I've made so many new friends lately on Twitter. Most of them are showing a little (or a lot) of cleavage in their pictures and have names like "William8093107" or "James91270599." It seems a little weird that so many cute-looking girls have boys' names and long numbers attached to their Twitter accounts. It's almost like they're fake or something.
And, of course, they are fake. There are millions of bogus Twitter accounts. They appear faster than they can be eliminated. They are part of various cyber armies being created to originate or amplify messages and to monitor people's tweets and retweets. They're being used to sell products and push ideologies and spread disinformation. They are being mobilized for the next election cycle.
We now live in a world where everyone gets to choose their "news" sources and where so little of our information is vetted or fact-checked. Millions of people are being fed horse puckey created to satisfy their confirmation biases — and eating it up and passing it along.
As an example, consider a meme that was widely circulated on Facebook among GOP/Trump circles this week. It began, "For all the people who fell asleep in civics class ... " The post then went on to claim that Hillary Clinton won only 57 counties nationwide in 2016 and won the popular vote by only 1.5 million votes, and then went into a riff about the vast number of acres that Trump won. It ended with, "And this, children, is why you have an Electoral College."
The post crammed more misinformation and lies into 300 words than I would have believed was possible, but the comments were all supportive and the meme was being shared by hundreds of people as gospel. Welcome to tribal America.
Facebook recently unveiled its "Today in Memphis" local news feature. On Tuesday, Facebook's version of Memphis news featured stories about the death of "Internet cat sensation Lil Bub," a Fox 13 story about a molester in a Walmart bathroom in Washington state, a Channel 3 story about rapper Casino Jizzle being shot in a Cordova Chuck E. Cheese, and two other crime stories. The New York Times, this is not. Facebook is feeding us tabloid garbage masquerading as legitimate news. Surprise.
We used to have an understanding about what was real and what was fake, what was legitimate news and what was sensationalistic crap. We once shared basic values and concepts of truth. We read and viewed the same news sources, agreed on what was fact and what was propaganda. Now we are bobbing like corks in uncharted and turbulent seas of disinformation, unable to connect with each other, no land in sight.
A survey last week revealed that 53 percent of Republicans thought Trump was a greater president than Abraham Lincoln, which means the "party of Lincoln" is now officially the "party of Trump." Which is terrifying.
Thankfully, a savior has arrived, someone who will take us back to the glory years of truth, justice, and the American way. Yes, it's Joe Biden, and he is riding around Iowa on a bus — the "No More Malarkey" tour — bringing hope to the country by reviving the hep slang of the 1940s. They apparently came up with that slogan after rejecting as too edgy, "No More Hooey," "No More Bunk," and "No More Applesauce." Lord help us.
The system is broken, beginning with an absurd nomination process that has candidates for the highest office in the land spending weeks in one of the least-diverse states in America, driving through cornfields, pressing the flesh in high school gymnasiums, trying to woo rural Iowans to come to "caucuses" and vote for them, so they can get "momentum" to go to New Hampshire — another lily-white state — and do it all over again. This is no way to select a nominee.
Sure, I joke about Joe Biden, but I will no doubt vote for his ancient posterior if he gets the nomination. I just hope the Democrats can somehow manage to come up with a candidate who doesn't talk about the dangers of marijuana as a "gateway drug" and drift off into telling high school lifeguard stories. But the truth is I'll cast my ballot for anyone who can rid the country of this Putin-linked liar-in-chief who's helped make "fake news" real and turned Russian propaganda into talking points for the GOP.
And that's no malarkey.