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Category Archives: Fake News
Serial fake news peddler CJ Werleman shares another fake news claiming that Hindutva extremists thrashed a Muslim man – OpIndia
Posted: May 15, 2022 at 10:20 pm
Islamist-sympathiser CJ Werleman, who has a notorious history of peddling fake news on social media platforms, yet again took to Twitter to put out an undated video to claim that a Muslim man was assaulted by a mob of Hindu extremists in the national capital Delhi on Wednesday.
Sharing an edited video of a Muslim man being thrashed by the public, serial fake news peddler Werleman claimed that a mob of Hindu extremists in Delhi assaulted a Muslim man.
The carefully edited video was shared by Islamist sympathiser Werleman to put out a false narrative that Muslims are being attacked in India by Hindus.
However, it is not true.
The video shared by Werleman pertains to an incident that occurred last week in Delhi. The full clip of the incident with the audio was shared by a social media user named Nitin Singh. Werleman had removed the audio from the video so that people dont know the facts behind it.
In the original video shared by Nitin Singh, it can be seen that the mob was thrashing a Muslim man, for eve-teasing and allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl for over five days. The girl finally confronted the 45-year-old Muslim man and informed the locals.
The locals caught the culprit, who thrashed him for his unruly behaviour with the minor girl. The incident was reported in Nathu Colony in Delhi.
The audio clearly shows that the locals are beating him for molesting a minor girl. However, CJ Werleman used this incident to edit the video carefully, removed the audio, and circulated it across social media platforms to propagate lies against Hindus and incite Muslims in the country.
Well, this is not the first time that theIslamist-sympathiser who was profiled by Shekhar Guptas ThePrint has resorted to peddling fake news against Hindus. Just last week, he had spread a similar fake news by claiming that a Dalit was killed by Hindus for marrying a Muslim girl, when the fact is that the man was killed by the Muslim family members of the girl. CJ Werleman had said in a now delated tweet, A Dalit was lynched to death to death by Hindu extremist mob for marrying a Muslim woman.
In the tweet, he had included a photograph of Billapuram Nagaraju and his wife Syed Ashrin Sultana from Hyderabad. Sultanas family was opposed to this inter-faith marriage, and her own brother had killed Nagaraju on May 4th. Sultana herself has identified her brother Syed Mobin Ahmed as one of the killers of her husband, and Ahmed along with his accomplish Mohammed Masood Ahmed have already been arrested by police within a day of the murder. But still serial fake news peddler CJ Werleman had claimed that Nagaraju was killed by Hindu extremist mob.
He keeps sharing such fake news on a regular basis, and surprisingly, he tweets are not labelled as fake by Twitter.
Last year, he shared an undated video on his Twitter profile to claim that a group of Hindu men desecrated and destroyed a Muslim Graveyard in Nathan, India. In a tweet, he wrote, Hindutva radicals desecrate and destroy a Muslim graveyard in Nathan, India.
However, the local administration had called out the lie peddled by the radical Islamist sympathiser.
Similarly, he had made false allegations that the Indian government is suppressing Muslims on several other occasions. In August 2018, he took to Twitter to wrongly claim that the BJP had banned the slaughter of livestock during Eid. Werlemen also contended that the Police Officer was forcing an Imam to declare Qurbani is a punishable crime to his followers in the video that he had attached. In the same year, heposteda video claiming Hindutva fanatics destroying 25 Muslim owned businesses and properties in Aurangabad on 25th March.
CJ Werlemenappears to have a particular grudge against Uttar Pradesh, probably because a saffron-clad monk is the Chief Minister of the state. In several tweets, he had mentioned Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as a Hindutva terrorist.
In 2018, Kasganj Police had torefutehis allegations after Werlemen accused them of teaming up with Hindu extremists to target Muslims. In a separate instance, this time not involving Uttar Pradesh, Werlemen used a video depicting the violence during the Bhima-Koregaon clashes in Maharashtra and claimed that it, in fact, showed Hindus destroying Muslim property.
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Elon Musk wants to know how many fake accounts Twitter has, but experts say his approach is all wrong – CNBC
Posted: at 10:20 pm
Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent Twitter shares tumbling on Friday when he said he was going to put his$44 billion acquisition of the social network "on hold" while he researches the proportion of fake and spam accounts on the platform.
Though Musk later clarified that he remains committed to the deal, he continued to hammer on the issue of fake accounts. He wrote, on Twitter, that his team would do their own analysis and expressed doubt about the accuracy of numbers Twitter has reported in its most recent financial filings.
In its first-quarter earnings report this year, Twitter acknowledged there are a number of "false or spam accounts" on its platform, alongside legitimate monetizable daily active usage or users (mDAU). The company reported, "We have performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimate that the average of false or spam accounts during the first quarter of 2022 represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU during the quarter."
