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The Pro-Trump Media’s Post-Charlottesville Identity Crisis

by Charlie Warzel on August 16, 2017

The events in Charlottesville have created the first real crisis for the pro-Trump media, which is caught between its mainstream aspirations and its addiction to the traffic and energy of the white nationalist movement.

For the better part of 2017, the collective of Twitter personalities, trolls turned citizen journalists, and social justice-hating memelords that make up the pro-Trump media has tried to distance itself from Trumpism’s more virulently white nationalist elements. Much of that work, though, has likely been undone in the aftermath of Saturday’s deadly Unite The Right demonstrations, during which a white nationalist plowed into a group of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring more than a dozen.

Across the internet after the violence, the pro-Trump media’s narrative — usually clear and concise — appeared scrambled. Prominent pro-Trump personalities took to Twitter to condemn the political violence and declare the alt-right to be vile Nazis. They excoriated the anti-fascist movement and the violent and intolerant left, and they bashed the media for its anti-Trump bias and inciting rhetoric that helped create a culture of political violence.

Taken together, the hundreds of tweets, posts, and Periscopes from the “new right” over the last few days have ranged from anxious to defensive to exhausted. But most of all, they reveal a movement that, much like Trump himself, finds itself isolated — trying desperately to dissociate from the convenient alliances it made in the campaign, and in danger of irreparably tarnishing its credibility.

Throughout the campaign, the alt-right was a large, amorphous group of disparate and overlapping factions — neo-Nazis and white nationalists; young, excited, digitally savvy Trump supporters; alienated and anxious white men; media-hating opportunists; and any number of trolls, from the nihilists to the anti-SJWs. It was a convenient alliance under the banner of a candidate who continually gave voice to previously taboo cultural views.

But once their man was in office, the fissures began to show almost immediately. When reports surfaced that attendees of a Richard Spencer-hosted conference had done Nazi salutes, the moderate factions of the alt-right condemned the behavior. Then, a falling out among organizers of the pro-Trump “DeploraBall” inauguration party led to self-proclaimed white nationalist Tim Gionet (Baked Alaska) getting kicked out as an event host. Personalities such as Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec began distancing themselves from the alt-right by dubbing themselves the new right, an inclusive, nonbigoted nationalist movement. By June, the split was complete, with the two groups holding competing rallies and slinging insults across Twitter.

But this new right is, at present, ill-defined. It exists instead as a sort of media and communications arm for Trumpism and its core tenets: destroying the mainstream media, winning for the sake of winning, and pissing off liberals. Rather than advocating explicit policies, the new right appears more concerned with constructing a playbook for a formidable digital insurgency: Identify the outrage, swarm it, make it go viral, create chaos, control the narrative. But in order to do this, the new right must appeal to a broad audience. The movement is caught between the mutually exclusive goals of denouncing alienating ideologies like white nationalism, and continuing to appeal to the very people who made it a movement in the first place.

In this way, the new right is much like Trump. Both value attention and prominence in the news cycle above all else. Both must — at all times — speak their minds. Both flirted during the campaign with covert racists, if only by their silence. And both won and now find themselves dogged by their past association, as the alt-right trades in its fashionable haircuts for honest-to-god torches and swastikas.

Politically, the tragedy in Charlottesville offered a rare opportunity for the new right to rise above partisanship. Had the movement simply condemned the attack and said little else, or called for momentary unity with its enemies in the media and on the left, the group could have set itself fully apart from the violence. But it, like the president, opted instead to have the last word and relitigate past arguments. Borrowing from Trump’s playbook, the new right chose to play the victim. It bemoaned the attack as a massive setback for its movement. It castigated the media for dividing the country and not reporting on the violence of the left. It used the method of attack as an attempt to rehash arguments about migrants and Islamic terror.

And, like Trump, it seemed unable to avoid dredging up conspiracy theories. Alex Jones of Infowars suggested the rally was “staged” to vilify the right and stop future conservative gatherings. Mike Cernovich tweeted at KKK leader David Duke, calling him “Deep State David” as a nod to clandestine government involvement in the protests. A handful tried to blame the entire event on their favorite enemy: George Soros.

Pro-Trump media sites like Gateway Pundit and Chuck Johnson’s GotNews pushed unconfirmed stories from 4chan identifying the Charlottesville driver as an “anti-Trump druggie.” Posobiec also broadcast the unconfirmed and quickly disproved theories. Ian Miles Cheong — a Daily Caller reporter — referred his 53,000-plus followers to 4chan’s /pol/ message board floating a similar conspiracy. “I've been reviewing the evidence, the Ohio license plate, etc. The owner of the car is anti-Trump and made posts supporting communism,” he tweeted.

