Oh #Pizzagate, what a perfect storm you are. So many people are surprised, yet many others have seen you coming for months. Unlike a hurricane, which announces its arrival quite obviously on any radar, #Pizzagate, as well as the violence that has erupted against minority groups since The Donald’s Election, has been coming at us quietly, shifting and changing shape, making it hard to predict exactly how online trolls would materialize and strike, but knowing all the long it was storming towards us.
It is now clear to most Facebook users, and the MSM in general, that the online fake news is the seed that starts the cycle. I’ve been blogging now for three years and since the beginning I’ve tried to establish valid online news sources from which to base my writing upon. This isn’t easy, but it is worth the time. There are many ways to do this, and since The Donald’s election, various authors have written guidelines to help us discern real news, such as these suggestions from NPR. This is great and it will help those of us who are seeking to communicate our ideas with one another do so without embarrassing ourselves by passing along an article that claims the Pope has endorsed Hillary Clinton when in reality, he merely suggested that those who build walls to keep others out aren’t the Good Samaritans Jesus was talking about in the Gospels. But normal people validating their news before sharing it on Facebook will NOT keep crazy men with guns from showing up on our doorsteps if God forbid, we’re ever a part of that fake news article.
There is a cycle to this madness. Call it the Fake News Life Cycle. Call it the Cycle of Virtual Anger Bubbling Forth unto Reality. Call it whatever you will, but it is time that everyone begins talking about it and understands that what starts as click bait is only the beginning. When I first began blogging, finding real news wasn’t hard, but in the past 18 months the amount of crap I’ve had to sift through on Facebook and Twitter has tripled. I’m not kidding. There’s a reason for this and it’s called anger. Anger that has been trolling the internet for years and now is having its day. Fake News providers have given this anger the justification it has been waiting for.
Most of those who procure Fake News online are hacks or writers who just want to make a quick buck. They buy fancy URLs that sound real, like the American Freedom Project or Democracy in Action. Then these folks search the internet for the latest WikiLeaks, conspiracy theory or other such exciting news item. They often search Reddit and 4chan, fantastic places where anger and fear dance daily whipping up the flames of righteousness. But these Fake News hacks will take any story and turn it into click bait. A perfect example is to create the headline that the Pope has endorsed Hillary, then write a little ditty about it, use one quote out of context and not even give a link to the actual speech made by the Pope that they’re quoting. This leaves it to you and me to find that speech and read it, only to find Hillary’s name isn’t even mentioned in it. Is there truth that the Pope was most likely suggesting that his flock NOT vote for The Donald? Yes there is. And that’s the kicker, these Fake News stories are almost always based on some strange fact** that the Fake News owner twists to make into a story with a headline that sends people a clicking and sharing.
But here’s the thing, most of these guys are just that, guys and gals just making money from our stupidity. They’ll even admit it. Take these two, Paris Wade and Ben Goldman who created an empire built on Facebook shares by the time of the vote, influencing millions with rumors, exaggeration, conspiracy theories and lies. Are they actual conservatives who give a damn about any of this? No, they’ll readily admit that they write the stories that get the most hits and in their experience, it’s the angry headlines that do this best. Conservatives and liberals alike will share the shocking piece, one side to give justification for their anger against the liberal movement, the other side to give justification to their belief that all conservatives are idiots. Thus time and again a Fake News creator will tell you that the conservative sites they host get WAY more clicks than the liberal ones and that’s the reason they focus there.
Hence stage one, the Fake News website owner writes some sort of conspiracy theory in a click bait story, puts it online, gets paid and sits back all smug. Now we begin stage two of the Fake News Life Cycle—sharing. It’s one thing to click and read, but if the article is well written while also striking a chord with our deepest insecurities, it will be shared on Facebook and Twitter. This is the beginning of discussion, but if it remained on these two platforms exclusively, it probably wouldn’t gain steam. The Fake News needs to be digested, discussed and internalized in order to grow into a real conspiracy worth following. In spite of all its failing when it comes to dealing with Fake News, Facebook has long had moderators who remove posts for all sorts of reasons, like because a woman’s nipple is showing while she nurses her newborn. Thus a story like #Pizzagate does get discussed on Facebook, but not with the deep venom needed for an armed man to confront the story head on. Twitter has failed to moderate content as well as Facebook, but with the 140 character limitation on tweets, feelings can ignite, but deep discussions that build the conspiracy are difficult.
