It happened in 2016, and we were shocked at how easily we got played. Now it’s happening again, and we’re playing along — again. In case anyone asks: This is why we can’t have nice things.
For those of you with short memories, here’s a reminder:
- On October 7th, 2016, Homeland released a public report to the effect that Russian hackers were attempting to influence the elections. There were two major avenues: direct attacks on parties and candidates, and meme farms online spreading divisiveness and hate. (After the election, the Post was shocked to discover they’d already printed this story.)
- During the 2018 midterms, the troll farms were at it again, producing memes for you to share. Which you did, gleefully spreading divisiveness, hate, and thinly disguised inanity. You collaborated with foreign powers to help destabilize the election, you traitors!
- We were just issued our regular periodic warning for the upcoming election, and Democratic lawmakers are furious because, apparently, nobody is informing the American people of the novel and unprecedented threat.
Right; we know my cue when we hear it. Back off, DNC; The Not Fake News has got this one.
Here’s how it works:
So there’s this meme. It’s funny, and there’s a clever picture, and it poses a valid question. So you Like it and Share it, and so do a few million of your friends, and it goes viral.
But there’s a flaw. The question may be well-written, but the picture is obviously, ridiculously fake. Anyone who takes a moment to question the meme will notice it. Then, rather than an open discussion of a valid point, people rip apart the meme over the picture. What could be an opportunity to discuss becomes a fight over who actually owns that bus. (Turns out it’s the Raptors, on their way to Disney.)
Also, on examination you’ll notice the text itself is misleading, and in such a way that the errors can only be deliberate. Obviously, BLM didn’t buy these buses and they aren’t transporting people to riots no matter how badly the Raptors play.
There is a valid concern about how BLM spends its money. They’re receiving vast donations right now, and their charter has specific restrictions on how those funds can be spent. This meme does nothing to raise the profile of the question — which does actually have an answer you can find out just by looking.
There are other memes comparing the Black Bloc in Portland with nonviolent protesters (they’re not), regular citizens whose goal is to peacefully showcase law enforcement excesses (anarchists hoping to provoke police violence) in the name of Black Lives Matter (no relationship, plus, BLM is actually peaceful). The lies overwhelm the message, and they’re so transparent they automatically derail any discussion.
Certainly domestic meme farms are already producing this sort of thing; in point of fact, it’s hard to see why they need Russia’s help. They’ve already got yours.
So here’s how you fix it:
- Don’t share memes with any mistakes. If it’s a truth worth sharing, it doesn’t need any exaggeration; if it’s not, don’t share it. Even a typo will derail a potentially useful point.
- Ask yourself: Will this convince anyone, or just piss them off? If it doesn’t promote discussion, it’s what the Russians want you to do. Instead, consider having an open and honest conversation, and if you have a legitimate question, ask it and hope for an answer.
- Don’t virtue signal. Just because a cause is popular is no reason to support it. Make sure you understand what’s actually going on, and if you can’t make time to do that, consider shutting up and maybe not voting as your patriotic duty. There is no virtue in spreading ignorance.
Admittedly, the results of the upcoming presidential election aren’t really in doubt. Unless something truly unusual happens, we’re about to see a Biden landslide followed by a massive Democratic overcorrection in lawmaking, and there’s not much anyone can do to change that. In 2022, the legislature will swing Republican and obstructionist again, and again there’s not much that can be done. These results depend only on real world events, not the meme farms.
Instead, the question is, will we hate each other after the election? Will there be riots and marches? Will people be getting shot over political differences?
And what Russia wants to know: Will we be too divided to react when (not if) they annex their next country? Because that’s what they want.
What do you want?
The Not Fake News runs on ramen noodles and copious amounts of caffeine, and we can always use more. If these articles make you think, we urge you to either consider PayPal or