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Our Disinformation and Defamation Epidemic

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Salon’s piece begins: “How did Alex Jones become possible? Because we tolerated “lesser” lies for too long”. While it is undoubtedly the case that the right has been peddling disinformation for many years, I’d say that the left has some skin in the game as well. For far too long we’ve tolerated lies of all shapes, sizes and colors from politicians, leaders and corporations of all persuasions. It’s just another form of marketing, right? Well, no, not quite. When the lies become slanderous and defamatory; when the disinformation becomes a monstrous conspiracy theory; when the once puerile deceit ruins people’s lives (e.g., Alex Jones’ infamous claim about the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre), that’s when the line is crossed into territory that must be questioned.

An excerpt from the Salon article, which you can read in it’s entirety here.

This week, in a sudden bout of atypical decency and common sense, a cavalcade of social media companies and content platforms — including YouTube, Spotify, Apple and Facebook — finally banned Alex Jones and his media empire Infowars.

The move was long overdue, as Jones has spent his whole career peddling not just right-wing disinformation, but the worst kinds of conspiracy theories, demonizing innocent people and running cover for legitimate villains. Jones has used his platform to terrorize the families of shooting victims, even parents of the Sandy Hook children, by suggesting they are “crisis actors” participating in a massive hoax. On the flipside, he’s denied violence committed by actual murderers, claiming that Timothy McVeigh was a “patsy” and that arguing that David Koresh, who impregnated 12-and-13-year-olds and almost certainly ordered a mass suicide that killed multiple children, was an innocent victim.

It’s a sign of how trollish and amoral conservatives have become that their instinct was to rush forward and claim that it was an assault on free speech for online platforms to refuse to distribute the steady stream of lies and defamation that pours out of Infowars. Most of these folks didn’t even pause for breath between trying to get writer Sarah Jeong fired from the New York Times for jokes mocking racists to declaring that “free speech” requires private companies to signal-boost an amoral monster like Jones. Such bad faith isn’t merely a tool of the right. It’s the central organizing feature of the troll lifestyle that they’ve created for themselves.

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