Crows bid to make Ugle-Hagan No.1 AFL pick


Jamarra Ugle-Hagan is set to be the No.1 pick in next week’s AFL national draft after Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks all but confirmed the Crows will bid on the Western Bulldogs academy prospect.

The exciting key forward is certain to land at Whitten Oval, with the Dogs able to match any bids from rival clubs.

It only remains to be seen how many points they will need to match a bid and secure Ugle-Hagan – an Indigenous talent who has been likened to Sydney superstar Lance Franklin.

Adelaide hold the coveted first draft pick after finishing bottom of the ladder in 2020.

“We’ll pick the best player we believe that’s in the draft,” Nicks told SEN on Wednesday.

“If that’s Ugle-Hagan – because he is a super-talented footballer – then that’s where I guess a bid will come on him because we believe he should be No.1 in the draft.

“We’re not going to go out of our way to pick a young kid who’s not that and risk not getting the best player in the draft.”

Pressed further on the prospect of an Adelaide bid for Ugle-Hagan, Nicks said: “I don’t want to give too much away, but he’s extremely good.”

The Bulldogs on Tuesday executed a trade of draft picks with Greater Western Sydney, sending pick 26 to the Giants in exchange for picks 29 and 52.

It gave them more points with which to match an Adelaide bid at pick one.

The Crows’ top selection will slide to No.2 overall if, or when, the Bulldogs match their Ugle-Hagan bid.

Adelaide could then opt for athletic South Australian ruck-forward Riley Thilthorpe if they choose to draft locally.

Vic Country midfielder Elijah Hollands and West Australian tall forward Logan McDonald are also considered likely top-five picks.





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Sydney Swans commit to bid on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan if he’s available at pick three


North Melbourne, who hold pick No.2, could also conceivably bid on Ugle-Hagan. However in any case, he will not slide any further than selection No.3. Sources familiar with the situation confirmed on Tuesday that the Swans – who have spoken publicly of their view that Ugle-Hagan is the best player in the pool – have communicated to the Bulldogs that they will bid on Ugle-Hagan if he is available at selection No.3.

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Sydney would then select another player at pick No.4. West Australian tall backman Denver Grainger-Barrass has been strongly linked to the Swans’ first selection. Hawthorn have the following pick, currently No.4 but set to be bumped back to No.5 because of the bid on Ugle-Hagan.

Sydney list and recruiting chief Kinnear Beatson told an official AFL podcast last month that Ugle-Hagan is “an exceptional talent and clearly No.1 in our eyes.”

The Dogs on Tuesday completed a trade to gain more points to match an early bid for Ugle-Hagan. The Dogs sent pick 26 to Greater Western Sydney for the Giants’ picks 29 and 52.

In a draft heavily compromised by academy players, clubs are learning more in recent days about the likelihood of when bids will come in for such players.

Collingwood’s next generation academy tall midfielder/defender Reef McInnes is being regularly linked by industry sources to one of Essendon’s trio of top 10 picks. The Pies would prefer a bid not come for McInnes until after Collingwood’s second selection (currently No.16).

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Rival clubs are also of the view that the Pies are interested in bidding on Brisbane Lions academy small forward Blake Coleman with one of Collingwood’s two first-round selections (currently No.14 and No.16).

Coleman is blessed with pace and could help fill the void left by Jaidyn Stephenson, who was traded last month to North. Coleman is the younger brother of Keidean Coleman, who featured for Brisbane in this year’s AFL finals.

Explosive Sydney academy member Braeden Campbell will fetch a first-round bid with some clubs of the view that he will fall no further than Adelaide’s second selection, currently No.9.

Victorian draft prospects will gather for a training session at Craigieburn on Wednesday in which they will be guided by AFL academy coach Tarkyn Lockyer. Victorian players have been starved of the chance to play football this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

After a review of the contentious system, the AFL announced last month that from next year, bids on next generation academy players cannot be matched inside the top 20 of the draft. That will extend to the top 40 from 2022.

