The Business of Disinformation | Grayson County

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In my 2003 black comedy novel, The Amazing Mister Alphabet, I wrote about the lies we are constantly subjected to: “Lies, lies and more lies. So many lies that we, as a society, no longer bother to discredit and dismiss the lies forced upon us, but rather, we judge lies by their intelligence, originality, and artistry. Extremely clever, quirky, and artistic liars can earn millions of dollars with their talent.

I was mainly referring to advertisers, politicians and writers when I wrote this. For example, advertisements for the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia featured a fictional coffee picker named Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita, carrying sacks of harvested coffee beans. The voiceover proudly proclaimed that the Colombian coffee beans were “hand-picked by Juan Valdez”. Of course, that would have made Señor Valdez a very busy picker.

Back in 2003, I had no idea that misinformation, and/or disinformation, would soon become a multi-billion dollar industry. I first became aware of the problem in 2016, when I saw several questionable posts on Facebook. One article proclaimed: “Pope backs Donald Trump.” The Catholic Church had moved far to the right, but I couldn’t believe the Pope had endorsed Donald Trump. It turned out, of course, that he didn’t.

Another popular article from 2016 claimed that the Clintons ran a human trafficking and child molestation ring at a Washington, DC pizzeria. “Pizzagate”, as it was called, was also entirely wrong – and not without consequences. According to Wikipedia, “A North Carolina man traveled to Comet Ping Pong to investigate the conspiracy and fired a gun inside the restaurant…The restaurant owner and staff also received death threats from conspiracy theorists Pizzagate is generally considered a predecessor of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

According to ABC News: “An abiding sense of loyalty to the fringe online conspiracy movement known as QAnon is becoming a common thread among dozens of men and women across the country arrested for their involvement in the murderous insurrection of the United States Capitol. reveal.”

It’s not just far-right extremists who believe these false accounts. Shortly after Trump became president, I posted a photo on Facebook of a whale being processed on a whaler, and wrote a little fake news: “President Trump lifts ban whaling in the United States. Will bring thousands of jobs to New England, says Trump.

Most of my Facebook friends were progressive Democrats (like me). At least a dozen people wrote comments expressing their outrage. Not a single person checked the facts or believed the story. It destroyed the last of my trust in Facebook, and I left Facebook soon after.

Alex Jones ranks among the biggest liars and spreaders of misinformation. New York magazine has described Jones as “America’s leading conspiracy theorist”, and the Southern Poverty Law Center describes him as “contemporary America’s most prolific conspiracy theorist”.

According to Wikipedia, “Jones was born on February 11, 1974, in Dallas, Texas…He attended Anderson High School…After graduating, Jones briefly attended Austin Community College before dropping out.

“As a teenager, he read None Dare Call It Conspiracy, a book by John Birch Society conspiracy theorist Gary Allen, which claimed that the world bankers controlled American politics rather than elected officials. It had a profound influence on him…

“Waco’s siege at the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas had an impact on Jones…[confirming] ‘his belief in the inexorable progress of unseen and malevolent forces.’ It was around this time that he began hosting a call-in show on public-access television in Austin.

“The Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 was engineered by author Timothy McVeigh as a response to…the botched resolution of the Waco siege on its second anniversary. Jones…didn’t believe the bombing was the responsibility of McVeigh and his associate Terry Nichols.

“In 1998, Jones organized a successful campaign to build a new Branch Davidian Church… He claimed that David Koresh and his followers were peaceful people who were murdered by Attorney General Janet Reno and the Liquor Bureau , tobacco and firearms during the siege.

“On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Jones said on his radio show that there was a ‘98% chance it was a controlled, government-orchestrated attack.’ He began promoting the conspiracy theory that the Bush administration was behind the attack.

“On December 2, 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared on The Alex Jones Show, with Trump telling Jones at the end, ‘Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down. You will be very, very impressed, I hope.

“During his 2016 presidential campaign…Trump linked InfoWars articles as sources for his claim that ‘thousands upon thousands’ of Muslims celebrated 9/11…Days before one of the Trump rallies, InfoWars released a video claiming that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had mental health issues, which Trump recycled in his campaign speech… Trump’s claim that the 2016 vote would be rigged. .followed a video of Jones making the same claim two days earlier.

“Jones ran a campaign calling former President Bill Clinton a rapist… In late 2015, InfoWars began selling T-shirts with the slogan ‘Hillary for Prison’.

“According to Jones, Trump called him the day after the election to thank him for his help in the campaign.”

Unfortunately, we expect to hear lies in the political arena. “Alternative facts” was the phrase used by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. Liars and conspiracy theorists invoke their First Amendment right to free speech, using it as a shield and a weapon in their relentless war against the truth.

According to Wikipedia: “Jones spread discredited conspiracy theories that the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a false flag operation by gun control advocates. He said “nobody died” in Sandy Hook, and that the incident was “staged”, “synthetic”, “fabricated”, “a giant hoax” and “completely fake with actors”. ”

Because of Jones’ blatant lies, the parents of the murdered children were harassed, harassed and threatened with death.

Several parents of the murdered children have filed libel suits against Jones – and they are winning. According to NBC News: “A Texas jury ordered Jones to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre. The parents … had sued Jones for defamation after Jones accused them of faking their son’s death in order to attack gun rights.

“In addition to the $4.1 million…the jury determined that Jones should also pay $45.2 million in punitive damages.

“This is not just a blow to Jones, who has already filed for bankruptcy, but to other conspiracy theorists who fill their audiences’ heads with stories about the Deep State, a stolen election and a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizzeria.

Jones, a community college dropout, is said to be worth $270 million — the money he earned from his lies and misinformation.

Mark Heinz lives at Lac Nolin. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.

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