Twitter also admitted to overstating user numbers by 1.4 million to 1.9 million users over the past 3 years. The company wrote, "In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts," Twitter disclosed. "An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU."
While Musk may be justifiably curious, experts in social media, disinformation and statistical analysis say that his suggested approach to further analysis is woefully deficient.
Here's what the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said he would do to determine how many spam, fake and duplicate accounts exist on Twitter:
"To find out, my team will do a random sample of 100 followers of @twitter. I invite others to repeat the same process and see what they discover." He clarified his methodology in subsequent tweets, adding: "Pick any account with a lot of followers," and "Ignore first 1000 followers, then pick every 10th. I'm open to better ideas."
Musk also said, without providing evidence, that he picked 100 as the sample size number for his study because that's the number Twitter uses to calculate the numbers in their earnings reports.
"Any sensible random sampling process is fine. If many people independently get similar results for % of fake/spam/duplicate accounts, that will be telling. I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that is what Twitter uses to calculate <5% fake/spam/duplicate."
Twitter declined to comment when asked if his description of its methodology was accurate.
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz weighed-in on the issue via his own Twitter account, pointing out that Musk's approach is not actually random, uses a too small sample, and leaves room for massive errors.
He wrote, "Also I feel like 'doesn't trust the Twitter team to help pull the sample' is it's own kind of red flag."
BotSentinel founder and CEO Christopher Bouzy said in an interview with CNBC that analysis by his company indicates that 10% to 15% of accounts on Twitter are likely "inauthentic," including fakes, spammers, scammers, nefarious bots, duplicates, and "single-purpose hate accounts" which typically target and harass individuals, along with others who spread disinformation on purpose.
BotSentinel, which is primarily supported through crowdfunding, independently analyzes and identifies inauthentic activity on Twitter using a mix of machine learning software and teams of human reviewers. The company monitors more than 2.5 million Twitter accounts today, primarily English-language users.
"I think Twitter is not realistically classifying 'false and spam' accounts," Bouzy said.
He also warns that the number of inauthentic accounts can appear higher or lower in different corners of Twitter depending on topics being discussed. For example, more inauthentic accounts tweet about politics, cryptocurrency, climate change, and covid than those discussing non-controversial topics like kittens and origami, BotSentinel has found.
"I just can't fathom that Musk is doing anything other than trolling us with this silly sampling scheme."
Carl T Bergstrom
Author, "Calling Bulls---"
Carl T. Bergstrom, a University of Washington professor who co-wrote a book to help people understand data and avoid being taken in by false claims online, told CNBC that sampling one hundred followers of any single Twitter account should not serve as "due diligence" for making a $44 billion acquisition.
He said that a sample size of 100 is orders of magnitude smaller that the norm for social media researchers studying this sort of thing. The biggest issue Musk would face with this approach is known as selection bias.
Bergstrom wrote in a message to CNBC, "There's no reason to believe that followers of the official Twitter account are a representative sample of accounts on the platform. Perhaps bots are less likely to follow this account to avoid detection. Perhaps they're more likely to follow to seem legitimate. Who knows? But I just can't fathom that Musk is doing anything other than trolling us with this silly sampling scheme."
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NDTV claims Congress partys One Family One ticket rule exempts Gandhis, Congress hits back saying fake news: Here is what we know so far – OpIndia
Posted: at 10:19 pm
On May 13, Friday, controversial news outlet NDTV posted a Tweet saying that in an attempt to relaunch itself ahead of the crucial 2024 general elections, the Congress party has agreed on its much-touted one family, one ticket norm but with a clause that exempts the Gandhis.
NDTV, in its news report published on May 13 titled, Congress Clears Key Reform With Loophole For Gandhis: 10 Points, mentions that at the three-day Chintan Shivir or introspection in Rajasthans Udaipur beginning Friday, the Congress agreed that a One Family, One Ticket rule will return with a rider that exempts the Gandhis.
On the One Family, One Ticket rule, which bars more than one person from a family from contesting elections, the Congress has hinted in advance that this may spare the Gandhis Sonia Gandhi and her childrenRahul Gandhiand Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, says the NDTV report.
It further quotes the Congress leader Ajay Maken as saying when asked whether the Gandhis are exempted, There is unanimity on this rule. If family members still want to contest them they should have been active for five years. They are active for the last five years. Priyanka Gandhi started working formally for the party in 2018.
The media outlet thereby concluded that the rules rider, which allows all three Gandhis to contest, indicates a loophole, reinforcing critics claims that the party will make just cosmetic changes at a time when a major revamp is needed.