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Biden Cabinet pick hyped dossier, promoted conspiracy about Russian hackers changing votes


Neera Tandem, one of President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks, has vigorously upheld the results of the November election, yet past tweets show her promoting the anti-Trump Steele Dossier as well as conspiracies about Russian hackers influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Biden announced on Monday that Tanden, a former Clinton and Obama adviser, would serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Neera Tanden, president of Center for American Progress, speaks during an introduction for New Start New Jersey at NJIT in Newark, NJ, Monday, Nov. 10, 2014.
(AP)

Since Biden’s presidential victory over President Trump, Tandem has tweeted multiple times in defense of the outcome – going so far as to suggest it was a win for “defenders of democracy.”

Yet Tanden struck a noticeably different tune after Trump’s presidential victory in 2016. In the weeks after, she promoted an article that argued that “members of the electoral college should not make Donald Trump the next president unless he sells his companies and puts the proceeds in a blind trust.”

NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR LAMPOONED AFTER CLAIMING PAPER WILL COVER BIDEN ‘JUST AS THOROUGHLY’ AS TRUMP

Tanden also perpetuated allegations that Russians played a direct role in Trump’s 2016 win, tweeting just before his inauguration that “Russians did enough damage to affect more than 70k votes in 3 states.” 

And despite the infamous “Steele Dossier” being debunked, Tanden continued defending its findings well after it had been discredited.

In February 2018, Tanden insisted that the Steele Dossier had “been mostly proven to be true.” Nearly a year later, Tanden hadn’t been swayed, tweeting: “What parts of the dossier have been disproven? I will wait.”

Ex-British spy Christopher Steele compiled the dossier as part of opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party through the firm Fusion GPS.

Tanden’s nomination has already ruffled feathers in GOP circles. Senate Republicans are signaling they’ll oppose confirmation.

A spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on Sunday that Tanden “stands zero chance of being confirmed.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., claimed Tanden’s rhetoric was “filled with hate & guided by the woke left.”

At OMB, Tanden would be responsible for preparing Biden’s budget submission and would command several hundred budget analysts, economists and policy advisers with deep knowledge of the inner workings of the government.

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If Democrats should win runoff elections for Georgia’s two GOP-held Senate seats, Tanden’s job would become hugely important because the party would gain a slim majority in the chamber. That would allow them to pass special budget legislation that could roll back Trump’s tax cuts, boost the Affordable Care Act and pursue other spending goals. OMB would have a central role in such legislation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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The Roos have made a call on pick two, following Essendon and Gold Coast interest


North Melbourne will not trade pick two and will take the top selection to the National Draft.

The Herald Sun is reporting that the Roos wanted two top 10 picks or a top five pick and another early selection, with the Suns and Bombers showing fleeting interest.

However, Essendon was unwilling to trade two of its three picks inside the top 10, picks six, seven and eight.

It appears the Bombers will also take their incredibly strong hand to the draft.

The Suns hold pick five, but their next pick after that sits at 27.

North Melbourne will also reportedly keep two spots on their list open following the draft in order to sign a player in the pre-season and mid-season signing periods.

The Roos delisted 14 players following the completion of the 2020 season, creating roster space and flexibility for this off-season.







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The AFL draft prospect who stopped potential top pick Logan McDonald


West Australian draft prospect Denver Grainger-Barras says he took the points when he lined up on potential number one pick Logan McDonald earlier this season.

Speaking on SEN Afternoons on Friday, the key defender from WAFL club Swan Districts, who talent scout Kevin Sheehan has likened to West Coast’s Jeremy McGovern, says he went to McDonald to shut him down after the key forward talent had a big first half.

“I tried to not let it get to me too much in the week leading up to the game,” Grainger-Barras said.

“Logan had started the game off amazing. He kicked three goals in the first half, so I was given the job at half-time to play on Logan which I was super excited to get to play on him and do that role for the team.

