Truth has become the enemy for many people but specifically for conservatives and even more so for Trump supporters. Rumours submitted into the conservative echo-chamber become almost impossible to eradicate. Remember the theory that Obama was not born in America? We would think those now, years after his presidency is over, people would forget about the rumour or at least not see it as very relevant. But that theory is still circulating.
“You should run for president,” says a conservative friend to me a while ago.
“Not that I would want to, but I can’t run for president because I wasn’t born here.”
I see her frown, “but what about Obama, he wasn’t born in the United States?”
“He was born in Hawaii, that theory of him being born in Kenya has been proven false.”
“Hmmm hmmm, yes.”
“Well see, what I know,” she laughs. And there it was – the fact that she is saturated in her conservative family’s conversations had even made this wonderful person believe the lie – but more importantly, that lie was still alive and well in her circle of influence and therefore in her mind.”
Those of us that try to combat false rumours with facts, often try to use trusted sources and we, therefore, gravitate towards websites like Snopes.com to see whether a story is true. But the conservative think-tanks have had enough. They could not allow these websites to disturb the conservative alternative existence. So theories were spread that none other than George Soros funded these websites. The information was lapped up by conservative radio and of course Fox News. And then they started carpet-bombing the people with this theory. It took a few months, but I have now noticed that whenever Snopes.com is mentioned in an attempt to bring facts into a political debate, the reaction is fierce and firm. “Snopes spreads false rumours because Soros funds it.” And with that, the truth has been held at arm’s length for a little bit longer. Of course, it is easy enough to use other sources but as we have seen – even the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by humans, is shrugged off in silence while people are looking for other morsels of poison to taint that information. Trump said Climate Change is a hoax and that is all they needed to hear.
This behaviour is not new. It existed in Nazi Germany. It lived in South Africa during Apartheid, and to a degree still does. Within Afrikaner circles, many old lies are still circulated – and believed! As Richard Dawkins explains in his book The Selfish Gene, these factoids are like meme’s that self-replicate and thrive in social circles. The same thing happened with the false rumours about vaccinations, and in this case, the delusion is equally strong in conservative and liberal circles. The Dunning Kruger effect – where people who know the least about a topic often thinks they know the most is clearly at play in these situations as well.
This is the place in an article like this where I am supposed to unfold a master strategy to combat this demonization of the truth, but like George Orwell, I can only warn about it, describe it and then ask that we all continue to use any peaceful means to our disposal to combat it. Some of these means would include doing investigations on issues and not relying too much on sites like Snopes.com. It also includes building relationships with conservatives so that they would be more inclined to listen to us.