As the saying goes, a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth has pulled its boots on. Whoever first said that, and there are several candidates in contention for the honour, doesn’t mention the fuel that propels those lies. Lies are faster because they are deliberately fashioned to be fun, shocking, disturbing, even vindicating. They are rhetorical Usain Bolts.
I still occasionally receive breathless personal messages from Facebook friends of the “make it viral before they take it down” variety, about some stunning piece of rubbish, the contradicting truth of which is a mere Google away. I spend the 30 seconds they can’t be bothered to, and fire back with an article from snopes.com. I am seldom thanked, frequently ignored and occasionally resented. Some people prefer a good lie to a boring old truth any day of the week.
Don’t think for a minute that Fox News and the Republican Party don’t merely know this but, more to the point, exploit this. They knew (and still know) of two recent examples of manufactured lies, both of which were easy to contradict by logic if not a few phone calls.
The first was the lie that Joe Biden was going to mandate that Americans be restricted to eating no more than the equivalent of one hamburger worth of meat per month. As a vegan that is what I would call a good start, provided that the restriction is voluntary and made by a willing and educated public. But no, the propaganda goes, Biden was going to force this restriction by fiat, against our will. By what mechanism the President could do this, the eager disseminators of this moronic crap didn’t say.
Then there was the one about how Vice President Kamala Harris’ children’s book is being distributed in “welcome packages” to refugees. That story, it turns out, was manufactured from whole cloth by the New York Post. The writer who was forced to publish the story, Laura Italiano, later resigned in protest. It’s four days since the exposure of that lie and Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise still has a tweet in his Twitter feed alleging it. He has yet to take it down as I write this. He knows perfectly well it’s a lie but chooses to leave the tweet in situ:
WATCH → White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki dodges and says “I hear it’s a good book” when asked if Kamala Harris is making money off her book being handed out at border facilities.
Is Kamala Harris profiting off the border crisis?
Americans deserve to know.
Actually, Congressman, what Americans deserve to know is the truth. And no part of this story is true. Of course, profiting off of various crises and other opportunities was the work of a certain former usurper of the People’s House whose name shall go unmentioned. Fox News, Congressman Scalise, the New York Post and Republicans in general never got around to mentioning any of that, even though it really was the truth.
In a way I suppose we should consider all this a compliment. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then counterfeit slander is its nearest cousin. After all, it means they don’t have anything malicious to say about us. They have to make the nasty stuff up.
You can be certain that these manufactured scandals have a good chance of indelibly imprinting themselves on the minds of the Republican rabble no matter how often they are retracted or how often they are thoroughly debunked. Once they are out, lies replicate faster than we can reel them back in. Take, for example, the notion that the Great Wall of China is the only man made structure that can be seen from the surface of the moon. That’s a falsehood that many people still believe, even though it has been vigorously debunked now for decades. Anyone with Google Earth can easily verify it for themselves.
Could this be the start of a trend, this whole cloth invention of falsehoods against us? It might. Fox News and Republicans have graduated from interpreting the truth in the most malicious way possible to simply inventing lies, or at least repeating lies that have already been obviously invented. Whatever the case, I refuse to surrender to the notion that we live in a post-truth era. Truth remains truth. People who deal in the politics of counterfeit scandal will never, ever change that. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.