“We had a pre-season practice match against (McDonald’s WAFL club) Perth, and they were getting stuck into me the whole team very vocally and physically, so I knew it was going to be a challenging match.”

Grainger-Barras, who is tipped by many to be a top five pick in the upcoming draft, said his coaches instructions were clear.

“I was given a really strict role to go and stop Logan, but at the same time to play my game and impact through the air and I feel like I kept that balance really well,” Grainger-Barras said.

“I kept Logan without a goal in the second half and I took some really good marks and some big intercepts in the second half as well.”

The Swans would go on to defeat McDonald’s Perth side by 27 points, with Grainger-Barras ending the match with 16 disposals, eight marks and the points over his fellow draft mate.







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No.1 draft pick chance McDonald prepared to leave WA


“I used to be an opening bowler, but I haven’t bowled for a couple of years because I don’t want to get injured, so I’ve just been batting,” McDonald said this week.

“I got run out for 48 the other week. It’s about as frustrating a game as you can get. But it’s been good fun.”

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He said he was being identified more around town but that those closest to him – including parents Darren and Victoria, twin brother Riley and younger brother Connor – have been providing the support he needs.

“It’s just starting to feel real, the last couple of days. It’s a really exciting time for me and my family. I’ve got good people around me, my family and friends that keep me grounded,” McDonald said.

“You get more looks. More people are talking about you, I guess, when you go out.

“But nothing’s changed at home or when I’m out with mates. We just stay grounded and keep working hard.

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“I’m just enjoying potentially the last couple of weeks home with family and friends. Just going out with mates, playing golf and things like that, going to the beach. Really enjoying this time and being close to the people that have helped me along the way and people that I’m really grateful for.”

Inevitably, concerns arise as to whether the 196-centimetre McDonald would be a flight risk for a non-WA club, but McDonald said he had got his head around a shift from Perth and would want to reward the club that takes him.

“If I do have to move away I’ll miss them, but it’s also an exciting opportunity to get out of home and follow my dream,” he said.

“I’ve been really open to moving out. If a team gives me an opportunity then I’ll look to repay the faith.”

McDonald had been kept occupied until last week by his finance and property studies at Curtin University, which he said had kept him thinking about footy too much.

He is a self-professed “sport head” – his heroes include NBA stars LeBron James and Damian Lillard, and tennis great Rafael Nadal.

Perhaps most of all he idolises Scott Pendlebury. McDonald comes from a family of Swan Districts fans who chose to support Collingwood in the VFL because they also wore black and white. When West Coast entered the VFL, most of the family switched to the Eagles, but Darren stuck with Collingwood, which is why Logan is a Magpies fan.

In this unconventional year, he isn’t sure what he will be doing on draft night. He said he watched the NBA draft last week, also held remotely, and liked the way it was run with cameras and microphones in leading prospects’ houses.

“I’ll probably just have it at home with some close friends and family. We’ll just see what happens.”

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Biden secretary of state pick Blinken opposed terrorist label for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard


Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for secretary of state, opposed designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization out of fears it would lead to blowback — a potential sign of the softer stance a Biden administration is expected to take toward Iran.

Biden announced Monday that Blinken, a former deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, would be his pick for the nation’s top diplomat. It was the Obama administration that entered the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) — known as the Iran nuclear deal — which normalized relations with the Iranian regime.

BIDEN PICKS BLINKEN, MAYORKAS, SULLIVAN FOR KEY CABINET POSITIONS 

During that administration, Blinken served as deputy secretary of state and as a principal deputy national security adviser to former President Obama, having also served as Biden’s national security adviser.

In this Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, file photo, Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria.  (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

The Trump administration has taken a harder line on Tehran, withdrawing from the JCPoA, reimposing sanctions on Iran’s economy and energy sectors, and taking steps against the IRGC — including killing General Qassem Soleimani and designating it a terror group in 2019.

