Culture

Which Fake News?

(Reuters photo: Mike Blake)
The Left loves a conspiracy theory.

The craziest thing about the “pizzagate” story isn’t the fantastical idea that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a bland bespectacled lady who secretly runs a ritualistic child-sex ring in a subterranean torture chamber, but that it isn’t even the craziest story about a bland bespectacled lady who secretly runs a ritualistic child-sex ring in a subterranean torture chamber.

That distinction still belongs to the Little Rascals Day Care case, in which a cook at the daycare was accused, along with the married couple who ran the place, of ritualistically abusing children in their care in horrifying ways related to sundry Satanic enthusiasms. None of it happened, of course, and no serious, mentally functional adult confronting the evidence ever believed that it happened: The children in the Little Rascals case claimed to have been buried alive, to have been flushed down toilets, and to have been raped with butcher knives — the sort of thing that produces a little bit of physical evidence, of which there was none. The children also told of being transported to faraway places on trips that could not possibly have happened during the few hours they were in day care, and other physical impossibilities.

Unfortunately, the jury and the prosecution were not made up of serious, mentally functional adults, being composed instead of regular people and — angels and ministers of grace defend us — lawyers, and so three people went to prison over the most ridiculous allegations.

The case was later thrown out on the basis of “legal errors,” never mind the physical impossibility of the accusations.

If you have spent much time around children or the mentally ill people they sometimes resemble, you have experienced lies like that, which may start with something plausible but usually end up being elaborated into something that isn’t. Someone misses three days at work because he wasn’t feeling well, okay. He wasn’t feeling well because he didn’t sleep for days. All right. He didn’t sleep for days because the government is spying on him through the television, because he is the true heir to the British throne and wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays.

Well.

Spare me the nonsense about how this conspiracy-mongering is something particular to the Right.

Our friends on the left, recently deprived of the comforts of Jon Stewart, have worked themselves into a frenzy over “fake news” and general conspiracy-mongering such as the barking-mad legend that Mrs. Clinton is abusing children in a network of tunnels beneath a suburban pizza joint — like she’d undertake malevolence in some schmutzy pizza joint instead of a suite at the Ritz-Carlton or Oscar de la Renta’s seaside estate — and have settled on this (along with the usual “Racism!”) as their self-gratifying explanation of why Mrs. Clinton lost the presidential election to a ridiculous game-show host. This has been intensified by the fact that yesterday a lunatic walked into the pizza place with a rifle — an AR-15 according to the news, but then everything is an AR-15 in the news, unless it’s an AK-47. (Whatever happened to Uzis? Fashions change.) He said he was conducting a freelance investigation.

This is all bonkers, of course, but this is America, which is full of Americans, who are bonkers and always have been.

But spare me the nonsense about how this conspiracy-mongering is something particular to the Right, the product of a certain cast of mind cultivated by Fox News and talk radio. The Left loves a good conspiracy theory and a good fake fact: You all know that dirty hippie who won’t shut up about how vaccines cause autism, who can’t define the word “macrobiotic” but is sure that you have to eat that way in order to avoid having eleven pounds of undigested hamburger in your intestines, that a secret cabal of bankers has rigged the economy, etc.

But it gets worse than that — a lot worse. For some years, I have been covering allegations that Chevron poisoned a great number of indigenous people in the Ecuadorian rain forest through sloppy drilling technique and inadequate environmental remediation after the fact. It did not happen. Chevron has never even drilled in Ecuador. Some years ago, the company acquired Texaco, which had drilled in Ecuador, and whose work had been inspected, audited, and signed off on as clean by the Ecuadorian government many years ago. There was pollution, almost certainly caused by the Ecuadorian state oil company, and had nothing to do with Chevron.

You could not get news any faker than what Chevron was presented with. There was so much fraud, witness tampering, evidence tampering, and other shenanigans in the case — an “independent study” written in English by an independent expert who did not speak English turned out to have been ghostwritten by the plaintiffs’ lawyers — that the case was thrown out under a racketeering statute. It was a pure shakedown involving many prominent New York Democrats and progressives with ties to the Obama administration. Some of them may yet end up in jail or disbarred.

The whole story was bull, but people still talk about Chevron’s malfeasance in Ecuador like it was a thing that happened. Outlets such as the Huffington Post and Politico have published pieces by activists with an enormous financial stake in the multi-billion-dollar case without acknowledging that conflict, and few if any of them subsequently have acknowledged how much fakery there was in the Chevron-Ecuador story, or their own role in furthering that fakery.

Give people the evidence — the fake evidence, the RICO case — and they’ll accept that this shows corruption and dishonesty, but they’re still sure that Chevron is somehow to blame. Likewise, the prosecutors in the Little Rascals case probably didn’t really believe that children had been flushed down toilets like guppies, but they were convinced that something had happened. People may not believe that the evidence supports conjecture that vaccines cause autism, but they are sure that pharmaceutical companies are run by evil men from second-rate Hollywood features, and that something must be happening.

#related#The economic evidence shows that NAFTA has been good for American manufacturing, but don’t tell that to Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Tax cuts don’t actually pay for themselves, but don’t tell Rush Limbaugh. There’s no secret alien mortuary at Roswell. Horoscopes aren’t based on anything. A lot of stuff covered by Obamacare is new-age quackery with no scientific basis. The average income of super-wealthy households actually went down in recent years, not up. Donald Trump did not steal the election, and neither did George W. Bush. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Michael Brown was a criminal who got himself killed through sheer stupidity. Those pre-Roe coat-hanger abortions you hear about didn’t actually happen.

Getting acquainted with reality is one of the duties of citizenship. Otherwise, you are only the delusional children in democracy’s day care.

– Kevin D. Williamson is National Review’s roving correspondent.

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