Sinister Kullberg Network

Are you influenced by the sinister Kullberg Network? If you have any conservative Facebook friends, chances are you have been influenced in your thinking by this shadowy group.

The Kullberg network is not a foreign entity. It is a collection of at least 24 Facebook pages apparently run by a small group of people based out of Columbus, Ohio, that purports to represent the views of a diverse cohort of Americans. In many other respects, the network is quite similar to these examples [Russian and Philippine troll farms] of foreign social media manipulation. In the view of  Joshua Tucker, a professor of politics and data science at NYU, the fact that these activities stem from domestic, rather than foreign, actors complicates things. “I think if you came to Facebook and said, ‘Hey, the Russians are doing this,’ they would have taken the pages down,” he told us in a phone interview. So far, Facebook has not responded to our questions or multiple follow-ups about the Kullberg network’s practices, and the network remains online.  

That alarm was raised in a bulletin at Snopes.com dated May 15, 2019, by Alex Kasprak. Snopes is concerned about these networks of mysterious reactionary operatives who spread extremist memes on social media. They are extremely concerned that conservative ideas will spread on Facebook by this astroturf activity.

Though the actual authorship of the posts within these pages is opaque, their titles imply diverse representation from a broad swath of American demographic groups, including “Jews & Christians for America” and “Blacks for Trump.” In reality, however, the pages in this network are all connected to evangelical activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg. But  she is neither black nor Jewish, and her views appear to represent an extreme subset of the broader evangelical movement in America.

Ah-Hah!  Curse those Evil Evangelicals!

I have seen some of this activity, in a few cases shared by a couple of my conservative Facebook friends. It is garden-variety information, spreading true statements about Muslims in hyped-up language. That is what Snopes labeled “Islamophobia.”

Snopes did a follow-up the next day. Then on May 26 they posted an update:

Though Facebook has still not responded to any of our requests for comment, as of 26 May 2019, all 24 pages identified in Snopes’ reporting appear to have been removed from the platform.

In their update, Snopes shares how they had contacted Facebook multiple times, making the case that those “Kullberg Network” pages meet Facebook’s definition of “objectionable content.” They included part of their correspondence to Facebook:

These pages claim that Islam is “not a religion,” that Muslims are  violent and  duplicitous, and that Islamic refugee  resettlement is “cultural destruction and subjugation.” Just  hours after the April 2019 Notre Dame spire collapse in a catastrophic fire, this network went into overdrive sowing doubt about the  possible role Muslims had in its collapse. Multiple  pages within this network have stated that their  purpose is “message boosting & targeting.” […]

These pages, however, are steeped in fantastical notions of “globalist” conspiracies linking Islam, Socialism, and multi-billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party supporter George Soros to the  decline of  Western civilization. Some of these pages also claim that survivors of the Parkland High School massacre in the U.S., for instance, are on a  Soros-funded “Leftist-Islamist payroll.”

They also described Ms. Kullberg’s partner in crime:

Snopes also found that at least one prominent GOP donor,  William Millis, funded and/or exploited the efforts of the Kullberg network. Millis was a fundraiser and campaign board member for current HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Did you see that map that was circulated after Notre Dame Cathedral burned? I saw it on my Facebook feed three times. The time that it landed there because it had been shared out by one of my friends, I responded with a correction:

This map says that those places are all “churches that were destroyed,” but it is actually a map of churches, synagogues and cemeteries that were vandalized. Only a handful were actually destroyed. This does illustrate a staggering level of destruction that has gone unreported by mass media.

Likewise, I had seen the thing about Parkland High students being funded by George Soros. I followed up on that one also, and learned that travel expenses for several appearances had been paid by anti-gun organizations that are primarily funded via Soros’s front organizations.

The predicable capper is that they don’t dispute anything based on facts, but include a quote calling these pages “Islamophobic” that they got from CAIR.

Though they had included some spin-doctoring, I think everything cited by Snopes as hateful conspiracy theorizing was actually mostly true. This is another indication of how Snopes is a thoroughly Leftist project, just like Facebook.

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Saving Journalism

Fake News, you say?  Indeed, this is to discuss the turmoil in the field of journalism, which is both a cause and a consequence of the Leftist tilt of the entire field.   Journalism is in crisis, you see, and Leftist media watchers are looking for scapegoats.   President Trump figures high on their enemies list, with his “fake news!,” “Enemy of the People,” and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.   See my previous post on this topic.   In that post I reacted to a journalist who blamed the end of professionalism in journalism on President Trump.   In this post I will discuss the reasons for the collapse of journalism as we knew it.

