortable—parents demanding that school boards ban specific books on “controversial topics.” She neglects to mention that what appear to be grassroots parent-led attacks are in most cases the result of a well-designed political initiative—led by organizations like Moms for Liberty, FreedomWorks, Parents Defending Education, and No Left Turn in Education—designed by think tanks like the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute—and paid for by far-right philanthropists. This project has been set up to inflame white parents in segregated suburbs, or, as a new report summarized by the National Education Policy Center shows, in districts currently experiencing racial change, by stoking these parents’ fears that their privilege and their protective historical myths are threatened

Public schools are durable and complex institutions. Public school teachers and administrators are struggling right now to bring students comfortably back to school after more than a year of disruption. My belief is that most of these professional educators will survive and succeed.

Daniel Dale is CNN’s fact-checker, and he identified a huge blunder by Representative Tom Massie, a Republican from Kentucky. Earlier this week, a reader asked whether anyone should trust a person who declares “I am science,” and I didn’t know that he was referring to the tweet cited here. I thought it was a real question, not an unsubtle way of slamming Dr. Fauci.

Daniel Dale writes:

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, has been a vocal critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, who also serves as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser.On Sunday, Massie sarcastically tweeted, “You mustn’t question Fauci, for he is science.” Under those words, Massie posted an image that featured a giant hand crushing a group of much smaller people. The image includes a quote it attributed to Voltaire, the 18th-century Enlightenment writer and philosopher: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Facts First: There is no record of Voltaire ever uttering these words. The quote is commonly attributed to Kevin Alfred Strom, a neo-Nazi who pleaded guilty in 2008 to possession of child pornography. Strom uttered a similar quote during a virulently antisemitic 1993 radio broadcast. 

Strom said in the 1993 broadcast: “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?” The context in which he posed the question made clear that this was a reference to Jewish people. 

The false Voltaire attribution for the quote has circulated online for years. The attribution has been debunked in numerouspreviousfact checks and in a 2017 blog post by scholar Nicholas Cronk, director of Oxford University’s Voltaire Foundation. Edward Langille, a St. Francis Xavier University professor of French and co-author of the book “The Quotable Voltaire,” also told CNN on Monday that the quote did not come from Voltaire.

Massie’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. As of Monday afternoon, his tweet had been retweeted more than 6,800 times. It remained online without any correction, even though others had been replying for more than 22 hours to note that the attribution was wrong. 

We live in an age when politicians, advertisers, and others develop and distribute fake news to sell their wares. It’s more important than ever for people to have the digital skills to check the accuracy of what they see online.

A recent study conducted by Stanford University researchers reached a sobering conclusion. Most students don’t know how to fact-check what they see online.

The University published the following survey of the results:

A new national study by Stanford researchers showing a woeful inability by high schoolers to detect fake news on the internet suggests an urgent need for schools to integrate new tools and curriculum into classrooms that boost students’ digital skills, the study’s authors say.

In the largest such study undertaken, researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Education devised a challenge for 3,446 American high school students who had been carefully selected to match the demographic makeup of the American population.

Rather than conduct a standard survey, in which students would self-report their media habits and skills, the research team came up with a series of live internet tasks. The results, published online this week in the journal Educational Researcher, highlight what the researchers say is an urgent need to better prepare students for the realities of a world filled with a continual flow of misleading information.

“This study is not an indictment of the students—they did what they’ve been taught to do—but the study should be troubling to anyone who cares about the future of democracy,” said Joel Breakstone, director of the Stanford History Education Group and the study’s lead author. “We have to train students to be better consumers of information.”

In one of the study’s tasks, students were shown an anonymously produced video that circulated on Facebook in 2016 claiming to show ballot stuffing during Democratic primary elections and asked to use Internet-enabled computers to determine whether it provided strong evidence of voter fraud.

Students tried, mostly in vain, to discover the truth. Despite access to the internet’s powerful search capabilities, just three of the study’s more than three thousand participants — less than one tenth of one percent – were able to divine the true source of the video, which actually featured footage of voter fraud in Russia.

In another task, students were asked to vet a website proclaiming to “disseminate factual reports” about climate change. Ninety-six percent failed to discover the publisher’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. Overall, the researchers found that students were too easily swayed by relatively weak indicators of credibility—a website’s appearance, the characteristics of its domain name, the site’s “About” page, or the sheer quantity of information available on a website, irrespective of the quality of that information.

“Regardless of the test, most students fared poorly, and some fared more poorly than others,” said Sam Wineburg, the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford, who co-authored the paper. “It presents a concerning picture of American students’ ability to figure out who produced a given story, what their biases might have been, and whether the information is reliable. More troubling still is how easy it is for agents of disinformation to produce misleading—or even deliberately false stories—that carry the sheen of truth. Coupled with the instantaneous and global reach of today’s social media, it does not bode well for the future of information integrity.”

The researchers suggested potential remedies that might right the ship, including teaching students strategies based on what professional fact checkers do–strategies that have been shown in experiments to improve students’ digital savvy.

“It would be great if all students knew how to take advantage of the full web and had complete command of advanced skills like Boolean operators, but that’s a lot to ask,” Wineburg said. “If you want to teach kids to drive a car, first you have to teach them to stop at red lights and not cross double lines, before learning how a catalytic converter works. As the study shows, a lot of these kids aren’t stopping at red yet.”

It is possible to develop students’ digital literacy skills, Wineburg said. Given the risk to our democracy, it will be critical for schools to integrate these skills into all subjects, from history to math, and at every grade level.

“The kids can do it,” Wineburg said. “We must help get them there.”

The study was funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.