Sidebar: Is Disinformation The Cornerstone of the American Right?

This is a sidebar to my interview two days ago with a Trump supporter in front of the TCF Center.

Misinformation– and perhaps indeed disinformation- are indeed a flagship element of the Trump era. Trump supporters like Karen, whom I interviewed at the TCF Center ballot counting protest, will allege that the mainstream media is misinforming the general public. Meanwhile, Trump detractors point out that the President has a particular proclivity for uttering, well, a whole lot of statements that are objectively untrue. Trump supporters have a tendency to defend the President’s words by arguing that they were taken out of context. This is the first defense. The second line of defense is arguing that he did say something, but that he didn’t mean it that way. The third layer is saying that he did mean it that way, but it doesn’t matter, so deal with it. This has become especially troubling when the President has suggested doing things that are, well, illegal. (That’s a whole ‘nother article, though).

Sensationalism vs. Fabrication

I’ve noticed that there’s a lively spin machine in the less-than-credible credible left-wing media sources. A lot of this is based on sensational extraction of bits of information from real things that happened that then turn into invented catastrophes. I’ve indeed muted a number of the more sniveling, whiny, prominent liberals on Facebook because I find a lot of annoying, frankly. I’m looking at Scott Dworkin, Cenk Uygur, Jeff Tiedrich, and Tea Pain USA.

However, in the case of the right-wing media, there’s a lot more overt fabrication. Lower-tier pundits take their cues from shock jocks such as those recommended to me by Karen. These include Rush Limbaugh (“drug addicts, of which I am also one, are a menace to society!”), Dennis Prager (“it’s an outrage that we can’t say the N-word anymore!” which I didn’t believe until I saw the interview and he says that almost verbatim), or birthers like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Roy Blunt, or, perhaps most prominently, Donald Trump hisself [sic]. Fox News itself has employed dozens of crazies over the years in this department. Laura Ingraham, who tried to drink lightbulbs through a steak. Tucker Carlson, who lost a bunch of advertisers after he called refugees and immigrants dirty. And Sean Hannity checks every box on right wing crazy. Birtherism, climate change, sharia law, election fraud, and more.

Alex Jones is another common nut. He defended himself in court by arguing that his viewers are meant to know that he is a satirist.

Michigan’s Election Plunges Headfirst Down A Weird Rabbit Hole

The Tea Party and the Rise of Hydroxychloroquine

Back to the protest. The super PAC that originated this e-mail insinuating the existence of rampant voter fraud, for example, was prominent earlier in the pandemic, producing the notorious America’s Frontline Doctors video. The video featured, among others, Cameroonian-American doctor Stella Immanuel, who has promoted a number of theories about alien DNA, sex with demons, and the Illuminati.

Tea Party Patriots’ co-founder and director Jenny Beth Martin has also been a vocal Trump supporter– and essentially pushed the “hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin” treatment for COVID, even calling it a “cure.” While it’s not clear where the right’s veritable obsession with hydroxychloroquine originated, exhaustive evidence suggests that, well, it’s actually really not a great treatment. There was one French study that showed promising results. But it had a lot of problems. And subsequent, peer-reviewed studies have been less encouraging. Liberal media sources pointed out, parroted in many a tweet, that Trump owns stock in companies that make the drug. But this is true for more or less anyone who owns any index fund. So, this hardly establishes some ulterior motive on Trump’s part.

The Daily Beast attributes the hydroxychloroquine preoccupation directly to the Immanuel-Tea Party connection. Amanda Marcotte in Salon took a more roundabout tack, suggesting that Republicans were seeking a miracle cure in their quest to abdicate responsibility for creating a functional healthcare infrastructure. This characterization first sounded like a stretch to me, and it is definitively an editorial comment rather than sticking-to-the-facts news reporting. It may make more sense when you consider that many voices on the right seemed intent on deflecting any blame from a president who said in March, “I don’t take responsibility at all.” The abdication of responsibility is something that has plagued the right. Everything is the other guy’s fault, even when the right controls both houses of Congress and the presidency.

The Future of The Right

I might like to think that the Republican Party– which is not the small government, small business party I grew up with- is flailing in its death throes. In electoral terms, only one Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote since 1988. Rewind. Only one Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote since I was born. They can thank their lucky stars for the Electoral College. But clinging to an increasingly nebulous definition of truth, and an ever more elusive definition of values, means that, in the words of a former Republican strategist who called into NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me last week, the party has lost any and all moral high ground or moral authority that it might have once had. Lindsey Graham’s rush to jump into the fray and staunchly defend the President’s completely unfounded claims of voter fraud is probable to do what Lindsey Graham himself warned would happen if the party were to nominate Donald Trump– “we will get destroyed.”

I guess we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And drop it will.

Nat M. Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP, MBA, is a city planner and energy professional based in Detroit, where he writes about infrastructure, sustainability, tech, and more. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he attended Grinnell College in Iowa, the Kogod School of Business at American University, the POCACITO transatlantic program, the SISE program at the University of Illinois Chicago, and he is also a StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellow. He enjoys long walks through historic, disinvested Rust Belt neighborhoods at sunset. (Nat's views and opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer).

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