Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Maddow Tax Show Twitter Feed Thoughts

MSNBC wanted me to sign in to listen to the Maddow tax reveal live.

So I found the Twitter feed and watched that.  Someone put a link to a live Youtube feed, but somehow I lost it during a break, so I went back to the Twitter feed.  What was interesting was the high level of troll like comments - especially the same kind of comment over and over.

I haven't figured out how to easily collect all the tweets and then analyze them, but I've taken clumps of them and then looked for patterns.

Question 1: The role of organized trollers on Twitter

We know that there are organized robot tweeters and Politico says that Trump used them heavily in the campaign,  (Also that Clinton did to some extent.)
"The accounts pumping out the tweets created the appearance of authentic outrage but had all the hallmarks of fakes, according to researchers who specialize in “bot” networks — short for robot — that shower social media with phony messages appearing to spring up from the grass roots.
The pro-Trump networks tweet incessantly, but only to praise Trump and bash Clinton and the media, constantly retweeting Trump staff, pro-Trump pundits and other fake accounts, thousands of which recently added “deplorable” to their usernames. . ."
“The bot nets usually turn whatever the issue is back on Hillary,” said Phil Howard, a professor at Oxford University’s Internet Institute and the principal investigator at the Computational Propaganda Project, which has closely tracked the networks. Howard has noted the same pattern in response to stories about Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, with bots alleging that Clinton is keeping even bigger secrets from the public. “They tend to be used to confused or muddy,” he said."
So, I'd raise some questions about how the comments on Twitter actually reflected how the public reacted to the Maddow revelations.

I couldn't keep track - things move fast on Twitter - and there were so many tweets that going through them all was a much bigger task than I have time for.  I'd say during the broadcast, the negative tweets outnumbered the positive, but I wouldn't dare to put any numbers out there.  Some of the negatives were not necessarily just from pro-Trumpers.  I'm sure a number of those complaining about how Maddow was dragging out the reveal were from real, individual tweeters.

But after the broadcast, things went strongly pro-Trump.  At 7:30pm (Alaska Daylight Savings Time, or 11:30pm ET), I went through the latest 100 tweets, and all but about three or four were anti-Maddow tweets.

2.  What were the themes of the tweets?

I saw nothing that challenged the facts of what Maddow said.  Basically they challenged how she said it, the importance of it, and her personally.  There were clear memes that got repeated over and over, sometimes identically, sometimes with slight variations.  Here are some of the memes with tweet examples.

  • Geraldo and Al Capone's safe  - there were lots of these which seem to have come from somewhere other than the show itself
 In reply to 
Biggest TV debacle since Geraldo opened Al Capone's vault. Rachel Maddow looked like a fool.

  • Maddow's going to jail for illegally revealing income tax form     
 1 hour ago1 hour agoMore : "Why is Rachel Maddow not in police custody. She illegally obtained private documents & published the info. This is a CRIME!"

  • No news here

Rachel Maddow you have just broken the biggest story in History!!!! Trump paid his taxes!!! Omg!! How illegal!! #rachelmaddow #trump

  • Personal attacks on Maddow - including gender related ones
Neil Messer @NeilMesser 29m
@maddow So Rachel Maddow .... what hurt worse, this #TrumpTaxReturn fail, or getting your dick caught in your zipper?

  • This is Fake News   - Actually, it does appear that the tax reform and the figures were real, not fake news.  Even the White House confirmed it.  
 1 hour ago1 hour agoMoreMarosa Lopez Retweeted The Phoenix
Rachel Maddow is awful Change the CH 👎🏽

  • He paid his taxes, joke's on Maddow 
Rachel Maddow just revealed that show he paid $38,000,000 taxes in 2005. She just got Mr. Trump re-elected in 2020!

  • Maddow credibility ruined

Mikey Mileos @mikeymileos 31m31 minutes agoMore
Watch Rachel Maddow's brilliant take down of.. her own credibility. Only on MSNBC.

  • Thanks for proving Trump paid more than other presidential candidates.

These came later in the game and clearly stemmed from this Truthfeed post (lots of copies of the poster on Twitter) and this Data Debunk chart:

Data Debunk @data_debunk 2h
Tax rates paid:
Trump 2005: 25%
Obama 2014: 19.6%
Romney 2011: 14.1%
Sanders 2014: 13.5%
NY Times 2014: 0%

Truthfeed is a conservative site that gets high bias ratings and the Data Debunk feed only 'debunked' things that made conservatives look bad.

You'll note that they didn't select the same years to compare.  Obama actually paid 33% in 2005.
I couldn't find Romney or Sanders returns for 2005.  I only could find 2014 for Sanders and 2011 for Romney.  The numbers appear accurate.  Romney's is really low.  And he lost the election.  Sanders paid $26,000 on a total of $200,000 gross.
I'd note that there's no comparison with the Clintons. I'd guess that's because  they paid an average of 31% over eight years including 2005.  From  2001-2015 they paid between 25% (2007) and 38.2% (2002).   Only three times were they under 30%.

If you want to peruse the tax returns of old presidential candidates, you can find them here.

3.  Did Maddow accomplish anything?

Having watched this through the lens of Twitter, I'm not sure about what loose ends might have been tied.  But she did two things for sure:
David Cay Johnston
  • gave the public a couple of pages of a Trump tax return, something Trump has refused to do, and no one else has done
  • showed that lots of people are interested in the tax returns by the frenzy her tweet that she had it caused
  • there will be more questions about the returns we haven't seen and pressure to publish them

4.  Was Maddow played by the Trump administration?

Given that the return showed that Trump paid $34 million in taxes that year is the first hint of this.  Then there were all the Tweeters ready to go with a lot of memes basically aimed at discrediting Maddow.  
Another clue was what wasn't tweeted.  Although people clamored for Maddow to be jailed for 'illegally leaking' the information about Trump,  I saw nothing from anyone about getting the person who leaked the information to Maddow.  Even the White House statement only mentioned that 
"it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns."
With all the complaints about the leaks coming out of this administration, attacking the leaker should have been a key issue for Trump.  Except this was a leak, that at first glance (which is all most people will take), makes it look like Trump paid a lot of taxes.  Was this an attempt to 
  • take the pressure of the demands for Trump taxes?
  • take attention off the Russia ties and other issues?
  • make MSNBC and Maddow look ridiculous?
The Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, David Cay Johnston, who got the pages anonymously in the mail, says it's very possible they were sent by the Trump administration.  He also pointed out that if it weren't for the Alternative Minimum Tax, which Trump wants to eliminate, Trump would have only owed $7 million.  I didn't see that mentioned in the Twitter feed.  

Another odd Note

The other Trump tax return (1995) that was made public was mailed anonymously to a New York Times reporter, Susanne Craig, and came in an envelope with a Trump organization return address.  That one didn't show Trump in such a (relatively) good light.  That was last September.

Autocorrect replaces Maddow with Maddox if you aren't being careful.  So in any Maddoxes slipped in, blame it on autocorrect.  I've already changed a few, including in the title.

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