Worse Than We Could Imagine

Apology: yesterday, I accidentally pre-posted an upcoming entry. If you got an email before I could correct it, I apologize for cluttering up your inbox!

The more we learn about Robert Mercer, the worse he looks.

Open Secrets recently published a description of messages that a Mercer organization sent through Facebook and Google to influence the November 2016 elections, and they are despicable–not just because they helped elect Donald Trump, but because they fed the tribalism that is tearing at the American fabric.

As the final weeks of the 2016 elections ticked down, voters in swing states like Nevada and North Carolina began seeing eerie promotional travel ads as they scrolled through their Facebook feeds or clicked through Google sites.

In one, a woman with a French accent cheerfully welcomes visitors to the “Islamic State of France,” where “under Sharia law,  you can enjoy everything the Islamic State of France has to offer, as long as you follow the rules.”

The video has a Man in the High Tower feel. Iconic French tourist sites are both familiar and transformed — the Eiffel Tower is capped with a star and crescent and the spires of the Notre Dame are replaced with the domed qubbaof a mosque.

The Mona Lisa is shown looking, the ad says, “as a woman should,” covered in a burka.

If it wasn’t already clear that the ad was meant to stoke viewers’ fears of imminent Muslim conquest, the video is interspersed with violent imagery. Three missiles are seen flying through the sky as the video opens. Blindfolded men are shown kneeling with guns pointed at their heads, and children are shown training with weapons “to defend the caliphate.”

This was only one of three supposed travel ads. Just a few days before the election, another “travel promo” showed Syrian refugees ruling America. The ad changed the iconic Hollywood sign to read “Allahu Akbar.” The Statue of Liberty was pictured wearing a burka and holding a star and crescent, and Ground Zero in New York was portrayed as place where  “Islamic victories” were celebrated.

Most voters never saw the ads, nor were they intended to. The organization that produced them is a far-right “social welfare” non-profit called Secure America Now. It used information obtained from Facebook and Google to carefully target these messages, sending them only to the voters in swing states who were most likely to be receptive to them.

And new tax documents obtained by OpenSecrets show that the money fueling the group came mostly from just three donors, including the secretive multimillionaire donor Robert Mercer….

Mercer has become a household name not only for his political spending in recent years or his peculiar interests — such as part-timing as a New Mexico police officer or funding stockpiles of urine in the Oregon mountains — but also for bankrolling the alt-right and the data firm Cambridge Analytica, both of which helped Trump clutch victory in 2016.

As OpenSecrets reported last month, SAN received another $2 million from the 45Committee, another pro-Trump dark money group, which is itself partly funded by other dark money groups.

These ads “were viewed millions of times on Facebook and Google,” according to Bloomberg. Reports also assert that Facebook used Secure America Now to test new technology, “sending out 12 different versions of the video to see which was the most popular.”

The ads were written to minimize the likelihood that the IRS would rule them campaign expenditures. They made no mention of a candidate. (Of course, Trump’s anti-Muslim bias and his constant insistence that Muslims entering the country posed a danger is a less than subtle clue to the intent of the ad campaign.) Trump had called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”  and had referred to Syrian refugees as possibly “one of the great Trojan horses.”

Evidently, for people like Mercer, and companies like Facebook and Google (what happened to “Don’t be evil”?), playing on the fears and exploiting the bigotries of susceptible voters is just another campaign tactic. And if you can do that on the “down low,” so much the better.


  1. Like pigs at the trough, Trumps supporters lap up the swill fed to them by the Mercers of the country. Unable to recognize, mush less articulate, logical answers to the questions swirling around the Republican Party and their president, it is much easier to vomit out hatred, intolerance, and greed. A pox on all of them.

  2. I can see using this crap to try to win an election, it’s been done in the more highly cultured states of the world before. But as we’re seeing, their knowing nothing about governing raises this question — how do they plan on maintaining their power once they’ve obtained it? They’ve got to have an enemy, and when they’ve pretty well rounded up a few and identified them as such, they’ll just have to keep rounding more and more of them up.
    And, when you are at the point you “can’t be sure about your friends and relatives anymore, how long will it be before they come after you?”

