DARREN BRUNO: Facebook is the latest excuse for the left’s failures

April 14, 2018

DARREN BRUNO: Facebook is the latest excuse for the left’s failures jannoon028 / Shutterstock.com

Democrats have a new target for their post-2016 election anger. 

At the moment, their irrational anger and criticism is pointed at an unexpected target: Facebook.

Is this assault fair or warranted? Does it make any sense?

No, not so much.

How did we get here?

Here’s a quick recap of the excuses the left has made for their 2016 loss:

  • The electoral college has subverted the democratic will and it must be abolished.
  • “Uneducated” (primarily white) voters were manipulated into supporting Donald Trump through propaganda and “dog whistles.”
  • Donald Trump and/or elements within his campaign colluded with Russia, which somehow led to Trump’s victory.
  • Russia may not have engaged in overt collusion with Trump, but it did meddle in the election. The meddling pushed voters into Trump’s camp, determining the outcome.
  • Facebook provided a platform for fake news and propaganda to spread and allowed for Russia to more effectively interfere in the election.

These excuses are cited for the purpose of demonstrating the lengths to which some will go to avoid reflecting on their party’s platform and values.

For now, though, let’s focus in on the most recent scapegoat: Facebook.

Left-on-Left Violence and the Hyperventilation over Facebook

It’s simultaneously entertaining and mind-boggling to witness Democrats attacking Facebook for allowing Trump to win (how dare they!) when the social media platform has been accused (for good reason) of censoring even rather benign conservative content.

So what do Democrats believe Facebook is responsible for having done? Briefly:

  1. Facebook allowed for foreign operators (predominately Russians) to create politically-charged pages and run ad content geared toward discrediting Hillary Clinton, which led to Trump’s victory.
  2. Facebook’s lax security protocol allowed for “bad actors” to use data collected by Facebook in ways it had not intended. These bad actors used the data they had to ensure Trump’s victory.

This article will address the first accusation, the second will be reserved for later.

The Left: Russian Ads Made Trump President

As for the first: I’m not convinced.

Russia’s “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) did indeed spend a piddling $100,000 on advertisements (creating about 3,000 ads). The New York Times reports:

The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down.

Ads run by the IRA, however, generally did not advocate one political candidate over another. Instead, the ads “focused on divisive political issues” like gay rights, race, and immigration, aimed at creating tension in America.

It’s likely impossible to empirically measure whether these ads actually accomplished the goals of their purchasers, but we can apply common sense to examine the possibility.

Russia Did Not Create Our Political Polarization

No reasonable person could argue that polarization in American politics and society is somehow a new phenomenon.

Indeed, blaming Russian Facebook ads for political division in America is like blaming a leech for its host having blood on which to feed.

And these ads targeted the entire political spectrum. Why would Trump’s campaign benefit any more than Clinton’s?

Well, there’s no good reason to think it did.

As an editorial, entitled “You Can’t Buy the Presidency for $100,000,” in the Wall Street Journal reasoned:

Americans worried about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election have seized on a handful of Facebook ads—as though there weren’t also three 90-minute debates, two televised party conventions, and $2.4 billion spent on last year’s campaign.

The content of the Russian-purchased ads was far from groundbreaking or unique. Rather than attempting to shape political opinions, they simply repackaged opinions that millions of Americans already held.

Domestic political groups and advocacy organizations could have created and published the exact same content. And they did. So what reason do we have to believe these ads had any effect whatsoever?

Are we to believe that a progressive Democrat would up and switch parties upon seeing a pro-Trump picture or a graphic about needing more secure borders? Would a conservative Republican be convinced to drop their opposition to same-sex marriage after seeing a rainbow flag and the sentiment that all love is equal?

I see no reason to believe the average American is that simple-minded and indecisive. If so, from what does all this polarization stem? Russian propaganda, no doubt.

Get Real

Two possible explanations remain for why some believe Russian meddling could have been effective:

  1. Gay rights, immigration, and race suddenly became controversial for the first time in 2015-2016. Or;
  2. Russia exacerbated tensions over those issues and Trump exploited those tensions to become president.

Is the idea that these ads theoretically exploited a situation, and then led to Trump’s victory, any more compelling than the idea that they created the environment for his win in the first place?

I can’t fathom how.

American political divisions have existed since the founding of this country, and more recent divisions have been percolating for decades. If the outcome of America’s presidential elections can be swung from left to right by poorly-made internet memes, then Democrat policies are not very compelling.

The leap of faith required to believe Russia somehow determined the election’s outcome is too far and wide for honest and reasonable people to hazard making. This is especially so in the face of numerous, more reasonable explanations.

Look Inward

Take just a few as examples regarding Trump’s political opponent:

  • Hillary Clinton was embroiled in an email scandal which exposed how she brazenly disregarded national security protocol, lied about it, and tried to cover it up.
  • She alienated and upset much of her own party during the DNC primaries.
  • Her campaign slogan was vacuous and failed to resonate with most Americans.
  • She defied her husband’s advice to campaign in middle-America where he and President Obama had been successful.
  • Hillary’s campaign eagerly embraced a brand of identity politics which did not appeal to a large portion of the predominately white, working-class.
  • Most importantly: Americans just don’t like Hillary Clinton and they never have.

Or how about these:

  • Virtually nothing has been done to address the clear issues surrounding immigration in this country for decades and Donald Trump campaigned on the issue.
  • The same goes for the economic system and trade deals which have damaged the middle class.
  • President Obama was a polarizing leader, like George W. Bush before him, which made a Republican win more likely.
  • An outsider candidate was more attractive to voters in both parties.
  • Cultural and societal bullying from the left was begging for some political backlash.

Just to name a few.

An Inconvenient Truth

When Donald Trump became president, a sizeable portion of the country became apoplectic. Apoplexy led Democrats, the media, Hollywood, and others to try and make sense of a country that most of them did not, and still do not, understand.

Rather than reflect on their ideology, policies, or political representatives, the left has turned outward, grasping at any possible explanation for their unpredicted, historic defeat.

Despite their lack of introspection, Democrats are correct about at least one issue: Russian meddling has created more division in America.

But that’s primarily because Democrats have been all but entirely incapable of acknowledging their party’s role in the outcome of the 2016 election. It is, to them, some combination of a bunch of “-isms” and Russian puppetry.

I do not mean to imply that America shouldn’t safeguard its electoral integrity, or that Facebook shouldn’t stomp out foreign trolls or actual fake news. These are necessary responses to growing threats. But addressing those threats requires acknowledging their actual size and scope, and placing blame only where appropriate.

There is no reason to believe that Russia swung the election. Thankfully, if Americans remain free to think, challenge one another, and discuss ideas, Russian meddlers will never stand a chance at succeeding.

But if the left remains willfully ignorant about half the country’s rejection of their political platform, and broadly dismisses those who dissent from their agenda, then this situation will only get worse. Far worse.


Darren Bruno

Darren received his Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Connecticut Law School where he was an Associate Editor on the Connecticut Law Review. Darren is the Executive Vice President of the Churchill Institute and a contributor to Trinity Review.