By Lynn Ashby 5 Dec. 2016
THE PC — Did you know that the Pope indorsed Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency? It must true. I read it on my social media. So did one hundred million others. Some observers say it changed the outcome of the election. And did you hear about all those paid protesters bused into Austin to break up a Trump rally? The story went (excuse the cliché) viral. Then there was the story about the ACLU suing to prevent Marines from praying.
What we have here is the newest wrinkle in social media: fake news. It’s driving legitimate news organizations nuts, not to mention the targets of such drivel. Fake news has always been around. The birthers got into it big time. I had an acquaintance from high school who would weekly send me emails showing Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya. Once he even sent me a “birth certificate” from the Royal Medical Hospital of Nairobi proving that Obama was born there. The certificate made the rounds like wildfire until it was discovered that the Royal Medical Hospital of Nairobi hadn’t opened until years later and the doctor’s signature was from someone who had died long ago. Incidentally, Donald Trump was a major force behind the birther movement, but today he just shrugs it off – like so many things, tax returns, foundation funds going to pay off lawsuits and, well, I’ve run out of space.
Fake news took on Mach speed during the last presidential election due to social media, and the lies received top priority with the truth never catching up. Mark Twain supposedly said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” He was right. At this point we must ask ourselves: who has this much extra time to write all this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do, like Adopt a Highway? Experts say some do it just to have fun and make fools of other self-important dummies. Others do it for political reasons – backing their candidate by smearing the opponent, like the Trump and Hillary rumormongers. Some do it for money, thinking they can sell ads beside their story on Martians eating Hollywood. Two teenagers in Croatia, of all places, thought they could strike it rich by selling ads to go along with their false stories. Like any good intelligence agency, they begin with something believable, possible or true. “This coded message from Agent X says the Third Division will move at dawn. We already know this from Agents Y and Z. Agent X reports the commander is General J, good work, we thought so. Finally, he writes they will attack at Sector H. Move troops to Sector H.” And the attack hits 20 miles away at Sector F.
We now go to the next point: Who believes these fake news reports, even enough to send them on to others? A lot of otherwise very smart people. The reports are inevitably either anti-Hillary or pro-Tromp (the papal endorsement). One young man in Vancouver started sending out messages praising Hillary and beating up on Trump, and got nowhere. So he did a 180 and sent out fake pro-Trump and vicious anti-Hillary bulletins. His business leaped forward.
So we know something about the writers, but why do so many otherwise intelligent folks bite the bait? Because they want to hear all the news — that fits their preconceived notions. People believe what they want to believe. Works every time. You heard about paid protestors bused into Austin to break up a Trump rally? Trump did and used the report in speeches. But what happened, as discovered by The New York Times, is that Eric Tucker, co-founder of a marketing company, took photos of a large group of buses he saw near downtown Austin because he thought it was unusual. Then he saw reports of protests against Trump in the city and decided the two were connected. He posted three of the images with the declaration: “Anti-Trump protestors in Austin today are not as organic as they seem. Here are the busses they came in.” The busses were, in fact, hired by a company called Tableau Software, which was holding a conference that drew more than 13,000 people. Tucker’s post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. And it was totally false. Gotcha!
Now we have this revelation: Remember all of those stories about Hillary’s health problems? Karl Rove reported that Hillary had hit her head and was out of commission for three months. That was easily checked out. A lie based on a fact. It was three days. Then there were the “rigged elections” stories. Others grabbed on to these fabrications, which Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Fox News repeated. The Washington Post interviewed government sources and found that the whole health situation came from – one guess – the Russians. They have 200 phony websites viewed by at least 15 million Americans. Add Facebook and the total reached 213 million of us – not me, you. The Russians had planted the stories, bit by bit, and gullible Americans bit.
An easy way to check out these items is to run them by Snopes. It’s an on-line operation that backtracks real and fake news items and seems to get the same inquiries all the time as the phony bulletins make their way around the globe. Oh, about the Marines being sued by the ACLU to prevent prayers, even accompanied by a photo of a company of Leathernecks looking down as in prayer. The ACLU said they never filed any kind of suit and had no official spokesman by the name given. The Marines said they never received any such suit, and had no spokesperson by the name given, either. I suspect the Marines in the photo looking down were searching for the Drill Instructor’s contact lens.
This just in: Donald Trump has endorsed the Pope.
Ashby fakes it at firstname.lastname@example.org