10 Things in Politics: Tracing Trump and QAnon's roots to smog

10 Things in Politics: Tracing Trump and QAnon's roots to smog
Valerie Chiang for Insider

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Here's what we're talking about:

With Phil Rosen.

1. THE HISTORY OF DENIALISM: America's struggle with fake news and disinformation campaigns is a lot older than you think. In fact, the roots of this denialism can be traced all the way back to 1943 and the birth of modern smog, Jack Hitt reports in a massive new piece for Insider.


Here's a look at how the denialism of the insurrection was fueled years earlier:

An enterprising Dutch immigrant first identified the cause of smog: Arie Haagen-Smit piped Los Angeles air through a series of traps that eventually yielded "several ounces of a vile-smelling brown sludge." His conclusion - that smog was born of emissions, mostly from refineries and cars, released into bright LA sunlight - answered a long-simmering question.

But pollution-producing industries weren't happy: The American Petroleum Institute, in what's become a modern template, started a front group to trash the research. Their effort was poorly executed, and included firing a scientist who confirmed Haagen-Smit's theories instead of shooting them down.

  • The tobacco industry soon returned to this playbook: But Big Tobacco approached research about cigarette smoke and cancer in a fundamentally different way. It viewed it more as a publicity problem, hiring the PR firm Hill & Knowlton who spawned the message that there was "no proof" that cigarettes could be definitely linked to cancer. Cigarette makers fell back on this message for decades even as evidence grew.
  • Climate deniers broadened this effort again: One of the most successful examples was the amplification of a conspiracy theory based on hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. Initial stories gestured to a potential cover-up that later investigations found never lived up to the hype.

Researchers have found modern denialism has a powerful pull: A small group of well-placed people can amplify false claims about vaccines or the election, sowing a vast amount of distrust in the process.

Read more about how researchers say QAnon shows the evolution of falsehoods and their fears about what may lay ahead.


2. Democrats face crunch time on Biden's agenda: Centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are continuing negotiations over the party's massive social-spending plan. But some of their colleagues fear that time is running out a rare opportunity, Politico reports. "[W]e will be working on it for well over another decade," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said of what will happen to paid leave if it's axed from the final bill. A nationwide paid-leave program is one of the many policies Democrats are trying to squeeze in. Here's where talks stand.

10 Things in Politics: Tracing Trump and QAnon's roots to smog
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

3. Sinema campaign spent $1,180 at a winery: Sinema's campaign said the purchases were related to "meeting expenses." A representative for Three Sticks Wines in Sonoma, California, where the Arizona Democrat herself interned, offer additional details, saying the purchase was for wine and a virtual tasting kit. It's unclear why Sinema's campaign would purchase wine - and the odd pairing could run afoul of campaign-spending laws.

4. China's missile capabilities reportedly surprised US intel: China demonstrated advanced space capability by testing a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August, the Financial Times reports. Although the missile missed its target by miles, the test demonstrated China's advanced space capability and took US intelligence by surprise. Why hypersonic missiles are a concern for the US military.

5. Pete Buttigieg's low-key paternity leave is generating controversy: The Transportation secretary is "ramping up" work after taking time off with his newborn children, offering what paid-leave advocates say is a high-profile model for the policy. Buttigieg's leave started in August after the arrival of his twins, Penelope Rose and Joseph August Buttigieg. Read more about why paid leave advocates are saying about Buttigieg's decision.


6. Fauci says fully-vaccinated Americans can enjoy the holidays: Dr. Anthony Fauci's latest comments came after he previously said "it's too soon to tell" if holiday gatherings were safe, noting that the focus should be on lowering COVID-19 infections earlier this month. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance on how to safely celebrate. More on what federal officials are advising for the holidays.

7. Up to 17 missionaries were kidnapped in Haiti: The 16 American missionaries and one Canadian were taken as they were leaving an orphanage. The group they are working for is based in Ohio and is affiliated with Amish, Mennonite, and other conservative Anabaptist groups. A two-year-old and another young child are among the kidnapped. More on the news.

8. Strikes are sweeping the nation: Union officials and economists tell The Washington Post that the growing trend of employees taking to the picket line is part of a larger shift in the labor market that leaves some workers in high demand. This trend has given them new leverage in labor disputes, something many are feeling as their wages remain mostly stagnant compared to inflation. Read more about a wave of strikes that covers everything from nurses to oil workers and cereal-factory employees.

9. Bill Clinton is out of the hospital: The former president was seen Sunday leaving a hospital in Orange County, California, six days after he was admitted for treatment for a urological and blood infection, to the Los Angeles Times. Clinton flew back to New York with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton by his side.

10 Things in Politics: Tracing Trump and QAnon's roots to smog
An artist's concept of NASA astronauts returning to the surface of the moon via its Artemis program. NASA

10. Wi-Fi me to the moon?: A new study by NASA considers the possibility of building a lunar Wi-Fi network. It comes in an effort to address inadequate internet access across parts of the US, and could and help inform future missions. More on how this fits in with NASA's plans to return to a lunar landing.


Today's trivia question: Sunday marked 90 years since Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. Two of Capone's brothers were also part of the underworld. But another brother took a different route. What did he do? Email your answer and a suggested question to me at bgriffiths@insider.com.

  • Friday's answer: President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush had a back-and-forth feud with the fictional Simpsons that included her once calling the animated show "the dumbest thing I've ever seen." Marge Simpson wrote the then-first lady a letter about her insults. It was revealed after Bush's death that, incredibly, she responded.