Conservative and Russian media outlets — amplified by sketchy Twitter accounts — are pushing a social media campaign intended to drive Democratic voters away from the party.
A surge of tweets with the hashtag #WalkAway began June 23 after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant the night before, and the campaign took off after Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) called for the public shaming of Trump administration officials, reported the blogger Caroline O. for Medium.
The remarkable similar tweets claimed to be from former Democrats who got fed up with the “hate” and “intolerance” of “the left,” and piggybacked off the “civility” debate going on at the time on opinion pages and cable news shows.
Brandon Straka officially started the “#WalkAway Campaign” in May to encourage Democrats to abandon their party, but the hashtag got an artificial boost into the public sphere by automated Twitter accounts identified as linked to Russian influence operations.
“Once upon a time, I was a liberal,” says Straka, a nearly broke New York hairstylist, in his first video.
The video was initially promoted by Fox News host Charles Payne, Trump superfan Bill Mitchell, Turning Point USA head Charlie Kirk and conservative activist Candace Owens, who helped introduce Kanye West to right-wing politics.
Then, after the civility debate kicked off, something weird happened.
The hashtag became one of the most popular topics among suspected Russian bots, which skewed algorithms to push the campaign into suggested search terms on Google products and other social media, and gained popularity among actual Twitter users.
The Russian media outlets Sputnik and RT featured segments and videos on the campaign starting last week, and Straka did an interview with RT this week.
Straka also appeared Tuesday on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, and the campaign got coverage on conservative websites such as Breitbart, The Patriot Post, Epoch Times and Legal Insurrection.
Hashtag clouds also revealed #WalkAway was frequently associated with the bizarre #QAnon conspiracy theory to push the narrative that the Democratic Party was “sick” and corrupt.
The campaign targeted racial division and so-called “identity politics,” and Trump himself amplified the movement’s claims that Democrats wanted to abolish ICE and open U.S. borders to criminals.
The Medium blogger said she’d seen similar overlap between Russian influence campaigns and conservative U.S. media, and she warned that more would be coming as November’s midterm elections approached.
“There is reason to believe that this psychological operation — and to be clear, that’s what this is — represents a trial run for future social media manipulation efforts,” Caroline O. wrote.
She suspects the #WalkAway movement could be intended to map out social networks, test messaging and conduct surveillance to study patterns of behavior.
“If you want to cause chaos or just generally stir up trouble, figuring out how to provoke other users — and determining which users are most receptive to provocation — would be extremely helpful,” she wrote. “This is a great reason to heed the advice, ‘Don’t engage the trolls.’”
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Blue Wave? More Like Blue Tsunami – Analyst Proves Democratic Voters Made This a Historic Election
Democrats have broken the record for the largest number of House votes between two parties. Ever.
On Election Day evening two weeks ago, as the results of the November midterms slowly trickled in, reporters and pundits were quick to declare, “No blue wave.”
CNN’s Jake Tapper insisted, “this is not a blue wave.”
TAPPER: “When you look at what’s going on here tonight, this is NOT a blue wave.” 🚫🌊 pic.twitter.com/RZnYy4Yb9r
— Elliott Schwartz (@elliosch) November 7, 2018
Even liberal pundit Van Jones on CNN pronounced sentence: “This is heartbreaking, though. This is heartbreaking…it’s not a blue wave,” he insisted.
CNN’s Van Jones on the 2018 Midterms: “This is heartbreaking, though. This is heartbreaking…it’s not a blue wave.” pic.twitter.com/hgfYpwPXNT
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 7, 2018
The following day, Fox News was telling viewers, “All that talk about a blue wave, all the talk about the American people rising up as one to repudiate Donald Trump, that just didn’t happen.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) November 7, 2018
They were all wrong.
(NCRM is proud to state that on Election Day night we reported it was, in fact, a big blue wave, based on a Princeton scientist’s work.)
Now that nearly all the races have been called (two House races remain), we can repudiate the naysayers, the GOP, Fox News, and the pundits who weighed in far too early.
Here’s some historic news: Democrats have broken the record for the largest number of House votes between two parties. Ever.
According to the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, Democrats’ national lead over Republicans for House seats is now 8.8 million votes, breaking a record that goes back to the Watergate era:
Dems’ national lead in raw House votes – now 8.8 million – just broke the record for largest for either party in the history of midterm elections (previous record was 8.7 million set by Dems in 1974). https://t.co/0pm7oW1pFE
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 21, 2018
Democrats have now flipped seats 40 House seats from red to blue, losing two, for a grand total of 38. But again, there are two House races that have yet to be called, so that number could grow to 40.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 21, 2018
Wasserman, who is also an NBC News and FiveThirtyEight contributor, links to his spreadsheet with all the data to satisfy your inner nerd.
Attorney for Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson Smacks Down Marco Rubio in Battle of Bible Quotes
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio has gotten into the habit of commenting on the events of the day with an occasional morning Bible quote. It’s his way of weighing in while telegraphing to his base that he’s a strong religious conservative, but there are drawbacks.
