Did fake news have an effect on 2016 US Presidential Election

(originally published at Quora on Nov 16, 2016)

In looking into this lingering question, we need to realize before anything else that the real fake stories in social media were mainly circulated by alt-right kind of people, who would never have voted for Clinton anyway.

The chances of such a person’s share reaching some friend/relative (leave aside a random user) and then that friend/relative/contact not being already far to the GOP spectrum but still getting influenced by the share gets progressively low. An independent or moderate young person getting influenced by the alt-right stuff his/her ultra right uncle is sharing? Totally unlikely.

Even lower chance, impossible for an actual Democratic voter. These two segments (alt right and non alt right) generally have each other as ‘acquaintances’ in Facebook or other venues and they do not see each others’ shares anyway. That is unless they haven’t already removed each other from their contacts list or blocked/ignored outright. The chasm in between these groups is too big.

But Clinton camp seems to be complaining about ‘fake’ stories which were actual, real news pieces – like how they called what Wikileaks exposed as ‘fake’ to save their skin, which was picked up by many Democrat hardliners unquestioned. These were the ones who had the choice of reaching everyone because they were real news pieces.

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In actual reality, even actual news pieces which were dubbed ‘fake’ by Clinton campaign did not have much effect on the election:

The dynamics of the election were already set by the talking points both sides adopted early into the election.

Especially that Trump adopted 2–3 major pro-working class talking points in being anti free trade, bringing back manufacturing, and one popular left talking point in anti-interventionism. In case you watch debates or his speeches, you see that he constantly repeats these economic talking points over and over and over – even sometimes in reply to questions which had little to do with them. Anything to get the message out.

Clinton openly refused to adopt any of these or Sanders’ talking points, points which Sanders proved to be popular with electorate. This was immediately after end of Democratic Primaries. She refused again and again when asked at different time points, publicly. She bluntly adopted talking points and policies to the opposite of those. Her campaign officially declared that none of Sanders’ policies would be adopted.

Even Bill Clinton was aware that it amounted to political suicide and that she was conducting her campaign far away from what the majority of the electorate cared for – the economy, jobs and inequality. And as the article below will inform, this led to them having a fight later in the election over Hillary’s deteriorating campaign.

Hillary and Bill sceaming match over blame for her flagging campaign

And in a stunning surprise (to many), Trump even flipped traditionally Democrat rust belt to himself, won Florida with all the Latinos inside, and it seems a decent fraction of other minorities voted for him.

Clinton’s talking point was that she wasn’t Trump. That’s not how you win elections. People who are suffering from unemployment, inequality, poverty won’t have political correctness high in their list of priorities. Survival comes first.

It’s not that Bill was any more beneficial to Democrat’s trend of decline either – he was the head of the movement which pulled Democrats so far to the right wing in economy, to becoming a pro-corporate, neoliberal party and to adopt social issues as talking points to get votes. It was all about peripheral/secondary social issues – gun rights, gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, immigration, and so on. Note that none of them has anything to do with wealth/income inequality. Anything to evade that and end up having to talk about higher corporate taxes, social programs, measures to boost the masses of people suffering under neoliberalism.

The reality was that, all the gays, minorities, pro and anti gun advocates, illegal and legal immigrants and citizens alike, were suffering from the ~30 years of neoliberal inequality and deterioration Clintons and their ‘new’ Democratic Party helped a great deal to create. Unemployed, or having to rely on food stamps, homeless or risking homelessness, lacking healthcare or getting too little, not able to pay for kids’ college or not able to pay back student loans – all of these people had enough.

And when Clinton alienated many independents, young, disillusioned democrats by refusing to adopt any of Sanders’ points, and instead practically told them to ‘fall in line’, one segment which could have turned the election was lost, and the stage for the disaster was set.

How did Democrats lose 2016 US Presidential Election

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The ‘fake’ news that circulated on Facebook did nothing more to rail more right-wing segments against Clinton even more. They do not cater to any larger audience – especially independents – and the ultra right-wing would never, ever vote for Clinton even if she was the last person in the world anyway.

The thing is, Clinton’s camp seems to be calling everything ‘fake’. Like the leaks from Wikileaks.

If you used Facebook and followed or participated in any discourse in that direction, you would see that this crowd was echoing the Clinton campaign’s talking point by calling those leaks ‘fake’.

Of course, nothing is fake about them, and none of them were officially falsified and called out to be made up. Just a general ‘they are making up’ in the direction of Wikileaks from trivial campaign figures.

Democratic Party establishment cannot admit that their stance on economy, their neoliberalism, their refusal to address inequality and stop pushing ‘free trade’ treaties were punished by a very upset electorate. This would mean they would lose their corporate backers – from Goldman Sachs to whomever you may imagine on Wall Street.

Thus, they must blame anyone but themselves and their policies. Facebook is a good scapegoat because, in their view, it cannot defend itself, it doesn’t have a certain segment of population behind it and they cannot offend anyone by blaming Facebook.

Just like everything in this election season and before, they are dead wrong.

Incidentally there were many pro-Clinton fake ‘news’ on social media. Here is one which Snopes is debunking:

FALSE: Donald Trump Just Admitted He Was A Hillary Clinton Plant The Whole Time

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In summary, no, they could not have any rational impact on the election. The accusations of Clinton establishment in DNC, which still insists on holding to power without changing any of their policies, and the railing of corporate media which stopped journalism and pushed Clinton as a chosen candidate, are just means to evade addressing the real issue and blaming themselves.

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