The Internet is an amazing tool for bringing information to the world. However, it is also now being used by right-wing partisans to spread ‘fake news.’ While the clever branding seems politically neutral, it hides what it really is. And that’s what makes it so dangerous.
Propaganda is deliberate, coordinated disinformation. It’s false, fake, untrue. In other words, lying.
When successfully used to achieve specific political goals, as it was in Germany in the 1930’s, it can literally change the world. As in the case of the pre-World War II era, propaganda was a highly effective tool used to destroy democracy.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, German propaganda and censorship was only the beginning of what would turn out to be one of the darkest times in modern history.
Once they succeeded in ending democracy and turning Germany into a one-party dictatorship, the Nazis orchestrated a massive propaganda campaign to win the loyalty and cooperation of Germans. The Propaganda Ministry, directed by Dr. Joseph Goebbels, took control of all forms of communication in Germany: newspapers, magazines, books, public meetings, and rallies, art, music, movies, and radio. Viewpoints in any way threatening to [their] beliefs or to the regime were censored or eliminated from all media.
Creating a common enemy, which in the case of Germany in the 1930’s were Jews, was the ‘glue’ of the propaganda machine. Today, it is Muslim terrorists. Whether or not individual acts of terrorism are staged or rooted in genuine belief of a cause is irrelevant, since it has the same effect on the public mind. Fear.
It could be argued that the right-wing takeover of 1930’s Germany led to acts so horrific, they would never be repeated. But that too, is becoming taboo. Shortly after reality TV star Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election on a populist, anti-immigration platform, Germany’s extreme right-wing party, Alternative for Deutschland, or AfD, held a meeting to plan their path forward. Their aim is to influence their own country’s upcoming elections by using Donald Trump’s populist, anti-immigration playbook to try to kick the current moderate, Chancellor Angela Merkel, out of power.
If the AfD succeeds, Politico suggests,
That level of success for a far-right party in the country that gave rise to Adolf Hitler would represent a political earthquake for Europe—and a national trauma for Germans, who have sought to expunge and confront their history in the 70 years since World War II…. But over the past two years, as Merkel has welcomed Muslim refugees and led the bailouts of struggling European economies such as Greece, populist sentiments have surged—and the AfD is now reaping the rewards.
Now consider the way Trump and the Republican Party have been using ‘fake news’ to advance their own far-right conservative agenda, and you have the ingredients for a pungent recipe.
As the New York Times warns,
In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of the country’s increasing political polarization. And conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole deeper.
Conservative radio host John Ziegler, who has spoken out against “excessive partisanship,” added further cause for concern.
Over the years, we’ve effectively brainwashed the core of our audience to distrust anything that they disagree with. And now it’s gone too far.
There is more at stake than the upcoming German elections and what Donald Trump may or may not do as an American president. Reality itself is being tested in ways not seen in generations. ‘Fake news’ by any other name is still based in lies. And we’ve already seen what that can do when successfully perverted for political power.
The best defense against the onslaught of ‘fake news’ is using the Internet for its original purpose. All it takes to find the truth is a search bar, a little determination, and a lot of common sense. If something sounds outrageous, it’s probably right-wing propaganda. In other words, a lie.
Now would be a good time to tell Congress what you think about what they’re doing to your country. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Featured image: CC0 Public Domain https://pixabay.com/en/fake-fake-news-media-laptop-1909821/
Tobin is the author of “Afterlife: The Journey Of A Dog‘s Spirit” If you’ve ever shared your life with a dog or any other pet, you will never look at them the same way again after reading this book. This heartwarming story is told through the eyes of an animal spirit that has been sent back to earth in the body of a small dog. His mission is to help a young woman discover that their destinies are more connected to the powers of the Spirit World than either of them ever imagined. “Afterlife: The Journey Of A Dog’s Spirit” is available now on Amazon.com.