Poisoned information wells: How impeachment testimony spotlights plague of conspiracy theories, misinformation

Posted Saturday, 09 November 2019 ‐ CNN

New York (CNN Business)Reading through the transcript on Friday of the testimony from Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top advisor on Russia, her commentary on our current information environment was striking. Hill spoke about the prevalence of internet conspiracy theories from fringe outlets like InfoWars, how some people who consume such content do happen to believe it, and how it was ultimately affecting United States policy.None of what she said was new, of course. The Information Wars have been heavily covered for the last several years. But Hill's personal experience with the ramifications of misinformation and conspiracy theories (she's been a subject of many herself), in addition to her ability to connect the dots to policy decisions, made her testimony hit home."A mishmash of conspiracy theories" During her testimony, Hill was asked about the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and why it marked a "turning point" for her. Hill said that it was because the accusations against Yovanovitch -- one being that she gave the fired Ukrainian prosecutor a "do not prosecute" list -- had "no merit whatsoever." In her words, it was "a mishmash of conspiracy theories." Hill explained that such theories were the norm, noting that she had been the subject of similar ones. "My first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories," she said. Hill told House investigators that she has received death threats, calls at her home, a report of someone hammering on her door, and been accused of "colluding with all kinds of enemies of the President." Hill explains how John Solomon's reporting lives in same "universe" as InfoWarsAt one point, while discussing the various conspiracy theories from outlets like InfoWars, Hill was told, "I know nothing about Alex Jones or anything like that. I'm simply interested in The Hill reporting." Hill noted, however, that the reporting from John Solomon, the Fox News contributor and former executive at The Hill, was intertwined with the entire right-wing media world."It's become part of what's become a very large universe of information and stories that are out there on the internet that is really affecting an awful lot of people's judgments," Hill said. Earlier, talking about how Rudy Giuliani "mentioned George Soros repeatedly," Hill observed, "We're in an environment where people believe an awful lot of things."Vindman pours cold water on Solomon reportSpeaking of Solomon... The transcript of testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, was also released on Friday. In it was a noteworthy exchange between him and pro-Trump Congressman Lee Zeldin.Zeldin repeatedly asked about the veracity of a March article by Solomon in which the fired Ukrainian prosecutor alleged Hill had given him a "do not prosecute" list. Vindman reputedly said "all the key elements" of the story "were false." But Zeldin appeared to have trouble believing or understanding him. "Just so I understand," Zeldin said, "Are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?" Vindman repeated, "All the elements that I just laid out for you. The criticisms of corruption were false." Hill's big fearAs Hill was being questioned during her testimony, she made a comment that really spoke to our current moment. "I'm really worried about these conspiracy theories," Hill said. "And I'm worried that all of you are going to go down a rabbit hole, you know, looking for things that are not going to be at all helpful to the American people or to our future election in 2020."

Other articles published by CNN

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Rudy Giuliani are seeking to interview people with knowledge of Ukraine's state-run oil-and-gas company, Naftogaz, according to two people familiar with the matter, suggesting investigators have...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for backing protesters in Iran on Sunday, describing a tweet from Washington's top diplomat as "hypocritical." Pompeo said that the US supported the...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN Business)SoftBank founder Masaoyshi Son is trying to orchestrate a $30 billion merger of two Japanese internet companies to build a tech business that can survive in the "winner-takes-all" world of Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB)Softbank ...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)As impeachment hearings play out on Capitol Hill, Iowans on both sides of the political spectrum see the inquiry as a boost to their party's chances of winning the general election next November, according to a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Paris (CNN)One person was killed and several were injured after a bridge collapsed in southwest France on Monday, according to the Haut-Garonne fire brigade.A 15-year-old girl died after the bridge leading to the small town of Mirepoix-sur-Tarn collapsed ...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)China's Defense Minister told his US counterpart that Washington must stop "flexing its muscles" in the South China Sea when the two met Monday, according to a spokesman for Beijing.At the same time, China announced that its new domestically...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)As he waited for his murder trial to begin, Patrick Frazee sent letters to a man he met in jail asking him to kill some of the witnesses, the former inmate testified. Frazee is charged with murdering Kelsey Berreth, the mother of his toddler...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A man accidentally shot his brother while they were deer hunting in Michigan Saturday.The two men were hunting in Boston Township, about 130 miles northwest of Detroit, when they were looking for a deer that one brother had shot earlier, a release...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)PG&E is warning customers that they may have to shut off power in 19 counties due to a strong offshore wind this week.About 250,000 California residents could be impacted by a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) this week as winds pick up...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)Twenty-eight people are in quarantine in China's northern Inner Mongolia province after a hunter was diagnosed with bubonic plague Saturday, the local health commission said.According to state-run news agency Xinhua, the unidentified...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)At least ten people were shot, three of them fatally, at a football watch party in Fresno, California, Sunday night.The victims were attending a family and friends gathering in the backyard of a home when an unknown suspect approached and opened...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN)A small number of protesters are trapped inside a Hong Kong university campus that was the site of a prolonged battle with police into the early hours of Monday morning, after many fled even as the authorities continued to close in. The...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

New York (CNN Business)A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.This weekend had me thinking about how our political language...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)President Donald Trump has backed away from a proposal to ban flavored e-cigarettes, according to a report from The New York Times. Advisers say that Trump decided to retreat from the plan after being warned that there could be backlash from voters, ...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)President Donald Trump's impeachment angst led him to fire off a new attack on a key witness and threatens to deepen in the frenetic week ahead with crucial testimony scheduled from officials caught in the middle of the Ukraine storm.But as is...