I am happy to see the recent obituaries for Big Journalism.  But before we discuss the real problems with journalism, please consider what the crisis looks like to the journalists.   There have been a rash of articles and editorials from journalists that have expressed fear and frustration.   This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the New Yorker back in January:

Conglomeration can be good for business, but it has generally been bad for journalism. Media companies that want to get bigger tend to swallow up other media companies, suppressing competition and taking on debt, which makes publishers cowards.  …  Craigslist went online in the Bay Area in 1996 and spread across the continent like a weed, choking off local newspapers’ most reliable source of revenue: classified ads.  …  By 2000, only three hundred and fifty of the fifteen hundred daily newspapers left in the United States were independently owned.  …  Then came the fall, when papers all over the country, shackled to mammoth corporations and a lumbering, century-old business model, found themselves unable to compete with the upstarts—online news aggregators like the Huffington Post (est. 2005) and  Breitbart News (est. 2007), which were, to readers, free. News aggregators also drew display advertisers away from print; Facebook and Google swallowed advertising accounts whole. Big papers found ways to adapt; smaller papers mainly folded.

(When researching for this post, I saw an article from 2016 that said local newspapers had shed 60 percent of their workforce over the previous 26 years.)

In January of this year they had a particularly tough day, in which 1,000 journalism jobs were chopped in one day.

Now, I have been part of several Ratburgher discussions in which we generally agreed that mass media journalism is the Enemy of the People, so I don’t expect to hear a lot of sympathy for the journalists here.   But there is a problem that I want to address.

Where does news come from?

Yes, there are some intrepid conservative organizations that do great investigative journalism.   But they are few in number and are concentrated on political matters.   When your local paper dies, how do you get local news about the ordinary life of your community?   You would have to join a dozen local blog sites to be able to continue to be aware of the shenanigans at City Hall, or the hoo-rah at the School Board, or the embezzler in the suburbs, or the police blotter, or area high school sports, or any of a number of local matters.   You might not be very much interested in any of those matters, but it used to be that you could be generally well-informed about the community you live in by just skimming the headlines in the local paper on a regular basis.

Those days are gone.   My local Memphis paper is now owned by the USA Today Network, which is part of Gannett.   The people who lay out the paper work in a rival city in another state (Louisville).   Shortly before I canceled my subscription last year they ran an article in the “Local News” section about an industrial park.   That industrial park is in my state, but it is a seven-hour drive from my city.   So much for “local news.”   It was fine in two other papers that are owned by the USA Today Network, so it was just too easy to pretend that it belonged in our paper, too.   Their “customer support” is in the Philippines, Sales is in Phoenix, and the payment processing center is in Cincinnati.

So, what now?   There are the local TV stations, but they just pretend to do news.   They only have “reporters” who are transcribers.   They look into stories after they are alerted by citizens who call, or mostly they just pass along the police blotter and the stuff that comes to them in press releases.   After they learn that something is going on, they scramble a camera guy (no longer a camera crew) to race out and act like they covered the event for hours.  Also we have a couple of local blog sites that are attempting to make a name for themselves as the go-to place for local news.   But they are the same old Leftist journalists who recently lost their jobs due to downsizing at the newspaper, and so their political coverage is the same old Leftist bilge through and through.

Killed by the Internet

Local papers were killed by the internet.   On the internet, “information wants to be free.”   Local stories get picked up by aggregator services, and it became really easy to check out Google News for local news.   Facebook tried to provide local news links for a while, but the way they promoted Leftist news and suppressed conservative news caused such a backlash that they dropped that effort.

What gets blamed a lot for killing local papers is Craigslist, which is where all the classified ads went.  But the real culprits are Google and Facebook, which now have all the ads by the big chain retailers.

But if there is no local paper, then Google cannot steal their news any more.   Nor can Facebook or any conservative alternative aggregator.

Follow the Money

There was about 129 billion dollars in digital advertising in America last year.   Google slurped up about half.  Facebook took in about 25%.  Youtube, Instagram, Microsoft, Verizon and Amazon combined for about 22%.   All newspapers combined brought in about one percent.   All magazines combined brought in about one percent.   Craigslist brought in about one percent.

Facebook and Google to the rescue?

So I was sort of amused to see that both Facebook and Google have new initiatives to muscle in on the local news business.   Now that they have killed off the newspapers, they want to take over.   The trend going forward looks like our people becoming even more dependent on Google and Facebook.   This is not good.

Slow News

There have been several recent articles advocating “slow news.”   They come from journalists who are observing that the field of journalism has been overtaken by a rush to clickbait.   The Editor of NewYorker.com quoted Pablo Boczkowski, a professor of communications at Northwestern University:

“If you’re an average site, you have five to seven seconds to tell your story.”

The solution preferred by journalism ‘leading lights’ is the digital subscription model.   Only a handful of outlets are likely to survive via that model.   Journalists are hungry for readers who will read a full slate of news articles at one site, the way we used to read the morning newspaper over breakfast.   But, as Professor Boczkowski observed, contemporary consumers of news learn the news one click at a time from dozens of sources, mostly those that are shared on social media by their circle of Facebook friends or the people they follow on Twitter.

