I am so sad and broken. My own family, who I love and who I believe are good and intelligent people, have fallen for the infowars fake news. I have redirected my mom, my uncle, my sister to snopes.com and other sites, debunking the stories they posted to Facebook. But, even still, they continue to gobble up the lies. They believe that I am the one who has been fooled. Alex Jones and his nutcase followers have become mainstream. The man who claims the Sandy Hook shooting didn’t really happen (in spite of evidence, photos, and heart-breaking stories from survivors) is now dictating my family’s beliefs. How did this happen?
I remember growing up in the Assembly of God church. I remember being taught to love my neighbor. I remember all the Bible verses we memorized in Sunday School. But all that changed in my youth. The church became darker, more political. The preacher spent almost as much time in the pulpit talking about this or that politician who was “from satan” as he did talking about the Bible. I left the church after hearing the pastor say from the pulpit that the Dallas Cowboys were bound to win because Tom Landry was a Christian and God was watching over him. It seemed to me then that they served a very petty god, who would watch over a football team and let children die.
What happened to the church? It became an arm of the republican party. It started with Reagan appearing on the 700 Club and warning about armageddon being nigh. Implying that electing democrats was the same as worshipping satan. It was smooth and almost unnoticeable, I did not really put the pieces together myself until many years and much heartache later.
Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family all began to put out political, not religious programming. They started conditioning people to accept an authoritarian regime. Individuals were encouraged not to believe what they saw with their eyes or touched with their own hands, but only to believe what “God”, in the form of their religious leaders told them to. My sister used to have that saying posted in a prominent place in her house. I can’t remember the exact wording but it was something like “Don’t believe what you see with your eyes or what you hear with your ears or touch or taste, only believe what God tells you.” And how do you figure out what God is telling you? Just believe whatever you read in infowars?
1 John 4:4 says, “My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.” So, where is the discernment? Who is weighing and examining what people are telling them?
I get that it’s hard to tell sometimes in this post-fact world just who is telling the truth. The people at Fox and Infowars are constantly slamming the so-called “liberal media.” The bubbles are real. People are retreating more and more to safe spaces where other people around seem to think the same way they do.
I don’t know what the solution is. The fake news sites are entrenched and Infowars is not even the worst among them. Facebook refuses to address the issue of fake news being propagated there. Entire swathes of the country honestly believe that CNN and NYT are conspiring against them, when CNN and NYT are two of the outlets that most favored Trump and spread the most excrement about Hillary Clinton. There is no discernment, no logic to it.
Harvard did a study, counting the articles published about Trump and Clinton and came to the conclusion that the media was slanted against Clinton, using scientific method and actual numbers and content of articles. Would anyone in my family recognize the study as valid? Probably not. Who knows? I’m pretty sure most of them ignore all my posts to Facebook in favor of their more comfortable right-wing bubble.
My only consolation is that world history goes in cycles. This too shall pass. I hope it goes before I die. I don’t want to leave my daughter unprotected in the world as it is going now.