Confessed liars Sidney Powell (and Tucker Carlson); gullibility for conspiracy theories; Right-wing misinformation campaigns.
Here are examples of something I haven’t quite wrapped my head around. I mean, this I understand: There are people out there who aren’t interested in truth or reality; they’re interested in winning, and in validating their prejudices.
Yesterday there was news about the Pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell (a woman), who after November’s election floated many baseless claims that the voting machines were corrupt. Since then, the voting machine manufacturers have majorly sued her for defamation. Her defense:
CNN: Sidney Powell argues in new court filing that no reasonable people would believe her election fraud claims
Slate: Pro-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell’s Defamation Defense: No “Reasonable Person” Would Ever Believe Sidney Powell.
Where have we heard this before? Why with Tucker Carlson’s defense against a defamation lawsuit, that “no reasonable viewer would mistake Carlson’s program for factual.”
There’s a more general principle here. There are people out there who claim to have discovered the “truth” that “they” don’t want you to know. But in fact these are people floating ludicrous stories (including many (all?) the conspiracy theorists), who do so just to rattle cages; they don’t really believe what they’re saying. They just want to see what they can get away with – and how many gullible people will believe them.
And so many people do.
Similarly, here’s a Sunday Doonsbury comic that illustrates how some people — some of the *targets* of the people who just make stuff up to see what takes — are ever ready to believe whatever “alternate reality” comes along. It’s not that such people are stupid; it’s that, I think, their stance in life is to be contrary, to be independent of the cultural consensus that forms, is necessary for, our vast, complex society. They want to be loners. They don’t want anyone to tell them what to do [masks], or what to believe [the end of the world; stolen elections].
Man in call center taking a call: Hello, you’ve reached MyFACTS, the leader in alternative realities! How may I direct your cry for help?
Caller: Yeah, I’m looking for a new predictive belief system.
Call center: I can assist you with that, sir. What have you embraced in the past?
Caller: Well, I fell for 1987’s Harmonic Convergence, the 1994 Rapture, both 2001 Raptures, and the 2012 Mayan Long Count… Then I bought into the QAnon storm of January 6, and the reset on March 4. I’ve been burned a lot!
And so on.
One more about the many varieties of “fake news.”
The Atlantic, 15 March, Renée DiResta (a “Technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory”): The Misinformation Campaign Was Distinctly One-Sided, subtitled, “In 2020, false propaganda about voting came almost exclusively from the right, putting tech companies in a bind.”
On the morning of September 21, 2020, three trays of United States mail were discovered in a ditch in Greenville, Wisconsin. The local sheriff’s office reported that the mail dump included several absentee ballots. When a U.S. Postal Service spokesperson made a similar assertion two days later, a local Fox affiliate, WLUK, reported the statement on its website. And then a national network of conservative commentators and influencers did something that happened again and again last fall: They picked up a bare-bones news story and made it sound nefarious.
The kernel of truth in the story was blown all out of proportion by right-wing sites, eager to stoke fear and distrust among their frightened, paranoid viewers. A familiar story.