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The Co-Opting of Rap Criticism Is About More Than Just Music

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Unpaid Royalties is a series about the myriad ways that the music industry exploits Black artists—and what’s being done to change them. Read more here.

This June, George Floyd’s death inspired a cultural reset. Paired with the collective mourning we felt for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, his death struck a chord in us all. We wondered what we could do to call out the forces that uphold white supremacy and seek tangible change. For some advice, The New York Times‘ Jon Caramanica had James Bernard and Reginald Dennis, former editors at The Source, on the Popcast to discuss how the magazine they worked for covered the 1992 LA Uprising following the acquittal of the four officers who brutally assaulted Rodney King.

“I remember that there were a couple of people who didn’t get it at first,” Bernard said on the Popcast. “Didn’t understand that we may have a different kind of access to people.”

While much of the news coverage at the time only reinforced negative stereotypes about the Black community—in an echo of that, today’s coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement put much of the focus on the $1 billion in property damage—The Source sent two reporters to ground zero, including Bernard, who headed to Los Angeles the morning after the acquittal. Instead of relying on the accounts from major news outlets like CNN, they went straight to the heart of the movement, talking to characters mainstream media would typically overlook, like rioters, west coast rappers, and members of the Bloods and Crips. “We’re running towards it, while everyone else was probably trying to maintain a safe distance, and when you read some of James’s story, he’s part of it,” Dennis said.

The call to “amplify Black voices” only further magnified how many had been silenced, and still are.

On the Popcast, it’s clear that Caramanica views The Source’s coverage of the riots as revolutionary and necessary writing for the past and present. He commends Dennis for “really painting a picture… from a perspective that was radically different from how the mainstream was covering Los Angeles in that moment.” And yet, he fails to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Rap coverage as we know it was built off the seminal work of journalists like Dennis and Bernard. To credit their reporting as being groundbreaking for its immersive style of journalism is only one part of the truth; the other key factor was the reporters’ Blackness.

It’s a glaring omission for Caramanica, a white critic who gets unprecedented access to everyone from Pop Smoke to Kanye West and has made a career out of telling Black stories. Amid the turmoil of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected the Black community, during an ongoing movement that demands justice for Black Lives, there’s never been a moment riper for a robust Black press. The call to “amplify Black voices” only further magnified how many had been silenced, and still are. Days after protests erupted in response to George Floyd, Black staffers in predominantly white newsrooms were banned from covering protests. Other outlets were accused of only paying white editors for video appearances. During a time when Black lives and voices are on the line, who can we trust to record history? And how did we end up in a media landscape with very few options for Black writers?


The narrative around Black music is often about how it’s been co-opted, transformed, and repurposed back to us, as it was in the commercialization of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and house music. But far less space is dedicated to the role the music media itself has played in this process and the weight of the stories that are lost when that media is majority white.

Black music coverage dictated by white supervisors isn’t a phenomenon unique to our current reality. According to Dennis, even The Source’s coverage of the LA Riots almost didn’t happen when he pitched it to John Shecter, the magazine’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. Shecter, who is white, “thought the mainstream media would do a competent job in covering it and there really wouldn’t be anything for us to add,” Dennis said on the Popcast episode.

That initial pushback seemed to Dennis to be antithetical to the mission of The Source, which billed itself as a “magazine of hip-hop, music culture, and politics.” The brainchild of four Harvard students (two white and two Black) who bonded over Boston’s underground rap scene, its transformation from a campus newsletter in Massachusetts to a widely circulated hip-hop publication meant it was tackling rap, and most importantly, Black culture, in a more nuanced way than mainstream media, one that was reported by people who lived and understood the culture.

“I was totally appalled by that because this was the reason we made the magazine,” Dennis told the Popcast. In his mind, separating the struggles of Black people from their music, despite the overwhelming evidence that Black music is protest, was not, and should not, have been an option.

When the LA riots story came out that August, The Source staffers chose Too $hort as their cover star—not because he was more important than the state of Black America, but because The Source was one of the few outlets that would give him a cover. Their decision to run a profile about a rapper who glorified Oakland’s pimp culture alongside their coverage of the rebellion wasn’t an attempt to have the most salacious cover. It was a decision to honor the complexities of Black Americans: Celebrating Too $hort, a man whose joyful party music didn’t preclude him from being painfully aware of the commodification of Black people in the industry, while paying respect to a community fed up with being treated like second class citizens.

By the late 90s, The Source had proved there was an appetite for its “for us, by us” approach and the kind of sharp rap reporting and criticism it yielded. Known as the hip-hop Bible, its coverage was held in high regard by its readers and peers. Its reporting and coveted five-mic barometer for reviews expanded the definition of what rap coverage could be. Competitors didn’t understand rap, but The Source did, emphasizing how rap mirrored their everyday lives. Its journalists approached journalism as participants, not spectators—and led the charge for other music writers, specifically Black ones, to follow in their footsteps.

