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Democrats are falling for fake news about Russia

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Democrats are falling for fake news about Russia

Why liberal conspiracy theories are flourishing in the age of Trump.

Updated by Zack Beauchamp@zackbeauchampzack@vox.com May 19, 2017, 8:30am EDT

From left: John Schindler, Louise Mensch, Claude Taylor. (Javier Zarracina/Vox)

President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.

These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. The tone is breathless: full of unnamed intelligence sources, certainty that Trump will soon be imprisoned, and fever dream factual assertions that no reputable media outlet has managed to confirm.

Twitter is the Russiasphere’s native habitat. Louise Mensch, a former right-wing British parliamentarian and romance novelist,spreads the newest, punchiest, and often most unfounded Russia gossip to her 283,000 followers on Twitter. Mensch is backed up by a handful of allies, including former NSA spook John Schindler (226,000 followers) and DC-area photographer Claude Taylor (159,000 followers).

There’s also a handful of websites, like Palmer Report, that seem devoted nearly exclusively to spreading bizarre assertions like the theory that Ryan and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell funneled Russian money to Trump — a story that spread widely among the site’s 70,000 Facebook fans.

Beyond the numbers, the unfounded left-wing claims, like those on the right, are already seeping into the mainstream discourse. In March, the New York Times published an op-ed by Mensch instructing members of Congress as to how they should proceed with the Russia investigation (“I have some relevant experience,” she wrote). Two months prior to that, Mensch had penned a lengthy letter to Vladimir Putin titled “Dear Mr. Putin, Let’s Play Chess” — in which she claims to have discovered that Edward Snowden was part of a years-in-the-making Russian plot to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Last Thursday, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was forced to apologize for spreading a false claim that a New York grand jury was investigating Trump and Russia. His sources, according to the Guardian’s Jon Swaine, were Mensch and Palmer:

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Comments

  1. crone's Avatar
    Democrats represent only 28% of the American citizenry that is registered to vote. Twenty eight percent. And it would be lower than that except for all the Trump media hysteria of "He's a maniac with orange hair" shit storm.
  2. Vanessa's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by crone
    Democrats represent only 28% of the American citizenry that is registered to vote. Twenty eight percent. And it would be lower than that except for all the Trump media hysteria of "He's a maniac with orange hair" shit storm.
    In other words a minority party that doesn't represent the majority of citizens. What a joke they are to demand to set the agenda!