Or, to put it more succinctly…


Y’all know how many words I’ve written lately to explain my epiphany that should have occurred to me years ago — how our descent into a post-truth society has been accelerated by technology that we all love, except when it’s making us insane.

I’ve written about insights gained from listening to “Rabbit Hole” or this other recent podcast, or watching “The Social Dilemma” or reading any of a number (too small a number) of articles I’ve run across.

That’s looking at it from satellite height, which is what I tend to do. The forest, not the trees so much.

But I was struck this morning while reading a piece in The Washington Post about one family, and how two daughters have been trying to pull their mother back from the precipice. It started like this:

In a country where disinformation was spreading like a disease, Celina Knippling resolved to administer facts to her mom like medicine­. She and her four siblings could do nothing about the lies that had spread outward from Washington since Election Day, or the violence it had provoked. But maybe they could do something to stop dangerous political fantasies and extremism from metastasizing within their family. Maybe they could do something about Claire….

Nice lede, but I’m mostly impressed by the first phrase:

In a country where disinformation was spreading like a disease…

Yep. Of course (he protested, seeking to defend himself with regard to the thousands of words he had written), that explains but one aspect of the “Rabbit Hole” problem. In fact, it’s one I can’t remember whether I’ve even touched on, because it’s one of so many. I definitely remember the point being made in my source material — I can picture this one guy in “The Social Dilemma” looking at the camera and explaining how much faster a lie travels around the world than facts do.

But you know, if that one thing were the whole problem, we’d still be in major trouble. First, we’re in a world in which every single person on the planet has more power to distribute ideas globally than any newspaper publisher who ever lived. (You remember newspapers, right? They were very big in the 20th century.) And to do it much, much faster. Instantaneously, even.

Second, people have become much more gullible than they were. For whatever reason, we’ve got millions of people who actually believe these two extraordinary, unlikely things: 1. That experienced, professional journalists who live by a code of accuracy and impartiality cannot be trusted to tell you they truth, ever; and 2. that you can completely believe, with a simplicity of childlike faith, what any idiot on YouTube tells you, as long as his patter is smooth, and he’s saying things you actually want to hear.

The lady in the story I read today fits that description completely. She and her husband (not her grown children’s father, this is the guy they blame for what’s happened to their mother) recently cut themselves off from reliable news source, and she finds the loonies like, say, Stefan Molyneux, very persuasive.

I urge you to read the story. But don’t expect a happy ending. This is a profoundly scary problem we’re dealing with, and it continues to tear us apart.



15 thoughts on “Or, to put it more succinctly…

  1. Doug Ross

    We have a president who continues to state and believe that Trump called white supremacists “very fine people” even though it has been debunked repeatedly. He is either ignorant or willfully lying for political purposes. We have other morons who still will say that Trump told people to drink bleach. Anyone who believes either of those is as messed up mentally as the worst MAGA fool. This is not a one sided situation..It’s the brain dead lemmings on both sides of the political spectrum who are spoonfed lies and repeat them. They do it anonymously like most of the biased commenters on this blog… And you enable it.

    I don’t read replies. Trolls can find another outlet for their miserable existence.

    1. Barry

      Even for you, this is terrible spin. Quit making crap up. No one believes you.

      “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

      “So it’d be interesting to check that.” – Donald Trump.

  2. randle

    This is from USA Today; it addresses Doug’s first claim. It is long, but worth reading, if you are interested in what was actually said. In addition, you can read the entire, lengthy exchange on the Politico link, when the ex-president made his statement about “fine people on both sides.” Again, this will take some time, but then one of the reasons misinformation is spread so easily, is most people are too lazy to spend some time informing themselves before spouting off about an issue.


    The claim: The media misquoted Trump’s ‘very fine people on both sides’ statement about Charlottesville
    During the first presidential debate, President Donald Trump did not condemn white supremacists when asked to. He did tell the Proud Boys — a far right hate group — to “stand back and stand by.”
    While Trump and his campaign maintain this statement was not an endorsement of the group, the Proud Boys appeared to see it as such. The group embraced the quote from the president, spreading it through social media groups and printing it on T-shirts.
    Trump’s statement reignited conversations about other instances where he was accused of sidestepping questions or opportunities to condemn white supremacy, perhaps most notably after the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
    A few days after the rally, Trump was asked by reporters about the protests, to which he responded that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
    However, some people say they believe Trump also condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis as part of his “very fine people” statement.
    Fact check:Quote attributed to Joe Biden about antifa is missing context
    One Facebook post shows a photo of Fox News anchor Chris Wallace — the first debate’s moderator — paired with a supposed fact-check of what Trump really said about Charlottesville.
    The post starts with, “Claim: Both moderator Chris Wallace and Democrat nominee Joe Biden claimed that President Trump said in response to riots in Charlottesville in 2017 that neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people,'”

