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Laramie Movie Scope:
Political misinformation podcasts

A massive misinformation campaign

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 24, 2000 -- I heard an ad on WEEI (part of the Audacy network) for a podcast called “Battleground America” which promised to provide me with news, far in advance of other sources, about forces attacking America.

Here is a transcription of that promo:

“What's the most common thing Battleground America podcast listeners say when news breaks? ‘Oh, I knew that months ago.’ The Battleground America podcast is the answer to the question: ‘Where are they going with all this?’ America is under attack like never before, from inside and outside forces. ‘Who are they? What do they want and where are they going?’ I am your host Tara Servatius, and I answer those questions.”

This is a subject of great interest to me, especially since the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, by forces trying to overthrow the government of the United States. In addition, Russia, China, and other countries spreading political disinformation against the U.S. on social media.

I was very disappointed to find out that, the podcast I heard was not about these threats at all. The threats to America she speaks of do not include attempts to violently overthrow the government and tear up the Constitution. Instead, Servatius depicts as enemies those who are trying to preserve democracy and the Constitution.

Those who are actively trying to change the outcomes of elections through corruption, gerrymandering, or election rules making it easier for Republicans to vote and harder for Democrats to vote, tampering with voting equipment, or by promoting laws that would allow state legislatures to legally overrule their state's voters, none of these threats to democracy seem to be targets of “Battleground America.”

When Servatius talks about America being under attack by sinister forces, she seems to be talking about legal efforts to prosecute those who tried to violently overthrow the government of the United States or those who are attacking American elections. This constitutes a strange kind of mental jujitsu. I guess the idea is that your enemies (Democrats) are bad, even if they are doing the right thing. The idea seems to be that it is wise demonize Democrats and stay loyal to Republicans, no matter what they do. What could possibly go wrong?

The narrative of “Battleground America” would seem to ignore, or even support, those who attempted to illegally reverse the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election, either through vote nullification, or false votes, or false Electoral College certifications or even outright violence. Instead, those who are trying to prosecute such anti-democtratic schemes, are apparently among those Servatius considers to be enemies of America. Of course, if Democrats did the same thing to Republicans, she would probably oppose those actions.

Servatius repeated President Trump's debunked claims about government documents he stole, including classified documents, the improper handling of which, could prove harmful to national security. President Trump argues that the FBI's seizure of the documents he stole was unwarranted, part of a deep state conspiracy against his political ambitions. Servatius repeats these debunked claims. The FBI seizure of the stolen documents seems to be what Servatius calls an attack on America.

Servatius repeated Trump's thoroughly debunked claims about the documents he stole, as if these claims were actually true. Trump claims he declassified all the classified documents the FBI found. This has been debunked by those familiar with how these kinds of documents are handled. She also repeated Trump's debunked claims that former presidents Obama and Bush handled government documents in ways similar to the way Trump did.

If Trump escapes prosecution for the theft of documents, he will have come up with an effective way of breaking the law. Just steal the records and hide them, or destroy them. That is an effective way of keeping presidential public records secret. Perhaps President Bush never thought of that. President Nixon did think of this idea, which is why the Presidential Records Act was passed in the first place (in 1978).

It seems as though “Battleground America” isn't about talking about the real threats to America, or about news that listeners hear about months before others do, instead, it is about old news, and old disproven claims. It just repeats and amplifies claims made by President Trump and other Republicans, but in a more coherent, convincing, pseudo journalism format. It also supports and justifies the actions of Republicans and vilifies those who oppose those actions, even when they are illegal actions.

Such a pro-Republican podcast is useful (if it is honest) when Democrats are in power, as they are now, because it holds them to account. The same podcast is dangerous, however, when Republicans are in power when it strives to prevent the powerful from being held accountable for their actions. “Battleground America” seems to be striving to keep President Trump from being held legally liable for illegal actions he took while he was President of the United States. These investigations are all called “witch hunts” by President Trump and his followers.

There are those who argue that Hillary Clinton's emails and Hunter Biden's laptop are threats to America, while President Trump is innocent. The chants of ‘lock her up!’ have been heard at Trump rallies for years. Republicans have wasted tens of millions of dollars investigating Whitewater, Benghazi and Hillary's emails.

No doubt more millions will be spent on Hunter's laptop, if Republicans get access to the necessary taxpayer dollars for such an investigation. Republicans would not call those ‘witch hunts,’ but I'd be surprised if they bear any fruit, except as material for future “Battleground America” podcasts and the rest of the radical pro-Trump media.

With baseball season winding down, I am on the hunt for more podcasts, which is why I ran across “Battleground America.” I also ran across a bit of the Marc Cox Morning Show podcast on Audacy. He was going on an on about the FBI seizing a phone belonging to Mike Lindell, the My Pillow CEO. Cox made a kind of freedom of speech point about Lindell being targeted mainly because of his opinions.

Why would the FBI care about Lindell's opinions? Lindell's phone was seized at a Hardee's drive up line in Mankato, Minnesota (Cox couldn't remember it was Hardee's, which is pretty embarrassing, considering all the major political comedians know it, and Hardee's corporate advertising had a lot of fun with it).

The reason Lindell's phone was seized was not because the FBI doesn't like his opinions, it is because of Lindell's relationship to Tina Peters, who has been charged with tampering with election election equipment and records. Lindell has campaigned for Peters, and has directed up to $800,000 to Peters' legal defense. He also gave her rides on his private jet.

Peters is in legal trouble for her role in the breach of voting machine data in Colorado, and other alleged crimes. Accepting free rides from Lindell may also be a violation of state ethics laws. The voting machine breach is related to claims advanced by Lindell and other Trump supporters that certain kinds of voting machines were used in a vast international conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 Presidential Election.

Lindell himself has spent an estimated $40 million trying to prove the voting machine conspiracy theory and other election fraud ideas, but he has never been able to come up with any evidence to support these ideas. The jet plane ride Lindell gave to Peters was so that she could attend Lindell's ‘Cyber Symposium’ in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 2021. The symposium was a forum to advance Lindell's baseless claims of voter fraud. His claims include the very kinds of voting machines that Peters is accused of breaching.

But these facts, and others, are far too numerous and complex for conservative podcasts, or even an article in the New York Post. For those kinds of presentations, a lot of facts tend to get left out, particularly if the facts damage a right wing political agenda. What is disappointing about this is that Tara Servatius and Marc Cox are journalists, or at least they used to be. What they are now is very disappointing.

There is an old saying in journalism that journalist should “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Nowadays the so-called conservative media actively uses divisive political misinformation to comfort the comfortable, and to scare them into using their power to oppress the afflicted.

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Copyright © 2022 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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