In 2017, when the Trump administration was still mulling the idea, Blinken said he opposed designating the IRGC a terror group, noting that the Bush administration had also shied away from making such a designation. The Trump administration would make the designation in 2019.

“If there’s a formal designation as a terrorist organization, I think there is going to be blowback,” he said on CNN in October 2017. “That’s exactly why the Bush administration and the Obama administration, while using other sanctions against individual members, leaders or the IRGC, resisted designating the organization.”

He was then asked how it differs from the State Department already describing the organization as the leading sponsor of terrorism.

RASHIDA TLAIB ACCUSED OF ANTI-SEMITISM FOR REACTION TO BIDEN’S JEWISH SEC OF STATE NOMINEE

“None of us should have any love for the IRGC and the Quds force,” he responded. “They do terrible things around the world on a daily basis. But in Iran, they are considered the armed forces of the regime. And they have the ability, if they want to use it, to make trouble.” 

He suggested instead using existing sanctions “without sticking it in their eye publicly in a way that might actually blow up reaction and that endangers our troops.”

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Biden has pledged to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. The Guardian on Monday reported that the U.K., France and Germany have met to discuss a joint approach with the incoming administration on reviving the troubled deal.

Blinken, if confirmed by the Senate, will be at the forefront of any such negotiations. He will also play a key role in reentering other organizations and deals that the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from — including the Paris climate agreement.



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Should the Roos split pick two for the “volume” of multiple assets?


North Melbourne confirmed last week that they are open to offers for their prized pick two in the National Draft and so the question is now what would get them to hand over that pick.

Essendon looks the likely option given they hold picks six, seven and eight, but should the Roos give up such a high selection for multiple lesser assets?

David King believes North Melbourne should look at it as part of kick-starting their rebuild.

“The simple answer is I don’t know – these guys at club level have been watching these guys develop and come along for three, four, five years,” King told SEN Breakfast.

“So they’ll have a better handle on the product and know what you’re passing up if you pass up pick two and everyone tells me that is Luke McDonald from Western Australia who’s played WAFL footy already.

“He had a fantastic season, so he’s ready to go and maybe he’s one you can build your forward line around, I don’t know.

“So to give that up is a fair risk, but if you’re going to get volume and I don’t know if you get picks six and eight or more than that, I’m not sure, but do the Kangaroos need volume or do they need the one star? That’s the question you’ll have to get your head around.

“Personally, I like the idea of volume at this stage, but gee when you see what pick two could be, I can understand the logic of why people are saying ‘don’t give up that pick’.

“It’ll be interesting to see what clubs offer and the Kangaroos have got to be open to everything.”

The 2020 National Draft will take place on December 7th with live pick trading allowed right through to its conclusion.







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What do Essendon and Collingwood do? Will Jamarra Ugle-Hagan be pick one?


Firstly, if he is the best player then pick him and don’t presume to know what the Bulldogs will do. Secondly, selecting him demands the Bulldogs pay the appropriate draft price for him.

Finally, any player stepping into fishbowl Adelaide after their miserable year will carry a weight of public expectation to be the one to transform the club. Maybe calling Ugle-Hagan just eases that pressure on the player they take, just a bit.

The most likely No.1 choice: Jamarra Ugle-Hagan. Credit:Getty Images

Against those arguments is the fact you are telegraphing to the player you do take that we don’t think you were the best in the country.

And you also deny them a little financial bonus for being pick one in the country.

2. What do Essendon do with their picks?

Three picks in the top 10 – six, seven and eight – gives the Bombers a juicy draft hand. Firstly they will consider whether to use all three in this draft or trade one or more picks, either to get lower in this draft (consider trying to tempt North Melbourne to move on pick two) or even get into the first round of next year.

If they keep the three picks, then what is the best approach? Does it change your strategy if you have a cluster of picks?

“I think Essendon with their list at the moment, they just call out the players in the order they rank them and they will get a blend of types in that anyway. There are not three clear midfielders or three clear key positions players in a row at those picks,” a recruiter told The Age.

