There is little doubt that a key reason so much bad information has spilled over into today’s national discourse is politicians who embrace and perpetuate these narratives. Of course, doing so only gives the authors of conspiracy the very exposure they seek.
When, a year before the 2016 election, Donald Trump tweeted false statistics about the number of “whites killed by blacks” in America, white nationalists were listening. The evidence could be in seen in the celebratory headlines to follow in websites like Stormfront and Daily Stormer.
Credibility has always been an ultimate but elusive goal for extremists. But online, they’re learning how to dilute the message of bigotry with heavy doses of political conspiracy for which there is apparently a welcoming audience. They achieve victory simply by injecting enough fake news into the system to produce doubt and discord around our most critical cultural debates.
When he was asked about the recent anti-Semitic threats and vandalism, President Trump told the Pennsylvania attorney general the incident was “reprehensible.” But he then went on to speculate that it might have been committed “to make others look bad.” That feeds the very doubt that extremist groups thrive on. And the cycle continues.