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‘Roseanne’ TV reboot reveals latest divides in Red/Blue America

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The huge success of the Roseanne reboot has captured a lot of attention in political circles in the past few weeks, particularly its enormous viewership in “Red America.” But how deep are the partisan divides in America’s entertainment TV viewing? That depends on how you look at the question.

Democrats are more likely to watch certain shows than Republicans and vice versa, but generally speaking, the most popular entertainment shows look remarkably similar, according to data from Simmons Research gathered in 2017.

Let’s start with the Democrats. When you look at the Simmons data, which is gathered through consumer surveys, some clear patterns emerge in the shows that “index” the highest for Democrats. Those are the shows Democrats are more likely than others to watch.

First, shows featuring African-American casts and delving into African-American issues stand out. Empire and Black-ish are two of the best-known examples of this point in the data, but there are also several shows from BET, Black Entertainment Television, that show up on the Democrat “over-index” list.

Another item on the Democrat’s list that might fall under this rubric: Saturday Night NBA Basketball. The NBA has long tended to have a larger share of African-American fans than other major sports.

What’s behind those viewership numbers? Politically, African-Americans overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party.

The Democratic list also features quite a few topical comedy shows. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Veep, both known for sharp political satire, index at sky-high rates for Democrats, while barely moving the needle for Republicans. And both shows air on HBO, which the data show tends to over-index for Democrats overall.

A different set of patterns is visible on the shows that Republicans are more likely than others to watch.

The power of the show Last Man Standing in the Republican data is remarkable – even though the show is no longer producing episodes. Last Man Standing was among the highest indexing Republican shows for the first-run episodes that aired on ABC until last spring, and for the reruns that aired on the Hallmark Channel.

In a sense, Last Man Standing was Roseanne before the latter show was rebooted a few weeks ago. It revolved around a male sporting goods store worker with strong conservative values challenging and being challenged by his family and the world around him. Since the big success of Roseanne, there is now discussion of bringing Last Man Standing back.

The Antiques Roadshow is indicative of another pattern in the Republican viewing data, a love of programs showing the value of older, vintage items. Also on the over-indexing list for Republicans: American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and This Old House.

And two sports broadcasts index highly for Republicans, NASCAR’s Xfinity Series on Fox Sports 1 and regular season college football on ESPN. The viewership of those broadcasts also under-indexes for Democrats.

There are some significant and deep splits on those lists and they largely follow what we know of the red-blue divide. The humor of Last Week Tonight is aimed at a different audience than the humor of Last Man Standing.

But when you simply look at the top entertainment shows among Democrats and Republicans – the programs that members of each party say they watch most frequently – the lists actually look quite similar.

Go back and forth between those two lists and you’ll see that seven of the top 10 shows are the same for Democrats and Republicans.

The orders may be different, but it turns out that The Big Bang Theory, Fix Upper and America’s Got Talent are purple in their overall partisan viewership. And people in both parties seem to like watching the police procedural that is NCIS and the real estate voyeurism of House Hunters.

To be clear, none of this papers over the differences in the U.S. electorate. The nation’s political ills can’t be solved by all of us plopping down together on the couch to binge watch the Property Brothers. The trend toward tribalism in American politics is real and deep and visible in a lot of ways as we have noted often in the Data Download.

Furthermore, this is just looking at cable and network television viewing habits. The world of streaming services has led to greater freedom for consumers, but at the same time, it has created further ways for audiences to segment themselves into niches and micro-niches.

But the picture is more complicated than that. The data here show that you can still find a few broad commonalities in the American experience – even in the age of President Trump and rebooted Roseanne.

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As law enforcement braces for more violence, state capitols come into focus

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Federal and state law enforcement agencies are bracing for violence planned by radical conservatives and extremists in Washington in the days before the inauguration.

And while significant preparations have been put in place around the U.S. Capitol, there is growing concern that statehouses around the country will be targeted, many of which have already been the scene of armed protests, arrests and violence.

More than a dozen flyers are circulating online advertising pro-Trump rallies at state capitols, according to a social media analysis by NBC News. “Freedom is a right,” one popular flyer reads; “Refuse to be silenced,” says another.

As part of its response to an increase in online activity and organization efforts that could lead to further violence, Facebook has been tracking many of these flyers across alternative sites popular with militia groups and QAnon followers and pre-emptively blocking them, according to a spokesperson who asked not to be named for safety concerns.