3. Do you take the best talent or the best fit for your needs?

It might sound self evident that you take the most talented player. But it’s not. The Giants, for instance, have always had an abundance of inside midfielders because academies have thrown up access to elite players at a discounted rate who all happened to be inside midfielders.

Top 10 of 2019: (back, left to right) Tom Green, Liam Henry, Caleb Serong, Hayden Young, Fischer McAsey, (front) Lachie Ash, Luke Jackson, Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Dylan Stephens.

Top 10 of 2019: (back, left to right) Tom Green, Liam Henry, Caleb Serong, Hayden Young, Fischer McAsey, (front) Lachie Ash, Luke Jackson, Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Dylan Stephens. Credit:Justin McManus

Melbourne, as another example, now have a depth of tall players and inside midfielders and have been looking for more speed and run.

But do you do that at the pointy end of the draft? Or rather, at what point in the draft does elite talent become overtaken by positional need? There is no one definitive answer to this as it varies between list demographic, but typically the top five to seven players in any year are a cut above the other players and cannot be ignored, so after that point the ledger might swing a little more towards need over talent.

A respected list manager said: “It depends on your list but I think in your own mind you end up believing you have taken the best player because I think subconsciously your need influences your impression of the best player. And you spend so long watching tape of players that fit a positional need that you fall in love with them.”

4. What do Collingwood do?

Forgetting all the drama and rancour of the last month and whether they got commensurate value for the players they traded out, clearly a priority for Collingwood was to get into this draft. They have two first-round picks and their first-rounder next year is up for sale. They can comfortably trade that pick because they have father-son Nick Daicos coming through next year who will be a first-round pick and they have adequate points to cover selecting with later draft picks.

That future first round is a very valuable pick because this year’s draft has been rendered more speculative due to the absence of exposed form from so many players.

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Collingwood will want to trade next year’s first to get high in this year’s draft.

It is doubtful it can get them into the top five where they would like to be to be able to claim one of the players that a consensus of recruiters would rate as the clear best available players.

5. So who are the best five?

Taking out the academy and father-son players, recruiters tend to agree that Logan McDonald, Riley Thilthorpe, Elijah Hollands, Denver Grainger-Barras and Will Phillips are a class above the other players in the draft (on exposed form).

6. Will the Roos use pick two on a player?

This is the second time North Melbourne have had pick two (the other was in 2002 for Daniel Wells). They’ve never had pick one.

North indicated during the trade period that pick two was on the table for the right deal to see what it would flush out.

The thought behind it was that nailing two picks in the top 10 could be more transformational than using just pick two, given the urgent need for young talent at Arden Street.

Increasingly now the noise out of North suggest they are more likely to hold the pick. Recruiters believe the Roos are every attracted to Hollands, an outside midfielder who is an elite ball user able to play in multiple spots on the field.

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7. Do non-Victorian players have an advantage this year?

Depends which way a recruiter looks at it.

They do in the sense that non-Victorian footy was shortened but not cancelled, meaning players like McDonald (WA), Thilthorpe (SA), Grainger-Barras (WA) could be studied, even via tape, but Victorian kids could not.

Players do get drafted in the first-round, anyway, when they’ve been injured in their draft year. Hollands, who did an ACL this year, is expected to go high, for example. Recruiters know how good he could be without having seen him in 2020.

8. Will clubs use all their picks?

No. Some clubs believe there will only be 50 names called out on draft night as a combination of reduced list sizes and uncertainty around talent because of the COVID-19-affected year for the Victorian under-18 players.

Hence the AFL has (mercifully) cut the draft back to a one-night affair.

There is every chance many clubs won’t use all picks and leave one spot open on their list for a player to train with them in pre-season and then be taken in the supplemental selection period.

It is also likely that clubs will hold open a rookie place for the mid-season draft next year when those Victorian kids who didn’t get to play this year resume playing next year and clubs can have a good look at them. Clubs will then want to use that 2021 mid-year draft to get a jump on next year’s national draft.