Following NDTVs Tweet, Congress and the party loyalists launched a scathing attack on the media outlet accusing it of spreading fake news. Youth Congress national president Srinivas BV, who himself has been caught umpteen number of times peddling fake news and unverified claims to target the Modi government, called it fake news, clarifying that the rule is applicable for everyone in the party, not just the Gandhi family. He wrote, Fake News Alert . Second member of a family can be considered for a party ticket only if he or she has already put in at least five years of work in the partys organisational work. The rule is applicable to everyone in the Party.
Twitter handle @bole_bharat, which identifies itself as a Fan of Congress, slammed NDTV by referring to it as a propaganda factory. It Tweeted, NDTV The Propaganda factory. Congress leader @ajaymaken didnt mention anything about Gandhi family while take about One Family One ticket rule. The rule is applicable for all.
Many other Congress loyalists also followed suit. They took to the microblogging site Twitter to call out the media outlet for propagating fake news.
The Congress members clarified that Congress leader Ajay Maken, in his address to the media, at no point in time named the Gandhi family and that the rule is applicable to everyone in the Party.
The Congress party has shared the video of the special Congress briefing on the discussions the party had during the three-day Chintan Shivir in Udaipur, and it appears that NDTV did misquote the party on the issue.
At around 11.30 minutes into the video, AICC general secretary Ajay Maken is heard saying that while the Shivir is keen to have the One Family One ticket norm in place, an aspiring second member of a family can be considered for a party ticket only if he or she has already put in at least five years work in the partys organisational work.
Although this rule technically qualifies all three Gandhi scions to run for office, it is also true that Ajay Maken did not mention the Gandhi scions during the briefing. Moreover, this rule will be applicable for all members of the party. It is evident that the information provided by NDTV is clearly based on assumptions.
As the Congress begins its three-day brainstorming session Nav Sankalp Shivir in Udaipur on Friday, the party announced that major changes are coming to the organisation, including 50% representation for persons under 50 at all levels, starting with the Congress Working Committee (CWC).
Prior to the meeting, Maken said the aim of the Shivir is to change the way Congress functions as an organisation. We are going to make some big changes in the organisation, he said, adding that the partys opponents have been faster than the Congress in catching up with the new tools of democracy. Now the party will use the new tools of democracy more efficiently.
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‘Stop Spreading Fake News: The Ghost Of Kyiv Is A Legend’, Ukrainian Military Says – The Aviationist
Posted: May 1, 2022 at 11:31 am
One of the images that circulated online supposedly depicting the "Ghost of Kyiv". (Ukrainian Air Force)
Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT Ghost of Kyiv and he did NOT hit 40 planes. This is one of the most interesting statements included in an official statement shared on social networks by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The post, was published in the afternoon European time on Apr. 30, 2022, and appears to be a response to the reports that started to circulate on British media outlets on Apr. 29.
Citing Ukrainian sources, The Times was the first to report that a Ukrainian Air Force pilot, Maj. Stepan Tarabalka, 29, a father of one, shot down while flying a MiG-29 on Mar. 13, 2022, was the legendary Ghost of Kyiv, a fighter pilot who shot down more than 40 Russian aircraft.
We first reported about the legend of the Ghost on Feb. 25, shortly after the Russian troops had started their invasion of Ukraine and the news a mystery pilot who singlehandedly shot down six Russian aircraft in a matter of few hours, had gone viral.
According to social media posts, one day into the war, the Ghost of Kyiv had become the first air combat ace over European soil since World War II, achieving the ace-in-a-day (shooting down more than five enemy aircraft) status. As we explained back then, the legend started with a series of three tweets showing a loneUkrainian fighter jet operating over the capital, which were retweeted thousands of times. The Spanish newspaperMarca was among the first to claim that the Ghost of Kyiv had downed the six aircraft.Among his alleged kills, the Ghost initially claimed no less than two Russian Sukhoi Su-35s, a Russian Su-27 Flanker, a Russian MiG-29 and two Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft.
Even the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense posted about the Ghost, retweeting footage of a MiG-29 fighting a Russian aircraft in what was later revealed to be a video recorded in the flight simulator DCS World. Former Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, posted on Twitter a photo of a fighter pilot, claiming it to be the real Ghost of Kyiv. Obviously, there is no way to confirm his real identity and his air-to-air kills, but for many the one from the former president appeared to turn a wild urban legend into reality.
However, since the very beginning, the story didnt add up: as we clearly explained in our first post on the Ghost:
Theres only one catch: there probably is no Ghost of Kyiv and this internet legend is probably not true.
The legend of the Ghost of Kyiv is almost certainly an example of bizarre distortions and manipulations of fact or near-fact that are amplified during the chaos of war, especially a new war during the opening hours. These legends sometimes have at least some basis in fact, but as they travel through language barriers and across borders at the speed of light via social media, they become embellished, retransmitted and retweeted as news. There may have been Ukrainian air-to-air victories in the opening day of the war. There may have even been six total, or some other number. But the likelihood that six of these alleged aerial victories belongs to a singular, gallant ace-in-a-day is remote.
