Other’s opinion: Beware of liars’ playbook

Published 5:28 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Free Press, Mankato

A lie is dangerous when it becomes believed as truth by the masses.

America is currently dealing with two such dangerous lies; the lie that ex-President Donald Trump won the election, and the lie that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was anything but an attack.

That is why the fact-checking organization PolitiFact has rated false reports and right wing media coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol as the biggest lie of the year.

But Jan. 6 wouldn’t have happened had the lie of the Trump election not gained so much ground. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll in August still showed some 29 percent of all people believed the election was stolen from Trump, and a full 66 percent of Republicans believe it was so.

Polls throughout the year showed 27% to 29% of people believed the election was stolen despite a preponderance of evidence, court cases, and statements from Trump’s own cabinet certifying the narrative was false.

PolitiFact’s journalists voted that the narrative around the attack on the Capitol was a bigger lie than the election, although the two are closely connected. The nonprofit fact checking and journalism training organization, backed by the Poynter Institute, points to Fox News, other conservative media and some members of the Republican Party for proffering the lie of the Capitol attack.

The silence of other members of the Republican Party, with the notable exceptions of Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, allowed the lies to fill the airspace, according to PolitiFact Editor Angie Holan.

Holan explained why the lies surrounding Jan. 6 were even more important than the lie of stolen election.

“From the people who minimized Jan. 6, it really was a case of “don’t believe your lying eyes,” Holan said in a transcript of an interview. “We know what happened that day, but the denial is trying to deflect attention from getting to the bottom of the causes and conditions that set up Jan. 6. The public still needs to know that, so it can continue the peaceful transfer of power that’s been the hallmark of American democracy.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was among the worst liars, getting the “pants on fire” rating from PolitiFact, for his “Patriot Purge” series on Fox Nation, which PolitiFact noted was full of disinformation. The three-day series spouted speculation that antifa and the FBI were behind the attack, and those who were being prosecuted were somehow political prisoners.

House Republicans including Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, said some “truly ridiculous things” to support the lie, according to Holan.

And now the playbook has been formed, according to Holan. Carlson’s lies about antifa and the FBI being behind the attack were repeated over and over again on right wing media, right wing social media, and right wing radio in a way that spread it like wildfire to the “wanna” believers.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell initially condemned Trump for Jan. 6. His subsequent silence helped create the environment to get people to doubt what they saw with their own eyes.

A detailed analysis citing public documents, proven statements and video footage debunks and exposes lies of Carlson and others. Had the mob breached the Capitol to destroy the state certifications of the election, American democracy would have been halted. There would have been delays and time for others to join the effort when they saw how they could put Trump back in office.

American democracy was nearly toppled. It remains vulnerable.

The only defense for citizens interested in maintaining the democracy we have comes with calling out lies, telling your neighbor when they’re repeating lies, and other mass communication strategies that can act as anti-missile weapons in this war on the truth.