9. Could there be a bidding frenzy?

There are plenty of prospects linked to clubs already through academies and father-son allowances.

Ugle-Hagan (Bulldogs), Braeden Campbell (Sydney), Errol Gulden (Sydney), Lachie Jones (Port Adelaide), Reef McInnes (Collingwood), Luke Edwards (Adelaide), Cody Brand (Essendon), Connor Downie (Hawthorn), Alex Davies (Gold Coast), Joel Jeffrey (Gold Coast) and Maurice Rioli jnr (Richmond) are some of the top names that will be called out.

Ugle-Hagan, Campbell and Jones will be called out very early. The Hawks, for instance, are very interested in Campbell and so he could go early while Jones is rated a top 10 pick. Gulden could be a late first-round pick.

Recruiters figure that McInnes and Downie are possible second-round picks, Brand and Rioli probable third-round picks.

On top of this, 17 of 2019’s 48 players in the under-17s All Star grand final squads were father-son or academy prospects.

Recruiters seem split on if there will be a bidding frenzy or not.

10. Does GWS’ draft bounty raise a familiar problem?

You would think GWS would be totally and completely excited about their draft bounty (picks 10, 13, 15, 20, 29, 52 and 88) that was boosted by Jeremy Cameron’s trade to Geelong.

In one sense they are, but they also know that over the years they pick top-end talent at the draft and then that talent proceeds to walk out the door a few years later. Jye Caldwell is the latest to do that, heading to Essendon.

Like North Melbourne, trading a suite of first-round picks to gain access to single-figure selections is one option being considered by the Giants.

“We’ve got great confidence in that early part of the draft – that top 15, top 20, they’ve generally announced themselves at 16 or 17-year-olds. Our team’s got a really good handle on those guys,” Giants footy boss Jason McCartney said last week.

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As Trump pushes ‘fraud,’ partisans pick their own reality


Washington

President Donald Trump’s false insistence that he is the rightful winner of the 2020 election has exposed like nothing else in his time in office the possibility that America is becoming a post-truth society, where political partisans can’t agree on a unifying framework of facts, and emotion and personal belief steer the winds of public opinion.

Since the vote, Democrats and Republicans seem to be living in different worlds. Supporters of President-elect Joe Biden point to his solid leads in a number of key battleground states and record-breaking overall vote total as evidence he won fair and square. Many supporters of President Trump have been convinced by right-wing media allegations, so far unsupported by evidence, that the election was rife with fraud – with dead people voting, ballots tossed, and corrupted election machines changing thousands of votes at a swipe.

Caught in between are state and national election officials of both parties who insist that the nation has managed the heroic act of holding a fair and free vote, with no more glitches than normal, despite a pandemic and historic turnout. They point out that the Trump campaign’s many lawsuits about the results have virtually all collapsed and are doing nothing but further documenting the solidity of Mr. Biden’s win.

Republican Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia city commissioner, perhaps spoke for many of these undersung election workers in a CNN interview last week. 

“I realize a lot of people are happy about this election and a lot of people are not happy about this election,” said Mr. Schmidt. “One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies.”

This divide over what constitutes truth and facts has been developing for some time, say experts. It’s not just the result of the rise of right-wing media outlets such as Fox News or the election of a president whom fact-checkers rate as an unparalleled source of political falsehoods. 

It’s also about the rise of social media, the blurring of lines between fact and opinion, and the decline in trust of many national institutions and even the nature of expertise.

“It’s a phenomenon that’s not tied to one party or administration. … It’s not only an information problem. It’s about the context in which information exists,” says Jennifer Kavanagh, a senior political scientist at Rand Corp. and co-author of “Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life.”

Unaddressed it could threaten democracy itself. As former President Barack Obama pointed out this week in an interview with the Atlantic, if we lose the ability to sort the true from the false, then by definition the marketplace of ideas does not work – and neither does democracy. Our whole theory of knowledge – epistemology – is threatened.

