The Disturbing Effectiveness of Fake News

The Disturbing Effectiveness of Fake News

The apparent truth is that we no longer share the same reality. We can no longer agree on what the facts are. The same event will be interpreted completely differently by people of different political beliefs. The social cohesion we used to have is rapidly breaking down before our very eyes. This is most clearly seen in the relationship between Trump, the media and leftwing activists. Everything Trump does is interpreted through a sinister lens and placed like a jigsaw-piece into a complimentary narrative. This is not unexpected, the right did much of the same during the Obama years. His actions were filtered trough a skeptical lens and usually attributed to dark motives. The problem comes when obviously false information, or “fake news” if you prefer, is seen to work exactly as its creators intended.

Narratives about Trump that are internally logically inconsistent nevertheless are effective in furthering the anti-Trump atmosphere and pushes the political conversation forward. Again and again the Russia-conspiracy theory has been pushed, even when the facts contradict the very story put forward. Recently everyone has been talking about the alledged existence of the “Comey Memo”. It was suggested that this was a memo former FBI-director James Comey wrote to document the fact that President Trump asked him to drop the investigation into alleged Russian interference into the election. For the sake of argument I will not go into the ludicrous assertion that memos prove anything. If that were the case I could walk into a random bank and produce a self-made memo that “proved” the bank manager had promised to pay out a lot of cash to me.

People have pointed out the inconvenient fact that it is highly illegal to not inform the Justice Department of such interference. If Comey truly believed that Trump intended to interfere he would be obligated under the law to come forward with that assertion. The penalty for failure is up to three years in jail. Comey even testified before Congress that no such attempts had been made. Thus we can deduce that the Comey Memo story is pure nonsense. Has this impacted the pushing or belief in the Russia-conspiracy? Not even a tiny bit. The only thing that happens is that the goalpost is moved. We now know that the whole Russia-did-it excuse was concocted immediately following the glorious defeat of the wicked witch.

Again and again anti-Trump stories have been debunked. In practice this doesn’t matter. People cling to their beliefs irregardless of what the facts say. I recently had the displeasure of going on reddit without being automatically logged in. I thus saw the default homepage. It was outlandish anti-Trump story after negative picture after Trump-is-horrible this and that. Fake News in current society is fueling political echo chambers hermetically sealed to critical outside scrutiny. It doesn’t help that the so-called fact-checkers are blatantly partisan. During the 2016 Election Season I saw many examples of Trump being given several “pinocchios” for statements very similar to statements from politicans on the left. Their statements on the other hand were given the green light “truthful” rating. A fake news environment combined with compromised arbiters of truth is not a healthy combination.

Now that Trump has been in office a couple of months, a pattern begins to emerge. The Democrats and their media allies are able to hamper Trump’s legislative agenda by affecting his allies and potential working partners. People that otherwise would have worked with Trump are now distancing themselves and looking out for their own political survival. They have thusly been successful in sowing the seeds of division and in driving a wedge between the Trump-wing and the old establishment-wing of the Republican Party. The facts speak for themselves, fake news are effective. Creating your own reality detached from objective truth is disturbingly, a rational thing to do in the current political climate of the US. That is something that should disturb us all.



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