News Desert

A “news desert” is a place that does not have any source for local news.   Lots of America is heading into news desert status.

As happy as I am to see the obituaries for Big Journalism, we still need news.   How do we get real information about our community and our state?   Conservative and Christian niche media seem to me to do somewhat well on the national scene.   But I really hate the thought of being dependent on evil Google for information from my state capitol.

No Solutions

I don’t have any answers.   I suppose we will have to hope for a cadre of citizen journalists to blog the news of the day.   The problem is finding them amidst all the competing noise on the internet.   And, if they also blog with conservative opinions, then their posts will be suppressed when you try to search for them.

Perhaps all you Ratburghers could start posting local news here.   Ratburger.org could become a rival for Google and Facebook, right up until Google or Facebook noticed us and took us out.

Anybody out there have any bright ideas?

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Big Tech censorship

Donald Trump Jr. has an editorial at  The Hill,  about censorship on the internet.   He runs through a bill of particulars, which concern matters that we have talked about at Ratburger.org.   The following is the middle third of his editorial, which amounts to good old-fashioned journalism about something he saw while at CPAC.

 

Silicon Valley lobbyists have splashed millions of dollars all over the Washington swamp to play on conservatives’ innate faith in the free-market system and respect for private property. Even as Big Tech companies work to exclude us from the town square of the 21st century, they’ve been able to rely on misguided conservatives to carry water for them with irrelevant pedantry about whether the First Amendment applies in cases of social media censorship.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been making a name for himself as a Republican prepared to stand up to Big Tech malfeasance since his time as Missouri’s attorney general. He delivered a tour de force interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in front of the CPAC crowd, one that provided a clear-eyed assessment of the ongoing affront to the freedoms of conservative speech and expression.

Hawley demolished the absurd notion that “conservative principles” preclude taking action to ensure free debate online simply because Big Tech firms — the most powerful corporations in the world — are private companies.

Hawley pointed out that Big Tech companies already enjoy “sweetheart deals” under current regulations that make their malfeasance a matter of public concern. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, allows them to avoid liability for the content that users post to their platforms. To address this problem, Hawley proposed adding a viewpoint neutrality requirement for platforms that benefit from Section 230’s protections, which were originally enacted to protect the internet as “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” Hawley declared. “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell us we need to sit down and shut up!”

It’s high time other conservative politicians started heeding Hawley’s warnings….

I looked at Senator Hawley’s website, but did not see anything there on this topic.   I hope he will bring forward some good initiative.

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For All The Facebook Fans

Quillette has an interesting piece from a former Facebook employee describing the leftist culture at Facebook and the rise of censorship. The original content policy was quite free-speech friendly:

We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).

However, all this changed after Trump was nominated.

Employees plastered up Barack Obama “HOPE” and “Black Lives Matter” posters. The official campus art program began to focus on left-leaning social issues. In Facebook’s Seattle office, there’s an entire wall that proudly features the hashtags of just about every left-wing cause you can imagine—from “#RESIST” to “#METOO.”

The current policy is quite different from the pre-2016 one:

We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation.

According to this author,

Simply saying you dislike someone with reference to a “protected characteristic” (e.g., “I dislike Muslims who believe in Sharia law”) or applying a form of moral judgment (e.g., “Islamic fundamentalists who forcibly perform genital mutilation on women are barbaric”) are both technically considered “Tier-2” hate speech attacks, and are prohibited on the platform.

The poor author has, sadly, adopted politically-correct modes of writing. This is not meant at a criticism of him specifically; he can’t help it when he’s immersed in the world of doublethink.

…a colleague declared that I had offended them by criticizing a recently installed art piece in Facebook’s newest Menlo Park office. They explained that as a transgender woman, they felt the art represented their identity, told me they “didn’t care about my reasoning,” and that the fact they felt offended was enough to warrant an apology from me. [emphasis added]

Who would have guessed that the Thought Police would be headquartered in Silicon Valley?

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“The Creepy Line,” a Documentary Worth Watching…

…and a subject worth reviling and fearing – i.e. the power of Google and Facebook to shape society in the image they, completely unaccountably, deem best. The title, an understatement – “creepy ‘ is much too mild a descriptor – comes from a statement by Eric Schmidt, who in 2010, told an interviewer that Google’s policy is to “get right up to the creepy line and not cross it.”While that makes for a catchy title, it in no way captures the nefarious things being done by a company whose motto is (or was) supposedly, “Don’t be evil.” Facebook does similar things as well.

The film explains how Google began as a search engine, but became something very different. As a non-technical individual, I cannot do the topic justice. Suffice it to say, the stories told by psychologist Robert Epstein and Jordan Peterson (both of whose email and youtube accounts were suddenly shut down without explanation and without recourse) are very frightening.

