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One way to avoid having your repetitive pro-Trump posts tagged as belonging to a bot is to hire teenagers in Arizona to behave like bots — and that’s exactly what The Washington Post reports conservative group Turning Point Action did.

These kids posted messages such as “Don’t trust Dr. Fauci” to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the Post reported.

They echoed President Donald Trump’s disdain for mail-in ballots, and posted erroneous claims about voter fraud, using the repetitive posting behavior that is most common in bots or trolls.

“In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The campaign occurred over the course of months, and the Post identified at least 4,500 tweets that came from the Turning Point Action effort. “In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” Graham Brookie, an expert in digital forensic research, told The Post. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

Turning Point Action, led by Charlie Kirk, is affiliated with Turning Point USA, a Phoenix-based conservative youth group. That group told The Post in a statement that comparing their operation to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.” Instead, the effort was described as “sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia.”

Because the participants used their own accounts, they evaded some of the safeguards these tech companies put in place after 2016. The people who participated shared a document with each other to coordinate the phrases they used to post to social media, and were instructed to edit the phrases to make the posts seem more real.

This isn’t Turning Point’s first brush with coordinated inauthentic behavior. In the last election cycle, inauthentic right-wing behavior came from the Russian Internet Research Agency. As part of that effort, the IRA boosted Turning Point’s content to help Trump, experts told the Senate Intelligence Committee. This time, “it sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google, told The Post. His PhD research was on astroturfing in political campaigns.

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Founder of Pajamas Media and American Screenwriter Roger Simon Discusses His Escape From Los Angeles and Being a Conservative in Hollywood



Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed the founder of Pajamas Media Roger Simon to the studio.

During the third hour, Simon discussed his reason for leaving Los Angeles and his move to Nashville and what it’s been like to be a conservative in the liberal town of Hollywood.

Leahy: We are joined by the original all-Star panelists Crom Carmichael and in-studio now by my former boss at PJTV Roger Simon Roger. Welcome, Roger.

Simon: Well, its good to be here in Nashville after two years of being here.

Leahy: Roger, a great career as a writer. Where did you grow up Roger?

Simon: I grew up in New York City. So don’t hold it against me.

Leahy: We won’t. Crom, he’s another Ivy Leaguer.

Carmichael: You left New York.

Simon: Yes. And I lived in LA  most of my life.

Leahy: Crom. He’s a novelist and wrote a novel about Moses?

Simon: I wrote a bunch of mystery stories about Moses Wine.

Leahy: Moses Wine. A great character.

Simon: Yeah. One of them was made into a movie called The Big Fix.

Leahy: Richard Dreyfus. You are still friends with him right?

Simon: Yes, but there’s been a little bit of a political rupture.

Leahy: You were actually a brave person who declared himself to be a conservative.

Simon: Well publicly write after 2001. But it was dangerous and now I’m here.

Leahy: Now one of the things that you did is you were the founder of Pajamas Media.

Simon: Yes. Right.

Leahy: conservative publication. And you did the PJTV. We did a show together out there in 2009. It was sold at some point recently.

Simon: It was sold and that’s why I left. I was used to being the boss. And when you are used to being the boss you don’t want to be there.

Leahy: So you left Los Angeles and you came here.

Simon: I left Los Angeles because as probably a lot of your listeners have noticed that it ain’t the city it used to be. That’s putting it mildly. Also, I was essentially run out of town.

Leahy: When you say run out of town.

Simon: I’m just joking.

Leahy: But kind of.

Simon: I’m an academy award nominee screenwriter but they wouldn’t employ me anymore.

Leahy: Because you are conservative.

Simon: Yes. I was blacklisted. It’s not a blacklist you have to write down because they know who you are.

Carmichael: Do you find the progressive requirement that everybody be tolerant ironic?

Simon: No kidding. It’s beyond ironic. There has to be a new word for a hypocrite. There is a fancy friend of mine named Roger Kibble who always quotes French philosophers so that I can learn them. One is La Rochefoucauld that says that hypocrisy is the homage that to virtue. Well, that sounds very good except it doesn’t fit now. It’s so much worse.

Leahy: Worse than that.

Carmichael: Are there any particular stories and you can eliminate the names if you want to. Are there any stories that are worth telling about your experience as a known conservative in  Los Angeles?

Simon: Well you know, the worst one is after then Pajamas Media became PJ Media became public I started to receive notes in my mailbox saying we know where you live.

Carmichael: And they know?

Simon: They didn’t mean it enough that I’m here now. I’m OK. (Laughter) It’s interesting. I’ll even mention the person’s name because he was a very good friend and I made movies with him. Paul who was a very famous director. And we always used to have breakfast at the farmers market and they would have a joke that Roger died. Some of them were just teasing. But beneath the teasing, there was a threat. Because Muslims are not the only people that don’t like Apostates.

Carmichael: OK.

Simon: Nobody likes Apostates on one level because I was very left when I was young. The whole Moses Wine thing was left.

Leahy: And 2001 kind of turned things.

Simon: Other things too like the OJ trial.

Carmichael: OJ turned you. 9-11 turned you. What turned you economically?

Simon: That is an interesting story because speaking of our favorite newspaper The New York Times, I knew the then editor of The New York Times and I remember when I went together with him and his wife and mine in New York. And they were sort of amazed by my change.

This was around 03. And they looked at me and they said, are you changing economically too and taxes and stuff like that? And then the husband and wife, I’m not even naming their names now giggled because the guy had inherited a lot of money. And of course, he didn’t want to pay it all in the death tax. (Chuckles)

I hadn’t at that point really thought about it because most of my change had to do with foreign policy originally. Then suddenly I said, well wait a minute. And I started to read Milton Friedman. I had not read them in college because I was an Ivy Leaguer and they didn’t teach us that. I read a lot of Shakespeare.

Carmichael: Who affected you more? Freedman or Hiach?

Simon: Both did. It’s hard to say, the road to socialism was interesting. I say if there is one book that effected me politically the most that’s it.

Carmichael: That’s fascinating because I think it would be very difficult to be conservative from a foreign policy standpoint and at the same time to be liberal from a domestic economic standpoint. I think it would be difficult to keep those two in your head.

Simon: I think you are right. And I gradually moved over actually pretty fast. The only issue interestingly enough, you would call it liberal, but basically, I’m a libertarian is gay marriage. I’m fine with gay marriage. I see that as sort of a civil rights issue from the old days. I agree with Lady Gaga that you are born that way.

Leahy: The question I have for you is when you decided to leave Los Angeles of all the places in the world why did you pick Nashville Tennessee?

Simon: Well I didn’t pick it myself. My wife and daughter did. (Laughs) Except I’m really glad they did. My wife is a screenwriter too and also a conservative. My wife and daughter had been to the CMA festival as a bother daughter thing and they came back raving about Nashville. Then I went and I liked it a lot. And the other thing about it is that its a creative town.

Carmichael: That’s good.

Leahy: So the two years that you’ve been here. How has it been for you here in Nashville?

Simon: It has been really good. And but you know its interesting in reading your paper and so forth and I got to know very quickly a lot of important conservatives around here. Including the Senator Ms. Blackburn.

Leahy: Marsha Blackburn.

Simon: So it was easy to get to know people.  They knew me from writing a lot of them. And so I was welcomed into that community. But the other part of it that is interesting seeing the battle that’s going on here now. Because the danger of this city is that it could turn into a mini-LA. And now I feel like well I came here an adopted this place or they adopted me or whatever you want to say so I’m going to help and put my shoulder to the wheel too.

Leahy: We could use all the help on that one Roger Simon.

Listen to the full third hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Roger Simon” by Roger Simon.





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