“We are entering an epistemological crisis,” President Obama told Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg.

Truth and politics

It may not have begun with him, but President Trump has proved that truth-bending politics has its advantages. A candidacy that began with Mr. Trump leveraging “birtherism” – the lie that Mr. Obama was not born in America – is ending with a president clinging to false stories about why he has won reelection, despite overwhelming evidence he has lost.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump insisted without evidence that mail-in ballots were rife with fraud. He cast doubt on ballots counted after Election Day, though lengthy ballot tallies and checks are routine. Since the vote he has seized on small discrepancies in county vote counts as reasons why the ballots of entire states should be invalidated and state legislatures should name him as the winner of their Electoral College votes.

John Beauge/The Patriot-News/AP

Approximately 100 Trump supporters stand across West Third Street from the Federal Building in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for hours Nov. 17, 2020, while attorneys for the Trump campaign organization urged a federal judge not to certify the election results.

The president may sincerely believe these moves will keep him in the Oval Office. But in the past, he has used falsehoods and misdirection just to throw dust in the air, overwhelm the media, and create an appearance of scandal to delegitimize opposition. In his famous outreach to Ukraine – for which he was impeached – Mr. Trump only pushed for an investigation into Hunter Biden’s business deals to be announced, not completed or even begun. 

In his fight to stay in office, the president has often taken a bit of true information and presented it out of context. On Wednesday night, he tweeted that in Wisconsin, former Vice President Biden had received “a dump of 143,379 votes at 3:42 AM, when they learned he was losing badly.” What Mr. Trump did not mention was that the “dump” was a routine release of ballots by a number of counties and that not all of the ballots were for Mr. Biden, as a Reuters fact check clarifies.

While Rudy Giuliani gives press conferences like one on Thursday alleging widespread fraud, in court, under oath, he is far more measured: “This is not a fraud case,” he told a federal judge in Pennsylvania Tuesday.

This sort of activity could continue to cloud Mr. Biden’s presidency, says Whitney Phillips, a lecturer on media literacy and misinformation at Syracuse University.

“It is creating a permission structure to not accept Joe Biden as president,” Dr. Phillips says.

That may have real-world consequences, she adds. If a quarter of the population does not think Mr. Biden is a legitimate president, what does that mean for his coronavirus response plans? Will he face more entrenched opposition to masking recommendations or vaccine distribution?

“This is not just an abstract conversation about electoral consequences 10 years down the road,” she says.

Dr. Phillips says it is also important to place Mr. Trump’s current charges in context. The president began constructing a narrative about the “deep state” and shadowy enemies almost from the moment he entered office. It has been a thread linking the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller, the impeachment effort, and more fervid false conspiracy theories such as those espoused by QAnon. This summer he began pushing a message that the Democrats would steal the election from him by any means necessary. This feeds a constant media diet by right-wing outlets that wraps around and encompasses many issues and “explains” confusing developments.

“It’s very hard to see outside the narrative. People are convinced of the underlying idea, and they’re going to seek that story out,” Dr. Phillips says.

“We wanted to support our president”

Many supporters of President Trump believe wholeheartedly that the vote was rife with wrongdoing, with dead people voting, ballots falsified, and corrupted election machines changing thousands of votes at a swipe. A recent Monmouth poll, for instance, found that 77% of Trump backers believed Mr. Biden’s victory was due to “fraud.” 

That’s in contrast to the 60% of Americans who believe Mr. Biden won the election fair and square, according to Monmouth.

Sign-waving fans of the president interviewed at Nov. 14’s “Million MAGA March” in Washington were certain there was no way he could have lost legitimately. They cited the size of Trump rallies, Mr. Biden’s flaws, and U.S. economic strength.

Janine Luzzi, a financial analyst from New Jersey, woke up at 5:15 a.m. to drive down to Washington with a friend.

“We wanted to support our president. We know he’s been cheated,” said Ms. Luzzi.

