Amanda Marcotte summarizes the deep Russia/Trump story from Bill Browder's testimony to Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, saying
... it’s hard to write that without the creeping feeling that half the people reading this are writing me off as some kind of loony conspiracy theorist, with my outrageous tales of the president of the United States possibly enmeshed with murderous Russian oligarchs. And why shouldn’t they? It sounds almost as nutty as some of the blatantly false conspiracy theories of the last few years, from accusations that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child rape ring run out of a pizza parlor to accusations that Barack Obama somehow faked his birth certificate, 40-odd years after the fact.
Fake conspiracies, it turns out, are Trump’s best weapon for hiding the actual conspiracy it looks like he or his staff actually engaged in.
“The landscape has basically been saturated with fairy tales, conspiracies and deliberate disinformation,” Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, explained...
Voters are fatigued and confused by the Russia story, and a majority of them don’t seem to understand that there is now pretty close to smoking gun-level proof of collusion (especially with Donald Trump Jr.’s email exchange) between the campaign and Russian agents.
For a couple of decades now, right-wing media has seeded fake conspiracy stories into the mainstream media to demonize political opponents and sow doubts about politically inconvenient facts. This, Carusone argued, escalated under Trump, who has used his growing media power to drive an overwhelming number of conspiracy theories into the mainstream, including rumors that Clinton’s health was failing, that millions of undocumented people voted in the 2016 election and that there’s some uncovered scandal regarding Clinton’s (sigh) emails. [emphasis mine]
The net effect is to make evidence-driven, rational people hyper-skeptical of anything that sounds like a conspiracy theory, even those, like the Russia scandal, which aren’t conspiracy theories at all.
So when a journalist tries to publicly piece together what’s going on with Trump and Russia, “you sound like a crazy person, because the audience has been hardwired to believe that all conspiracies are akin to Alex Jones’s inter-dimensional demon,” Carusone said, referencing the Infowars host’s claims that Democratic politicians are conspiring with hell-spawn to control the country.
It’s frustrating, because the grim truth of the matter is that some conspiracies are real. Watergate, as Carusone noted, was a real conspiracy. George W. Bush’s White House invented evidence to hoodwink the public into supporting the invasion of Iraq. Most white-collar crimes are conspiracies. That includes some that Trump himself has been involved in, such as the conspiracy to con people into paying for fake classes at Trump University.
There was also clearly some kind of conspiracy to spread conspiracy theories on behalf of the Trump campaign, though how deep it goes is still not clear. And it’s this conspiracy that shows how effective fake conspiracy theories can be at obscuring real-life conspiracies that are actually happening.
The DNC did not conspire to throw the primary to Sanders. Russian agents, likely on Putin’s orders, did conspire to spread fake stories in order to sow discord on the left. But with all the flying accusations back and forth, it’s no wonder that many people give up trying to look at the evidence and instead believe whichever story they want to believe — which is how we have a small but loud number of anti-Clinton leftists proclaiming that the fake conspiracy is real and the real conspiracy is fake.
It’s dizzying, but it’s effective. More disturbingly, it’s clear that Trump’s team has become highly skilled at weaponizing fake conspiracy theories to stir up noise and sow widespread confusion.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity, for instance, has been tightly wound into the Trump campaign and administration since Trump started seriously running for president. Hannity has functioned more as a communications arm for the Trump campaign (and now the White House) than as an independent journalist. He is also a reliable purveyor of fake conspiracy theories that just so happen to emerge whenever new developments in the Trump-Russia scandal are reported.
This month, as Media Matters reported, Hannity has been sowing the theory that the meeting between Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., Kushner and various Russian agents was actually a setup by the Democrats, aimed at making the Trump campaign look bad. Hannity was also the main purveyor of a conspiracy theory accusing Democrats of murdering a DNC staffer named Seth Rich (who, in Hannity’s universe, was also responsible for leaking the party’s emails). Hannity pimped that lie at the same time that Trump apparently admitted to obstructing justice by firing FBI Director J... in an effort to shut down the Russia investigation. [emphasis mine]
How can an average person who doesn’t work in journalism or law enforcement or politics, and doesn’t have the time to sift through original sources and lengthy testimony transcripts, figure out what tales of conspiracy are probably real or at least plausible, and which ones are almost certainly fake? [emphasis mine]
Which explains why (repeat after me) we are so fucked.
Exactly! When there exists some form of negative thing happening to Trump, voilà, a new distraction occurs. It is as though tRump has a team of rumor mongers dreaming up stories to tell the likes of Hannity and Alex Jones.
I have a list of newspaper, radio stations, TV stations, writers, broadcaster, newspeople that do a good job of writing about what is important and why it is important to brush aside the adrenaline pumping stories made up out of thin air.
I talked to one of the volunteer fire fighters here in our district and he said that according to the TV news people, one of the forest fires threatens a home. The newsperson, all excited, using disaster language made people anxious instead of informing the audience that the home owner had chosen all the landscaping, building materials of the house and roof that were fire resistant. They also had sequestered water to be used in the case of being threatened by a forest fire. The home should have been a showcase for proper planning for prevention.
Half-truths can be as damaging as outright lies.
How can an average person ... figure out ... which ones are almost certainly fake?
We don't try. We let journalists be confused and hope prosecuters will find the evidence.