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Stop Listening to Seth Abramson's Hack Trump-Russia Theories

Politics Features Seth Abramson

Seth Abramson is a writer, poet, attorney, editor and assistant professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, but he is most well-known for his unhinged Twitter account. To begin understanding the fraudulent narrative that he spreads across the web like a virus, we’ll start with a little anecdote.

Every few months I tweet this link, for those readers who'd like to contribute to my ongoing #Russiagate journalism:— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 21, 2017
I reached out to Abramson to get more details on what your donations go to.

@SethAbramson You already work for the Huffington Post and Dallas Morning News, what exactly does this go to?— Jacob Weindling (@Jakeweindling) April 21, 2017
And, well…

I didn't really feel the need to write this column, as I assumed that most people did not take the massive tweetstorms that have taken over Twitter literally, but that changed after I saw this Facebook comment under my theory as to why the pee tape can't be real.

After reading this, I did some digging into how Seth Abramson is perceived on the internet, and there are far too many people who consider him to be one of the foremost voices on this Trump-Russia saga. This comment is almost verbatim to Abramson's thread arguing that Source E is former White House aide Boris Epshteyn.

(MEGA-THREAD) "Source E" is the Deep Throat of the #Russiagate dossier. The internet is abuzz with claims Source E is Boris EPSHTEYN. Is it?— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 27, 2017
Pairing the words FBI, CIA and intelligence, with Source E Epshteyn in a Google search doesn't produce a single report from even a semi-legitimate outlet that proposes the idea that Epshteyn is Source E—yet this commenter takes that as a verified truth—and that is almost certainly thanks to Seth Abramson's wild theory that he presented as unadulterated fact. Abramson is poisoning a very legitimate narrative by inserting a wave of falsehoods and wishful thinking into the minds of a populace genuinely afraid and confused as to our president's association with a foreign adversary.

Bernie Sanders  supporters know Abramson as the guy who wrote that Bernie was winning in June of last year. Abramson's logic centered on Nate Silver's assertion that Democratic primary polling was off by 10.6%, and “We can therefore conclude that the 54% to 46% lead that Hillary Clinton has over Bernie Sanders in pledged delegates is in fact a statistical dead heat, with a possibility that Sanders is actually ahead of Clinton in pledged delegates.” You can't “presume” that it's a statistical dead heat, because the margin of error works both ways, so it was also possible that she was up by as much as 18.6%.

According to CNN's delegate counter, Bernie was down 1,747 to 1,530 pledged delegates at the time of Abramson's writing, with only the California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Washington D.C. primaries left—consisting of 714 total delegates. After you factor in the inevitable split that was bound to happen in California (which Clinton won 254 to 221), Sanders could have won 100% of the remaining delegates and still entered the convention losing to Clinton. Now, Abramson's contention was that the inconsistencies in the polling of Democratic voters could be extrapolated to super delegates, but thinking that the Democratic elite is the same sample as the Democratic electorate is naïve at best.

After being laughed off this topic, Abramson turned his attention to Donald Trump's Russian connections, and now is known as one of the most high-profile Russia tweetstormers. In the same vein as his Bernie trutherism, he spends a lot of time on Twitter telling people what they want to hear. Abramson takes other people's reporting, injects his own speculation and presents it as his “reporting,” all while infusing a level of self-promotion that is only equaled by PR agencies. If you're not familiar with Abramson, congratulations, your life is better off for it. But just to catch you up, here's how he spams Twitter.

(META-THREAD) Click here to see the largest archive of #Russiagate threads on Twitter. And please RETWEET this tweet if you find it helpful.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 4, 2017
In addition to producing 50+ tweetstorms about Russia (also known as a column), he is the poster child for vacuous Twitter activism that does absolutely nothing to effect change, and at its very core is just pure self-promotion.