  3. There is the belief I have that for the most part the United States is still United! We know as a fact that of the voting public that turned out – around 23% or 26% voted drumpf – he lost by 3 million votes more or less. What does that tell you? When we have all our major media owned by one company and they demand that their broadcast outlets make a dedicated effort to paint the ‘leader’ in a positive light – and the public is being led to believe this is ‘good’? I am sorry to be of the ilk that says – NO. It is time for a true revolution. From the ground UP!

  4. Steve,

    “But as we’re seeing, their knowing nothing about governing raises this question — how do they plan on maintaining their power once they’ve obtained it?”

    There’s only one way. It’s to totally destroy what’s left of American democracy. The only power the Trump Administration has is to DESTROY which in the long run is SUICIDAL. It’s something completely new in history. It would be best described as FUTURCIDE. There’s a point where it can’t be stopped. Today, the 8th of April, 2018, we’re very close to that point. We might have already passed it.

    “Freedom can be preserved in the face of a CONTINUING PROCESS only up to a certain point. Beyond that point one inevitably becomes the slave of events. The logic takes charge, upsetting all independent plans and calculations.”
    ~ Hermann Rauschning, 1939

  5. Manuel,

    “NO. It is time for a true revolution. From the ground UP!”

    And what is that supposed to accomplish? Unfortunately, reality has shone, the opposition is a little more than the 1% which was calculated by the defunct OCCUPY MOVEMENT.

  6. The GOP has been using fear to win elections for decades, but they have been using emotional hot buttons for much longer. After the Civil War they “waved the bloody flag” and held the Presidency, with only the Cleveland interruptions until 1912. They would’ve won then, if not for the split with the Roosevelt faction of the party. It took the depression to get us 20 years of Democratic Presidents. Then Nixon, in 1968, had his “silent majority” who looked at riots in the streets and feared the coming of “the other.” Reagan gathered his “moral majority” to fend off the “welfare queens.” Who can forget the infamous Willie Horton ads for Bush 41? “W” ran on the ballot with state constitutional amendments defining marriage as between one man and one woman in order to preserve the human race.

    Now we get to pick from Muslims and Mexicans, while we still have the memory of the interloper from Kenya on our minds. Don’t you dare call us bigots. After all we have a black friend, a Arab friend, and a gay uncle to prove how righteous we are.

  7. Obviously some Americans are very poor at good critical thinking. This was obvious propaganda that fueled the fears of those who are afraid of diversity and pluralism.

  8. Spot on Manuel!

    However, these ads are just an extreme example of what is being used to manipulate a targeted market of Americans. Don’t think for an instant that these are exceptions.

    Even the NBC owned MSNBC, where many loyal Democratic subjects get their entertainment, is manipulation–propaganda.

    What worries me the most is with all these obvious aims to propagandize news and information, the Dept of Homeland Security is compiling a list of media influencers:

    “Meanwhile, the United States government, traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom, is about to compile a list of professional journalists and “top media influencers,” which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they’re putting out to the public.”


  9. Mercer, Trump, Koch are all names connected to blatant fascism. Their fear-mongering comes from their own personal animus against anything not them. They are supreme egoists, and must have the swill they peddle sucked up by the ignorant. That is their audience.

    These creeps represent American Nazi-ism. The Tea Party is their equivalent of Hitler’s brownshirts. Or, as that great line from “The Newsroom” goes: “The Tea Party is the American Taliban”. The “burka” OUR women will wear is the cloak of stupidity regarding their own rights to their own bodies….for example.

  10. We have a President steeped in ignorance and perfectly happy to remain there. Ignorance is a choice.

  11. First Agent Orange defeated the Republican Party handily. There’s little question though that he never would have defeated America without the dark side.

