Every Robert Mueller Indictment, Ranked

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has returned indictments against 19 people so far. While he’s got a long way to go before breaking Watergate’s record of 69 indictments (nice), Mueller has also nailed more people much faster.

They are a relatively random collection of Trump staffers and Russian trolls, most of whom have never met. But it’s important that we understand who they are, what they did, and how much they’ll mean to the grander case against Trump that Mueller is pursuing.

So I ranked them all in order of importance, and of their role in the Trump/Russia fiasco. Ranking bad people is fun!

19. Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopae – A low-ranking researcher and shitposter at the troll farm. If you were arguing with a broken-English Twitter account, it might have been this guy.

18. Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko – Another rank and file Internet Research Agency poster who pretended to be American and dumped crap on social media. Meh.

17. Vladimir Venkov – Yet another staff troll at the Internet Research Agency. Apparently, he’s not cool enough to get his middle name used in the indictment.

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Crisis Actor? False Flags? Answering Basic Questions About Conspiracy Theories

There has been an avalanche of conspiracy theories regarding the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Many revolve around concepts like false flags and crisis actors – terms that are familiar to those who study and write about fringe culture, but are new to the populace at large.

This can lead to an air of authoritative knowledge by those who decidedly do not have it. And unfortunately, they seem to come up for every tragedy – be it a shooting, terror attack, or even a deadly accident.

In the case of Parkland, Douglas High School student David Hogg has been described as a “crisis actor” paid to espouse gun control views. The whole thing has been called a government-perpetrated “false flag” by prominent conspiracy theorists and conservative infotainment figures. Rumors are flying that the shooting was covered up by an active shooter drill that “went live.”

But what does any of that mean? Are these real concepts? Have these things been done before – and could the shooting in Parkland be the next iteration?

While these concepts are mostly unknown to the public (who are then appalled to hear them), I’ve been writing about them for years. On Skeptoid Blog, I wrote posts diving into each one of these ideas, and am extremely familiar with how they work – and don’t work.

This piece summarizes what I wrote there, and if you want more information, feel free to read the original posts. They have crazy comments!

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We Were Sitting Ducks For Russian Trolling

In the wake of the surprising indictments of 13 Russians involved in the coordinated trolling of the 2016 election, online arguments raged as to what impact it had on Donald Trump’s win.

But the already-fertile ground that the misinformation landed on was left mostly unexplored.

We know how Russia trolled us. But we still don’t really know why. And given the fairly low amount of effort they put into it, we don’t know why it worked.

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Debunking Parkland Shooting Conspiracy Theories

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, unleashed wave after wave of conspiracy theories. And rather than ignore them, our posture should be actively debunking them.

LA Times correspondent Matt Pearce made an observation about the inevitable churn of conspiracy theories and nonsense that now follow every such event:

As soon as the shooting in Parkland became public, so too did the un-evidenced claims that “something wasn’t right” about the “official story.” Usually, the accusation is that the shooting was a “false flag” planned by the authorities to either restrict gun rights or instill fear in the population.

As “evidence” that the shooting was “fishy,” conspiracy theorists almost always amplify early reports that a second shooter was involved. A second gunman increase the body count and create more fear, and exposing them instantly puts a lie to the “official story.”

Sure enough, the right wing grief ghouls and professional conspiracy grifters instantly found a video of a traumatized student saying she spoke to the shooter, and also heard shots coming from another part of the school.

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Adam Schiff Does Not Have a Sister

Congressman Adam Schiff (D- CA) does not have a sister.

Normally, this would be about as controversial a statement as “Tuesday comes after Monday.” It’s a settled fact, and shouldn’t be debated on internet forums.

But as we’ve learned over the years, just because something is a settled fact doesn’t mean it’s not going to be debated on internet forums. And Adam Schiff’s sister, despite not existing, has become the topic of the moment all over the Trump-supporting fever swamp of blogs, message boards, and social media.

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