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They call it the "Firehose of Falsehood"

"A shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions"

MoJo Reader,

I'm just back from one of the bigger journalism conferences of the year, and I wanted to run something by you.

A lot of the chatter in the hallways was a hunch that, over the last couple of months, readers have started paying less attention to the quick-churn news cycle. Have you? Thinking is, that could partially explain the (off-the-record) murmurings from industry vets about declining web traffic after the spikes when Donald Trump was elected. And it could be part of why our fall pledge drive is way behind where we need to be to make our budget—we've raised about $80,000 of our $200,000 goal.

So before I go any further, I hope you'll consider helping us close that gap with a tax-deductible donation to support our journalism today. We can't afford to come up short, and any amount—$5 or $500—makes a difference.

But I also want to dig in on the question of fatigue with you, because it's a real concern—and our team isn't immune from it either. From Charlottesville, devastating hurricanes, and the tragic mass shooting in Las Vegas to attempts to kick millions off of their insurance or reversals on DACA (to name just a few—travel bans! North Korea! Iran!), it's been a tough run.

But there's another—more nefarious—reason folks could be feeling overwhelmed, and it's important to address it head on. Last year, the nonpartisan research organization RAND released a study of messaging techniques used by Kremlin-controlled media, known as the "Firehose of Falsehood." Here are their two main takeaways that are worth sitting with for a moment: Russian propagandists utilize "high numbers of channels and messages," and "a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions" that "entertains, confuses, and overwhelms the audience."

Sound familiar? It's very similar to the playbook Donald Trump and many of his allies pull from. And as the most recent attempt to repeal Obamacare laid bare, more and more politicians think they can get away with bald-faced lies these days. (Here's a piece I wrote showing how we can push back.)

Now here's the interesting, and encouraging part—the propagandists' worst nightmare is for the audience—us—to hold on to our grounding. The study concluded that the best ways to counter deception and media manipulation are getting ahead of the lies with accurate information, and exposing the propaganda as such (as opposed to simply "fighting the specific manipulations" case by case—a daunting, and losing battle.)

So instead of highlighting the many examples we could pull from the headlines, I'll keep my case for your support focused on the big picture (and I'll calmly reiterate that we're way behind our fundraising goal). Nine months into the Age of Trump, you can pick most any news item and zoom out enough to see that media manipulation and deception are part of it.

That's what we need to stand up to.

It's a tall order and I won't pretend we can do it on our own, but Mother Jones—and most journalism—exists to make it harder to get away with lies and deception. If that's what you want, I hope you'll join us with a tax-deductible donation to help us reach $200,000 so we can keep digging up facts and get them to millions of readers for free.

And I hope you'll take a few minutes to read our piece on that study I mentioned too. Because it might not be an entirely bad thing if folks are indeed taking a break from the daily grind.

We can't let Trump-era politics become the new normal. But we also can't respond to every development as a brand new, hair-on-fire crisis. By recognizing the playbook, and refusing to let it work you up or beat you down, we can hold on to the strength and wit we're going to need for the road ahead.

That's what we're committed to—and I hope you're with us.


Monika Bauerlein, Chief Executive Officer
Mother Jones

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