The real danger of ‘post-truth’ fake news
A recent incident at a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant shows how the continued lies of Donald Trump and his allies are putting people’s lives in danger.
A North Carolina man said he had “read online” about child sex slaves being kept in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Oh, and the whole thing was led by the Clintons. So he took an unlicensed AR-15 assault rifle and drove to Washington to terrorize the pizzeria and perform his own “rescue” operation. Luckily, he was arrested before he shot and killed anyone but not before restaurant employees were forced to flee in terror at the sight of a man with a huge weapon and not before the bozo in question, Edgar Maddison Welch, fired the rifle inside the restaurant.
Just putting those words together would cause most normal people to laugh incredulously. Child sex-trafficking? It sounds like a bad B movie script made by a schlock film outfit. To say that this was a fringe conspiracy theory is like saying Ted Cruz’s father killed JFK. (Oh, wait, that was another lie Trump and his cronies spread.)
But to the tinfoil-hat-wearing crowd, it must be true, because they read it on Facebook. Or on Twitter. Or on a fringe website. Or in tweets by members of the president-elect’s transition team and the lunatic Trump picked as his national security adviser.
Yes, the man who Trump wants to advise the nation on matters of national security, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, helped indirectly spread the “pizzagate” story on social media. As a matter of fact, Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., who may or may not be part of Trump’s transition team (they keep changing their story), has been front and center spreading the Clinton-sex-trafficking-pizzagate rumors, along with fringe conspiracy sites.
It’s not just pizzagate. Like the Orange Menace, Flynn Sr. has busy Twitter fingers, as he “has reportedly promoted conspiracy theories and unfounded accusations at least 16 times since August,” according to a story on Talking Points Memo. A Politico story has the details of Flynn derangement:
Flynn, who has 106,000 Twitter followers, has used the platform to retweet accusations that Clinton is involved with child sex trafficking and has “secretly waged war” on the Catholic Church, as well as charges that Obama is a “jihadi” who “laundered” money for Muslim terrorists. (Note: the links take you to wacko Twitter accounts, but trust me, it’s nutso territory.)
Now some say Flynn’s fondness for spreading fake news casts doubt on his fitness to serve as the White House’s national security adviser, suggesting that he either can’t spot a blatant falsehood or is just ideologically bent to believe the worst of his perceived enemies.
“Casts doubt on his fitness to serve”? YA THINK?
Remember that Flynn was the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and was fired. The post of national security adviser does not need Senate confirmation, so we’d be stuck with Trump’s pick of this whackadoodle. Flynn also has a history of rabidly anti-Islamist (“Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL”) and anti-Semitic (“Not anymore, Jews”) tweets.
Of course, Flynn’s would-be boss, the liar-in-chief due to take office in January, has been a master of spreading falsehoods on Twitter. The latest claim that “millions” of Clinton voters voted illegally is hogwash, but true Trumpeters continue to lap up garbage about voter fraud like poisoned mother’s milk.
Let’s just clarify: This is not normal. This is so far beyond normal that otherwise-decent Americans are being duped into complacency about what’s true and what’s not. Of course, the fact that they voted for a proven liar such as Trump puts their decency in question.
The pizzagate jerk didn’t hurt anyone, but how long will it be before a Trump true believer kills someone, if it hasn’t happened already? There have been reports of nearly 900 hate crimes and other incidents since the November election. The Southern Poverty Law Center has an online form for anyone who wants to add to its hate crime database.
The Oxford English Dictionary named “post-truth” as its international word of the year. Post-truth is defined as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
In other words, lies. Lies based not on facts but on how people feel about things.
Why are we surprised? Trump supporter and CNN commentator Scottie Nell Hughes said on NPR that “there’s no such thing as facts anymore.” She made this jaw-dropping claim seemingly without irony. After blowback, she tried to “clarify” her remarks by invoking false equivalency, saying Trump supporters listened to him and believed one set of facts, and supporters of Democratic candidate and popular vote winner Hillary Clinton listened to her and believed another. (Clinton now leads Trump by more than 2.5 million votes and two percentage points of the national vote, by the way.)
Let’s look again at Politifact’s statistics about who told the truth in the 2016 election and who didn’t. Remember: Trump lies more than 75 percent of the time. Who was the most truthful candidate? That’s right. Hillary Clinton.
After this election, 2016 feels more and more like George Orwell’s 1984 and its “Newspeak” all the time.
“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?”