He believed she was running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, DC, so he took an automatic rifle to the restaurant to “self investigate.” And he opened fire.
Let me say this again…
He believed a former US Senator, former First Lady of the United States, former Secretary of State, the woman who has been more scrutinized than perhaps any politician in US history, the focus of about a half-dozen, official FBI investigations and the daily subject during a two-year campaign, scrutinized by every political operative, friend and foe, held under the magnifying glass of what has become our unforgiving and uncaring political process; he believed Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of a DC pizzeria because, you know, he…
Seen it on Facebook!
Let me explain that. A few years ago, as Facebook was becoming a social media juggernaut, a friend heard of a cafe offering a discount: "Just tell us 'I seen it on Facebook!'" Ever since, this has become our mocking refrain, the sarcastic affirmation of the “obvious” veracity of every overstated conspiracy theory the world has ever known.
It’s got to be true… “I seen it on Facebook!”
And now, because he believed Hated Hillary was actually running a child sex ring, that somehow had not been detected, despite her being under unrelenting, continual surveillance, he took a loaded, automatic rifle to a public restaurant, and started shooting.
This unbelievable episode is now cause for a frantic discussion of “fake news” and potential cures for this new, dangerous social ill. Media and sociology and psychology experts from around the country are offering their erudite opinions on what we can do about this new, dangerous trend.
Maybe this story is actually fake news itself … the subject of one of those satire magazines?
If only that were true.
Unfortunately, this incident at the pizzeria is the sad truth of what we have become. We are so possessed by our loyalties, so paranoid by our hatred, so isolated by our continual connectedness, so biased by our fears, so prejudiced by our self-chosen facts, that we will choose to believe anything.
We choose to believe anything.
The shared posts and forwarded emails circle the globe at cyber-speed. And even when they purport the most absurd, illogical, ridiculously, unbelievable, obviously cynical, propaganda, otherwise intelligent people choose not to think, and just pass along the “truth” to their friends.
By sharing and elevating their concerns, they further demonize their enemies.
The result? We end up with the “news” that President Obama hates democracy. He’s actually a closeted, foreign born practicing Muslim, a communist sympathizer who wants to make the US into a European, socialist-styled nation-state, after he personally visits every American home to confiscate our guns and our money. In 2013, USA Today reported that a full 13% of us believe President Obama is the antichrist.
It has to be true. I seen it on Facebook!
To be fair, I could just as easily lampoon propaganda from across the political spectrum; it’s just that I’ve been privy to a constant stream of such anti-Obama nonsense of late.
So, what is the cure for this fake news that so imperils the future of democracy?
How about engaging the human brain? Or employing a sense of decency? Perhaps we could all adopt a willingness to ask a few, modest questions? Or maintain just a modicum of trust in one another?
And, maybe we need someone to actually investigate all of these fake news claims. Maybe we could pay someone to vet all of the crazy ideas, trace down all the wild leads, talk to people on the street, conduct interviews, go behind the scenes, dig deep, check it all out – and then write about it. Maybe we could call them “journalists”? But,nah, that’s a crazy idea.
Of course, we actually do have journalists, who have chosen their profession for the same reason most of us did, out of conviction and a hope to make the world a better place. But now we are warned we can’t trust them, because they are “terrible people…scum even.” Or so some people would like us to believe.
In the end, we can choose to take the journalists and “trust but verify,” or we can settle for angry, machine-gun-wielding self-investigators, who “seen it on Facebook.”
Is that really a choice?