How the Left are losing their minds

The Atlantic reports:

In past political epochs, popular conspiracy theories spread via pamphlets left on windshields, or chain emails forwarded thousands of times. These days, the tinfoil-hat crowd gathers on Twitter.

People like Mensch, Claude Taylor, Andrea Chalupa, Eric Garland, and Leah McElrath feed their followers a steady diet of highly provocative speculation, rumor, and innuendo that makes it sound as if Trump’s presidency—and, really, the entire Republican Party—is perpetually on the verge of a spectacular meltdown.

The most prolific of the conspiracy-mongers tend to focus on the Russia scandal, weaving a narrative so sensationalistic and complex that it could pass for a Netflix political drama. Theirs is a world where it is acceptable to allege that hundreds of American politicians, journalists, and government officials are actually secret Russian agents; that Andrew Breitbart was murdered by Vladimir Putin; that the Kremlin has “kompromat” on everyone, and oh-by-the-way a presidency-ending sex tape is going to drop any day now.

Writing recently in The New Republic, Sarah Jones identified the popularity of these notorious tweetstormers—some of whom boast followings in the hundreds of thousands—as part of a “disturbing emerging trend” on the left. “Liberals desperate to believe that the right conspiracy will take down Donald Trump promote their own purveyors of fake news,” she wrote.

And when the media gets their news stories from these Twitter fools then you can see how the narrative often fails to resemble reality. But Twitter isn’t the whole problem, then there is Facebook.

If Twitter is where liberal conspiracy theories germinate and spread among news junkies, Facebook is where anti-Republican propaganda can go wide.

Facebook pages like Occupy Democrats have millions of fans who ensure that every meme, video, and breathless blog post they publish has a good chance at virality. The content plastered across these pages includes standard-issue clickbait (“Trump Just Did Something Awful At His Golf Course”) and hyperbolic headlines (“Queen Elizabeth Just Told Trump To Go F*ck Himself And It Is Perfect”). But these feeds are also studded with straightforwardly fake news.

An analysis by BuzzFeed during the frenzied final weeks of the 2016 election found that nearly 20 percent of the stories posted by three extremely popular liberal Facebook pages—Occupy Democrats, The Other 98%, and Addicting Info—were either partly or mostly false. While conservative Facebook pages were even more likely to spread false stories, BuzzFeed’s finding should serve as a red flag for the kind of the news that millions of rank-and-file Democrats are getting on the world’s largest social-media platform.

So, fake news is also the domain of the left. On top of that many mainstream news stories these days are sourced from either Twitter or Facebook, compounding the fake news issue. Moreover, it is the mainstream media who have allowed this to fester and grow, so it is with some element of irony that we watch them moan about the rise of fake news as if they aren’t actually part of the problem in the first place.

One sign of the potential power in this alternative media universe is the regularity with which stories that originate there end up reaching public figures with real influence and massive followings. These may be people who are relatively unsophisticated when it comes to politics and media, but whose prominence in other fields—academia, history, law, literature—gives them a certain sheen of trustworthiness. So when they share stories from fringe outlets on Twitter or Facebook, many are inclined to take them seriously.

On the “about” page for The Palmer Report, the site thanks a range of well-known people and mainstream media outlets it claims have shared its (dubious) reporting —including Representative Ted Lieu, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, former DNC chair Howard Dean, the actors Mark Ruffalo and Debra Messing, Newsweek, The Oregonian, and an array of MSNBC contributors. Laurence Tribe, the renowned Harvard scholar of constitutional law, has been an especially active booster for the site, routinely tweeting links to highly questionable, unverified news stories about Trump.

Last April, when Jason Chaffetz announced he would resign his House seat, The Palmer Report published an anonymously sourced bombshell claiming the FBI had discovered the Utah congressman was being blackmailed by the Kremlin. The story was characteristic of the site’s well-worn shtick. But that didn’t stop Ned Price, a former special assistant to President Obama, from credulously passing it along on Twitter.

“Interesting, if single-sourced, article from a few days ago,” he wrote.

Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to Obama, then chimed in, “Too bad nobody flagged this earlier.”

When journalists began pressing the duo on why they were sharing a story from a website with such a spotty track record of accuracy, Price’s response was telling. “Every once in a blue moon, the tin hat can fit.

And that my friends is how the left wing is undoing itself. We can see the same things happening here.


-The Atlantic

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