When it comes to reasons why we should all fear Donald Trump’s presidency, the list is seemingly endless. Normally I’m not someone who likes to say “I told you so,” but I’m definitely going to enjoy saying it every time Trump proves how gullible his supporters were to believe anything the pathologically-lying con man told them.
As I’ve sat here trying to fully contemplate every terrible aspect of Trump’s presidency, there’s one thing that continues to stick out that I don’t think is being discussed near enough: We can’t let Donald Trump’s vile brand of hate, bigotry, sexism and conspiracy-driven insanity become the new “normal” in this country.
We’ve already seen this starting to take hold as his relentless attacks on the media have now made actual, indisputable facts suddenly “subjective” or “a matter of opinion.”
While conspiracy theorists have always been a fairly influential entity on the right, Trump singlehandedly made bonafide, batshit crazy websites like InfoWars (you know, the site founded by a guy who claims 9/11 was an inside job, Sandy Hook was a government hoax and President Obama and Hillary Clinton are literally demons who smell like sulfur) “credible” sources of information for many Republicans.
One of the most talked about stories recently has been about the amount of fake news being passed off as legitimate and truthful that’s causing a massive headache on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, places where millions of people get a lot of their news and information. We’re not talking about partisan op-eds or a selective cherry picking of the facts to push a particular narrative that’s slightly distorted. This is a huge issue where blatantly fabricated “news” is being passed off by blogs and websites (both on the left and the right) as factual information that’s then being shared by millions of people. This includes not just articles, but also viral memes with brazenly false information which are frequently seen by 5-10 million people or more.
Zeynep Tufekci at The New York Times wrote a great piece about this which I’d highly recommend checking out. Furthermore, Buzzfeed did a fantastic analysis comparing the left and the right which you can check out here.
That’s not to say that being partisan makes a website part of this problem. There’s a huge difference between being partisan while still caring about being factual, honest and producing quality content, and being partisan while pushing clear distortions of the truth, propaganda and blatant lies for cheap clicks.
Speaking for myself, I’m clearly partisan toward progressive causes. However, I do my best to make sure that my opinion is based on facts and that I use credible sources. Forward Progressives doesn’t spam people with 15-20 (or more) articles a day searching for every “click” possible to sensationalize information that’s not really “newsworthy,” but would make for good “clickbait.” We publish maybe 3-4 articles per day (sometimes even less) and produce more original content (opinion pieces) than most other similar blogs I’ve seen.
We’ve called out CNN and the New York Post for running with fake news in a desperate effort to try to be “first” with a story. We’ve called out Fox News again and again and again for their garbage. Heck, we even call out liberal websites pushing fabricated nonsense more often than many people might give us credit for.
I say that not to brag, but to point out that there’s a difference between a quality partisan site (of which there are plenty) that cares about being factual and/or thought-provoking, and a dumpster-fire blog producing trash content that’s constantly distorting the truth or flat-out lying for easy clicks.
Because Trump relied upon propaganda, lies and conspiracies to fuel his successful campaign, it’s created this growing environment where, to defend him, conservatives have gone out of their way to justify his disgusting rhetoric. What this has also done is it’s allowed these fake news sites to churn out ridiculously fabricated conspiracies that are then treated by many conservatives as “real news” because they’re scrounging for anything to counter the negative attention whatever he said or did was receiving. Then because of the fact that many of the things Trump has said and done have been so incredibly awful, these sites have been forced to fabricate even more outrageous drivel to “counter” what he’s done to make it seem like “the other side is worse” or that “the left is making up lies about Trump.”
When you force people to have to defend behavior that’s actually fairly indefensible, they then become desperate for anything they can find to either try to “prove” that your facts aren’t true or that “the other side is worse.”
The issue gets complicated even further when Trump validates a lot of this fake news by citing it when he’s pushing any number of his never-ending stream of lies.
When these websites are literally just inventing asinine “facts” that are then repeated by a presidential candidate (soon to be president), that gives instant “credibility” to information that’s not true, from sources that aren’t remotely credible.
This creates a cycle where Trump says or does something horrific, the right-wing media then scrambles to push some sort of blatantly false story to counter it, which is this shared around to millions of people desperately trying to find any way to either defend what he did or pivot away from it by using some myth about the left. These fake sites then become go-to “sources of information” for many conservatives, who are then inundated with a flood of preposterous conspiracy theories and bogus articles.
But then you can’t prove to these same folks that these sites are nothing but pure garbage because Trump’s actually citing their fictional bullshit as “fact” while claiming that those calling him a liar are part of the “rigged system” and “dishonest media.”
That’s why one of my biggest fears is that this constant onslaught of absurd behavior we’re going to see from Donald Trump over the next four years is going to “normalize” things that damn sure shouldn’t be normal. This is also going to cause things that would normally be newsworthy or offensive to get completely ignored because nothing will compare to the latest idiotic thing our next president has said or done.
We cannot allow this to happen. As John Oliver said on his show last season, we have to constantly remind ourselves that Donald Trump is not normal. That his presidency is not normal. That his policy stances are not normal. That the disgusting people he surrounds himself are not normal.
If we don’t do that — if we allow Donald Trump to normalize his horrific rhetoric — he’ll push this country to such a dark, hateful place that we’ll never be able to bring it back.