Epstein recounts scientific studies which show that the the mere order in which search results are listed (and whether or not even a single one of them contains any negatives regarding a candidate) easily sway the opinions of a randomly-selected, undecided group of people. This alone should give great pause as to how we view these companies.

In addition, the tension between acting as neutral forums vs. publishers is explained and fleshed out. Today, we have the intolerable situation where Google and Facebook are regularly, if sometimes surreptitiously, acting as unregulated publishers by editing much of what they offer online. Even while doing so, they claim to be mere neutral entities, not responsible for what they show (or do not, by intentionally suppressing them!) in their links. The situation as it now exists, this documentary makes clear, must not continue.

After hearing the tales of how their email accounts were suddenly gone because they said thing Google didn’t like, I have decided it is time to migrate off of Gmail (I stopped using Facebook years ago after giving it a try and finding it “creepy”). The risk of losing all my mail as a result of political speech disliked by Google, in its arrogance (they scan every word, including discarded drafts!!), I find to be intolerable. I also find it intolerable to support a company (as the product that I am, not a customer) which has incorporated evil into the very heart of its business model. If you think I exaggerate, please watch the film, available for free on Amazon Prime.

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LifeSiteNewsDotCom

LifeSiteNews is a small anti-abortion activist group, pro-life journalism outlet, and news aggregator. It was launched in 1997 as a spinoff of Campaign Life Coalition. Both are based in Toronto. Unless you are a traditionalist Catholic or a pro-life culture warrior, you probably never heard of them.

They have had a lot of excitement lately.   For a year they have been fighting for their life as an organization. They had become very dependent on their Facebook page as their primary way to communicate with their network of donors, most of whom are Catholic families making small-time contributions. Facebook has been waging war against them.

Facebook ghetto

In addition to filtering them out of searches and giving them the “shadow ban” treatment, Facebook has refused to run their ads:

One response that our team received as the reason for Facebook’s disapproval of our ads is equally concerning. The ad pertaining to this response simply showed an image of a pregnant mother holding a photo of her baby’s ultrasound…

I do see that the ad has a fetus and while it involves your ad text and topic, it may be viewed too strong for Facebook to allow to show.

Such viewpoint discrimination is a direct attack on our shared life and family values, and is greatly affecting our efforts to fundraise and spread our news.

Yes, a pregnant woman showing off the ultrasound picture of her baby is “too strong” for Facebook. That is a transparent excuse that says Facebook does not like advocacy for babies. Facebook is enforcing the Culture of Death.

They do this by decreeing that accurately reporting on the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood is “fake news.” Truth is irrelevant; what matters is the narrative.

Facebook recently admitted to combating “fake news” by developing a system that ranks users’ trustworthiness on a scale from 1 to 10. This is determined by users’ opinions rather than objective investigations!

This means that aggressively pro-choice and anti-family Facebook users can rank LifeSiteNews as “untrustworthy” with the simple click of a button – just because they dislike the facts that we publish.

Facebook has therefore made it ridiculously easy for our highly organized, well-financed (George Soros, etc) and hateful opponents to have LifeSiteNews wrongly categorized as “fake news” and our traffic suppressed according to Facebook’s “terms of agreement.” Truth does not matter according to this mob-mentality-serving process.  

Sex scandals

If you are wondering where it was that you recently saw their name, it was because they landed the biggest Catholic scoop of August. In the middle of the Catholic summer of distress over new sex scandals, Archbishop Viganò released a letter that said that Pope Francis and the rest of the Vatican were aware of Cardinal McCarrick’s habit of pressing young seminarians for sex, and also that he had covered for homosexual priests who preyed on teenage boys. Pope Francis had rehabilitated McCarrick in spite of this knowledge.

Archbishop Viganò gave his letter to two conservative Italian journalists that he trusts. He also sent it to LifeSiteNews. Evidently that was the only English-language outlet that he trusts.

Since then, other traditionalist Catholics have gone directly to LifeSiteNews with background and new developments on these scandals.

Search and you will not find

Facebook is not the only internet service that is hostile to pro-life advocates. Several news aggregators have the habit of demoting LifeSiteNews as well as other conservative outlets. So for the past weeks we have seen searches that turned up dozens of articles and editorials that cited LifeSiteNews, but unless you type “lifesitenews” in your search, you will not see their original reporting on the first four pages of results.

Allies

I am not a Catholic. As a Lutheran, the Church of Rome teaches that I am condemned to hell as a Schismatic. Nevertheless I have several Catholic friends, and I find that traditionalist Catholics are my most trustworthy allies in the culture wars. I need strong Catholics to help rescue western civilization from the assaults of Satan.

Please consider giving a little support to LifeSiteNews, either with a few bucks, or by sharing their plight with your Catholic and pro-life friends.

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