While there’s been chatter in the news about conspiracy theories and Russian trolls, I think Americans are underestimating the problem of unreality and the dangers this poses to democracy. I’m reminded lately of this chilling article I read in the Seattle Times last fall, about a University of Washington researcher who studies information flows after mass shootings and other massacres (the infographic shown in the photo is enough to give you the willies). To quote the professor, Kate Starbird:
Starbird says she’s concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward “the menace of unreality — which is that nobody believes anything anymore.” Alex Jones, she says, is “a kind of prophet. There really is an information war for your mind. And we’re losing it.”
Starbird sighed. “I used to be a techno-utopian. Now I can’t believe that I’m sitting here talking to you about all this.”
Sure enough, a video making the claim that the Parkland students were “crisis actors” was the #1 trending post on Youtube shortly after the shooting. But the problem is hardly limited to Alex Jones’ legions of followers (and there truly are legions of them). Republicans in Maine and California have been setting up their own propaganda sites masquerading as news.