Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Can We Do Anything About Our New Post-Fact World

Edgar Maddison Welch of North Carolina being
arrested after he shot up a Washington DC pizza joint
because he believed preposterous stories that
Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring
out of the business
It's clearer than ever that nobody actually relies on facts anymore.

That's being driven home by a series of news items that are getting more and more and MORE absurd, and I don't know where or when or if it might stop.

Through the looking glass, anyone?

My angst started the other day with was  in a stunning CNN interview about our fact-free world that went viral the other day.

It got even worse with a bizarre gun attack on a pizzeria that originated from a false news story about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party running a pedophilia sex ring out of the pizzeria that an amazing number of people believe.

I'll get to that weirdness in a minute, but let's start from the beginning.

CNN Hos Alisyn Camerota asked a panel of just regular folks, all Trump supporters.

All of the Trump supporters agreed with one of the people in the panel, who repeated Donald Trump's very, very debunked assertion that three million people voted illegally.  (The stunning interview is at the bottom of this post.)

"Where did you get that information,?" Camerota asked.

"From the media," the woman answered.

For the record, CNN did report that Trump said that there were 3 million illegal voters, but CNN also made it clear that assertion was false.

"Did you hear President Obama say illegal people could vote,?" Camerota asked the panel.

They all said yes, and of course Obama never said any such thing.

Camerota asked where they heard Obama said illegals could vote. One of the panelist said. "On Facebook. You can Google it."

Yes, you can. And you will find plenty of articles asserting that Obama gave the go-ahead for illegals to vote. These stories are false, but that's apparently besides the point.

But to many people, whether or not the purported source of "news" story makes it well known it's false matters to nobody.

Of course, people have believed fake news and false rumors ever since we existed. We've reached critical mass now, of people who discard facts in favor of things that want to believe.

We're all in our little silos now, having other people reinforce our misconceptions. And some of us allow these misconceptions to get more and more extreme.

We've been in a downhill slide toward this bad place for quite awhile now. Remember Stephen Colbert, when in 2005 he satirically popularized the term "truthiness," defined as using dubious facts to appeal to emotion, rather than let voters decide issues on pure facts.

Now, things no longer need to have even a tenuous connection to the truth.

Donald Trump was the first politician to fully exploit this phenomenon. He knows facts don't matter, so he says what he wants to fire up the crowd of loyal idiots, and it's working.

Too few people seem to have the mental energy or ability to think about what they hear and see. Attempts by legitimate news organizations to get facts through no longer work.

On the Diane Rehm show a week or so back, Donald Trump support and panelist Scottie Nell Hughes said, "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore of facts."

Hughes added, "And so, Mr. Trump's tweets amongst a certain crowd, a large - large part of the population are truth."

People are willing to believe anything, and I mean anything. Which gets us to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC.

I'll let the Washington Post start explaining it. Unlike much of what is circulating out there, the following Washington Post excerpt is totally true. Which scares me:

"The restaurant's owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant's backrooms.

Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia.

None of them were true. but the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons. The restaurant's owners was forced to contact the FBI, the police, Facebook and other social media platforms in an effort to remove the articles."

Got that? Somebody wrote news "articles" saying Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile sex ring and legions of people actually believed it.

And still do. Some idiot named Edgar Maddison Welch from North Carolina came up to DC, went to Comet Ping Pong pizzeria and shot up the place, as part of a "self investigation" into the child sex ring he "knew" was going on there.

Somehow, nobody got hurt, and the guy was arrested.

Not only are the pizzeria, its employees and their families being harassed, but so too are owners and employees of neighboring businesses who apparently are "in on the sex ring." .

Washington Post reporters who covered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria attack this weekend were also threatened and received death threats by these wackos.

I can't make this stuff up, and if so many people created these weird alternative "realities," God help us all.

Here's that stunning CNN interview.

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