Since the founding of Frederick Douglass’ The North Star to John H. Johnson’s Jet to the current influx of Black writers putting out newsletters on their own, Black people have had to create their own forums when they’ve been shut out of the prestige of mainstream newsrooms.

But it didn’t last. Two years after its revolutionary LA Uprising coverage, The Source staffers found themselves in an editorial dispute with the company’s white founders after one of them, David Mays, started managing a group rapper Benzino was in. After Mays snuck in an article about the group, despite the conflict of interest and without consulting the rest of the staff, Bernard, a senior editor, quit. “[Mays’] fatal flaw was that he had a ghetto phase,” Bernard told Pitchfork. “And he needed the approval of those he saw as real and authentic. The Source, at some point, was positioned to be VICE—we were there first.” Mays’ working relationship with Benzino provided him with a new level of access into Black culture—and it cost him the magazine.

Those in the orbit of The Source began accusing Benzino, the new co-owner, and others of mismanaging funds and intimidating staffers into providing favorable coverage for their friends, and Kim Osorio, the magazine’s first female editor-in-chief, eventually sued the magazine and its owners for sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and defamation. The Source’s decline has left them without an editor-in-chief since Osirio’s exit in 2013.

Since the founding of Frederick Douglass’ The North Star to John H. Johnson’s Jet to the current influx of Black writers putting out newsletters on their own, Black people have had to create their own forums when they’ve been shut out of the prestige of mainstream newsrooms. The media is a notoriously unstable industry (even VICE’s music site, Noisey, folded into vice.com last year), and the Black music press has been hit especially hard. In April, Vibe was hit with massive layoffs, shuttering much of its editorial department. Last month, Penske Media Corporation, the parent company of Rolling Stone, announced a merger that gives Penske control of the “daily operations” of Vibe and partner magazines. Like in radio, the consolidation of media companies and what they control only further dilutes the work an outlet like Vibe—which was the first magazine to give Barack Obama a cover ahead of his presidential run—is capable of doing in this social climate. Meanwhile, majority-white publications like VICE, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone have spent the last decade branching out increasingly into hip-hop coverage, absorbing the interactive reporting and razor-sharp reviews of the Black press while effectively shutting out the voices of those who started it.


As a college student, I’d read album reviews and longform interviews, then Google everything I could about the author. As an aspiring culture critic, I was indulging more than just curiosity. Sifting through bylines was my way of discovering their path to writing professionally, as a way of figuring out how to forge my own. The more I read, the more I dug, and the more I felt like I lacked two major qualifications for success in the digital age of rap criticism: being white and male.

Media in its current state will allow you to believe that there are a finite amount of positions reserved only for “the best candidates for the job.” That’s a myth. In reality, nepotism is still the rule of the day—reducing “diversity” to the status of company programs or one-off initiatives, rather than a principle that is actually practiced. It keeps very few Black people in the room to begin with and ensures that even fewer of them have the power to change its structures. It relegates Black writers to the freelancer pool, just to be overlooked in the end anyway. It judges Black writers based on their qualifications when white writers with the same credentials (or fewer) are given the opportunity to grow on the job.

Even today, there are white critics who admit that rap was their entry point to Black culture, even if they’d never hadn’t met any Black people until they left their hometowns. There are white critics who seem determined to obscure their identity as such, setting random cartoon characters or worse, using images of Black artists as their default photo on Twitter like a form of digital Blackface. These are the people the industry deems as custodians of culture. And just like the minstrel artists of the 19th century, who traveled the country singing songs impersonating Black performers, they benefit from a system of privilege that makes it harder for actual Black people to find work—while watering down Black narratives in order to make them more palatable for white audiences.

The path forward is unclear, but the key to its much-needed overhaul, like larger societal issues, starts by dismantling it all—proverbially burning all this shit to the ground and starting fresh.

By not having the infrastructure to support a fully-functioning Black press, we stand to lose the ability to give voice to those who weren’t deemed worthy. It eradicates the unfiltered accounts of anyone who doesn’t fit the mold of what’s American. Historically, Black music is a response to systemic racism. How can those who are not oppressed accurately relay the message while simultaneously pretending those issues don’t exist?

The path forward is unclear, but the key to its much-needed overhaul, like larger societal issues, starts by dismantling it all—proverbially burning all this shit to the ground and starting fresh. It starts with understanding the value of Black stories told by Black voices and the innate perspective that comes with that. There’s no magical quota of hip-hop album reviews that grants you the experience of being Black in this country, which is why when Caramanica needed to understand how to talk about the death of George Floyd, he sought help from two Black men.

The Source wasn’t just a magazine, and pioneers like Dennis and Bernard, and the slew of other journalists found on other mastheads, weren’t just other journalists. Their Blackness was their press pass. And just like Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and DeFord Bailey—they were there first.

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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.


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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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