After years of right-wing conspiracy [“Birther,” “Vince Foster,” “Seth Rich”] theories dogging legitimate conservatives, the left has now found its own purveyors of partisan fantasy. And just as legitimate conservative media, like the Weekly Standard and National Review have pushed back at right-wing nuttiness, legitimate liberal media, such as Vox and Daily Kos are trying to have liberalism retain some credibility.
The main left-wing conspiracy spreaders are John Schindler, Louise Mensch, and Claude Taylor. (Taylor looks a lot like Breitbart’s and Trump’s Steve Bannon.) The Daily Caller wrote about Mensch.
Louise Mensch is a former Conservative Member of Parliament in the UK who has become a popular figure in the Trump “resistance” because of her obsession with finding a connection between the president and Russia.
Mensch is by no means an objective source — emails released by WikiLeaks show her secretly offering unsolicited advice to the Clinton campaign on how to beat Trump, even going so far as to propose and draft a campaign ad for the campaign to use against the real estate mogul. At the time, Mensch was heading up Heat Street, a right-leaning new media website, although she has since taken, and then left, a different position at News Corp, Heat Street’s parent company.
Since leaving Heat Street, Mensch has turned to writing about her Trump-Russia theories on her blog, Patribotics.
That’s ironic, since Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is also the parent of the conservative Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
Mensch, who did not return TheDC’s interview request by press time, has shown a proclivity to blame — often without any evidence — almost any negative event in the world on Vladimir Putin and Russian intelligence services. The jihadist bombing of a German soccer team’s bus? She blames Russia. The 2014 Ferguson riots that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement? Mensch blames Russia. Democrats failing to score a huge upset in the special election for Georgia’s 6th District? Mensch blames Russia. Low African-American turnout for Hillary Clinton? It wasn’t Hillary’s fault, Mensch says — it was Russia’s. The 15-year-old girl with whom serial pervert Anthony Weiner traded explicit messages? That was actually a Russian plot personally ordered by Putin, if you take Mensch’s word for it. The 2013 death of conservative media figure Andrew Breitbart? Mensch said she “absolutely” believes Putin was behind it.
Breitbart reports that, like all the conspiracy theorists, Mensch condemns the “mainstream media,” and of course, she hates Donald Trump.
Please for the love of God ask @Mike_Pence about General Flynn’s KGB ties and what he wants on Russian hacking.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) December 23, 2016
I would decline to be introduced to @RealDonaldTrump because I’m afraid I don’t knowingly admit traitors to my acquaintance. #Putin
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) December 31, 2016
Keith Olbermann, who was too liberal even for MSNBC, got on board with Mensch.
Olbermann quoted a part of Mensch’s story that read, “Sources with links to the intelligence community say it is believed that Carter Page went to Moscow in early July carrying with him a pre-recorded tape of Donald Trump offering to change American policy to make it more favorable to Putin. In exchange, Page was authorized directly by Trump to request the help of the Russian government in hacking the election.”
Since then, many liberals have woken up to the fact that pushing “fake news” will only weaken their legitimate complaints, as noted by The Atlantic.
But a preponderance of fake information ultimately harms the political cause that absorbs it. It’s also bad strategy: Michael Walzer writes that the left’s task at this moment in history is “to help hold the center.” A polluted information environment does little to preserve the consensus reality that permits democracy to work. . .
It’s more wish-fulfillment stuff. “Trump About to be Arrested!” Well, yeah, when’s that gonna happen? . . .if you have that visceral a response to something, then it is written specifically to arouse that response so you’ll share it. Just say no.
Like the Weekly Standard and National Review, the more reliable liberal media are warning their readers about falling for fake news, just because it feels good–as noted in Vox, the left’s counterpart to Fox.
President Donald Trump is about to resign as a result of the Russia scandal. Bernie Sanders and Sean Hannity are Russian agents. The Russians have paid off House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz to the tune of $10 million, using Trump as a go-between. Paul Ryan is a traitor for refusing to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Libertarian heroine Ayn Rand was a secret Russian agent charged with discrediting the American conservative movement.
These are all claims you can find made on a new and growing sector of the internet that functions as a fake news bubble for liberals, something I’ve dubbed the Russiasphere. The mirror image of Breitbart and InfoWars on the right, it focuses nearly exclusively on real and imagined connections between Trump and Russia. . .
There’s also a handful of websites, like Palmer Report, that seem devoted nearly exclusively to spreading bizarre assertions like the theory that Ryan and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell funneled Russian money to Trump — a story that spread widely among the site’s 70,000 Facebook fans. . .
“With a few exceptions, the MSM [mainstream media] hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory with Kremlingate. They were slow to ask obvious questions about Trump in 2016, and they’re playing catch-up now, not always accurately.”
Experts on political misinformation see things differently. They worry that the unfounded speculation and paranoia that infect the Russiasphere risk pushing liberals into the same black hole of conspiracy-mongering and fact-free insinuation that conservatives fell into during the Obama years.
The fear is that this pollutes the party itself, derailing and discrediting the legitimate investigation into Russia investigation. It also risks degrading the Democratic Party — helping elevate shameless hucksters who know nothing about policy but are willing to spread misinformation in the service of gaining power.
But why do so many people fall for fake news in the first place? The Atlantic has a theory.
I’ve always wondered why we slow down for car accidents. And the author of the book, [Gavin de Becker,] says, We always slow down for car accidents out of an ancient impulse, which is that humans want to learn. That’s why we developed these enormous brains. People always want to learn.
And I thought, you know what, that’s true. Even people who are sending around these stupid stories that are complete BS, they would latch onto actual news, not conspiracy theories, if there was more actual news out there. I think that people are going about the fake news issue the wrong way. Pinching off fake news isn’t the answer. The answer is flooding it with actual news.
Yeah, well, maybe. But I think people also slow down for car crashes because, despite themselves, they hope they’ll see a bloody, dead body. And the reason is so that they can later be the center of attention, when they describe it to their friends.
I think that’s at the heart of it. Look, even legitimate news sources quote the old saying, “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning we really do want to hear about guts and gore. Who wants to read about a car crash in which everybody walked away without a scratch? Seriously, do so many people really watch Nascar hoping nothing happens?
Maybe the example we need is professional wrestling. Most people know it’s fake. But they still love to watch it, cheering on “the good guy,” as if it were real. We want to have “good guys,” and so, we create in our minds a fantasy that people who believe as we do are “good guys,” fighting the “good fight,” when we really know it’s all about power and profit and senseless confrontation.