Yesterday, I was a footnote in history!

Yesterday, I received exciting news! A piece that I had written with Chris Wells for Columbia Journalism Review was cited in the Mueller Report, which was released a day ago.

The piece that we wrote for CJR focused on news organizations that embedded tweets by Internet Research Agency (IRA) handles into their news stories. We’ve increased the number of outlets analyzed since the CJR piece (it was about 40 when we started, but over 100 now), and our finding still holds: a majority of news organizations cited an IRA account in at least one story.

Contrary to popular opinion, these IRA accounts were not sharing “fake news” (as in: false information). Instead, IRA tweets were often quoted for their salient, often hyper-partisan opinions. For example, one tweet advocated for a Heterosexual Pride Day as a way of inciting LGBTQ activists. Another called refugees, “rapefugees”. These accounts would often portray themselves as American people (e.g., @JennAbrams portrayed herself as a “typical” American girl, as shown by research done by my colleague Yiping Xia), or as groups (like @ten_gop, an IRA account pretending to be Tennessee GOP members, and @blacktivist, an IRA account pretending to be BlackLivesMatter organizers).

This has important implications, and speaks to Muller’s earlier indictment of the IRA, which noted that Russia’s campaign goal was “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general” (p. 6). Ironically, the discovery of the IRA campaign in the summer/fall of 2017 probably fed into this distrust (especially since news organization were as likely to be “duped” as American citizens).

The (underacted) part where we are referenced focuses on this specific issue—journalists embedded these tweets thinking they reflected the opinions of U.S. citizens. This is incredibly problematic, and something that both academics and journalists want to find solutions for. Following our publication in early of 2018, several news organizations reached out to us regarding the specific articles i which they had unintentionally quoted IRA tweets. The research team was particularly excited by these exchanges because it shows that journalists care, and want to avoid doing this in the future.

Regarding the separation of immigrant families in the United States:

The history of the United States is one of cruel domination and inhumanity.

Since the creation of the United States in 1776 (242 years ago), until 1865 (153 years ago), American citizens owned Black slaves. Jim Crow laws enforced racial segregation for another 100 years (until 1965).

188 years ago (in 1830, under Andrew Jackson), the United States passed the Indian Removal Act, resulting in the forced relocation of over 10,000 Native Americans (over 2,000 died).

125 years ago (in 1893), U.S. settlers overthrew the King of Hawai’i, with the intent of annexation. Under duress, then-King Kalakaua was forced to sign a new constitution that relinquished his power to white Americans who controlled the legislature. Despite opposition by then-President Grover Cleveland, Hawai’i became a state in 1958 (Eisenhower).

Following the brutal Philippine-American War 119 years ago (1899, 200,000+ deaths), the United States (represented by then-Governor of the Philippines Taft) imposed a strict rule over the island that lasted until WWII, when the U.S. left the Philippines to fend for themselves against Japan.

76 years ago (1942, FDR), the United States forced over 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry into an internment camp. The U.S. Census Bureau only admitted their complicity in 2007. 

Knowing this history should allow us to avoid the inhumanity of our forefathers. And yet, we have failed to do this time and time again. We let paranoia and xenophobia and supersede logic, compassion, and whatever the U.S. claims to stand for. Don’t make that mistake today.

In 2018, the United States apprehended and separated between 1,000 and 2,000 children from families trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border. Over 11,000 children are held in Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) sites, which have been overfilled for Do4 years (since 2014). The ORR regularly loses children (according to one NYT story, 1,475 children cannot be found). 

What can you do about this?

  1. Support the ACLU; whose chapters in California are actively litigating.
  2. Donate to Act Blue, a collective of eight groups who oppose the separation of children from parents when attempting to cross the U.S. border.
  3. Call your Senator and express your opposition. Don't worry - Senator's offices are very used to this type of call. You can check out the above link for an example script.
  4. If you are in a major city, volunteer to become a Child Advocate through the Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights.