There comes a time where it becomes evident that we aren’t just dealing with a difference of opinion. We aren’t just arguing from different points of view. It’s become more and more obvious that we are dealing with some form of derangement, and that we are dealing with people who literally do not perceive the world and reality in the same form and manner as the rest of us.
This goes back decades, of course. You have your partisan hucksters and shills like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who deliberately twist and distort events through a partisan lens. It’s a fun house mirror that twists and turns real-life events as being part of some great partisan plot and plan. I’m still amazed to this very day that Limbaugh managed to completely distort Sandra Fluke’s heartfelt testimony about her Georgetown classmate who needed to use birth control to keep her ovarian cyst syndrome in check into an argument that Fluke was personally demanding a license to be promiscuous. All you needed to do was review just a section of her statement to understand how factually off-base Limbaugh was.
But we’ve reached a stage where for large swaths of the public, the actual facts simply don’t matter. Truth doesn’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. And this is far from an accident.
Donald John Trump is, of course, a primary example of someone who is lost in the fever swamp of alt-reality. He has become the de facto leader of this fact-free movement. As has been shown time and time again, his belief system is as twisted and tangled as a rat’s nest after it’s been thrown inside a bag of cats.
Trump literally does believe that the Russia investigation was an elaborate hoax. He believes, seriously, that Crowdstrike faked their analysis that the FSB and GRU were responsible for the hack of the DNC, and that the FBI merely followed their analysis blindly without double-checking their work. He seems to believe this because the Democratic National Committee didn’t physically give the FBI their server rather than providing them a digital copy of the server’s hard drive.
There may have been a point when he knew better, but that view seems to have crumbled, as shown during his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, when Trump was asking him “Where is the server?” He also falsely believes that the owner of Crowdstrike is from Ukraine, when he’s really from California, and that the “real” server is being hidden away someone in that country.
That means that the determination by the CIA, FBI, and NSA way back in 2016 that Russia attacked our election; attacked systems in every state; hacked the DNC, DCCC, and John Podesta; and staged an elaborate disinformation campaign across social media to influence voters simply didn’t happen. The findings of the Mueller report that Russia hacked our election simply don’t count, and the recent findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia was responsible for the attack simply don’t register with him. He is totally enthralled by this demented conspiracy theory about Ukraine.
And he’s far from alone in this state of deep delusion.
In Brazil, public health workers were attacked after far-right activists lied on YouTube that they were spreading the Zika virus. In Myanmar, government soldiers used fake Facebook accounts to drive an ethnic cleansing, full of incendiary claims and false stories about Muslim minorities raping Buddhist women. Gunmen radicalized by false white-supremacist conspiracies on internet forums like 4chan and 8chan shot up a synagogue in California, a Walmart in Texas and mosques in New Zealand.
The deluge of misinformation — full of Trump tweets, deepfakes, InfoWars videos, Russian bots, 4chan trolls, that Washington Post correction, those out-of-context memes and your great aunt’s latest questionable Facebook post — has become so overwhelming that some of us may simply give up trying to make sense of it all.
A lie doesn’t need to be believed. It just needs to create enough doubt that the truth becomes polluted. With enough pollution, it’s impossible to see what’s right in front of you.
“When you’re flooded with so much bullshit,” New York Times media columnist Charlie Warzel says, separating fact from fiction becomes so difficult that “the task of trying to do it becomes, you know, tiresome, so you just stop.”
It’s the sort of thing your college philosophy professor might call an “epistemic crisis.” We don’t know what to believe. Truth is hazy. Reality itself becomes irrelevant. It’s a phenomenon that has already happened in places like Russia and the Philippines — and experts say that in the past few years, the United States has suddenly found itself on the same path.
“And that, to me, is one of the scariest things to think about,” Warzel says. “It feels like we’ve come incredibly far since 2015.”
There is, in fact, a war being waged online, on Facebook, on YouTube, on Twitter, on 4Chan, and in other corners of the web between fact and not fact, between reality and bullshit, between truth and delusion.
The first stage in this war began long ago with damage to the legitimacy of valid news sources. Mainstream media sources, from ABC, NBC, and CBS, to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post were painted as “liberally biased.” The delusion goes further than that, of course. It’s not just that they’re biased in favor of a liberal, woke agenda: It’s that they’re deliberately and purposefully generating “fake news” with anonymous sources who create false quotes and false stories.
It’s all a big con job, the right argued. Nothing is real, and nothing can be trusted. You can only trust those who have an alternate agenda, those who are giving you the “real” truth, the story that the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know, doesn’t want you to see.
This video was generated by some anonymous person, one of the crowd, part of the mob. It displays an incredible insensitivity and viciousness that is literally off the charts, particularly after the Christchurch, New Zealand, massacre. The kind of self-awareness and basic human empathy that is required to realize how fracked up this is, is missing in these people. It’s a void. Non-existent.
They seem to think that the act of practicing journalism is a justification for violent retaliation. It’s the mindset of a totalitarian, an authoritarian, a thug. Sure, they might argue that people should “lighten up,” as pretty much no one had a complaint over the original version of this scene from the movie Kingsman: Secret Service. But then again, it’s not like we’re dealing with entirely stable, rational people here.
It’s not like we didn’t already have someone sentenced to 20 years in prison for trying to send bombs to members of the media and prominent Democrats. To this day, Trump himself hasn’t said anything about the video shown above one way or another, even though it was shown to his supporters at his own Doral Club in Miami. Way to take responsibility.
This is how you get things like the Sandy Hook conspiracy that argues that somehow, Barack Obama staged a fake massacre of children as part of a plot to spark the implementation of gun control.
And it’s how you get the rise of Fox News, Breitbart, The Daily Caller, Newsmax, One America Network, RedState, Hot Air, and other alternative news sources that along with YouTube channels and 4Chan threads provide pieces of alternative reality to the eager mob ready to lap it up.
That is how you get situations like this, where Rep. Mark Meadows argues that any day now, the DOJ Inspector General is going to break the Russia hoax/FISA abuse story wide open with criminal referrals.
We already know that there was no “FISA abuse” because we already have redacted copies of the FISA application for Carter Page. Regardless of Rep. Devin Nunes’ claim, the application did mention that Glenn Simpson had political motive for targeting the Trump campaign.
The application says so right here.
Recent reports are that the Inspector General has also found Christopher Steele to be “credible” after an extensive two-day interview.
The extensive, two-day interview took place in London while Trump was in Britain for a state visit, the sources said, and delved into Steele’s extensive work on Russian interference efforts globally, his intelligence-collection methods and his findings about Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, who the FBI ultimately surveilled. The FBI’s decision to seek a surveillance warrant against Page — a warrant they applied for and obtained after Page had already left the campaign — is the chief focus of the probe by Horowitz.
The interview was contentious at first, the sources added, but investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising. The takeaway has irked some U.S. officials interviewed as part of the probe — they argue that it shouldn’t have taken a foreign national to convince the inspector general that the FBI acted properly in 2016. Steele’s American lawyer was present for the conversation.
Amazing: the FBI was right about Steele. And as I’ve documented myself, 76 percent of Steele’s allegations have been fully or partially confirmed by the Mueller report and news reports.
And yet we still have Meadows proclaiming that there will be “criminal referrals” once the Inspector General is finally done re-investigating the FISA warrant process. The Inspector General didn’t make any criminal referrals for Peter Strzok and Lisa Page when he examined the Clinton email investigation. In fact, he argued that instead of “soft pedaling” the investigation, Strzok and Page were both hard chargers on the case.
As we describe in Chapter Twelve of our report, most of the text messages raising such questions pertained to the Russia investigation, which was not a part of this review. Nonetheless, the suggestion in certain Russia- related text messages in August 2016 that Strzok might be willing to take official action to impact presidential candidate Trump’s electoral prospects caused us to question the earlier Midyear investigative decisions in which Strzok was involved, and whether he took specific actions in the Midyear investigation based on his political views. As we describe Chapter Five of our report, we found that Strzok was not the sole decision maker for any of the specific Midyear investigative decisions we examined in that chapter. We further found evidence that in some instances Strzok and Page advocated for more aggressive investigative measures in the Midyear investigation, such as the use of grand jury subpoenas and search warrants to obtain evidence.
The IG did recommend charges against former FBI director James Comey, claiming that he had no right to share his notes with the press and arguing that they were “FBI property.” But the DOJ declined to prosecute. He also recommended charges against former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe for “lack of candor,” but it appears that the grand jury didn’t return an indictment. Yet he’s going to return a bunch of prosecution referrals over the FISA warrant? Not likely.
That is a delusion, but it’s a delusion that Trump has bet the farm on. It’s this IG investigation as well as the efforts to shove Giuliani into the mix, along with Attorney General Bill Barr talking to foreign governments and trying to retrace the steps of the Mueller investigation that currently have Trump in so much trouble. He truly, honestly believes that this dry hole is going to turn into a gusher. That the FBI, CIA, NSA, and Obama (who wired tapped him in Trump Tower don’t you know?) somehow implemented this crazed plot to bring down the Trump administration by not telling anyone he was being investigated until months after nearly all of them had left office. Yeah, that was a brilliant plan.
Somehow, Obama set all this up. He’s behind it all. That is clearly what Hannity and Eric Trump believe.
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I think there is a very big reason that Obama is being quiet, because all of this abuse of power, all of this corruption, all happened on his watch. And remember the infamous text messages, Strzok and Page, yeah, the White House wants to be kept apprised of every single detail, the Oval Office, there you go.
ERIC TRUMP: Oh, there is no question it leads right to him. And by the way, it’s not exactly like, you know, he’s a quiet guy. And he has run away from this. He has run away from his vice president. Could you imagine if the roles were reversed, right, and this was Mike Pence, right? I mean they would be killing my father right now. They’re not even asking Obama about this. Obama has got a complete hall pass for this whole situation. It’s ridiculous. The hypocrisy is absolutely ridiculous. There is no question it starts with Obama, there’s no question he was involved.
Obama has nothing to do with this. Not a thing. This is more fluffery, baffoonery, and lunacy.
It’s as twisted and ill-informed as the recent CNN exposé video by Project Veritas.
The first clip, released Monday, features a man who is allegedly CNN President Jeff Zucker telling staffers he wants them to focus on the president’s impeachment. The video also shows Nick Neville, a media coordinator at CNN, acknowledging Zucker’s negative stance toward the president is personal.
See that? This confirms CNN’s bias, because Zucker doesn’t much like Trump. I wonder what kind of response you’d get if you asked Rupert Murdoch what he thinks of Hillary Clinton. Or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Or Nancy Pelosi.
Our society has been bifurcated by this split. Up is sideways and down is backward for far too many people. Arguably, this may be something that is being done to us by outside actors, foreign trolls, and bots. But it’s not by accident, and I think much of this is of our own making.
I’ve said before that at its core, the Trump cult is a death cult. We’re not talking them down. We’re not going to be able to show them “facts” and have them believe what we’re saying, particularly if it comes from the mainstream media because that’s automatically tainted in their eyes. It’s a near-perfect scheme: Facts aren’t facts. Evidence isn’t evidence, everything is conspiracy, and there’s always a magic hand of the “Deep State”manipulating things from behind the scenes. And of course, Obama.
I’m not sure what the solution to this is. I don’t know that we can bring people back from the brink, or that we can cull the cult. I still think that people have to make up their own minds and reach their own decisions. If they’re going to reject the programming of the cult, they’re going to have to come to that point of disillusion largely on their own. Perhaps with Trump’s horrendous actions in Syria, some of that disillusion may just be happening right now. We’ll see.
People believe what they want to believe. They make choices about what sources and outlets they give credibility to. It’s a fair argument to state that CNN, The New York Times, and Washington Post don’t necessarily reflect the perspectives of conservatives. They generally don’t. But that doesn’t mean they’re part of an “agenda” against conservatives, either. That’s really part of the “victim” mentality that feeds all these conspiracies. I don’t necessarily think that there isn’t room for conservative-focused media, but then conservatives today are not the conservatives of yesterday. This is no longer the party of William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, or John McCain. This isn’t a party of principles and values.
It’s now the party of “own the libs.” It’s the party of QAnon, it’s the party of Cliven Bundy, and it’s the party of Trump. The party of reality-deficit disorder: Bigoted. Racist. Violent. Scared. Paranoid.
And there’s a whole lot of delusional cray cray that comes along with all that.