Elon Musk’s Paul Pelosi Tweet shows we are in a post-truth world
If we weren’t living in a post-truth world before last week, we definitely are now. U violent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paulcoupled with the almost immediate invention of a conspiracy theory (pushed by billionaire Elon Musk, u new owner of Twitter), leaves no doubt that an alternate reality future is now our current reality.
By now, you probably know the story. In response to a tweet by Hillary Clinton, Musk editorialized this “There is a small possibility that there could be more to this story.” These words were tweeted along with the link to a sketchy outlet accusing that “Paul Pelosi was drunk again, and in an argument with a male prostitute early Friday morning.”
Musk has since deleted his tweet, but has not issued a correction or apology. Likewise, Donald Trump Jr. advanced this narrative, using social media memes, in an even sleazier way.
By the time many prominent right-wingers (with massive Twitter audiences) advance these stories, false narratives are given more credibility and oxygen. And when the fake version is the first version you hear—and it’s repeated enough times—it tends to stick. Author and Wharton associate professor Ethan Mollick points out that research indicates “If you see something repeated enough times, it seems more true. Multiple studies show that it works on 85 percent of people. Worse, it happens even if the information is not plausible and even if you know better.”
In this case, the alternative narrative had a core of plausibility: Paul Pelosi pleaded guilty to DUI in August, and San Francisco has long been one of the most gay-friendly cities in America. Add to this the growing-from sense Rather to Hunter Biden’s laptop– that the mainstream media cannot always be trusted to tell the truth.
Pelosi’s alternative narrative was also helped something the 911 dispatch operator said: “It is [Pelosi] he says … he does not know who the male is, but that his name is David and that he is a friend. He seemed a little confused.”
Paul Pelosi was undercover when he made that call from his bathroom in the middle of the night. He was understandably confused, as the operator said. Pelosi was also, at times, speak in code. Maybe the operator misheard him? However, this information provided enough fodder for an alternative reality to emerge.
And just like that, an act of violence aimed at the Speaker of the House (the assailant would have shouted, “Where is Nancy??”), which was already targeted by the MAGA mob on January 6was weaponized to use against Pelosi.
The only problem? This alternate reality is in conflict with what the police say and what the attacker told the police about his motive (plans to break Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps).
“What if right after Pearl Harbor, half the country decided it didn’t really happen – and the people who said they saw it were “crisis actors”?“
Now, I am not naive. The American public has been lied to in the past. And the police and the media sometimes just get it wrong.
But what the right now asks us to believe, in essence, is that we have no way of verifying or confirming that something it’s true. It is possible that Donald Trump is still the president. Maybe Tom Brady and the Buccaneers are really 8-0? It is possible that I did not actually write this. Maybe we all live in the matrix?
We are now in a position where you either (a) believe that the police and the media are conspiring to lie to you to help elect Democrats, or (b) believe that the owner of Twitter and the son of the former president are unfairly accusing the victim of a violent attack and lies to you as a service to the Republicans.
There are, in other words, two Americas.
In one version, children use litter boxes to cool off in schoolsthe 2020 election was stolen (from the Venetians?), the COVID-19 vaccines are mark of the beast, JFK Jr. he is still aliveTrump had the largest inauguration crowd in history, January 6th was just “normal tourist visit“, and Paul Pelosi was attacked by a man with a hammer after a gay/lover dispute. These are, we will say, “alternative facts.”
The other America is where I reside.
That is strange to me. Throughout my political life, I have railed against postmodernism, relativism, the sense that there are no absolutes, and people who talk about “mine truth.” I never thought the post-truth world would arrive so fast, nor do I think it will Republicans who had pushed him.
However, the consequences can be tragic. If this trend continues, it will become unsustainable. What if right after Pearl Harbor, half the country decided it didn’t really happen – and the people who said they saw it were “crisis actors”? What if after the 9/11 attacks, half the nation decides it was an inside job and that George W. Bush was to blame?
How can a nation have a meaning, a purpose and a common national history when we cannot even agree on what constitutes reality?
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