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Where Donald Gets His “News”

2016-11-20

The New York Times posted an article about a fake news item that “went viral”: the claim that protesters against Trump’s election were bussed in to a site in Austin, Texas.  A blogger with a small following posted some photographs of busses on Twitter with the statement that these busses must have something to do with the protests that were going on at the time (November 9.)  In fact, the busses were for a corporate conference that attracted some 13,000 visitors (Tableau Software.)  The man who made the post claimed he had searched for a conference online and failed to find it; he then made the connection to the protests with no other evidence than seeing a number of buses parked near where the protests were going on.

The tweet attracted the attention of a number of right-wing sites and was circulated as “proof” that the protests were being organized, by “Soros money”– with no evidence.  More than 300,000 Facebook users linked to a Free Republic post that repeated the same rumor as if it were fact.  The director of corporate affairs for the bus company heard of the rumor the next day and debunked it to a local Fox News affiliate, but few people received the facts compared to the many who heard the rumor.

The original poster of the tweet received the facts the next day and deleted his tweet, but by then it was too late.  Donald had already heard the rumor and repeated it on his tweet: “… Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” at 6:19 PM on Nov. 10 (timed as “shortly after 9 PM” by the NYT.)  The next day, November 11, snopes.com had posted a debunking of the rumor, the Tableau company made a statement to the local television station and the local newspaper, but to little effect.  Sites like “Right Wing News” and “Joe the Plumber” repeated the rumor as if it were fact.

The poster of the original tweet, Eric Tucker, saw his Twitter following jump from 40 to 960 because of his mistaken tweet; he posted retractions and a note that, in future, he would be more careful about fact-checking.  Nonetheless, Donald and most of the right-wing psycho-sphere have responded to this single mistaken rumor as if it proved that all of the protests against the results of the election were fake and instigated by liberal media.

Multiply this error by a thousand and you see the fact-free sea that Donald swims in, a toxic sea of lies and misperceptions that confirms his right-wing attitudes and makes his point of view as poisonous to the truth as we can possibly imagine.  Here is an essay in the NYT about “fake news” in all its varieties and how Facebook managers are having tremendous difficulty in trying to control or root out not just completely false, but outrageously slanted “news” stories and “analysis.”  Furthermore, the “fake news” is eroding trust in real news put out by traditional reporting and traditional reporters, as denounced in this editorial and this op-ed.

Our president-elect got his media attention based on a lie that Obama was not born in the US, but possibly in Kenya or some other foreign country.  He flogged this lie for five years before finally abandoning it just before the election and immediately substituting another lie: that Hillary was originally responsible for starting the lie, during her 2008 campaign.  So Donald is morally responsible for the promulgation of thousands of lies about Obama and Hillary, lies that propelled him into the White House.

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