“Evangelicals for Trump” posts a misleading campaign ad

This image recently appeared on Donald Trump’s Facebook page:


“Evangelicals for Trump” is not an organization. It is just part of the Trump campaign’s outreach to evangelical voters. It has a website where you can donate, buy Trump gear, “join,” and view news stories that are over six months old. Notice the small print: “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President Inc.”

But as the BBC points out in this piece, the ad is just another attempt to play to evangelicals fears. Here is a taste:

A post by Donald Trump’s official Facebook account purports to show violence in the US but is in fact of an event in another country.

The advert shows one image of Mr Trump in a calm setting talking to police officers beside another of a security official being surrounded by protesters, saying: “Public safety vs chaos and violence”.

However, the image is a photo from a pro-democracy protest in Ukraine in 2014.

Facebook have told the BBC they won’t be taking any action against the post but gave no further comment.

The post reads “Evangelicals For Trump are ready to help re-elect President Donald J Trump.”

On the image on the right, the officer is wearing a badge on his shoulder.

However, it is an insignia not recognisable as one US police wear – it’s a Coptic cross seen in countries which practice Orthodox Christianity.

Read the rest here. Anne Applebaum also discusses the ad here.

Sadly, I don’t think any of the Evangelicals who support Trump will be too upset about the fact that the ad is deceptive.

Trump’s campaign of fear

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks in JanesvilleI am in regular touch with several white evangelicals over the age of 70 who voted for Trump in 2016. Eric Lutz’s piece at Vanity Fair applies to many of them. Here is a taste:

In the advertisement, an elderly woman sits on the couch in her darkened living room. She’s watching Fox News, where Sean Hannity is taking Joe Biden to task for seeking to defund police departments—a position that the Democratic nominee has not actually adopted, much to the chagrin of some in his party’s progressive wing. As she shakes her head at the television, a masked man creeps around her house and attempts to jimmy open her door with a crowbar. She tries to call the police, but to no avail; the phone rings in an empty station. “Hello, you’ve reached 9-1-1,” says a voice on the answering machine. “I’m sorry that there is no one here to answer your emergency call. But leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.” The intruder finally breaks in and comes after the woman, who drops the phone in horror.

“You won’t be safe,” the tagline reads, “in Joe Biden’s America.”

Even by the standard of political ads, the president’s recent campaign spot is ham-handed. But it is emblematic of Donald Trump’s apparent effort to revive his flagging re-election bid by scaring the shit out of Republican voters, particularly the older ones who help form the core of his base. Unable and unwilling to address the coronavirus crisis that has killed 144,000 Americans and counting, and out of step with a growing number who support the nation’s reckoning over racism, the president has cast himself as a defender of “law and order” against the violent anarchy that he says is plaguing the nation. In this alternate universe his campaign has constructed, Portland, Chicago, and other cities are “totally out of control”—and would get worse if Trump weren’t there to send in his secret police.

Read the rest here.

Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Some tips on avoiding fake campaign advertising


As the November elections approach, the New-York Historical Society offers some helpful advice. Here is a taste of its post “‘I Approve This Message’: 7 Online Ploys to Look Out for this Election Season.”

2) Fake videos
These videos seem to be real but have been digitally manipulated in ways that can be obvious or subtle. The recent example that purported to show Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi slurring her words is an example of what some call a “cheap-fake.”  More sophisticated and frightening versions—described as deep fakes—are far more difficult to decipher and are waiting in the wings. WHAT YOU CAN DO:  If a video seems too good (or too bad) to be true, you may want to check on its legitimacy. Look for tell-tale signs: the eye gaze is wrong or the eyes don’t blink; the hair or teeth look synthetic; the lip syncing is off; the skin tone is blotchy; there’s blurriness where neck meets the head; there are missing shadows. Also, judge the credibility of the speech: Would you expect this person to say that?  If you have doubts, most factchecking sites like politfact.com or snopes.com follow wide-spread ruses and report on them.

3) Deceptive campaign ads from fake sources
Misleading campaign ads are designed to move far and fast and sow confusion online. During the 2016 presidential election, there was a concerted, coordinated campaign by the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency to create hostility, divide Americans, and discourage people from voting. Largely undetected at the time, some 3500+ divisive Facebook ads were microtargeted to U.S. voters on topics ranging from immigration, radical Islam, gun rights, and injustice against Black Americans to name a few. Facebook recently announced it will block advertising from state media, but you can’t just count on someone else.  WHAT YOU CAN DOMany of these ads had misspellings or grammatical errors, so if you were paying attention, those would have been a red flag. Many also identified themselves as coming from nonexistent organizations and websites that had similar names to real ones. If you start seeing new divisive ads or receiving something digitally that you never have seen before, be sure and check whether or not the sender is legitimate.

Read the entire piece here.