Fake News, Alt Facts, and the Cult of Trump
January 25, 2017
For those scratching their heads and wondering, “Why does Trump make such a big deal out of something that is obviously wrong?”
Reporters shows almost 1400 people the pictures of comparative crowds during Inauguration. Trump voters more likely to be unable to distinguish what is right in front of them.
For the question about which image went with which inauguration, 41 percent of Trump supporters gave the wrong answer; that’s significantly more than the wrong answers given by 8 percent of Clinton voters and 21 percent of those who did not vote.
But what’s even more noteworthy is that 15 percent of people who voted for Trump told us that more people were in the image on the left — the photo from Trump’s inauguration — than the picture on the right. We got that answer from only 2 percent of Clinton voters and 3 percent of nonvoters.
This effect is known, and has been the subject of research.
In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first.
For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second.
These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.
Here, Representative Lamar Smith, Chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, advises Americans to ignore the “liberal media” –
“…better to get your news directly from the President, in fact it might be the only way to get the unvarnished Truth…”
Trump surrogates say they’re used to preparing to answer questions about his statements and tweets — or deflecting them. “When I’m going on television, we sit there and talk about something Donald Trump has said or how it will come up,” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said. “If he says, there are millions of illegal votes, what are we going to say to that?”
“I’ll say things like, we all know there are illegal votes, and we all know we need to do a better job with voter ID,” Collins said. “I’ll call that pivoting of sorts. You kind of address the question and move on. It’s all about how you answer the question and rephrase it.”
Supporters say there is little damage done to Trump or the people around him when he gets an occasional fact wrong, because his supporters trust him over the mainstream media. Calling Trump out would alienate his tens of millions of supporters.
“The Republican base believes they have been victimized by voting fraud,” said Christopher Ruddy, the owner of Newsmax. “Trump is sort of touching that nerve. People on the right look at this and say he’s telling the truth. People on the left say he’s just making stuff up.”
Ruddy said he believed there was voter fraud in November, and that his readers did too — along with the readers and viewers of Breitbart and Fox News, among other conservative outlets. “Whether his numbers are accurate, that’s another thing,” Ruddy said.
Do you get it now?
On Monday, the paperwork was filed with the federal government declaring officially that Jan. 20, 2017 — the day of Trump’s inauguration — would officially be known as the “National Day of Patriotic Devotion.”