Despite the lack of evidence, many people claimed that the Ghost existed and kept fighting Russian jets, while many started to believe the Ghost was probably just a legend, that had become the worldwide emblem of the Ukrainian resistance, a moral-booster as well as the main character of many interesting artworks.
While stories about the Ghost of Kyiv have emerged every now and then after the first week or so of the war, the prevailing theory was that the mysterious pilot was just a legend that could give Ukrainian people hope, pride and desire to fight, acting as an example of bravery and love for the motherland to follow. Until the existence of the legendary pilot was allegedly supported by some Ukrainian sources cited by The Times and by various British tabloids immediately thereafter.
In the end, even the official Ukrainian accounts have had to post an official statement to respond to such reports that could probably damage the reputation and credibility of Kyivs military along with its past and future claims.
The post by the Ukrainian military roughly translate as follows:
PLEASE DO NOT FILL THE INFO SPACE WITH FAKES-Once again, we ask the Ukrainian community NOT to ignore the basic rules of information hygiene, not to issue the desired one as valid, check the sources of information before spreading it. Hero of Ukraine Stepan Tarabalka is NOT Ghost of Kiev and he did NOT hit 40 planes.On March 13, 2022, Major Stepan Tarabalka was heroically killed in an air battle with the dominant forces of the Russian occupiers. Heres the information about him on the official website of the KPSU: https://www.facebook.com/kpszsu/posts/339462291555059Ghost of Kiev is a superhero-legend whose character was created by Ukrainians! This is a faster collected image of pilots of the 40th Air Force tactical aviation brigade, who protect the sky of the capital. What suddenly appear where they are not expected! Military pilots are not yet studying abroad on F-16, as much as we all want it.No official statement on this matter has been published in the media! Well, and lastly, for especially creative American bombers do not fly over Ukraine either!Keep calm and use official sources of information. Glory to Ukraine! Public Relations Service Command Air Force Armed Forces of Ukraine
In other words, Maj. Stepan Tarabalka was a hero pilot who was killed in action on Mar. 13, 2022, but he did not shot down 40 Russian aircraft.
The post also addressed some other recent claims, as the one that Ukrainian pilots would be training on F-16s in Germany or that American bombers would be flying over Ukraine.
Therefore, as explained at the beginning of the war, the Ghost of Kyiv was a still is a meme, a collective image of all Ukrainian fighter pilots who bravely fight against Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft over Ukraine: a symbol rather than an actual pilot, no matter what some media outlets speculate.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of The Aviationist, one of the worlds most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.
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Posted: at 11:31 am
On 1 December 2016, a man with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle entered a pizza restaurant in Washington DC because he believed that Hillary Clinton was sexually abusing children in the basement of that restaurant.
The man had read about this story the so-calledPizzagate scandalon social media posts and fake news websites and ultimately believed it was true. To his surprise, he found only some pizza dough and a bunch of frightened employees. Luckily, no one was harmed but the anecdote highlights how false news may have dramatic consequences.
Reading this, you may well be tempted to think that fake news and misinformation speak only to a few unsophisticated people with bizarre or extreme beliefs.
But while it has been found that people withpoor science knowledge,low cognitive abilitiesand atendency to be accepting of weak claimstend to be more inclined to believe false stories, you may want to think carefully about how immune you are to misinformation.
In fact, ask yourself the following questions: How good am I at judging the accuracy of news stories? If I read a fake story or heard a false pundit comment, would I really be able to spot the lie?
In our recent study entitledThe Ability to Distill the Truth, Tiziana Assenza, from the Toulouse School of Economics, and I conducted an online experiment to estimate Americans true ability to evaluate the accuracy of news items.
To do this, subjects read a series of short news stories on different topics from a wide range of sources. Independent fact-checking organizations had classified half of these news items as containing accurate information, and the remaining half as containing incorrect and demonstrably false information. For each news story, subjects had to state whether they believed that it contained accurate information or not.
Despite a large share of people with great confidence in their ability to cut through misinformation, we found that most people have limited ability to differentiate between fake and true news stories.
In fact, on average, participants in our experiments provided the correct evaluation of veracity only in 62% of the news stories they saw, and only 14% of subjects were able to discern the veracity of information in at least 80% of the news stories.
The viral and rapid diffusion of misinformation exposes people with poor abilities to discern the accuracy of news stories to greater chances of making adverse decisions, including financial choices. In fact,about 63%of Americans argue that the dissemination of misinformation and fake news has made it more difficult to make important financial decisions.
