Shelagh Fogarty is Leading Britain's Conversation.
25 November 2016, 13:38
The 'New Establishment' of Trump, Farage and others have sailed into power on a tide of falsehoods, perpetuated by fake news on the internet.
The establishment is dead. It was buried by a roomful of millionaires who celebrated UKIP's and Trump's success in overturning the establishment with a slap-up do at the home of the establishment, the Ritz.
One of the reasons that an orange nightmare is set to step into the top job in America is the dissemination of fake news stories on the internet, and their effect on a willingly gullible audience.
The story about that lot being anti-establishment is a prime example.
The problem with the net is that everything looks like it has similar value.
A story published online by a conspiracy nut with his dinner down his vest, who has only his collection of dead cats for company, looks just like one published by professional journalists with standards, who fact check their story and work for news organisations that care about their reputation for accuracy.
Before the internet, if you wanted to get your opinion out there, you had to go to journalism school, learn your craft, get hired by a paper and get your story past an editor, who would insist on some authenticity and truthfulness before it was allowed to be published.
These days, anyone can get their message read if they can operate a keyboard, and their internet provider hasn't disconnected them.
An article by a mouth-breather with a swastika tattooed on his forehead, published online from his home in the basement of his parent's house, looks the same as one put online by the Washington Post or the Daily Telegraph.
They can be very hard to tell apart, and as they both appear on the same screen, they appear to have similar weight.
This is compounded by the uniform opinions that sites like Facebook can give the reader.
If you believe that the cause of your economic problems is the EU, or that climate change is a hoax, or that we are being controlled by aliens from space who have infected humankind through the medium of lemon jelly, then you will have those thoughts reinforced by only hearing from, and conversing with, people who think just like you.
In real life, if you express out loud the notion that eating cheese makes you gay, you might get someone correcting you. If you put that thought on the internet, you will have no end of people telling you that they knew it all along, and it has been covered up by the CIA and the Dutch Gouda mafia.
This reinforces their wrong-headedness, which makes them difficult to reach because they imagine that everyone thinks like they do.
That is when extremism starts breeding and we are seeing a lot of that lately.
Some of these false stories are put out by people that have the IQ of a soap dish. Others are placed online by satirists and jokers.
One of the major players in this game of misinformation is a man called Paul Horner. He told the Washington Post that he believes the false stories he planted on Facebook contributed mightily to Donald Trump's success.
He said, "Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything any more — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it."
He said, "It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it."
One of the most shared fake stories that Horner placed online was that Obama had ordered the national anthem banned at sporting events. It fed into the rabid right wing's fury-gasm.
The mob was outraged and flipped their lid without ever checking to see if it was true.
He also posted the story about demonstrators at Trump rallies being paid thousands of dollars by Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Horner said, "I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief, but it took off. They actually believed it. I thought they’d fact-check it...but Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels bad."
He feels bad! That's not much consolation. But now we know where the lines are, we can all do it.
So, here's two facts I just made up:
1. Donald Trump has undergone a great change of personality, and after 70 years of self-aggrandisement now cares only about the little people and not at all about enriching himself in office.
2. Nigel Farage is a man in a frog suit. Have you ever seen him and Kermit in the same room together?
I rest my case.