European intel agencies have given proof of Trump-Russia collusion to the FBI; Congress must now hold PUBLIC hearings. RETWEET if you agree.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 18, 2017
Please RETWEET if you're one of the 74% of Americans (ABC/WaPo Poll) who want to see Trump's taxes and were not paid to hold that opinion.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 16, 2017
As North Korea declares that "thermonuclear war may break out any moment," this is what Trump is doing. Retweet if that's not cool with you.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 14, 2017
A simple fact: Trump's lie about releasing his taxes is WORSE BY FAR than Bill Clinton lying about Monica Lewinsky. Retweet if you agree.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 15, 2017
Presidents get privileges and responsibilities. One responsibility, which Trump hasn't met, is financial transparency. RETWEET if you agree.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 15, 2017
RETWEET if you agree that Trump's new attitude toward Russia is a transparent attempt to distract from the worsening #Russiagate scandal.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 13, 2017
Retweet if you want the press to aggressively question Trump on his ties to Russia, including whether he ordered Flynn to speak to Moscow.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) February 14, 2017
Retweet if you think what happened in DC—the WH blocking major news outlets from a government event—CANNOT and MUST NOT happen in America.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) February 24, 2017
RETWEET if you want a complete #Russiagate primer in just THREE Twitter threads (attached).— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 28, 2017
Retweet if you believe the false statements made by Attorney General Sessions to Congress—under oath—mean he must resign his position now.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 2, 2017
RETWEET if you agree Devin Nunes must resign from the House Intelligence Committee due to his repeated collusion with the Trump White House.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 28, 2017
It's time to get SERIOUS about the Steele dossier's pee tape. Retweet if you want one of the two men on the left to release it to the world.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 21, 2017
These tweets don't contain any information as to how to pressure Congress to do the things he's asking for. He simply begs you to voice your opinion by promoting his Twitter account.

JUST A FEW HOURS LEFT to vote Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) for Georgia's Sixth Congressional District. Please send Trump a message and RETWEET this!— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 18, 2017
If you actually wanted to send Trump a message, you'd make sure that people voted, not retweeted some random dude on Twitter. Not once on Georgia's special election day did Abramson tweet any helpful information about where people could go vote, and he simply continued his tradition of begging people to distribute his empty pleas to their followers. If you are more focused on effecting change than promoting yourself, wouldn't you—you know—include information as to how one can effect change?

The closest he came all election day to providing useful tips was retweeting this tweet from Alyssa Milano, who provided phone numbers for those having difficulty voting. This is a perfect demonstration of the victimhood mindset that his timeline constantly operates within. Helping people find a place to vote isn't our central focus, stopping those damn Republicans (and Russians) from voter fraud is. Here are a couple other examples of how Abramson poisons the news by at best, misunderstanding the story he's telling you about.

@SethAbramson No. He confirms that it's not clear who knew before Coats came in.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) March 20, 2017
BREAKING NEWS: Compelling Evidence Emerges That Trump Is About to Wage War on a Country Whose Leader He Cannot Name— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 18, 2017
If you read the article that he links to, there is absolutely nothing that supports his claim that “Trump is about to wage war.” There isn't even any mention of the word “war” in the piece. This embedded tweet is the closest that article gets to even talking about violence.

I think we did more research for our movie about killing Kim Jong Un than trump is in to actually killing him. Rogen (@Sethrogen) April 18, 2017
This confusion, plus tweets like this one below, give the impression that Abramson has no fucking clue what “reporting” means.

(1) Last month I reported that the FBI sought a FISA warrant last July after receiving the first few pages of now-famous "Steele Dossier."— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 18, 2017
(2) This reporting was based on a careful reading of overseas reporting about Steele, who gave his research to friends in U.S. CI last July.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) April 18, 2017
Abramson didn't contribute a damn thing to the FISA story—that was uncovered entirely by the BBC, The Guardian, McClatchy, The Times and recently, The Washington Post, who all corroborated portions of Louise Mensch's initial report in HeatStreet (but not all of it). Mensch takes a lot of deserved heat for propagating insane conspiracy theories, but at least she has actual sources that she talks to—plus she produced an honest to goodness scoop. Abramson doesn't seem to have any real sources on this topic, and he simply aggregates other people's work and develops his own theories.

