A batch of emails leaked overnight directly implicate Donald Trump in a Russian plot to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the election.
According to emails obtained by The Washington Post, Donald Trump reached out to The Kremlin in June, requesting assistance in finding damaging material to use against the Clinton campaign. WaPo notes that this was around the same time that Trump publicly called on Russian hackers to find Hillary Clinton’s missing emails.
It is believed that a high placed member of the Trump transition team leaked the emails after being replaced by Mike Pence last Friday.
The correspondence between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin could potentially see the President-elect impeached by Congress before he even sets foot in the Oval Office.
One shocking factor in this news is the fact that that this exact sequence of events was accurately predicted almost twenty years ago.
In 1998, Donald Trump sat down for an interview with People Magazine. As the discussion turned to his potential political aspirations, Trump said,
“If I was to run, I’d run my campaign through social media. The users are the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Facebook. I could post memes and they’d eat it up. I bet my shares would be terrific.”
A few weeks after the People interview was printed, the long-running cartoon series, The Simpsons, had an episode entirely dedicated to Donald Trump becoming president in 2016. The episode, titled An Inconvenient Trump, accurately predicted which states he would win, Mike Pence as his running mate, Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party candidate, Barack Obama as the incumbent POTUS, and it even had a cameo from Bernie Sanders.
Meanwhile, all across America, a huge spike was seen in transgender teens attempting suicide, with 16 deaths linked to the mere notion of a Trump presidency, evidenced by a number of chain emails.
OF COURSE, none of these statements are true. They exist for the purpose of satirising the countless false claims made after the November 8 election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. However, they highlight an important point: legitimate fact-checking has become something of a lost art over the last year.
There is no evidence of collusion between Trump and Putin. I just made it up.
People Magazine did not interview Donald Trump in any capacity in 1998. Furthermore, in 1999 Trump announced his intent to run for President as a member of the Reform Party, not the Republican Party, in the 2000 election, saying,
“The Republicans are too far right. And I don’t think anybody’s hitting the chord, not the chord that I want hear, and not the chord that other people want to hear, and I’ve seen it.”
There is no evidence that Trump ever described Republicans as the dumbest group of voters, and in 1998 Fox News did not have the reputation as a right-wing propaganda machine. In fact, Fox News (formed in 1996) really didn’t have much of a profile until after George W. Bush won the election in 2000, and didn’t secure its place in the minds of Republican voters until after the events of September 11.
The various images and screenshots from The Simpsons that have been doing the rounds have been deliberately misleading. The images of Trump were taken from a 2015 promotional short parodying Trump’s announcement of his candidacy in the 2016 election.
The electoral map comparison has some immediately obvious issues, namely that the states don’t match. The key is in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, with states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania all the wrong colour in comparison. The picture with Mr Burns and the dog comes from a 2012 clip in which Mr Burns “endorsed” then Republican candidate Mitt Romney, with Smithers pointing out all the controversies that had plagued the Romney campaign to that point.
In 28 seasons of The Simpsons, there exists only one instance of “President Trump”. In an episode that aired in 2000, Lisa Simpson mentions the debt inherited from President Trump. It’s a throwaway line, not major a plot point, and definitely not a prescient moment of foresight. As mentioned already, Donald Trump attempted to run for President in 2000 for the Reform Party. The Simpsons writers were clearly using that notion to make a small joke about the ridiculous nature of such a prospect, that a man so morally and financially bankrupt could ever occupy the highest political office would be detrimental for the country.
Now, this episode, ‘Bart to the Future’, is set at least 30 years in the future of that specific Simpsons timeline, as mentioned by the Native American casino owner, before he shows Bart what his future would look like. Given electoral cycles, this means that the episode is probably set in 2029, as it’s not long after Lisa’s inauguration, though it could just as easily be set in 2033. *If* it’s set in 2029, it could mean that Trump ran and won in 2016, securing a second term in 2020. However, the episode also has Lisa say that she’s the first straight woman to become President, an obvious joke, albeit somewhat offensive in 2016, about the rumours surrounding Hillary Clinton’s sexuality. Which means that the episode also “predicted” that Hillary Clinton would become president at some point during those 30 years. The obvious assumption would be 2008, however, with no mention of the first African American President, we must assume that in this timeline Clinton won in 2016, with Trump running again in 2020. 2020 would make more sense, as Trumponomics would have a greater impact on Lisa Simpson’s inherited debt in 2030. Either way, the timeline is wrong and the Simpsons didn’t predict anything of great significance. It’s a cartoon folks.