Recently, Senator Rubio has been tweeting up a daily storm over Florida’s Senate and governor races, both of which are now in a legally-forced recount because the vote count is so close.
On Friday, perhaps to offer his base some support from above, Rubio posted this biblical tweet:
“Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations,exalted on the earth.” Psalms 46:11
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 9, 2018
But it is his stone-throwing conspiracy theory tweeting and dogged defense of GOP nominees Rick DeSantis, who is hoping to win the governor’s race against Democrat Andrew Gillum, and Rick Scott, who is hoping to unseat Senator Bill Nelson, that has raised eyebrows – but drawn the support of President Trump.
Rubio has been on the attack for a week now, spreading rumors and sowing doubt about the validity of the Florida election system – exactly what Vladimir Putin was trying to achieve when Russia attacked the U.S. during the 2016 election.
Apparently #BrowardCounty elections left behind a box labeled “Provisional Ballots” at a local elementary school that served as a polling place.
Just let that sink in for a moment. https://t.co/o1Gn7mxOzG
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 8, 2018
That box turned out to be office supplies.
He’s made clear he thinks lawyers for Democrats who are merely trying to ensure every vote is counted are trying to steal the election.
#Broward election supervisors ongoing violation of #Florida law requiring timely reporting isn’t just annoying incompetence. It has opened the door for lawyers to come here & try to steal a seat in the U.S. Senate & Florida Cabinet
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 8, 2018
Hours after Sen. Rubio quoted from the Book of Psalms on Friday, President Trump lauded Rubio’s attacks.
Thank you @marcorubio for helping to expose the potential corruption going on with respect to Election Theft in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The WORLD is now watching closely!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2018
But others have been less than impressed with Rubio’s Bible quoting.
The attorney supervising the recount for Senator Bill Nelson turned the tables on Rubio Wednesday morning.
Sen. Rubio tweeted what was obviously his commentary on the Florida recount – which the GOP has been suing to halt entirely – by cherry-picking a Bible verse to support his thoughts.
What is crooked cannot be made straight,and you cannot count what is not there. Ecclesiastes 1:15
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) November 14, 2018
Marc Elias, Nelson’s attorney, smacked-down and one-upped Senator Rubio:
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1 https://t.co/CQGLPOyO7S
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) November 14, 2018
A writer with bylines at New York Magazine, The NY Times, GQ, and The Washington Post praised Elias:
Biblically pwned, @marcorubio.
— Rob Tannenbaum (@tannenbaumr) November 14, 2018
Election Law Professor Schools Rick Scott for Attacking ‘Unethical Liberals’ Who Just Want All Votes Counted
“Rick Scott had 8 years to improve Florida’s system of election administration.”
Florida Governor Rick Scott‘s campaign for the U.S. Senate didn’t do as well as he may have hoped. The vote count, which is still ongoing, is so close it looks like a recount will have to take place.
Republican leaders, including Gov. Scott, President Donald Trump, Senator Marco Rubio, and GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel have been ranting about the vote count in heavily-Democratic Broward County, hoping to get it to stop.
Gov. Scott on Thursday “falsely accused Democrats of trying to “steal this election” and called on law enforcement to monitor the counting of ballots in two of the state’s most Democratic counties,” Mother Jones reports. “He also filed a lawsuit, along with the Republican Party, seeking access to Broward County’s ballot records. His unsubstantiated allegations of ‘rampant fraud’ were amplified by top Republicans, including President Donald Trump, who tweeted, ‘Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach.'”
“Every day since the election,” Gov. Scott also claimed, “the left-wing activists in Broward County have been coming up with more and more ballots out of nowhere,” for which there is no proof.
“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try and steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said, speaking as both governor and the political candidate in the race.
As it turns out, for years Broward County has been a problem. Some point to technical issues, while Republicans are currently focused on the Broward County Supervisor of Elections.
Which is where election law expert Rick Hasen steps in.
A Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Hasen is the go-to expert on election law and voting.
And he has a mouthful for Governor Scott.
“Rick Scott had 8 years to improve Florida’s system of election administration,” Hasen says, for starters.
“Two things can be true at the same time: Broward county is incompetent in counting votes and there is no evidence of intentional fraud,” he adds, via Twitter.
He’s not done, either.
Take a look:
As a reader points out, Scott had the ability to remove Broward’s elections officer before the election and chose not to.
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) November 9, 2018
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) November 9, 2018
Hasen also retweeted this smackdown from an NPR News reporter:
This is how elections work. It can take days, weeks to count all votes — mail ins, provisionals, etc. That’s what’s going on now, as always. Alleging without evidence that something nefarious is going on, at the very least, shows a lack of knowledge about how elections work. https://t.co/fjy57uwKK4
— pam fessler (@pamelafessler) November 9, 2018
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