It seems likely that the sad souls lost in the maze of the Trumpist conspiracy madness will be unmoved, but for those people still interested in facts, the Associated Press has a fine story this morning that’s worth a few minutes of your time. It’s entitled “Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims.”
The story explains how people with cellphone cameras can quickly spread untruths online that go viral even as the claims therein are being discredited by reputable news organizations. And, of course, things are made exponentially worse when high profile figures like President Trump’s minions (or Trump himself) help spread the untruths.
Here’s an excerpt from the AP story:
And one of those falsehoods sprang from the cellphone camera of Kelly SoRelle, a Republican from Texas. After shooting her video of the man with a wagon in Detroit, SoRelle took it to a conservative YouTube host who played it for his show’s 5 million subscribers the day after the election. She also gave it to the Texas Scorecard, a website started by Empower Texans, a lobbying group that ranks politicians on a conservative scorecard and is bankrolled by West Texas businessman Tim Dunn. Empower Texans’ PAC has pumped millions of dollars into the campaigns of ultra-conservative candidates. Texas Scorecard posted the video on its website and YouTube page, which collectively racked up 50,000 shares on Facebook. SoRelle did not respond to requests for comment.
Others soon picked up the story, and four hours later, Eric Trump had tweeted it to his 4 million followers. “WATCH: Suitcases and Coolers Rolled Into Detroit Voting Center at 4 AM, Brought Into Secure Counting Area,” he tweeted.
Over the next week, there were nearly 150,000 mentions of wagons, suitcases or coolers of votes in broadcast scripts, blogs and on public Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts, according to an analysis that media intelligence firm Zignal Labs conducted for the AP.
An investigative reporter at local TV station WXYZ-TV clarified on Twitter the night the video was first posted that the mysterious man was one of its videographers. He was pulling in a wagon of equipment to relieve the crew inside the voting center. Mentions of the story began to fizzle out on Nov. 5 after news organizations fact-checked the claims, Zignal Labs’ report found.
By then, however, many of those fringe websites and Trump associates were busy peddling new claims of voter fraud online.
The bottom line: There’s unlikely to be any magic cures for this tragic situation, but everyone interested in combating it can help by paying attention and speaking up to debunk online falsehoods. Having a new president in 47 days who is not a serial liar should help too.