Disinformation-- It's What Fascism Thrives On
Yesterday, Bill, the DWT art director told me he had signed up for the Bluesky Social beta waiting list and that he’s letting is twitter account “die on the vine.” He said he’s even thinking about starting to delete the content he’s posted over the years. “I just don’t think I can support anything attached to Elon Musk,” and said and also told me that it’s possible that Twitter could “claim any posted content under their copyright… I hope it dies a quick death,” but he fears it will just be a louder megaphone for authoritarian propaganda and disinformation. Is it even imaginable that a $44 billion investment— albeit a bad one— could just go up in smoke? I mean $44 billion is a lot of money, even for the richest billionaire on earth. Even for his partners the Saudis. If Bluesky Social looks feasible I’ll join that too. I’m on the verge of quitting Twitter too, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. I noticed that instead of growing everyday, my Twitter following is shrinking everyday. Since Musk took over I’ve lost almost 1,000 followers.
Misinformation is a serious problem and it’s tearing the country apart. Musk doesn’t seem to understand that— or care. He’s in his own untouchable-- and autistic— richest-man-in-the-world world. I wonder how many people would love to see him lose $44 billion. Even if all $44 billion was his— it isn’t— and he lost it, he’d still be the richest man in the world, richer than the Bernard Arnault, the second richest, Gautam Adani, the third richest, Jeff Bezos, the fourth richest and much richer than relative peons like Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg.
Yesterday, a team of New York Times writers put together a fascinating report on How Republicans Fed a Misinformation Loop About the Pelosi Attack. Not only didn’t Twitter help stop the misinformation, Twitter amplified it and Musk personally gave it credence with his 114.4 million followers. Within hours of the attack, MAGA world “began circulating groundless claims— nearly all of them sinister, and many homophobic— casting doubt on what had happened.” Some Republican officials— gratuitous assholes like Ted Cruz, Clay Higgins and Marjorie Traitor Greene— “quickly joined in, rushing to suggest that the bludgeoning of an octogenarian by a suspect obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories was something else altogether, dismissing it as an inside job, a lover’s quarrel or worse. The misinformation came from all levels of Republican politics. A U.S. senator [Cruz] circulated the view that “none of us will ever know” what really happened at the Pelosis’ San Francisco home. A senior Republican congressman [Higgins] referred to the attacker as a “nudist hippie male prostitute,” baselessly asserting that the suspect had a personal relationship with Mr. Pelosi. Trump questioned whether the attack might have been staged. The world’s richest man helped amplify the stories. But none of it was true.” Truth is not a Elon Musk value and not a GOP value— quote the contrary. Truth is the mortal enemy of these people.
The graphic in The Times also includes Sebastian Gorka, Fox News’ Pete Hegseth, Megyn Kelly, Devin Nunes,Michael Savage, Roger Stone and, of course, Trump and Musk. “The flood of falsehoods,” wrote Annie Karen and her team, “showed how ingrained misinformation has become inside the GOP, where the reflexive response of the rank and file— and even a few prominent figures— to anything that might cast a negative light on the right is to deflect with more fictional claims, creating a vicious cycle that muddies facts, shifts blame and minimizes violence… ‘This is the dynamic as it plays out,’ said Brian Hughes, a professor at American University who studies radicalism and extremism. ‘The conspiracy theory prompts an act of violence; that act of violence needs to be disavowed, and it can only be disavowed by more conspiracy theories, which prompts more violence.’”
The Justice Department moved swiftly to bring criminal charges against the suspect in the attack, David DePape, 42, who prosecutors said broke into the Pelosi home intending to kidnap Ms. Pelosi and shatter her kneecaps, and assaulted her husband with a hammer, leaving him with a cracked skull. The San Francisco district attorney said it was imperative for prosecutors to present the facts to the public, given the misinformation circulating widely about the case.
But by then, it was far too late. In a pattern that has become commonplace, a parade of Republicans— helped along by right-wing media personalities including the Fox New host Tucker Carlson, and prominent people including the newly installed Twitter owner Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man— had already abetted the viral spread of lies about the attack, distorting the account of what happened before facts could get in the way. Finding life on far-right websites and the so-called dark web, conspiracy theories and falsehoods leaped from the fringes to the mainstream.
While many Republican leaders denounced the violence and some, including former Vice President Mike Pence, expressed sympathy for the Pelosis, none of them publicly condemned the falsehoods their colleagues were elevating or did anything to push back on the false narrative. That left others to fill the void.
“Just produce the police body cam— why is that so hard?” Carlson demanded on his show on Wednesday night. Addressing those criticizing the conspiracy theorizing, he added: “We’re not the crazy people; you’re the liars. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, period.”
The disinformation surrounding the attack on Pelosi presented many of the standard elements of alt-right conspiracy theories, which relish a culture of “do your own research,” casting skepticism on official accounts, and tend to focus on lurid sexual activities or issues related to children, often driven by a fear of society becoming immoral.
Nina Jankowicz, a disinformation expert, said no amount of evidence— be it police body camera footage or anything else— could get in the way of such falsehoods in the eyes of those who do not want to believe facts.
“It doesn’t matter when there are documents or sworn testimony claiming something is, in fact, not the case,”Jankowicz said. “There will be an elaborate reframing effort. If the footage was released, people would claim it was fabricated. There’s no bottom.”
Many of the Republicans who amplified the fiction couched their comments as jokes, effectively pre-empting any criticism by suggesting they might not be serious. Hours after the attack, Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s [seriously drug-addicted and mentally unbalanced] son, shared online a viral image of a costume that included an oversized pair of men’s briefs and a hammer, remarking “the internet remains undefeated.”
A spokesman for Trump said he “simply posted a joke meme and has always rejected political violence in all forms.”
Representative Claudia Tenney, a Republican of New York, circulated a photograph on Twitter that showed a group of young, white men holding oversized hammers beside a gay Pride flag, commenting simply: “LOL.”
Tenney did not respond to a request for a comment.
It is not clear whether the elected officials and media personalities who have trafficked in falsehoods believe the conspiracy theories they are elevating, or simply want to be rewarded by their right-wing base. According to public polling, as many as 70 percent of Republicans still believe that Trump was the true winner of the 2020 election.
Mary Williams Benefield, a Republican running for a seat in Georgia’s statehouse, said she had responded online to a tweet suggesting the attack was staged because “the official narrative is unwilling to present all the facts.”
“Maybe their daughter has a film crew shooting a documentary on this too,” wrote the mother of three and former music teacher at a church school, making a reference to newly surfaced footage from a documentary Pelosi’s daughter Alexandra was filming that showed the speaker in a secure location during the Jan. 6 riot.
In an interview Benefield brought up a report that the police have debunked, which wrongly asserted that the intruder was dressed only in his underwear. The Fox News affiliate that originally reported the detail issued a correction saying the article had previously “misstated what clothing the suspect was wearing.”
That did nothing to change Benefield’s ‘mind.’
“There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked before there’s any legitimacy,” she said.
According to federal charging documents, DePape was enthralled by the conspiracy theories that have portrayed [Nancy] Pelosi as an enemy of the country. His online activities show him ranting about the 2020 election being stolen, seeming to deny the gassing of Jews at Auschwitz and claiming that schoolteachers were grooming children to be transgender.
His attorney has said he planned to argue that DePape was so influenced by disinformation that it should be considered a mitigating circumstance.
Of course that could— and should— be said about any of the 74,223,975 fucking idiots who voted for Trump in 2020 after seeing him in the white House for four years.