Enter stage three of the Fake News Life Cycle—Reddit and 4chan. I myself hang out on Reddit, but there’s no way in hell I’ll go near 4chan. Call me a wimp, I don’t care, the place is a virtual empire of destitution and degradation. My eldest son once remarked over dinner that the darkest minds of the internet rule 4chan and I don’t doubt that. Reddit however, sort of reminds me of iVillage, where long ago, at the turn of the century, I met other mothers to discuss nursing, cloth diapers and entered the battle of SAHM vs. Working Moms. At least that’s what it’s like on /r/rad-decentralization, or /r/futuristparty or even /r/BasicIncome. Those are the places I hang out, but /r/the_donald is where #Pizzagate festered and grew into the nightmare you’re now hearing about in the news.
There are many ways to describe the Trump Trolls who have created, moderated and supported /r/the_donald, but I’ll just let Mashable writer, Damon Beres tell the story.
“If you haven't heard, #Pizzagate is the hashtag used by trolls spreading the unhinged, bogus claim that Hillary Clinton was involved in a child sex ring running out of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. Several employees of that pizza parlor received death threats as a result. It's exactly the sort of steaming pile of trash that Reddit's uniquely positioned to cultivate—it's just surprising it took so long to get here…
“…All of these concerns fold into the catastrophe we're dealing with now. As Gizmodo reported Tuesday, the site has now been overrun by Trump-loving trolls who've successfully turned the system against itself, so they can now occupy prime real estate on Reddit's r/all page—the page which displays the most popular topics from across the site. And that's where the real problems begin.”
One subreddit, taking over the entire site. These are the Trump fans that have come out since the election to abuse those they’ve been hating together in the safety of the virtual world for years. On Reddit and 4chan they virtually stroke one another’s egos and play a game of telephone with every conspiracy they can find online. And the rise of Fake News gives them the “facts” they need to justify their rage, their hysteria and their mania. Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman tried to intervene, first by banning /r/Pizzagate and then by modifying user comments, creating yet “gate” controversy, called #spezgate. (what the hell was he thinking???) Regardless, the banning just helped #Pizzagate grow in size as it moved over to, you guessed it, 4chan. But in the end, what exactly can Huffman do at this point? Anger is nothing new and the entire Reddit system enables the worst in us.
I do think liberals need to think beyond their bubble to understand why the Rust Belt voted the way they did in Election 2016, but with #Pizzagate exploding onto the streets the way it has, the time for shaming the Ivory Tower elites is over. The increase in hate crimes, the appearance of an armed man at a pizza joint to personally investigate Hillary Clinton's child sex ring, and any other arrogant, angry outburst by the winning team has nothing to do with job loss or the failure of the Democratic Party to see the pain in the white middle class. Those may have cost Hillary the election, but the Fake News Life Cycle, from the hack writer to the angry anonymous man behind the computer screen discussing #Pizzagate on Reddit with other very angry people, is why America is witnessing irrational, xenophobic violence on the streets. Years of internet trolls taking their anger out on women, minorities, immigrants and anyone else that pisses them off has created a world where violent virtual reality trolling now roams our very streets. This is the real bubble that has exploded.
All of this is the perfect storm that has led to the culmination of the "Age of the Internet Troll" with the election of the first Twitter Troll for President of the United States.
Isn’t that swell?
**as for the grain of truth in #Pizzagate, google Bill Clinton and the Lolita Express... yet how this led to the Podesta/Clinton/Comet Ping Pong Pizzaria/child sex traffic ring story is just the mere brilliance of the vitriol so loving tended on Reddit and 4chan.