    That’s past. Liberals live for the better future however and now we are fully aware of both the means and ends of the dark side.

    By spreading ignorance the dark side united deplorables. The killing machine collective. Racists. Theocrats. Isolationists. Make more money regardless of the impact on others extremists. Russians. Oligarchs. Weak government defeatists. Haters of all stripe.

    Those means worked.

    There are way more good Americans than bad. What we have a few months left to do is to unite and motivate our front to vote. Vote D’s. Vote in the primaries for the best ones. Vote in the general election to rid DC of the dark party.

    We can’t eject Agent Orange and his gang of incompetent clowns yet but we can isolate them from power.

    That’s an adequate first step.

  12. An intentional feature of the Constitutional design of our government are checks and balances among the branches. Trump defeat of the RNC rendered the main checks and balances inoperative. It’s up to us in November to save the Union by restoring the checks by the Legislative on the Executive.

  13. I woke up this morning thinking about a Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Fifty years after MLK.

    50 years after MLK death:

    Blacks more likely than Whites:
    1/20 Wealth
    10x Cancer
    6x Homicide
    2.5x police shootings
    6.5x imprisonment
    2x unemployment

    Voter suppression
    De-facto education and housing segregation
    Trump, and so forth and so on….

    All this racism, including the xenophobic kind discussed today. Where does this evil come from?

  14. John,

    “All this racism, including the xenophobic kind discussed today. Where does this evil come from?”

    It’s coming from DEEPER THAN THE DEEP. It’s evil in the form of a virus. The platform created to release the virus was invisible. And now it has been dismantled. The harm, as you have noted, has already been done.

    Now, our only chance and it’s a long shot is to create a new effective platform to treat the virus.

  15. We are once again seeing the results of our failure to enact campaign finance legislation, and the Mercer and Koch excesses in brainwashing the gullible represent manifestations of this cancer on democracy now bulwarked by Citizens United (the worst holding since Dred Scott). We know what the problem is and we know those who have created and are continuing to make the problem worse – and it is not conservative Republicans but rather the libertarian elements of that party with big checkbooks, the Russians et al.

    The question is: What are we going to do about it? Sit around and whine or actively engage in drawing the curtains on these Wizards of Oz, throwing them out of office, and aggressively seek public recontrol of our voting process which has become a target of the rich, libertarians, Russians and who knows who else in cyberworld? To the ramparts in November!

  16. Don’t forget tomorrow, the 9th of April, 2018, is John Bolton’s first day on the job. The DOOMSDAY CLOCK continues to click, much louder, as a nuclear confrontation becomes more and more imminent every day.

  17. we all know what to do in november,, vote, and ask a friend,neighbor, student, can i help you register? and do you need a ride. save the schooling,just help. Like my post yesterday said, boycott, and tell those advatisers,were not promoting your agenda,or products,anymore.. also, please visit commondreams.org,, the last 4 days have been a come together of some very good journalism, and facts, like the rob mercer your here for today.. seems alot of those items,which we all have talked about,came to a head between a dozen diffrent stories,and have some real facts to present when discussing issues.. im printing cards, with diffrent news org, and fact based online stories, to give out for those,who in my working class lifestyle, have given up, mainly because they are tired of looking for,facts….. my pocket money spent, i own the irs, but my country,and our democracy is always worth the extra effort…

  18. How can John Bolton last? His egomania in competition with Trump’s will be his downfall. Trump has his base, Bolton does not, so Trump can continue with his false bravado while that very fact will irritate the hell out of Bolton and vice-versa.

    Mr. Trump: No thanks, but thanks for the offer, I will not accept an appointment to waste time at the White House and lose a chance at a real career.

    Question”: Why do all your ladies look like they have had breast augmentation surgery? Is it a requirement?

  19. Apart from all its other virtues, Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” is an eye opening exposé of how Mercer has used and is using his vast fortune to turn America into something other than a democratic republic. Too busy for a new book? Here’s a 20-minute YouTube crash course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HdifKgmPFQ. If you watch today, you may have time to view the whole thing before Bolton gets his fingers on the mindless man who has his itchy trigger finger on the self-destruct button.

