Friday, February 17, 2017

Democrats and FakeNews

The Upshot notes that there is an increase in "liberal-based" conspiracy theory--that the Trump White House is testing an elaborate coup, that violence at political protests are caused by right-wing infiltrators, or that, perhaps, the Russian scandal is about to bring down not just Flynn, but the whole Trump administration and, with luck, the entire Republican party! Needless to say, none of this is likely and it falls into the category of conspiracy-theory which, when ingested by a large enough group wholesale is extremely toxic.

The Omnivore, however, an internationally recognized expert in fake news, is here to tell you that things aren't quite the same on both sides of the aisle. The GOP has ingested fake news longer--and far, far more deeply than the Democrats have--and the results, for them, are much, much worse. Let's take a closer look.

Point 1: The Conspiracy is No Longer A Theory

First off, we have pretty solid bi-partisan confirmation that something happened with Russia, the election, and the Trump administration. It may not have been outright treason but it's also not imaginary. Given a real, legitimate basis in fact, of not only some shady dealings but a cover-up (which is what, we are told, got Mike Flynn), there is more basis for conjecture than there was for Benghazi (don't @ me).

Point 2: Liberals Have Not Monetized Conspiracy Theory

It is important to keep in mind that a huge portion of what happened to the GOP was specific personalities with high-trust (Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, etc.) monetizing conspiracy theory against the establishment. These people used their positions to hawk questionable wares by elevating outrage and selling visions of the apocalypse (less so Limbaugh--but he was also more entrenched earlier). This has yet to happen to liberals and may not (see up-coming point #3).

We don't see people trying to sell firearms, gold, or freeze-dried food to liberals so they can "survive the coming Trump Coup." Until we do, there are some bridges yet-to-be crossed.

Point 3: The Democrats Have A Functional Immune System

In the same way that the HIV Virus attacks the immune system before something else ravishes the host, conservative media disabled trust in almost every mainstream media outlet and gave credibility only to the most biased outlets (which then competed for that slice of the pie). This never happened to the mainstream Democrats. They may not love the coverage of CNN or the New York Times--but neither do they dismiss it outright as purely partisan lies.

The result is that while conspiratorial speculation can run rampant, actual fake-facts can still be fact-checked by the Democrats which prevents fake news from truly metastasizing in their political world-view.

Point 4: The Left Has Always Had Conspiracy Problems

The Omnivore draws a key distinction between the Left and the liberals or Democrats. This is in much the same way that The Omnivore sees a bright-line distinction between principled conservatives and ultra-partisan Republicans--or the generally saner GOP establishment and, say, the Freedom Caucus.

The Left--the Bernie/Jill Stein crowd--has always been more susceptible to conspiracy theory than the mainstream democrats. This is partially because the mainstream media won't carry their (goofy) narratives so they have no choice but to distrust them, weakening their immune system. Secondly, they have lost not just to the GOP--but to mainstream Democrats as well (Sanders lost by around 3MM votes in the primary) and their need to explain that away leads directly to conspiracy-land.

These groups, nominally integrated with the Democrats, will be a factory for a good deal of bullshit in the coming months or years. It will have an advantage over right-wing theory in that (a) it will play in large part to liberal's world-views/wishes and (b) it will be coded with their language and symbology. Watch for that.

Point 5: Fake-News Tolerance

Conservatives have a love-hate relationship with fake news that liberals generally don't. For the more intellectual conservatives there is clear value in stories that promote solidarity among the base, even if they are completely false--this is true for liberals as well, don't think it isn't--but there is far less actual experience of those benefits.

Secondly, liberals don't get as much value from signaling with fake news as conservatives--they can debunk each other without being "out of the club." This has always been contentious for Republicans (The Omnivore has watched people on the same ideological side struggle with debunking stories they know are false but like the net-message of). This will help prevent the spread of fake news through social media channels for the left in a way that the right generally couldn't.


The Democrats, being out of power, being outraged, and trying to enhance ideological cohesion is going to be more susceptible to conspiracy theory and manipulation. They have some "immunological" advantages which they will need to strengthen and rely on to get through the next 4 years (or more) without succumbing to the same memetic disease that has consumed the GOP.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. Who would you say is the target audience for this, then?

    Could be almost anyone, seems to me.

    -- Ω