Letter to the Editor: Disinformation and Conspiracy Theories Destroy Objective Truth


Disinformation and conspiracy theories are to democracy what Kryptonite was to Superman. 

When people come to believe the truth is unknowable or nothing is true, they can be led to believe anything. Joseph Goebbels and Adolph Hitler understood that. The Rev. Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana, understood that. Former Soviet KGB Col. Vladimir Putin understands that. Donald Trump understands that. 

It is the way all cult leaders and political despots operate. To make their subjects malleable, they employ disinformation and conspiracy theories to destroy objective truth and reality. Then, with their followers in a weakened state of reason, they substitute their own alternative reality, always placing themselves in the central position of great power. 

Social media presents the dictator or aspiring dictator with opportunities thugs of old could only dream about. The great journalist and Washington State University product Edward R. Murrow often said, “a lie can travel around the world while the truth is getting its pants on.”

With social media, a lie can travel around the world 10,000 times while the truth is getting its pants on. 

While it may seem to some in the new age of unfiltered information to be an infringement on First Amendment rights, in the old days of paper and broadcast journalism there were gruff, ink-stained editors who, yes no doubt on occasion with some biases, would briskly consign unverifiable information to the wastebasket. Americans of a certain vintage will recall the Lou Grant Character on the old Mary Tyler Moore show. Social media has no Lou Grants. 

“Q,” supposedly an anonymous, very highly placed source within the “Deep State,” tells followers that Donald Trump is secretly leading a war against Democrats who are allegedly operating a child sex-slave pedophilia ring out of pizza parlors. When asked about that at a recent press briefing, Trump, as one would expect, breathed life into the conspiracy theory by answering, “Would that be a bad thing?” and “They are very good Americans.” I could almost hear “Q,” probably Putin himself, roaring with laughter. 

In 2016, an armed QAnon believer showed up at a pizza parlor in Virginia to rescue the children. Of course, there were none. He served some time. 

In a rational world that would be the end of it. But wait! In the recent Georgia primary, a woman who is a QAnon believer won the Republican nomination in a safe Republican district. QAnon will now be represented in Congress. The FBI calls them domestic terrorists. 

Trump and his many indicted henchmen remind me of something Huckleberry Finn said. “It didn’t take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn’t no kings nor dukes at all but just low down humbugs and frauds.”


Marty Ansley