Regarding the suggestion that the Trump victory on election night had an immediate impact, with at least 8 trans youths attempting suicide, is not only wrong, it’s offensive. A series of tweets and Facebook posts started the rumour, which was eventually picked up and tweeted by a journalist with the Guardian. While this tweet has since been deleted, for many this was considered verification as genuine.
While there has been a reported increase in calls made to suicide and counselling hotlines, especially by minorities feeling threatened by the rhetoric that came out of the Trump campaign, there is no evidence of an overnight spike in deaths following his victory.
In this vein, there were a number of stories that gained traction on election night and were then widely circulated, with little effort made to debunk such claims.
For a start, no, Harambe the dead gorilla did not gain upwards of 15,000 votes on November 8. This was another story perpetuated by a journalist on Twitter, with many believing it to be true, despite no evidence existing beyond rumour.
Rudy Giuliani did not tweet about Blacks and Hispanics trying to steal the election from white people. This was from a parody account, of which there are quite a few. The former Mayor of New York and professional angry shouter doesn’t use Twitter. These accounts even fooled a number of journalists in mainstream media, as the tone is strikingly similar to that of Giuliani and others within the Trump campaign.
At no point has any Trump rally involved people chanting “We hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back.”
This was made up by a British fake sports news writer on election day. He managed to fool countless thousands with his tweet, and many in the media reported this as fact. The rest of his Twitter feed is full of false stories, some humorous, others offensive. Also, and this is a minor point, this is a very British chant. American crowds aren’t renowned for their creativity in their chants, which is why “U.S.A.” is so popular at their events.
Lastly, Donald Trump has no plans to reopen the 9/11 investigation. This has been gaining traction in the last few days and is based on a fake news story from over a year ago. Most people seem to be getting the story from”Your News Wire”, a clickbait site obsessed with conspiracy theories, reading the headline and assuming it to be true.
Continuing to perpetuate these debunked claims, even in the knowledge that they are falsehoods, because they “seem like they could be true” or because “the other side are spreading lies too” does more damage to an already fragile system.
We all know that the lies are out there, we’re capable of recognising the obvious falsehoods, and yet we keep sharing them without considering the consequences. By sharing stories we know to be false or claiming that it doesn’t matter, we’re ensuring that our genuine arguments can be dismissed as falsehoods.
Sure, the alt-right doesn’t care about facts, but that’s exactly why we need to. There is a way to fight opinions with facts, and repeating known lies isn’t one of them.
Facebook has come under fire this week for its role as a vehicle to drive false narratives and disseminate fake news, making it difficult to find facts in your newsfeed. There are some ways to find the truth though.
- First and foremost, stop believing memes. Adding words to a picture does not automatically make the words true.
- Secondly, don’t automatically believe a tweet just because someone took a screenshot and put it on Facebook.
- Next, don’t be afraid to call bullshit. If you know something is false, call it out. Have the argument, let people call you a buzzkill. If they want to block you out and live in their ignorant bubble, so be it, that’s on them. At least you tried.
- Also, check facts. If something seems a bit suss or just a bit too extreme, Google it. Check Snopes. Find a reputable source. Demand proof beyond “this is what’s happening”.
- While we’re at it… Hi, this is a blog. It’s not a reputable news source, it’s a blog. While this blog aims to place fact-gathering and accurate reporting at its core, it’s still a blog. Blogs gathers news from other sources, add opinion and analysis, and put their own spin on the events. Blogs can also make things up and claim absolute falsehoods as facts, as seen in the opening paragraph. Always check the sources cited on a news-based blog to see if they match the narrative, and if there are no sources, be sceptical.
- Never stop questioning what you’re told. That’s the only way to stop this march into ignorance, racism, bigotry and abuse.
- Last, go beyond the headline. How many of you clicked on this because of the headline or the lede? Who actually got to the end to read this advice? Read the whole article, don’t just skim through it.
That’s it. That’s how simple it is. The great threat is normalisation of blatant falsehoods and the promotion of lying liars who lie. Stop believing everything you see on social media, just because someone else said it.