Terry and Kevin Roche drove up from their hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, the day before the rally. They felt it was important to attend because they don’t think the election process is over, and that courts and legislatures will discover there was fraud.

“Historically, the economy, scandals, all the measures that we use to judge a candidate – Joe Biden could not have done well. So it’s very inexplicable. Simply because people don’t like Donald Trump’s tweets he would lose an election?” said Mr. Roche, who works in computers. 

Cathy Boyd, a nurse from western Massachusetts, spent seven hours on a train to reach the rally. She says she felt she had to come and support the president because his opponents are simply stealing the election.

“I tell people that President Trump exposed the evil and corruption. He’s the only person who can do it. He’s got his own money,” said Ms. Boyd.

Why would Trump supporters be so sure about fraud in the election, when evidence to support that claim is lacking, more than two dozen court cases have gone against the president’s campaign or been withdrawn, and a majority of the country believes otherwise? Media silos may be one big reason. A quick glance at news headlines on Nov. 18 shows the split: The New York Times and other mainstream sources led with stories about the national coronavirus spike, with a smattering of pieces about the organization of the incoming Biden administration. Fox News, Breitbart, and OANN lead with Trump lawyer Mr. Giuliani laying out a “path to victory,” and the continuing struggle to certify vote results in Michigan’s Wayne County.

Many adults now get much of their news through Facebook and other social media sites, where it remains difficult to ascertain the validity of stories. At last weekend’s MAGA March, many participants repeated allegations that have been debunked by fact-checking, such as the false charge that Dominion Voting System machines were rigged to throw votes to Mr. Biden. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out in an editorial Thursday, if there had been a problem with Dominion machines, the hand recount Georgia just completed would have uncovered them. Dominion machines also were used in South Carolina and other states that voted for the president.

In his interview with The Atlantic, former President Obama criticized what he called the nation’s “new malevolent information structure.” America no longer has a trusted figure such as Walter Cronkite to bring us all together, he said. Locally owned and controlled TV stations are dwindling. Local newspapers run by experienced journalists are dying off.

“Maybe most importantly, and most disconcertingly, what we’ve seen is what some people call ‘truth decay,’ something that’s been accelerated by outgoing President Trump – the sense that not only do we not have to tell the truth, but the truth doesn’t even matter,” said the former president in a separate interview with “60 Minutes.”

Combating “truth decay”

“Truth decay” is a phrase Mr. Obama likely lifted from a lengthy 2018 Rand study of the same name. 

Since his interviews “we definitely have gotten renewed interest,” says Dr. Kavanagh, who co-wrote the book with Rand president and CEO Michael D. Rich.

Truth decay, as defined by Dr. Kavanagh, is a set of four interrelated trends: increasing disagreement about facts and interpretations of facts and data, more and more blurring of lines between opinions and facts, an increased volume of opinions, and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information. 

Causes of these trends include changes in information providers, such as the rise in social media; an educational system that places less emphasis on media literacy and critical thinking; and political and demographic polarization.

Damaging consequences of this situation include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, and uncertainty about national policy.

“We’re describing a situation in which people don’t know what’s true and what’s not – and they don’t know where to turn to find fact-based information,” says Dr. Kavanagh.

Solutions to truth decay could include more teaching about civic responsibilities and media literacy.

“Understanding the responsibility to become informed, and then having the tools to do it,” says Dr. Kavanagh.

There is also much that journalism can do to help overcome the challenge, according to Rand. A first step would be much clearer separation of fact and opinion articles and broadcasts. Consumers conflate the two much more than many journalists realize. A second step would be an increased attention to breaking up high-quality news in small, digestible chunks. That’s a market currently dominated by low-quality news providers. 

The online news environment is a big part of the problem. Right now, it’s a problem with more questions than answers. How to balance privacy and access against manipulation and hate speech? Are the companies themselves the right people to make those decisions?

Overall, with effort truth decay can be addressed, says Dr. Kavanagh.

“It’s not inevitable,” she says.





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