At the Banter, we strive to provide our readers with well sourced, fact checked writing. If we make mistakes, we correct them. Poorly constructed arguments don't make it out of our editorial process (some of them mine), and we take great pride in upholding high standards. Why? Because in the long run, the truth always wins. Always.
Right now, we are in the midst of a very serious crisis. Truth and the rules of evidence are under attack by a radical government that thinks little of lying and distorting evidence for its own, nefarious purposes. Donald Trump and his administration rose to power through lying, and they are maintaining it by continuing to propagate the same myths they sold their gullible supporters. Immigrants are to blame for all of America's woes. Liberals are trying to destroy the country. Facts are subjective. Climate change is a hoax. Tax cuts solve everything. Lying doesn't matter. And on, and on, and on.
An entire media ecosystem exists to perpetuate the lies told by Trump and the GOP -- outlets that don't meet the most basic standards of journalism. Fox News, Breitbart, Newsmax, Townhall, and a host of other propaganda sites have made it their mission to distort the truth, ignore reality and feed their audiences with dangerous myths. The net result is a radical government protected by a bubble of insanity maintained by radical media outlets that are only interested in power.
The people who run these organizations know exactly what they are doing and rely on the ignorance of vast swathes of society to keep up the facade. The unconscious masses who give into their fears of "other" and voted in the monster currently in office work diligently to spread the falsehoods responsible for maintaining Trump's grip on power. This is not subjective reporting, but fact. British researchers from Oxford University have proved definitively that Trump supporters share more "junk" political news over Twitter and Facebook "than all other groups combined". Reported McClatchy:
Backers of President Donald Trump are sharing more “junk” political news – ideologically extreme, conspiratorial, sensationalist and phony information – over Twitter and Facebook than all other groups combined, significantly magnifying the polarization in the American electorate, according to an analysis by British researchers.
Rather than obtaining news over social media from mainstream outlets, these Americans shared posts from 92 Twitter accounts of fringe groups such as "100PercentFEDUp," "Beforeitsnews," "TheAngryAmericans" and "WeArethenewmedia" during the three months before Trump’s first State of the Union address, the Oxford University researchers reported.
The study, which culled data from hundreds of thousands of social media accounts, found similar patterns among Facebook users.
Unsurprisingly, Breitbart News and InfoWars were deemed by the study to be "especially sympathetic to Trump and his administration," along with the National Review, Hannity.com, and the site of Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity. All routinely publish misleading news, conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods that are propagated furiously by Trump supporters:
Among a sample of Twitter users with strong connections to one of 10 groups along the political spectrum, the researchers found that 96 percent of Trump backers widely shared “junk” news and did so more than all other groups combined; the groups included military and gun rights supporters, liberals and other Democrats, and more. Among 13 similar categories of Facebook users, 91 percent of “hard conservatives” circulated junk news, also more than all other categories combined.
The report also concluded that the "facts" reported by far right sites shared by Trump supporters are so detached from reality that it makes dialogue with them completely impossible:
Although the “junk” news sites considered in the analysis included those on both the left and right, lead researcher Philip Howard said the findings suggest "that most of the junk news that people share over social media ends up with Trump’s fans, the far right. They’re playing with different facts, and they think they have the inside scoop on conspiracies."
As a result, he said in a phone interview, it appears that "a small chunk of the population isn’t able to talk politics or share ideas in a sensible way with the rest of the population."
This is, well, pretty damn terrifying. This "small chunk of the population" has an outsized influence on public discourse that has led to an almost complete breakdown of civil society in America. The right wing media understands its audience extremely well and must continue to throw them enough red meat to keep them happy. The further they go, the harder it is to come back to reality. Sean Hannity, for example, is now so far removed from anything resembling consensus reality that he and his rabid viewers are incapable of discussing politics with anyone other than themselves.
I have argued that reconciliation with Trump supporters and the fringe right is a necessity at some point if the country is to survive in the long term. But in the short term, this is now completely impossible. Trump supporters cannot be reached, talked to, or negotiated with, so there is little point it trying. The only thing that counts is upholding the rule of law, voting the complicit GOP out of office in the midterms, and booting out Trump in 2020 (should he survive that long). There can be reconciliation, but only after the adults take back control of the country.
Correction: McClatchy reported that the NY Daily News was part of the study. This was not the case and this article has been amended.