Moreover, the spread of misinformation is detrimental not only to individuals but also to society as a whole. It can generate significant economic losses through several channels of the economy, such as higher costs for public health, manipulated returns and reputation management costs for companies.
For example, in 2019,Metro Bank faced an 11% drop in stock market capitalizationafterfalse rumourson social media reported it was experiencing financial problems.
The events we have lived through in the last decade from Brexit to the election of Donald Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic have created great concern about the role played by false news and have motivated policymakers to move the contrast to misinformation to the top of their agenda.
While the policy debate focuses mostly on the role played by media companies in the creation and diffusion of fake news, scholars have proposed different approaches to increase peoples ability to discern the truthfulness of information.
People often share misinformation on social media simply because their attention is on factors unrelated to accuracy, such as the desire to please followers.
Accordingly,a simple intervention, which asks individuals to think about the accuracy of the news story they read before sharing it, has been found to increase the quality of the news that people share on social media.
In our research, we tested a different kind of intervention: improving peoples awareness by informing them of their true ability to differentiate between fake and true news stories. To do this, we randomly selected half the participants and told them the number of news stories that they correctly identified as accurate or inaccurate.
We found that subjects who received this informative feedback increased their awareness of the problems related to misinformation and showed a greater desire to act against the risk of being affected by it.
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Posted: at 11:30 am
One thing that really struck us as interesting is the fact that freedom of speech is protected even more here than it is in our home country. For example, unlike in America, denying the Holocaust is a criminal offense there. Also, freedom of the press goes further in the U.S. than in Germany: There, it is perfectly normal to send the shortened and edited transcript of an interview to the interviewee for authorization before publishing. That way, they can check whether the final print version of the interview stays true to what they meant to convey in the actual conversation. If interviewer and interviewee disagree, however, the interviewer still has the last word on what to publish. This procedure is not a legal obligation, but common practice. We were surprised to learn that this is utterly unusual in America. (Here, however, some journalists might refrain from publishing certain parts of an interview for fear of facing lawsuits. That, too, might impact freedom of the press.)
Like in the U.S., fake news have been on the rise in the past few years in Germany. Especially during the pandemic, many people started to distrust public broadcasters. Even though public TV and radio stations strive to be as politically independent as possible, they are often accused of reporting in a way that is too uncritical of the government. Commercial broadcasters, on the other hand, have a different credibility problem: In order to be able to compete with the heavily-funded public news outlets, headlines and push messages of many private media companies are becoming increasingly lurid. By appealing to the readers and viewers sensationalism, some hope to get more subscriptions or higher ratings. This is very dangerous: Many people do not read the entire article or watch the entire video, but only see the headline. Thus, without meaning to, television stations and newspapers can contribute to negatively influencing public opinion and dividing society.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, however, many viewers turned to commercial broadcasters, who are not funded by the German government. Some assumed that their reports might be more independent. And, indeed, many commercial news outlets were not afraid to criticize the federal governments decisions regarding pandemic response, some of them rather harshly. In a democracy, it is essential to have a variety of opinions and independent news sources to draw from.
However, many people who were critical of the governments crisis management began to look for alternative information and news on social media. A lot of them, among them vaccine skeptics and conspiracy theorists, gathered on the messenger app Telegram to share dubious articles and studies. While big tech companies like Facebook or Twitter are legally required to flag and/or remove false information, the German state has so far had no recourse against Telegram. The company is based in Dubai. Several attempts by the government to contact the operators of Telegram failed. The fact that more and more people are looking for alternative news on these platforms instead of relying on quality media poses a massive threat. Both commercial and public TV broadcasters as well as radio stations and newspapers must fight to win back the trust of this group of readers. Otherwise, our democracy may be at stake.
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Posted: at 11:30 am
Here's how you know you're watching your first Randy Rainbow video. For a few seconds, you're wondering whether you've played the wrong one, because some well-dressed talking head seems to be interviewing, say, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a politician you loathe. You're thinking,I thought this was supposed to be funny. Before you can scroll away, though, you realize something's just . . . not . . . real.
The graphic in the lower left corner of the screen reads "Fake News," not Fox News. The interviewer starts insulting Greene right to her face. He responds to her first comment by muttering "Who gives a s**t?," donning a pair of sparkly glasses, and calling her a few names you really wish you could call her yourself . . . and then it gets interesting.
Suddenly, the "interview" becomes a music video. That talking head is now wearing a lab coat and singing "Gurl, You're a Karen" while Lauren Boebert another of your "favorites" rambles behind him. As you keep listening, the melody starts to feel familiar. Is that . . . a show tune? (It is. It's "Dentist!" from "Little Shop of Horrors.") Wait: now he's in drag. Now there are THREE of him in drag! This thing is spectacular!
