Fantasy v. Reality

Published: March 15, 2021

By Jim Lichtman
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“Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more.” – Clarence Darrow

From NASA: Apollo 12 commander Charles “Pete” Conrad unfurls the United States flag on the lunar surface during the first extravehicular activity on Nov. 19, 1969. — NASA

The moon landing was faked.

The Holocaust never happened.

Mass shootings were staged by the government.

All have been disproved, but despite the evidence, too many see it all as “fake” news.

While Donald Trump has been the grand purveyor of disinformation and lies, conspiracy theories have been around for hundreds of years. As president, Trump provided the oxygen to supporters grasping for validation. One of the most heinous theories is QAnon, the far beyond right wing group that falsely claims that Trump was secretly fighting a “deep state” faction of satanic pedophiles and cannibals while in office. The frightening part to all this fantasy and fanaticism is that it has not only divided a nation but families.

Celina Knippling became deeply concerned when her mother, Claire, became a staunch believer that the presidential election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, a theory Trump himself propagated in speeches and online tweets.

Nonetheless, Celina sat down, The Washington Post reports (Mar. 12), “and meticulously assembled a spreadsheet of every court case filed by former president Trump and his allies to contest the 2020 election. … She analyzed how many lawsuits had been won, lost or dismissed and on what grounds. She broke down whether the presiding judges had been appointed by Democrats or Republicans.” She then sent the information to her mother.

Claire’s reaction was “that Celina watch a video called ‘Absolute Proof’ being promoted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most visible proponents of the false narrative that the election had featured widespread voter fraud.”

“Celina lost her temper. It was bulls—, she said. “ ‘Your response was to find some idiot’s video,” she told her mother, “and think that somehow that proves your point, … You used to be smarter than this.’ ”

Nonetheless, Claire posted outlandish claims on Facebook. Among them:  “…comments …about child trafficking and sacrifice, a key theme of the extremist QAnon ideology…”

After Election Day, [Celina and her siblings] took turns pushing back on a stream of disinformation Claire posted online, including the unfounded claim that the CIA murdered U.S. soldiers abroad to help cover up voter fraud….

“the siblings’ fact-checked and fact-checked and fact-checked, to no avail.”

Celina’s sister, Laurie, a pathologist, “speculated that right-wing Internet communities and websites had given Claire a sense of belonging, somewhere she could turn to feel like she was a part of something. And the social isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Laurie said, had further sealed Claire and her husband in something of a political echo chamber…”

Laurie tried to reason with her mom through a series of text messages. It didn’t work.

“ ‘Do you think you have the right to control my vote,’ Claire texted her daughter, ‘and to completely lambast me over it…. If you want to be an MSM [mainstream media] cheerleader not knowing or caring how much they have been [bought] then you go ahead,’ ”

“ ‘I don’t care that you voted trump,” Laurie pleaded, “ ‘I think it’s sad that you can’t accept he lost. … I can’t say no fraud at all took place, but nowhere near on the scale of hundreds of thousands of votes it would take to overturn it.’ ”

“ ‘Millions, not thousands,’ Claire responded.

“ ‘Why is this important enough to compromise your relationships with your kids? Why does he mean more to you than us?’ Laurie asked.

“[Laurie] was distraught when Claire told her that she would not get inoculated against the virus because she heard ‘abortion cells’ from hundreds of terminated pregnancies were used in the vaccines, which Laurie refuted.”

Sadly, this scenario and millions more variations continue to play out between family members. Everyone with a voice on social media spreads the virus of disinformation to others who in turn, multiply the message to thousands more each concluding, how can I be wrong when so many others believe?

Through his conspiracy theories and lies, Donald Trump has succeeded in creating a cult of ignorance and fanaticism unlike anything seen perhaps since a communist fear-mongering Joseph McCarthy. While Americans ultimately came to their senses, what will it take for them to come to their senses, now?

When will Americans accept truth over ignorance and harmony over fanaticism?


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