State capitols, long seen as meeting places for activists to protest and sometimes clash with counterprotesters, are on alert. The FBI reportedly sent a memo to law enforcement agencies across the country warning of possible armed protests at all 50 state capitols starting next week, citing in part chatter on social media.

Social media platforms have taken unprecedented steps in recent days to keep their sites clear of content that might incite further violence — including the suspension of President Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts — but threats of violence at events persist online. Now mostly relegated to less popular and alternative apps, the events are more difficult for other extremists to find but also for law enforcement and researchers to track.

That may help stop another mass mobilization in Washington, but it is less effective for extremists at the state level who are now less reliant on online organizing and recruiting, said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.

“The infrastructure in the states has been there longer than what we saw in D.C.,” Ryan said, adding that protests in state capitols last year to reopen the economy and lift lockdown restrictions were “centralized.”

“They mobilized via Facebook groups and built on existing infrastructure and created these local cells that are still active,” she said. “They haven’t stopped.”

Though the actual threat is unclear, every state seems to be on high alert.

Police and National Guard troops have already been posted and made arrests at statehouses in Washington and Idaho. Windows at the state Capitol in Wisconsin have been boarded up, and Michigan banned the open carry of firearms inside its Capitol.

Seemingly inspired by a gun rights rally that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Virginia’s state Capitol last January, Trump supporters, sometimes armed, have flooded statehouses from Sacramento, California, to Tallahassee, Florida, since the pandemic started to protest lockdown measures to curtail the spread of the coronavirus and then to counterprotest against and intimidate activists marching for the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Michigan, photographs of a protest in April showed armed protesters in military fatigues rushing and occupying the Capitol in Lansing during a vote to extend Covid-19 restrictions. Two men were charged in a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Even as a riotous mob pushed its way through the U.S. Capitol last week, protesters at statehouses for smaller demonstrations cheered news of the melee in D.C.

Many of the spring and summer rallies were planned on Facebook, said Diara J. Townes, an investigative researcher at First Draft, a nonprofit that tracks misinformation. But since the deadly Capitol riot, conservative activists have begun using Facebook’s platform and existing groups more like a bridge, sending followers to private spaces, such as encrypted apps and social media platforms specifically for radical conservatives and militia members.

“It’s a way to skirt around the content moderation and warnings,” Townes said.

The Capitol mob has offered some inspiration to far-right organizers. Several posters spreading in QAnon and Boogaloo forums invoke Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran and QAnon believer who was fatally shot during the Capitol riot as she tried to enter the Speaker’s Lobby. Several flyers for an event billed as a “Million Martyr March” on Inauguration Day next Wednesday include illustrations of Babbitt.

Few of the flyers include any details about organizers. Several are signed by “common folk who are tired of being tread upon.” Some of the discussion in anti-government Boogaloo web forums — where users are creating and posting flyers that strangely refer to civil rights, women’s rights and unity — suggests anti-government activists could sow chaos at state capitols to further their own ends.

“We saw this in the spring. Boogaloo used Black Lives Matter protests as an opportunity to use the crowd as cover to target law enforcement,” said Marc-André Argentino, a researcher who tracks extremists online and has followed their migration to other platforms after the mainstream purge.

“Mainstream extremists are angry about what happened on Jan. 6, and they’re preparing to rally and protest again,” Argentino said. “The violent extremists who have been in this space for years are taking this as an opportunity to recruit, bolster their ranks and prepare for the impact of government overreaction to potentially start actual violent conflict.”

Most of the posters for state events were circulating online weeks and months before the Capitol riot. One Inauguration Day event, billed as the Million Militia March, for example, was first promoted in December on Wimkin, a conservative alternative to Facebook.

Indeed, one of the first comments on the event planner’s original posts reads: “We can not wait until the 20th. We have to mobilize into action on the 6th.”

The online fervor has been somewhat tempered by some websites that served as key cogs in the far-right misinformation ecosystem and promoted the Capitol Hill rally. Most notably, the conspiracy theory websites InfoWars and Gateway Pundit have advised readers to stay away from state capitols before the inauguration, warning that such events were part of a “sinister plot” to take away guns.

