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March 7, 2018, 7:46 AM ET
Roger Stone explains in a new documentary how he manipulates Donald Trump by planting lies in his head.
The Republican dirty trickster and longtime Trump adviser is shown in the documentary, A Storm Foretold, by filmmakers Christoffer Guldbrandsen and Frederik Marbell, talking on a hot mic about how he has manipulated the former president for decades, even while he served in the White House, reported The Daily Beast.
“I have a 40-year record of being able to convince the big man to do what’s in his best interest -- he’s not easy to deal with," Stone says in the film. "It’s complicated. He resents any implication that he is handled or managed or directed.”
Stone says he plants ideas in Trump's head by making him think they're his own, with a dollop of flatter.
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“You have to say, ‘Remember that night when we were in Buffalo and you gave that speech, and God, it had to be 10,000 people, the biggest crowd they’d ever seen, and you said XYZ, and the place went crazy, remember that?'" Stone says. "I don’t know where you came up with that line, but it’s one of the best things.’”
Stone then says Trump often might say he'll use that line again, and adds that he's used that tactic almost as long as he's been advising the ex-president.
“Doesn’t f*cking matter that he never said it — doesn’t matter,” Stone says. “It’s time-consuming, but it works. I did it for 30 years.”
Guldbrandsen, whose film focuses on the period before and after the 2020 election, told The Daily Beast that he believes Stone had forgotten he was wearing a microphone during that conversation.
“Those are kind of mishaps,” Guldbrandsen said. “I think he had forgotten that he was wearing a mic. I know he had forgotten, because the next morning, he was really, really anxious about what I had recorded.”
For years, a band of science-loving "troll hunters" hounded climate change deniers off Twitter -- but Elon Musk's takeover has upended their efforts, with many ousted accounts back, pushing fresh disinformation.
Despite the threat climate change poses to the planet, disinformation about it has gone largely unsanctioned on Twitter. But a secretive global community of about 25 scientists and activists, calling themselves Team Ninja Trollhunters (TNT), found a roundabout way to tackle it.
Since its founding in 2019, TNT claims to have secured the suspension of some 600 accounts of climate change denialists by reporting them for other infringements, including hate speech, that are officially recognized by the platform as valid grounds for termination.
"If they're saying something racist or offensive or misogynist, we can get them kicked off," one Germany-based TNT member, a 45-year-old scientist who asked to be identified as Tom, told AFP in a Zoom interview.
Like other TNT members interviewed by AFP, he requested that his real identity be withheld to avoid online harassment.
TNT members showed AFP archives documenting their campaigns, including a spreadsheet logging thousands of Twitter accounts they reported on grounds ranging from spam and harassment to hate speech and threats. They also shared screenshots confirming numerous suspensions.
"We make sure that we're as under the radar as possible... to get (climate) deniers and 'skeptics' and just generally nasty people reported on Twitter," a Canada-based member named Peter told AFP.
"We're more effective if we're very quiet about it. These deniers are quite often very violent in their responses to climate misinformation being corrected. Intimidation and abuse are very common."
That approach appeared to work -– before Musk's turbulent $44 billion acquisition of Twitter last October. Research by monitoring groups indicates a spike in misinformation on the platform as moderation was gutted and a paid verification system boosted conspiracy theorists.
Adding to the turmoil, self-proclaimed free speech absolutist Musk has restored what researchers estimate are tens of thousands of accounts once suspended for violations, including incitement to violence, harassment and misinformation.
Twitter's press office and members of its sustainability team who were laid off after the takeover declined to comment.
In one example, TNT reported a Canada-based climate change denier for repeated threatening and offensive behavior. An online archive of the Twitter account shows it branded climate change a scam and ridiculed activists and scientists to thousands of followers.
"You can call it trolling, I call it having fun with idiot climate alarmists," he wrote in one exchange.
The account was suspended but the same user appeared to have returned with a different handle, posting "I'm back" in October 2022, and resumed retweeting material denying the causes of climate change.
"We got some fairly big accounts removed" but many came back "when Elon Musk kind of opened the floodgates again," said Tom.
"We've had to change tactics" -- less reporting of abusive accounts and more debunking of science claims, he added. "It's a real struggle to keep up."
Among other accounts targeted by TNT, a prominent US climate change denier was suspended in 2021 for "spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to Covid-19", according to a screenshot posted by one of his followers.