    The post the states that Trump really said, “There were very fine people on both sides, & I’m not talking about the Neo-nazis and white supremacists because they should be condemned totally.”
    Facebook user Paul Strauss is among those who posted the viral meme. He pointed USA TODAY to a 2019 blog post from Scott Adams that describes the “very fine people” quote from Trump as a “hoax” in that the reference usually leaves off the full quote. “In other words, the president believed there were non-racists in attendance who support keeping historical monuments,” the blog post states. Strauss said this “hoax” is “a lie that is tearing our country apart. Anything I can do to END it and make people aware that it was debunked two years ago, I will do.”
    What happened in Charlottesville and what did Trump say in response?
    In August 2017, white nationalists held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in response to the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
    The rally escalated and ended in violence, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard stepping in to help clear the area.
    After the crowd dispersed, a car ran into a group of counter demonstrators in the city’s downtown area, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
    Days later, Trump held a press conference to discuss a recent executive order about infrastructure permits, and reporters asked him about what happened in Charlottesville.
    ‘Stand back and stand by’:Rhetoric some call racist has marked Trump’s entire presidency
    According to a transcript from the White House, the Trump quote in question was in response to a reporter who asked, “Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?”
    Trump responded: “Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves — and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
    After further questioning from the reporter, and responses from Trump about people who were at the Charlottesville rally to support keeping the Lee statue, the president said, “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”
    Trump’s reply, in part, prompted Biden’s campaign
    When former Vice President Joe Biden announced his candidacy for president in April 2019, he cited Trump’s response to Charlottesville as a core reason behind why he chose to run.
    “With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it,” Biden said.
    At the Democratic National Convention in August, Biden said Trump’s comments were a call to action, and “at that moment, I knew I’d have to run (for president).”
    During the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, Wallace started a line of questioning about race with a reference to Biden’s motivation to run: “Vice President Biden you say that President Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville three years ago, when he talked about very fine people on both sides, was what directly led you to launch this run for president.”
    Biden then repeated the phrase in his answer: “A young woman got killed and when they asked the president what he thought he said there were very fine people on both sides.”
    Neither said directly that Trump referred to neo-Nazis as “very fine people.”
    Our ruling: Partly false
    The claims in the post have been rated PARTLY FALSE. Following the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Trump did say that there were “very fine people on both sides,” when speaking about those who attended the rally in support, and those who demonstrated against it. But the meme misrepresents Trump’s statements, because he did not say directly, “There were very fine people on both sides, & I’m not talking about the Neo-nazis and white supremacists because they should be condemned totally.” The two statements were separate, the second part coming later, after further questioning from reporters. During the first presidential debate, both Wallace and Biden referenced Trump’s “very fine people” comment but did not say he applied it to neo-Nazis.

    From the BBC, regarding ingesting bleach:

    Coronavirus: Outcry after Trump suggests injecting disinfectant as treatment
    Published24 April 2020
    Related Topics
    Coronavirus pandemic

    US President Donald Trump has been lambasted by the medical community after suggesting research into whether coronavirus might be treated by injecting disinfectant into the body.

    He also appeared to propose irradiating patients’ bodies with UV light, an idea dismissed by a doctor at the briefing.

    Another of his officials had moments earlier said sunlight and disinfectant were known to kill the infection.

    Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.

    Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

    What did President Trump say?
    During Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken more quickly when exposed to sunlight and heat.

    The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.

    Bleach and sunshine were proposed as possible strategies to tackle the coronavirus
    William Bryan, acting head of the US Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, outlined the findings at the news conference.

    While noting the research should be treated with caution, Mr Trump suggested further research in that area.

    “So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous – whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” the president said, turning to Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response co-ordinator, “and I think you said that hasn’t been checked but you’re going to test it.

    “And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside of the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way. And I think you said you’re going to test that too. Sounds interesting,” the president continued.

    “And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?

    “So it’d be interesting to check that.”

    Pointing to his head, Mr Trump went on: “I’m not a doctor. But I’m, like, a person that has a good you-know-what.”

    He turned again to Dr Birx and asked if she had ever heard of using “the heat and the light” to treat coronavirus.

    “Not as a treatment,” Dr Birx said. “I mean, certainly, fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But I’ve not seen heat or light.”

    “I think it’s a great thing to look at,” Mr Trump said.

    So, no, he did not suggest ingesting bleach; he suggested injecting it.

