For years I’ve struggled to explain to people how my work on the seemingly disparate topics of health misinformation & the anti-vaccine movement, extremism, & foreign influence/info operations is actually tightly interconnected, and I think everyone is about to finally get it.
I can’t exactly say I’m “happy”, because the reason it’s about to make sense to people is that three phenomena are coalescing in a way that hasn’t really happened before, so that’s incredibly ominous. But it’s important to see those connections.
And at least I won’t get so many blank stares when I draw a direct line from anti-vaccine mom groups to militia & “patriot” groups to Russian propaganda and foreign funding streams. Now I just need to find someone who wants a postdoc to study this…

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More from @RVAwonk

11 Jun
“Trump’s relentless false claims that the vote was ‘rigged’…sparked a campaign to terrorize election officials nationwide – from senior officials to the lowest-level local election workers,” who are facing threats of hangings, firing squads, and torture.
reuters.com/investigates/s…
Georgia Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger has received a barrage of death threats stemming from Trump’s disinformation campaign, and was forced to flee his home w/ his family after a break-in and an incident where the Oath Keepers were found lurking outside their house.
A Jan. 2 email, sent to Georgia election officials in nearly a dozen counties, threatened to bomb polling sites if Trump wasn’t declared the winner:

“No one at these places will be spared unless and until Trump is guaranteed to be POTUS again.”
Read 12 tweets
11 Jun
This is what Trump was tweeting about the same month that Trump’s DOJ subpoenaed Apple for metadata to spy on Rep. Schiff & other House Intel Democrats who Trump accused of “leaking”. It seems clear that Trump was directly involved in the DOJ’s targeting of Schiff, which is huge.
Here are more tweets from Trump from the month his DOJ subpoenaed Apple to spy on Rep. Schiff & other House Intel Democrats as part of a “leak investigation.”

In the tweets, Trump called Schiff a “leakin’ monster” and a “total phony”.
And here is Trump in Feb. 2018 — when his DOJ subpoenaed Apple to spy on House Intel Democrats — using Twitter to try to pressure the AG to use the DOJ to carry out investigations against Democrats & perceived foes.
Read 6 tweets
10 Jun
Let’s look at this Three Percenters indictment…

Among those charged with conspiracy to attack the Capitol is Alan Hostetter, an ex-police chief and Stop The Steal organizer who called for the “execution” of Trump’s foes.
extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/…
At least as far back as Nov. 2020, Three Percenter Alan Hostetter was advocating fatal violence against those who he believed were trying to steal the election from Trump:

“Some people at the highest levels need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three…”
Three Percenter Alan Hostetter pledged to “fix this” and referred to the election as a coup, saying:

“There must, absolutely must, be a reckoning…President Trump must be inaugurated on Jan. 20th…The enemies and traitors of America…must be held accountable.”
Read 21 tweets
9 Jun
Anti-vaxxers aren’t anti-vaxxers because they’re stupid. Some are in it for the money (the prominent ones, at least); others for ideological or religious reasons, or due to deep mistrust of medical institutions. People want to believe they’re just dumb, but that’s not correct.
If we have any hope of reaching those who are skeptical of vaccines (not all are hardened anti-vaxxers), we have to actually understand what & who we’re dealing with. In most cases, it’s not a knowledge deficit or a lack of intelligence; it’s complex, interwoven belief systems.
It’s super easy to just say anti-vaxxers are dumb, largely because that’s what we want to believe. But when you do that, you’re actually falling prey to the very same cognitive biases (eg, confirmation bias) that anti-vaxxers fall prey to. But you’re not stupid, right?
Read 11 tweets
9 Jun
No, it really wouldn’t change the public’s view of Trump, because regardless of where the virus came from, the fact remains that it got to the US and Trump made catastrophic errors that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.
In fact, Trump was already making catastrophic errors before the outbreak even started.

For example, months before the outbreak began, the Trump admin eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help **detect disease outbreaks in China.**
We had a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s version of the CDC who could have helped provide a crucial early warning, but Trump eliminated that position.
Read 7 tweets
3 Jun
In the past 2-3 years, social media companies have done more to regulate content on their platforms than in all other years combined, but the information environment has unquestionably gotten worse. I think there was/is a mistaken belief that “more is better” here.
Facebook’s “false information” labels actually amplified Trump’s posts:

“Facebook labeled at least 506 of...Trump’s posts in 2020 and 2021. On average, these labeled posts earned over two times more interactions per post than his overall posts.”
mediamatters.org/facebook/faceb…
“Rather than emphasize consistency, platforms have zigged and zagged their policies as the news cycle evolves.”

Inconsistencies like this fuel grievances based on perceived bias, and make it easy for social media platforms to evade accountability.
axios.com/wuhan-lab-leak…
Read 10 tweets

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