Welcome to Randy Rainbow.
His chief comedic achievement is his mastery of the song parody. Videos from his ever-growing catalog, like "Cheetoh Christ, Stupid-Czar" and "Braggadocious," are routinely streamed by millions. Scrolling through his YouTube channel is like salivating over a tray of petit fours in an exquisite patisserie. Every song he produces is yummy, delightful, and expertly artificial. Sharing a new one on social media is like bringing the dessert everyone ends up raving about to the party. It really doesn't hurt that they're easy to look at, too.
RELATED: 10 musicians who refused to let "Weird Al" Yankovic parody their songs
Rainbow himself, however, is more than just a pretty face framed by his signature pink glasses. For more than a decade, bit by bit, he has constructed a magnetic persona that serves as an avatar for contemporary rage and bewilderment, giving voice to our collective anxieties throughout the Trump-and-COVID era.
Rainbow ...has constructed a magnetic persona that serves as an avatar for contemporary rage and bewilderment.
Lest anyone mistake that persona for the real man, Rainbow has written a fetching memoir, "Playing with Myself" (St. Martin's Press) that reveals more of who he really is and where he comes from, both comedically and personally.
"I really wanted to write this book to kind of introduce myself because people came to know me just through this sort of two-dimensional version of me," he explained in an interview with Salon. "And I really wanted to take down the curtain. I was craving, like, being real a little bit."
Still, it's Rainbow's comedic character which he describes as "a slightly arrogant, somewhat ignorant, hopefully loveable, part gossip girl, part man-about-town, part vapid social media star"that has met the present moment so perfectly.
Playing With Myself by Randy Rainbow (Dirty Sugar Photography)Although he started releasing videos in 2010, Rainbow became a cultural touchstone during the 2016 presidential election campaign. While Donald Trump shattered political norms left and right, conventional media struggled to keep up with his torrent of falsehoods. Guided by Steve Bannon's insidious strategy, Trump "flooded the zone" with what Kellyanne Conway later called "alternative facts." All the major newspapers and networks wrestled with whether to call them lies while new lies replaced the originals.
America's best-known political satirists Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and John Oliver gamely rose to the occasion, calling out Trump's falsehoods and dissecting his unreal universe night after night. They engaged in what humor theorist James Caron (author of "Satire as the Comic Public Sphere") has called "satiractivism," counteracting the effects of Trump calling real stories "fake news" by presenting real news on fake news programs. No matter how funny they were, though, their satire never fully succeeded, largely because you can't shame a man who, by all accounts, has no shame.
Rainbow's campy caricature proved to be far more effective at skewering the absurdity of the modern GOP than their faux news shows, largely because as he developed his oeuvre, he put comedy and entertainment before rhetoric.
"I really just wanted to be, you know, Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand and maybe some Jerry Lewis," he said.
Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Rainbow inherited his devotion to entertainment from his family. "That's in my blood," he said. "You know, that old Borscht Belt kind of Jewish humor and performance." Indeed, his great-grandmother Estelle was even a Borscht Belt singer. His grandmother Nanny, a major influence, was a live wire. He describes her in his memoir as "savagely quick-witted, a Michelango of sarcasm, the greatest story-teller around."
Over time, though, Rainbow realized that comedy could do more than generate laughter. "I began to appreciate what an effective tool it actually was for delivering political and social commentary on such widely polarizing issues," he noted in "Playing with Myself." His humor became more personal and took on more of an agenda.
"I think there's always a pearl of my truth in there," he said. "In any comedy, there's always a pearl of truth."
RELATED: Jackie Mason's thorny career: Once a beacon for Jewish pride, the comedian later turned to bigotry
Throughout the Trump administration, while Rainbow continued to release videos, Americans found themselves trapped in social media bubbles. Sociologist Jean Boudrillard called the social world a "simulacrum," a hyper-reality full of noise, images, and symbols designed to mesmerize the mind and replace the boring real world.
To satirize the falsity of conservative politics, he would have to co-opt their methods.
With the advent of that simulacrum, the line between reporting and editorializing was erased. News on social media was delivered via cutesy memes and bot-written tweets. The result was a lack of distinction between news and entertainment, fact and fiction.
"There's no categories any more," Rainbow said. "People are scrolling through their feeds. They see a tweet from Kamala Harris, and then Marjorie Taylor Greene, and then they see something from MSNBC, and then they see Randy Rainbow, and it's all in the same font, so I think people don't take the time to put it into its proper category."
While mainstream comedy largely tried to mock the simulacrum from outside, Rainbow knew the real fight had to take place inside the matrix instead. To satirize the falsity of conservative politics, he would have to co-opt their methods. Caron calls Rainbow's approach "truthiness satire," exposing the simulacrum by creating a competing, obviously false reality, exposing both worlds as fakes.