Similar warnings have been spreading across such platforms as Facebook and the Trump-loyalist website TheDonald. In conservative Facebook groups, posts with thousands of shares read that armed rallies in any state capitol were “false flags” or set-ups perpetuated by “leftist” activists.

The livestreamed violence at the Capitol riot and the subsequent law enforcement response may result in fewer rallies and public events organized by extremists, said Anne Berg, an assistant professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on the history of Nazi Germany and extremism.

Berg drew a comparison to the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was murdered and the nation’s modern face of hate was on full display.

“All of a sudden, people start to realize: ‘Oh my God, this is real. This is actually happening,'” she said. “And the movement retreated out of the public sphere back online. But that doesn’t mean that the movement has shrunk.”

“I’m personally less worried about the next two weeks,” Berg said, “than I am about the next several years.”

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FBI probing if foreign governments, groups funded extremists who helped execute Capitol attack

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WASHINGTON — The FBI is investigating whether foreign governments, organizations or individuals provided financial support to extremists who helped plan and execute the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, one current and one former FBI official told NBC News.

As part of the investigation, the bureau is examining payments of $500,000 in bitcoin, apparently by a French national, to key figures and groups in the alt-right before the riot, the sources said. Those payments were documented and posted on the web this week by a company that analyzes cryptocurrency transfers. Payments of bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, can be traced because they are documented on a public ledger.

Separately, a joint threat assessment issued this week by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and various other federal and D.C.-area police agencies noted that since the Jan. 6 riot, “Russian, Iranian, and Chinese influence actors have seized the opportunity to amplify narratives in furtherance of their policy interest amid the presidential transition.”

Russian state and proxy media outlets “have amplified themes related to the violent and chaotic nature of the Capitol Hill incident, impeachment of President Trump, and social media censorship,” the unclassified intelligence report said. “In at least one instance, a Russian proxy claimed that ANTIFA members disguised themselves as supporters of President Trump, and were responsible for storming the Capitol building.”

Chinese media, meanwhile, “have seized the story to denigrate U.S. democratic governance, casting the United States as broadly in decline — and to justify China’s crackdown on protestors in Hong Kong.”

The examination of possible foreign influence related to the Capitol riot, which involves the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, comes after years of what current and former FBI officials say is mounting evidence that Russia and other foreign adversaries have sought to secretly support political extremists on the far right and far left.

Law enforcement officials and terrorism experts say there has long been “a mutual affection between Western white supremacists and the Russian government,” as two scholars put it in a February paper on the JustSecurity web site.

Some senators were concerned enough about the issue that they inserted a requirement in the 2021 defense bill that the Pentagon “report to Congress on the extent of Russian support for ‘racially and ethnically motivated violent extremist groups and networks in Europe and the United States’ — and what can be done to counter it.”

The current FBI official told NBC News that the bureau did not necessarily suspect Russian involvement in the bitcoin transfers, which appear to have been made by a French computer programmer who died by suicide on Dec. 8 after triggering the transfers, according to French media.

But the cryptocurrency payments prompted the FBI to examine whether any of the money was used to find illegal acts, which, if true, raises the possibility of money laundering and conspiracy charges, the FBI official said.

On Dec. 8, Chainalysis reported, the donor sent 28.15 BTC — worth about $522,000 at the time of transfer — to 22 separate addresses, many of which belong to far-right activists.

The Chainalysis blog post, first highlighted by Yahoo News, said far-right podcaster Nick Fuentes received the most money, 13.5 BTC — worth approximately $250,000.

Fuentes, who spoke at pro-Trump rallies last year in Michigan and Washington, D.C., told the ProPublica news organization that he was at the “Stop the Steal” rally on Wednesday but didn’t follow the mob into the Capitol.

One group of Fuentes’ supporters, which calls itself the Groyper Army, was filmed running through the Capitol carrying a large blue flag with the America First logo, ProPublica reported.

“We’re looking at and treating this just like a significant international counterterrorism or counterintelligence operation,” Michael Sherwin, the U.S. attorney in D.C., said at a news briefing last week.

“We’re looking at everything: Money, travel records, looking at disposition, movement, communication records.”



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Labour leadership election: How Jeremy Corbyn could lead the Labour party AGAIN

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP election candidates have now all officially come forward and will launch their respective campaigns over the coming days in hopes to replace Jeremy Corbyn at the helm.

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