Spreading false information about Covid-19 "is fairly common for science-denial accounts: there's a lot of overlap due to conspiracy-thinking tendencies for the fact-adverse," Peter said.
The user returned with a new handle before the takeover and now has a "verified" checkmark, available for sale under Musk. He has posted regularly using the popular denialist hashtag ClimateScam, peddling misleading claims on topics such as arctic ice, temperatures and droughts.
But the TNT's fight continues.
Despite the reported rise in hate speech on Musk's Twitter, they scored a rare success this year, successfully booting off a prolific Australia-based tweeter of climate misinformation -- on the grounds of "hateful conduct", according to a screenshot published by a TNT member.
His tweets included claims that the Earth is cooling and that carbon dioxide does not cause warming. The member who reported the account told AFP the tweet for which it was suspended was about "immigration into the UK".
The group has been prompted to defend its tactics as some TNT members are themselves confrontational, aiming to provoke their targets into stepping over the line.
In one exchange, a TNT member told a prominent climate change denier he sounded like "a lobotomized cackling moron".
"We're going after accounts that are doing things that are reportable," Peter insisted. "We're not trolling people."
© 2023 AFP
Accompanying Naomi Campbell on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival last week was one of cinema's most powerful men -- and he represents a country where cinemas were banned until five years ago.
Mohammed Al Turki, 36, heads Saudi Arabia's Red Sea Film Foundation, his name splashed all over posters and movie credits at the world's biggest cinema gathering on the French Riviera.
The foundation, formed two years ago, holds its own annual festival and has already financed 168 movies, including eight in the official selection at Cannes this year.
Among them was festival opener "Jeanne du Barry" about a French prostitute falling in love with King Louis XV, played by Johnny Depp.
Others seemed equally at odds with traditional Saudi values -- female-focused films such as "Four Daughters" about the religious radicalization of Tunisian girls, or "Goodbye Julia" about a Sudanese woman and her overbearing conservative husband.
"We have learned to respect other cultures," Emad Iskandar, director of the Red Sea Film Foundation, told AFP.
He said the foundation focuses on Arab and African filmmakers, though the precise definition seems flexible: the French director of "Jeanne du Barry", Maiwenn, qualified thanks to her Algerian father.
"As long as we have the resources, we want to serve the region, but also take the opportunity to learn more," Iskandar added.
Al Turki's foundation also sponsored a gala for women, attended by Catherine Deneuve, Katie Holmes and supermodel Campbell.
"MO!! Proud of all your doing @redseafilm creating history of many 1st's and Changing the narrative," Campbell wrote of Al Turki on her Instagram.
- Whitewashing? -
Saudi largesse for the arts has boomed under the kingdom's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with billions pouring into previously taboo areas such as music, fashion and sports.
Human Rights Watch says this is designed to "whitewash its dismal rights record" and that, despite recent reforms, Saudi Arabia continues to repress civil society, execute dissidents, discriminate against women and bury the investigation into the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
But most Saudis back the reforms, and its officials say it is absurd to expect the kingdom to turn into a liberal paradise overnight.
Accusations of whitewashing "sadden us more than anything else," said Iskander.
"Come to visit and get to know Saudi Arabia and then talk about us. The West has arrived where it is after years of wars and debates. We are a 90-year-old state -- be patient."
In any case, the relentless PR campaign is working. The Saudi presence at Cannes felt less controversial than that of Depp, still widely branded as toxic since his court battle with ex-wife Amber Heard.
Cannes director Thierry Fremaux celebrated the kingdom's interest in "producing films and allowing artists to emerge".
"Saudi Arabia is evolving," he told Variety.
- 'More and more present' -
All over Cannes were adverts calling on producers and directors to shoot in Saudi Arabia, while its pavilion showed off the work of its own young directors.
"Every year Saudi Arabia asks for a bigger pavilion, more facilities, to be more and more present," said Guillaume Esmiol, head of the Cannes Film Market that runs alongside the festival.
Saudi Arabia is not the only country in the region investing massively in cinema: rival Qatar financed 13 films at Cannes this year, including three in the main competition.
Some have little or no connection to the Middle East.
"We have a lot of French productions," Fatma Hassan Alremaihi, Doha Film Institute CEO, told AFP.
"We don't want to be insular, we want our filmmakers to be open to other regions and other filmmakers and work with them."
She had no qualms that such investments were aimed at spreading Qatar's soft power.
"Who doesn't do that? The US does that with their Hollywood films... At least we are doing what we believe in, and we are not losing our identity at the same time."
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