When Trump's e-troops marched in misleading rhetorical lock-step from tweet to tweet, Rainbow countered by creating digital clones of himself to sing in perfect harmony. Trump coiffed his impossible hair, turned his face orange, and donned ill-fitting suits, and Rainbow responded with wigs, makeup, costumes, and clever video editing. Trump raged, and Rainbow sang back at him, delivering bravura performances that matched the former President's outsized ego with his own larger-than-life character.
In "Playing with Myself," Rainbow offers glimpses of where that character originated. As a boy, he wore yellow pajama pants on his head to imitate the blonde pigtails of the girls he knew at school, foreshadowing his future array of wigs. By middle school, he'd amassed an impressive collection of Broadway cast recordings. (Most of the songs he parodies are from musicals.) As an overweight adolescent, he carried note cards with snappy comebacks in his pocket to defuse the taunts of schoolyard bullies, getting an early start at using words to punch up, just as he does now with his deft lyrics.
The Randy Rainbow persona doesn't seem very far from the man himself.
"I might be saying, as the persona, exactly what I feel," he told Salon, "but it might be perfectly scripted and well-timed, or through song, or it might be in a sassy, witty response that I might not necessarily come up with on the fly if I were just having a conversation with somebody."
Randy Rainbow (Dirty Sugar Photography)
"I don't think that I can really trust other people to know what to do with me."
It took Rainbow years to become who he is now. After graduating high school, he made the classic leap of faith for an actor moving to New York to find work but struggled like so many others before him.
"I was just too afraid to audition," he said. "I didn't have the confidence. I had been on stage my entire life leading up to that point, but to come to New York, that was big-time."
After being fired from a production of "South Pacific" he was just "not butch enough," they told him he realized that in order to make it, he would have to follow a less conventional path. That path began with a revelation.
"I don't think that I can really trust other people to know what to do with me."
Weary of waiting for someone else to say yes to his ample talent, Rainbow decided to say yes to himself. With little more than a wardrobe full of costumes and a homemade green screen, he transformed his dextrous wit and encyclopedic knowledge of musical theater into a profoundly successful career.
"I was able to make the decision to produce myself," he said, "and that was ultimately my success."
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In the 21st century, anyone with a cell phone and a Twitter account can shoot videos and try to win the attention of an increasingly distracted modern audience. Billions make the attempt, in fact, their voices becoming the internet's background hum, but very few succeed. Rainbow is the rare stand-out exception. His self-produced comedy has earned him both industry recognition including three Emmy nominations and the viral enthusiasm of countless fans.
Surprisingly, some of those fans seem to come from across the deep partisan divide.
"I receive lots of email from people telling me things like, 'I'm a strict, conservative, Republican, QAnon anti-vaxxer, but I just love your videos!'" he wrote in "Playing with Myself."
While not naive, Rainbow remains hopeful that he might have some small effect on people.
"I have to assume that while they're laughing and singing along," he wrote. "They might also be ingesting at least a few secondhand ideas that are, shall we say, alternative to their own."
Conservatives aren't the only ones who might have had their minds opened by Rainbow's work. The performer himself seems to have learned a thing or two as well.
"The comedy I've been doing really has also helped me find my voice in other ways," he told Salon. "As a human citizen and also as a comedian."
That voice continues to be necessary in a world that remains stubbornly resistant to reality. With the threat of Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg ownership of both Facebook and Instagram, we may need Rainbow more than ever. His continued viral presence could be essential to resisting the privileged and powerful from the inside as they try to control their social media narratives. Anything they can do, after all to borrow, of course, from "Annie, Get Your Gun" he can certainly do better.
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Posted: at 11:30 am
Conspiracy theories and false information have dogged this years French presidential election. We recap some of the claims that have been debunked.
Cartes lectorales electors cards were sent out, as usual, before the election containing useful information such as the nearest polling station. People were invited to present them along with their ID when they go to vote although this is not obligatory. In smaller communes it is possible to present them alone without other ID.
However, some social media posts claimed the QR codes that appeared on the front of the cards this year were going to be used to make sure that votes against Emmanuel Macron were not counted, or to discount votes of people who are not vaccinated.
In fact the code simply directs people that scan it to official information on the election at elections.interieur.gouv.fr where they could check their registration status or carry out procedures such as asking for a proxy vote.
According to what appeared to be a tweet from the BBC, that was widely shared especially via Telegram, Emmanuel Macron had warned that Europe would have to take up to 60 million refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the next 20 years, linked to effects of sanctions against Russia. Some posters even said it was one of his campaign promises.
