Of Course: Liberals Blame Al Franken’s Downfall on Russian Trolls

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Older readers may remember a time when the Newsweek brand was held in somewhat higher esteem than, say, the latest musings over at DailyKos or the comment section of a Bernie Sanders video on YouTube. That’s not to say that Newsweek was ever anyone’s idea of a great magazine, but it did at least make an attempt at respectability. We’re not sure what happened between then and now, but the magazine and, especially, the website at Newsweek.com has turned into one of the most laughable left-wing conspiracy outlets in the country. If they’re not running articles pondering how Hillary Clinton could still take the presidency away from Donald Trump, they’re telling us how similar Trump is to the late Charles Manson.

Or, in this instance, peddling complete fiction that blames Russia for the downfall of pervert Senator Al Franken.

This trash comes to us courtesy of writer Nina Burleigh and, we assume, never made it past an editor before being published on the Web. In the piece, Burleigh makes the extraordinary case that had it not been for Russian and Japanese (!) propagandists, the former Saturday Night Live star would still be up there on Capitol Hill making trouble for the Trump administration.

“A pair of Japan-based websites, created the day before [Franken accuser LeeAnn] Tweeden came forward, and a swarm of related Twitter bots made the Tweeden story go viral and then weaponized a liberal writer’s criticism of Franken,” Burleigh writes. “The bot army—in tandem with prominent real, live members of the far right who have Twitter followers in the millions, such as Mike Cernovich—spewed thousands of posts, helping the #FrankenFondles hashtag and the ‘Franken is a groper’ meme effectively silence the testimonies of eight former female staffers who defended the Minnesota Democrat before he resigned last year.”

So a couple of Japanese websites promoted the story…along with conservative online superstars like Cernovich…and the blame goes to the Japanese websites? Oh okay, that makes sense. By the way, we may be wrong, but we recall seeing the infamous Franken/Tweeden photo in nearly every major news outlet and every cable news show when it was first released. We’re not sure “RealUSA.site” had much to do with the story’s traction, but hey, we’re cynical like that.

“By November 17, the trending of ‘Al Franken’ was officially also a Russian intelligence operation, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an organization tracking Russian social media accounts, based on a sample taken that day of 600 of the fake accounts,” she writes.

But that’s not all. On that same day, there arose another Japanese “fake-news site,” which proceeded to republish an op-ed piece that was critical of Franken. This piece was subsequently tweeted out by an army of bots.

“Suddenly, thousands of apparently fake Twitter accounts were tweeting the title of the article—but linking back to one of the two Japanese-registered fake-news sites created in conjunction with the right-wing anti-Franken campaign,” she reports. “The bot accounts normally tweeted about celebrities, bitcoin and sports, but on that day, they were mobilized against Franken. Researchers have found that each bot account had 30 to 60 followers, all Japanese.”

Whoa. So wait, an army of Twitter bots, tweeting exclusively to followers in Japan, posted links to an opinion piece critical of Al Franken? How is Burleigh the first one to uncover this glaring fracture in our unstable democracy! Everyone knows that a U.S. senator from Minnesota cannot govern effectively if he does not have widespread Japanese support. No wonder he chose to resign.

Burleigh continues, sliding quickly into self-parody.

“One question remains: Who is paying for this operation?” she writes. “The researchers believe that the operation was expensive. ‘We estimate dozens of hours of initial development time and at least one person working full time to produce and distribute content,’ one of the researchers told Newsweek. ‘Additionally, it’s likely that an existing bot farm of compromised computers is basically being rented as a distributed host for these accounts.’”

One guy? Dozens of hours? Several rented computers? This is a conspiracy that deserves the full attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, if not the National Security Agency.

Capping it all off? The version of Burleigh’s article now online is missing the bit about the Russian bot farm because apparently someone still works in the editor’s office at Newsweek. They aren’t actually editing anything, but we guess they still have to respond when one of their writers publishes patently fake news.

“This story is updated to remove reference to the Russian bots tracked by the Alliance for Securing Democracy,” the correction reads.

While you’re at it, remove the rest of this embarrassing article and, since you’re in the office, contact your ISP and cancel your web hosting. A simple 404 page would be the best thing Newsweek has published in years.

 

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