  3. bud

    Michael Cohen explained the Trump code. Everyone who listened to Trump’s Charlottesville speech knows he’s in full support of the White nationalist movement. His initial “there are good people on both sides” is how he actually views white supremacy. But later it dawns on him that he needs to walk it back and give his supporters plausible deniability. He did the same thing on Jan 6. This is a lifetime pattern which he uses to inoculate himself when people scour the tapes to suggest his intentions were benign. But make no mistake, Donald Trump is emphatically a racist who admires these radical groups.

    1. Doug Ross

      That’s called mind reading, bud. The transcript is clear. You can try to spin it any way you want but he specifically condemned them… Biden has repeated the phony claim multiple times after being corrected — maybe that’s the Biden Code? To drum up racial unrest? Seems plausible.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Ever since he was banned from Twitter, I’ve been meaning to write a post asking whether y’all think that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

          Sure, much trouble is averted by cutting him off from that outlet.

          But it makes it harder to keep tabs on him. When he communicates in a more subterranean manner with his minions, we can’t see it.

          It’s a tough call.

          Of course, it’s idiotic to say his “First Amendment rights” have been violated. He can write any stupid thing he cares to. Jack Dorsey is in NO way constitutionally mandated to give him a free place to publish it…

  4. Doug Ross

    Today’s Washington Post offers a “correction” to an anonymously sourced story that Trump had called the GA Secretary of State and told her to “find the fraud” (in quotes). It’s really interesting how these corrections always happen from some sources in the same biased way every time. If they weren’t biased, wouldn’t the corrections be 50-50? If you think you are getting the truth from the Washington Post or NY Times, you’re as bad as a Qanon / Proud Boy disciple. Lemmings gonna lemming.

    Anonymous sources, like anonymous blog commenters, are responsible for the phony narratives that plague society today. If you post anonymously, you’re a coward.


    “Correction: Two months after publication of this story, the Georgia secretary of state released an audio recording of President Donald Trump’s December phone call with the state’s top elections investigator. The recording revealed that The Post misquoted Trump’s comments on the call, based on information provided by a source. Trump did not tell the investigator to “find the fraud” or say she would be “a national hero” if she did so. Instead, Trump urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, Ga., asserting she would find “dishonesty” there. He also told her that she had “the most important job in the country right now.” A story about the recording can be found here. The headline and text of this story have been corrected to remove quotes misattributed to Trump.”

    1. bud

      Doug you must be the stupidest son of bitch on the planet if you actually believe the corrected version of the Posts report exonerates Trump. He was pressuring a state official to find “dishonesty”. That’s being prosecuted as a crime. Since I don’t really think you’re the stupidest son of a bitch on the planet I must conclude you’re just a bored contrarian that just enjoys riling people up. Frankly it only makes you look small and insecure.

      1. Barry

        The troubling part is SOME people dismiss the fact Trump called the elections investigator at all. In what world is that even proper? Goofball world I guess.

        It’s amazing what people will dismiss and rationalize when they are intent on subverting a process.

      2. Doug Ross

        I’m large and secure. And I don’t live my life as an anonymous troll.

        (I also never got in trouble at my government job for posting on blogs during work hours)

      3. Brad Warthen Post author


        I was about to delete Bud’s comment for violation of civility rules.

        But then he said, “Since I don’t really think you’re the stupidest son of a bitch on the planet…” So I hesitated. Even though that’s hardly high praise.

        And then I saw that Doug said he was too big to be bothered by it. Of course, he then brought up a painful incident from Bud’s past, which kind of damaged my sympathy for him as a victim here.

        So I guess I should shrug and walk away. Or maybe I should delete both, because this is not the tone I’m seeking for discussions here.

        But I haven’t done it, because Doug and Bud are both made guys here on the blog, having been around since the start. (Doug’s first comment was on Aug. 1, 2005, and Bud’s was on March 30, 2006.) And they are NOT “anonymous trolls,” as Doug would put it. Bud likes to go by “bud,” but we all know he’s William Bloom. And I’ve seen Doug’s picture ID, long, long ago (2007(. And it’s my officially announced policy to give people more leeway (within limits) when we know who they are.

        I just wish they’d knock it off, though. This stuff gets us nowhere. Now I will shrug and walk away. I have some work I need to get done…

  5. Ken

    When you conclude, as the lady profiled in this article has, that the other side is a force not just of harm but of evil – because they want to keep abortion legal, or because they “support socialism” or because they harvest the blood of children to keep themselves young, etc. – whose victory would mean the end of America, then you’re primed to believe practically anything that robs that side of legitimacy and prevents it from taking control. Welcome to life in Flight 93 America.


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