Linking to articles that you've read and extrapolating nonsense from them is not “reporting.” He's like the kid in class who copies the honor student's answers but somehow still flunks the test. There are literally too many wild threads from Abramson to fact check them all, but let's just unpack three of his claims from this one.

(THREAD) Here are the 20 most startling #Russiagate facts that freelance journalists have reported but the mainstream U.S. media has missed.— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) March 30, 2017
Claim #1: “Sessions had a third Kislyak meeting at an intimate cocktail hour at the Mayflower Hotel (April 2016). He still hasn’t disclosed it.”

From The Wall Street Journal 10 months before Abramson’s tweet:

Mr. Trump said in a foreign-policy speech at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel in April. “Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out.”

A few minutes before he made those remarks, Mr. Trump met at a VIP reception with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak.

Claim #2: “The CIA told the BBC that Putin holds “multiple” tapes of a “sexual” nature—from Moscow and St. Petersburg—in which Trump appears.”

The New York Times has a story referencing the BBC report, and Fortune, the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, and Vox all link to it or quote directly from it. All of those stories were published prior to Abramson’s tweet.

Claim #3: “Those who lied in some way about Russian meetings include Page, Flynn, Manafort, Kushner, Sessions, Cohen, and Trump. Plus Kislyak.”

Of all the batshit in this thread, this one may be the craziest. The mainstream media didn’t report on Michael Flynn lying about his Russian meetings? Or Jeff Sessions? Are you serious? How the hell were they supposed to report on Flynn’s resignation, or Sessions’ recusal which were due entirely to the discovery by the media that they lied? Trump knew about Flynn’s call before the media did, and Flynn only stepped down after the ensuing firestorm became too big to control. There are literally too many outlets to link to that reported on this, so as an example of all of these articles, we’ll use the first paragraph from the The Washington Post’s initial story on Flynn that was posted six weeks before Abramson’s tweet:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense.

This is embarrassing. It took me 10 minutes to Google those articles to disprove his assertion that the mainstream media hasn’t paid attention to this story. Maybe he doesn’t know what “mainstream media” means? (The way we define the term at Paste is anyone who is owned by the six companies who control 90% of our media)

This column of his in The Huffington Post about reporting on the Russian scandal alleges that “Democrats and Republicans in D.C., along with almost the entirety of mainstream American media, are answering this question by ignoring it altogether.” Yet, the only mainstream media examples that he gives are Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, and he even links to reporting from The New York Times. Cable news is not the entirety of the mainstream media, and is a different animal unto itself. He seems to shift the meaning of this term to cover whatever grievance he is currently manufacturing.

One reason why Abramson may claim that the mainstream media isn’t covering the things he’s tweeting about could be to convince his acolytes that he is the One True Leader when it comes to Donald Trump’s Russian connections. Coming off like a true snake oil salesman, he makes sure to get paid for this manipulation.

There is no original reporting on Abramson’s part. There is no work on his personal website or Medium page to fund. No independent research that he does outside his job that he already (presumably) gets paid to do. He simply reads other people’s work, and then tweetstorms about it. That’s the “journalism” that your donation is funding. Even Donald Trump does a better job of hiding his grifting. At least you get a hat in exchange for his scam—all Abramson gives you in return for your cash is high blood pressure and a dramatic misunderstanding of how this Russian saga is playing out.

Stop retweeting this man, and stop accepting his reading of the news as fact. Click on the story and read it for yourself. Read people who disagree with Abramson. Read people who agree with him. Read people who think that he’s a whackjob. Read everything you can on this topic, but do not give him your hard-earned cash. This Russia story is incredibly complex and no one has all the answers, so anyone who advertises themselves as The Oracle should be treated with skepticism. Don’t let people with no sources draw conclusions for you, especially ones like Abramson who seem to be far more interested in self-promotion rather than effecting real change.

UPDATE: After publishing, Abramson reached out to Paste to clarify that he is not paid by either The Huffington Post or the Dallas Morning News.

Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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