  20. OMG – I mildly disagree with your opinion that Bolton will not last long because of the ego collision between him and Trump. I think Bolton will back off a bit with his ego because he has never been this close to the power center and doesn’t want to vacate that position due to temperamental differences with the terminal narcissist holding forth in the Oval Office. Further, I think Trump might not be around to fire Bolton as I expect to see the Mueller report (and some more indictments) by summer (the timing dependant upon the pace of investigation and wherever new evidence may lead him). I also think the election of (at least) a Democratic House will be helpful in cooling our new chicken hawk’s ardor for instant and perpetual war. Time will tell. Meanwhile, I am increasingly of the view that Trump may be faced not only with impeachment but also indictment, and that collusion will be the least of his worries.

  21. Before November is the May Primary; even if our candidate has no opposition it is vital to vote. We are waging a numbers war and every vote counts and will be counted by the opposition party. It will also show support for the Democratic party as well as the candidates; the visible lack of party support as in the past gives no motivation for the party to work harder and make their voices heard so we know they are working. Poor showings defeated us in the past; we are facing total deregulation on all sides, full return of pollution and more than a possibility of nuclear war.

  22. Amusing Ourselves to Death is a book by educator Neil Postman in 1985. From WIKI – Postman said that the contemporary world was better reflected by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, whose public was oppressed by their addiction to amusement, than by Orwell’s work, where they were oppressed by state control. Postman sees television’s entertainment value as a present-day “soma”, the fictitious pleasure drug in Brave New World, by means of which the citizens’ rights are exchanged for consumers’ entertainment.

    Television owing to this shortcoming, politics and religion are diluted, and “news of the day” becomes a packaged commodity. Television de-emphasises the quality of information in favour of satisfying the far-reaching needs of entertainment, by which information is encumbered and to which it is subordinate.

    Moreover, as television is programmed according to ratings, its content is determined by commercial feasibility, not critical acumen. Television in its present state, he says, does not satisfy the conditions for honest intellectual involvement and rational argument.
    The book was written before the commercial internet. The age of sensational, unsubstantiated reports, and the spread of instant dis-information is exemplified by a recent story.
    CNN’s story line – Big crack is evidence that East Africa could be splitting in two!!

    Wow, right!!

    Global media outlets have been abuzz recently about a large “crack” which appeared in the Kenyan Rift Valley. Many of these news pieces have tried to get to the bottom of what caused this feature, with many reports concluding that it was evidence for the African continent actively splitting into two. However, many articles cited limited expert comment, much of which was taken out of context and was based on minimal hard evidence. Other articles fed directly off previous reports, propagating unsubstantiated rumours and losing sight of original sources.

    A widely reported crack in the Rift Valley was not formed by tectonic movement, but by erosion of soil from recent heavy rains. Second, reports of seismic activity are unsubstantiated. There have been no official reports of earthquakes from authorities within Kenya.

    Given the evidence available at present, the best and simplest explanation is that this crack was in fact formed by erosion of soil beneath the surface due to recent heavy rains in Kenya. A further look at satellite optical imagery indicates that similar erosional features can be seen elsewhere in the region suggesting that these flash flood events have caused erosion before.

    So you have to wonder how many people swallowed this sensational story of Africa’s rift valley suddenly splitting open because of tectonic activity?? After all CNN and other news outlets reported it. A story on heavy rains causing erosion in Kenya would certainly not meet the criteria of a need to report it world wide, but hype it up to a tectonic crack in the African rift valley without a shred of hard evidence and presto-chango a big story.

    Was this fake news or just a total lack of investigative reporting that would search for the facts???

  23. steve bannon, rob mercer, who started, cambridge analitcal go figure, see 6 question zuckerburg shild be asked, politco,, today…

Comments are closed.