Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Net Stupidity – The “What Do I Know” Edition

More than anything, Donald Trump seems to be a creature of new media. He is a reality-TV show star turned presidential candidate who engages with the public using Twitter and seems to glean his understanding of the wider world mainly from “the Internet”.

It’s the gleaning of the Internet that I find the most troubling and scary. 

A case in point involves the protester who tried to jump on the stage where Trump was speaking on Saturday, before being stopped by Secret Service agents. For the record, it was a stupid, completely unconstructive act of protest. It was a stunt that did nobody any good, certainly not anyone who hopes Trump doesn't become president.

Still, it did serve to reveal something truly bizarre, and pernicious, about Donald Trump.

Trump immediately afterward referred to the protester, Thomas Dimassimo, as probably being “an ISIS supporter”. This was apparently based on a video of Dimassimo that was crudely edited by someone to make it “look” like Daesh propaganda.

That is, if the editing had been done by Eric Cartman. 

Someone took a video of Dimassimo (who happens to be originally from Georgia, like me)  at an earlier anti-flag protest, then simply added a weird Daesh graphic at the beginning and overlaid it with authentic Daesh music.  

While people who know something about these things declared the video to be a hoax, Trump jumped on it as one more reason Americans should be scared out of their minds (and, based on the level of support for Trump, apparently they are).

Now, what scares me more is this: someone who might be soon be president promptly labels a random, though more energetic than average, protester as a jihadist terrorist, based solely on a half-assed hoax video posted on some fringe website (it might have well been this one).

That was Trump’s first instinct, to elevate a ham-fisted protest act into a terror threat. That is not a sign of a calm, measured, stable temperament, the kind of temperament you’d want in someone controlling the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Or even its postal system, for that matter.

Not only that. When confronted with the fact that the video Trump had overreacted to had been a hoax, he explained his rush to judgement this way:

“And, supposedly there was chatter about ISIS. Now, I don’t know. What do I know about it? All I know is what’s on the Internet.” (Emphasis mine.)

Yes. All he knows is what’s on the Internet. And, if it’s on the Internet, well, there must be something to it then. Right? Like the thousands of cheering Muslims he imagined seeing in New Jersey on 9/11. Or, the Birther conspiracy that President Obama was born in Kenya.

Now, maybe he’s completely cynical and doesn’t believe any of this. Maybe his actual first instinct is to know what kind of nonsense will rile up his supporters, truth be damned, and then stoke it for maximum pandering effect. Maybe there’s some comfort in that notion.

But if not, and he really is so gullible as to chase almost any scary-sounding Internet conspiracy down a rabbit hole, then heaven help us all if he does become president. 


(Photo: Niteowlneils)

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