Over the weekend in Facebook and Twitter feeds, Americans–not Russians–perpetuated false claims seeking to play to their “base,” a word whose first meaning is defined as “the lowest part,” as in base instinct.
The goal of partisan trolls was to debase the names and reputations of assault survivor Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sensational claims about both have been shown to be baseless.
The distressing news, however, was that these false reports–1982 photos of a drunk Kavanaugh and a series of photos depicting Ford as a Democratic operative–were believed by many, flooding the internet and spreading to friends listed in social media accounts.
Sadly, lies have been shown to travel faster and farther than truth, according to Slate.
Thankfully, Snopes.com has been able to post refutations almost as soon as the false accounts were posted.
Concerning the Kavanaugh photo, it stated:
While the picture on the right is, in fact, Brett Kavanaugh, the picture of the passed-out man on the left is a Getty Images stock photo titled “portrait of a young man asleep on the couch after drinking too much beer” that was created long after 1982.
Concerning the Ford photo, it stated:
This photograph was taken on 12 November 2016 at a protest against President Trump in New York City by photographer Christopher Penler. The image is available on a variety of stock photographwebsites, where it is consistently presented as an image of an anonymous woman with a “Not My President” sign. It wasn’t until Christine Blasey Ford came forward with an allegation of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in September 2018 that the picture started circulating with Ford’s name attached to it.
It is important to recognize that hoaxes play on the deeply held beliefs, fears, convictions and desires of the mass media audience. In controversial political news, such as Ford’s allegation of sexual violence, conditions were rife for fake news and hoaxes.
For the record, here is the Sept. 27 transcript of the Kavanaugh hearing, supplied by the Washington Post.
Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine cautions readers about Internet trolls and how they influence public perception. Here’s an excerpt:
Hoaxes. Hacks. Stunts. Pranks. Fraud. Counterfeits. Conspiracy theories. Altered photographs. Doctored records. Viral videos. Facts died in the process. “The era of the fact is coming to an end,” writes Harvard historian Jill Lepore in the New Yorker, creating mayhem, “not least because the collection and weighing of facts require investigation, discernment, and judgment, while the collection and analysis of data are outsourced to machines.”
The loss of fact has led to other interpersonal losses. Thus, it is important for everyone who uses social media to fact-check claims on Snopes.com or traditional news sites.