I'm old school. I believe in facts. Sadly, facts are wildly out of fashion in this era. Rudy Giuliani has proclaimed that “truth isn't truth,” Kellyanne Conway presents “alternative facts,” and the president lives in an alternate universe in which he's smarter than generals, epidemiologists and Cliff Clavin.
Nowhere is this newthink more evident than on social media, which I observe like a scientist with a Petri dish. It's a barometer of craziness sprinkled with cat pictures and food selfies from fancy restaurants with portions so small, I'm surprised anyone's got the strength to snap a picture.
In the winter months you see images of tanned shins and painted toenails, because by the time most people can afford a vacation, the only thing that looks good on the beach is their shins.
An astute social scientist would be content to just observe, but I get frustrated and want to help those stupid mice get through the maze. Maybe it's my journalistic sensibilities, maybe it's because I'm the smartest one in the room (I'm alone) but I'm compelled to correct misinformation, and that, apparently, is the modern-day equivalent of shouting “Hey you kids get off my lawn!”
Some days I'm tilting at windmill memes from folks who believe they cause cancer. No, you twit, that's solar panels.
Last week, I saw a meme posted by a Bernie Sanders supporter that claimed there'd been 64 sexual harassment allegations against Michael Bloomberg and eight against Joe Biden. The post declared them both rapists, which seemed a bit of a stretch. Admittedly, Uncle Joe is a serial hair-sniffer and a personal space invader, however, my crack research team of me discovered that the allegations against Bloomberg actually reflected the entirety of complaints against his company of 20,000 employees.
Naturally, there was an outpouring of gratitude after I clarified the record. Well, I guess if you want to get into specifics, I was branded a Bloomberg sycophant and a supporter of rapists. I was also called “a weird old dude with a cigar.” Ouch. In fairness, I'm trying to cut back. The cigars, I mean.
Some of the Bernie Bros justified the propaganda because 'it might be true' or 'it was kinda true' or 'the search engines are biased if favor of establishment candidates.' And anyway, whose side are you on? “Bloomberg is a super weird hill to die on, man,” one of them wrote. There's that word again -- weird.
I tried to explain that this wasn't about defending a particular candidate, it was about defending the truth and promoting fact-based discourse. Spreading falsehoods just undermines the credibility of your argument, I argued. Isn't that what Trumpians do? Be better, I implored. There are plenty of damning facts out there about everyone, I said, so why not just share those? Of course, this was like trying to explain quantum physics to your dog. Or me.
I was told dismissively that spreading propaganda to support Bernie was really OK because they weren't journalists and could be held to a lower standard, which apparently is no standard at all. The end justifies the means. Just shut up already, Boomer, we're working here.
They've met the enemy. I guess it's me.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.