Like Trump, the new right appears unable to quit the fever swamp. The pro-Trump media’s leaders, publications, and followers claim the moral high ground with their denouncements of political violence and the alt-right on one hand, while pandering to the most unseemly corners of the internet on the other. Much like the president, who appears unable to sever ties with his small but dedicated base, the new right appears unable to abandon the internet’s underbelly — a place where many pro-Trump media personalities cut their teeth, and which is still frequented by part of the new right's audience. Like Trump, they denounce racism but gesture toward communities like 4chan, where ironic racism is not just an in-joke but a rite of passage.

And so for now the isolation continues. On Tuesday morning, Infowars editor Paul Joseph Watson attempted to correct reports from outlets like CNN that labeled Posobiec as a member of the alt-right. For Watson — who nine months ago announced he was severing ties with the alt-right to be part of the group that “likes to wear maga hats, make memes, and have fun” — the constant distancing appears exhausting. “How many times do myself, @JackPosobiec & @Cernovich have to be attacked by the alt-right before the media stops calling us alt-right?” he tweeted.

And they aren't the only ones in this fix. Indeed, the main American figure caught halfway between the fringe and the mainstream, pleasing nobody, is the president of the United States.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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You Can Now Make Calls With Google Home For Free

by Nicole Nguyen on August 16, 2017

Smart speakers can already respond to your voice commands to turn on your lights, play music, and answer trivia questions — and now, they can call your mom.

Allyson Laquian / BuzzFeed News

Google Home, a voice-activated smart speaker powered by artificial intelligence software called Google Assistant, is adding calls to its list of features.

Starting today, users with the $109 speaker can now say “Hey Google, call…” to dial mobile and landline numbers hands-free over Wi-Fi. Google Home can recognize the name of a contact in your address book, or a business like “nearest florist.” But beware — you can’t call 911 and other emergency services through Home.

Unlike Android users, whose contacts are synced with Google Contacts by default, iOS users will only be able to access their Google Contacts through Home. Home won’t be able to call numbers you’ve only saved to your iPhone. A Google spokesperson says the team is “working on allowing iOS users a more seamless experience soon.”

The device, which recently added support for multiple accounts and voice recognition, can also determine which “dad,” “mom,” or other common nickname you want to call based on your voice.

Unfortunately, if whoever you’re calling has caller ID, “Unknown” or “No Caller ID” will appear when a Google Home user rings. The company says that by the end of the year, you’ll have the option to display your own mobile number when you place calls, but Google did not offer details on how that would work. Signing up for Google Voice, however, will not be necessary.

Those with Google Voice or Project Fi accounts can already choose to have their number displayed to recipients in the app. The calling feature is only available to US and Canada customers for now, and Google has not specified whether calling will roll out to other countries.

An Amazon Echo Show

Allyson Laquian / BuzzFeed News

In May, Amazon rolled out Alexa Calling and Messaging, a similar Internet calling and text messaging feature for its own Echo smart speaker line. But although Google Home can call any phone number, you can only voice call other Alexa app or Echo users through Amazon's service. Despite that limitation, Amazon is continuing to promote its Echo smart speaker as a communication tool. A few months ago, the e-commerce giant unveiled the Echo Show, a new device with a small display and front facing camera designed for video chat.

Google and Amazon (and soon Apple with its upcoming Siri-powered HomePod speaker) are offering these features in attempt to win you over in the battle for your voice.

After reviewing both Google and Amazon’s offerings extensively, I’ve found Google Home’s voice authentication and multi-room audio capabilities are impressive, as well as its ability to answer queries (it’s powered by Google’s search engine, while Echo taps into Bing and Wolfram Alpha). But compared to the Amazon Echo, Home is slower to respond to commands and doesn’t have as much support for third-party devices and integrations.

In my testing, the Echo’s response time is much quicker, and Amazon also has a number of smart speakers customers can choose from at different price points, including the flagship Echo speaker, the more affordable Echo Dot that can connect to the home audio system of your choice, and the new Echo Show, which has a screen that makes it easier to see more information, like the weather and news, at once. As an added bonus for less tech-savvy folks, Amazon has a very robust customer service and support operation should anything go wrong with your new device.

If all this makes you think about getting a smart speaker, you may want to hold off for now: Google may be working on a next-generation version of Home with Wi-Fi mesh networking built-in, according to a report from The Information. Meanwhile, a smaller Echo with better sound quality is rumored to arrive later this year, and Apple’s music-focused $349 HomePod is slated to hit shelves in December.

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Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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