However Mr Macrons electoral team denied he had ever said this. The BBC also denied it made the tweet. In fact the post was faked from one with the less controversial headline:
As in the 2020 American elections when similar claims were made by Trump supporters, claims have circulated, notably on Facebook accounts supporting the far-right candidates, that voting machines are to be used, and manipulated, to falsify the count in Mr Macrons favour.
This was said to be in a partnership with American firm Dominion which was alleged to have made an agreement with the government to supply machines and use them to discount votes against Mr Macrons opponents. The same firm was at the centre of accusations by supporters of Mr Trump after several American states made use of it.
There is no contract between Dominion and the French government.
A small number of French communes 63 do have authorisation to use electronic voting machines to collect votes but the only model used is made by a Dutch firm. The communes concerned were all equipped with them before 2008 and new authorisations are no longer being given.
Former presidential candidate Nicolas Dupont-Aignan was cited as the source of information that the whole election could be invalid if the turnout was low.
In fact, his actual quote to BFMTV was that the election would be invalid in peoples hearts in this case.
The president is elected by majority vote no matter how low the turnout.
Salah Abdeslam, being tried for involvement with the 2015 Paris terror attacks, was said in a post originating from an anti-vax and pro-Russia account to have spoken out in tears at his trial, to tell voters not to commit an irreparable harm by voting for Le Pen.
The claim was widely refuted, including by Abdeslams own lawyers.
A gilet jaune activist, Gregory Pasqueille, was shown in a video saying that some 22,552 gilets jaunes supporters had been banned by law from voting.
In fact official figures record some 3,200 convictions in relation togilets jaunes protests in the period when they were most active, from November 2018 to November 2019, and the addition of a voting ban as an additional punishment is rare, lawyers say.
One lawyer who has represented many of those involved in the movement told French media none of those he had defended had received this penalty.
French election live first results: Macron 58.2%, Le Pen 41.8%
Presidential election: What happens after Sundays vote?
Posted: at 11:30 am
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Saturday peddled fake news against UP CM Yogi Adityanath, alleging that he called Lord Hanuman a Dalit who cannot be worshipped. The Shiv Sena leader made the statement on 30th April 2022 when he was asked for a reaction to Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubeys remarks that Even Balasaheb Thackeray would be shedding tears to see his partys government arresting people for reciting Hanuman Chalisa.
Responding to Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ashwini Kumar Choubeys remarks, Sanjay Raut said, That Choubey or whosoever be the person, he should not worry about Balasaheb Thackeray. These people are conspiring to divide this country by inciting riots over the Hanuman Chalisa issue. Shiv Sena is fighting against them. Balasaheb Thackeray would be showering flowers on us for this.
Sanjay Raut further said, What did honourable Yogi Adityanath say about Lord Hanuman? Yogi Adityanath is the Chief Minister of the state Ashwini Kumar Choubey belongs to. He said Hanuman is a Dalit person. He said there is no need to worship him. He said Hanuman is not God. He said Hanuman is a wild monkey or something like that. Since when did he become a devotee of Bajrang Bali? Leave it. If I start telling things, it will create a mess.
Sanjay Raut concluded by saying, If someone making such statements is trying to teach us, then Ashwini Kumar Chaube should once again recite Yogi Chalisa. He should write one first. We know what Lord Hanuman is. Maharashtra is a state that worships Lord Ram and Lord Hanuman. So dont worry about Balasaheb Thackeray. If at all he would be having a tear or two in his eyes today, it is because you people betrayed his Shiv Sena.
The statement by Yogi Adityanath which Sanjay Raut is referring to is from 28th November 2018 when Yogi Adityanath was campaigning in Rajasthan for the BJP candidates in the assembly elections of 2018. He was campaigning for Ram Kishan who was then a BJP candidate for the Alwar assembly seat. Yogi Adityanath said, Bajrang Bali is such a God of masses, who himself lives in mountains and forests. Be it a Dalit or a deprived person, everyone including all the Indians right from East to West and from North to South, Bajrang Bali unites them all. This is seen from 00:17 onwards in the following video.
While Yogi did call Lord Hanuman a god who lives in the forest, he did not call Him a Dalit. He, in fact, said that how Lord Hanuman does not discriminate amongst his devotees and takes all strata of people along.
As can be heard above, Yogi Adityanath said, In Indian tradition, Bajrangbali is loved by all, lives in a forest and has no place to call it home. The Dalits, the deprived, He (Lord Hanuman) takes them all, everyone in the Indian community, from the north to the south, from the east to the west, together. Bajrangbali has carried out the task of uniting everyone. Hence, (voting for BJP) should be a Bajrangisankalp(vow). Unlike Times Now, which has misquoted Yogi Adityanath.
While Yogi did call Lord Hanuman a god who lives in the forest, he did not call Him a Dalit. He, in fact, said that how Lord Hanuman does not discriminate against his devotees and takes all strata of people along.
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