Wednesday, December 07, 2016

December 7, 2016--Fake News: Pizzaagate

Recently, fake news has been much in the headlines. Fake news being entirely made up stuff masquerading as real news that gets posted and circulated on the Internet either to do harm to someone (like Hillary Clinton) of just as scurrilous or dangerous entertainment. Frequently, all three.

The Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria story is quite a case in point.

Back in October, a month before the election, a few Internet sites, including the Vigilant Citizen, that on the surface look like legitimate news sources, began to "report" that the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria was really a front for child-trafficing activities. In the back room, John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, and Hillary herself, led a ring of child-abusers who kidnapped, molested, and then sold children to other child-abusers to serve as sex slaves.

If you haven't been following the story, yes, this is unbelievably true.

These posting went viral, literally globally, and the pizzeria has become the subject of an explosion of social media postings, most of them from conspiracy theorists. And on Sunday, someone showed up to rescue children from the notorious back room. Showed up with a pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle, which he fired just as police were arriving to arrest him.

As shocking and disturbing as this is, versions of fake news are not new.

What is new are the means through which this "news" is propagated. Now we have the Internet, specifically social media, to get the word out and circulated. In the past we had newspapers of different levels of repute that, usually for political purposes, would print the intentionally false news.

All the way back in 1828, during the presidential campaign that pitted Andrew Jackson against incumbent president John Quincy Adams, newspapers under Adams' control circulated stories asserting, via lurid stories, that his wife was a bigamist. In so doing, they pointed out that this would make Jackson an adulterer and Rachel, how to put this, a slut.

Rachel, Jackson's wife, may or may not have fully finalized her divorce from Captain Lewis Robards before marrying Jackson. The Adams people, of course insisted that she hadn't and launched invectives against Old Hickory that rivaled or surpassed the ones Donald Trump leveled against his opponents.

To complicate matters, in the Jackson situation, there is fake news within the fake news--a friend of Captain Robards in his own newspaper, in an attempt to take the heat off Jackson, knowingly published a fake story that the divorce had in fact been completed. It probably hadn't been.

Rachel died in 1828, months before Jackson, who won in a landslide, was inaugurated. It broke his heart.

More recently, well before the emergence of the social media, fake news to hurt political opponents has been commonplace. For example, in 2000, as George W. Bush vied with Joh McCain for the Republican nomination, it was agreed by most that whomever of them won the South Carolina primary would go on to secure the nomination. To defeat his rival--McCain was favored because of his military background--Bush people circulated the fake news that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child.

This doomed his candidacy.

Bush won the SC primary, was nominated, and thanks to the Supreme Court, became our 43rd president.

This history is no comfort to the owner and employees of the pizzeria--it is a place to which the crazies have affixed crosshairs--but when we talk with concern about the proliferation of fake news, it's important to know that we have lived with versions of it for our entire history. And figured out a way to survive.

You don't want me to tell you the made-up stories about George Washington!

Rachel Jackson

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