Opinion | Alex Jones and the Lie Economy

“These damages and those likely in other cases look like backbreakers for Jones. But no, not any more than his banishment from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Apple’s App Store. His business empire, far from scuttled, has an estimated value of between $135 million and $270 million. Jones has profited and is likely to continue to profit from his labors in the Lie Economy, the marketplace where gullible viewers are sorted from the skeptical and delivered to advertisers who make the most of their naïveté. The $49.3 million damages awarded are an eyeful, but no sharp legal knife thinks Jones risks paying much more than a fraction of that in this case and others. Despite the awful headlines the case sent up, Jones’ audience seems steadfast. Jones may have lost here, but he’ll continue to win.
To describe Jones as a Lie Economy worker is not to declare false everything he says and broadcasts. Not even his imagination veers to that polar extreme. But a review of his greatest hits attest to the low truth-value of many of his comments.”

“Jones isn’t the only entrepreneur working the Lie Economy angle. Fox News Channel and its bastard offspring Newsmax and OAN excel at pushing half-truths that stimulate viewer appetite for more outlandish morsels. Tucker Carlson would have you believe that Jan. 6 was a false flag operation. Sean Hannity pushed a baseless conspiracy theory about the murder of Seth Rich. The channel hyped ivermectin as a Covid treatment and drenched its audience in bogus coverage about the “stolen election.” Again, not everything aired on these channels can be dismissed as lies any more than the notion that Jones broadcasts lies only. But the steady stream of spurious segments they do air seems designed to hook accepting viewers whose attention can then be sold to advertisers. Unlike Jones, Fox News commands a more varied advertiser base, including blue-chip companies. But health supplements and pain relief products appear in a recent ranking of its top 10 biggest advertisers. The frequency of ads for gold, testosterone, reverse mortgages and a home-title lock product (pitched by Rudy Giuliani!) on Fox and its neighboring channels remind one that shrewd audiences aren’t the primary target.”

At Least 120 Republican Nominees Deny The Results Of The 2020 Election

“Since the 2020 election, millions of Republican voters have accepted former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the presidential election was stolen from him. And now, here in 2022, many Republican politicians have capitalized on this lie and have won elections of their own.

This election cycle, FiveThirtyEight is tracking the views of every Republican candidate for Senate, House, governor, attorney general and secretary of state on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. And now that we’re halfway through the primary season, we can say definitively that at least 120 election deniers have won their party’s nomination and will be on the ballot in the fall.”

4 things we learned from Monday’s January 6 hearing

“Barr, along with other administration officials, described playing “whack-a-mole” with Trump’s false claims of fraud.

Every time one false claim was dispelled, they said, the former president would bring up another. Aides repeatedly intervened to tell Trump that he had lost the election, and described taking each claim seriously, investigating it until they had the facts and reporting back to Trump. Former acting Attorney General Richard Donoghue described one meeting during which Trump seemed to accept the gathered evidence, but for each conspiracy theory aides were able to explain away, he had another he’d latch onto.

Barr described one popular conspiracy theory around the 2020 election, that it had been rigged by voting machine malfeasance, as “idiotic.” Other Justice Department officials testified that they repeatedly insisted to Trump that other conspiracy theories around the election were simply “not true,” including viral claims of ballot box stuffing in Georgia promoted by Giuliani or Trump’s false claims of “big massive dumps” of illegal votes.

Essentially, the committee suggested, Trump knew or should have known that his lies about the election were, as Barr put it, “bullshit.” But he repeated them anyway, which helped lead to the violence on January 6.”

The January 6 committee calls Trump out for his scams

“In the second January 6 hearing, House lawmakers argued Monday that former President Donald Trump not only engaged in the “big lie” — promoting the false narrative that the election was stolen from him — but also what they dubbed the “big ripoff.” Effectively, they said, Trump conned his supporters into giving him $250 million to contest the election results, while actually funneling many of those funds elsewhere, including to a nonprofit led by former chief of staff Mark Meadows and to Trump’s own hotels.

“We found evidence that the Trump campaign and its surrogates misled donors as to where their funds would go and what they would be used for,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said in a closing statement for the hearing. “So not only was there the big lie, there was the big ripoff.”

As video testimony from former Trump campaign officials revealed, small-dollar donors were bombarded with emails to donate to an official “Election Defense Fund” in the wake of the 2020 election. Those donors were told that fund was aimed at combating (nonexistent) election fraud. In reality, however, no such fund existed, according to the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

“I don’t believe there was actually a fund called the Election Defense Fund,” Hanna Allred, a former Trump campaign staffer, testified to the committee. Ultimately, the fund was what another staffer categorized as a “marketing tactic” to bring in more money, most of which did not go to election-related litigation.

Instead, many of the funds were directed to a newly created Save America PAC, which has contributed millions to other pro-Trump groups. That includes $1 million to the Conservative Partnership Institute, a charity foundation helmed by Meadows, $5 million to Event Strategies Inc., the vendor that put on Trump’s January 6 rally, and $204,857 to the Trump Hotel Collection.”

How Worrying Are Pro-Trump Gubernatorial Candidates Running on Rigged Election Claims?

“David Perdue cut straight to the chase.

“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said at the beginning of his opening statement during a Republican gubernatorial debate on Sunday night.

It wasn’t just a cheap applause line for the MAGA crowd. It was something more like a thesis statement for Perdue’s campaign. Perdue, a former Republican senator who lost his bid for reelection in 2020, is now running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia. And in Perdue’s telling, everything from rising gas prices to illegal immigration and even the U.S. coming “to the brink of war” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were the result of Kemp allowing “radical Democrats to steal our election.” Something that he says Kemp was responsible for aiding and abetting.

Kemp, of course, was one of the Republican officials who blocked then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to get state legislatures and governors to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two weeks after the election, as state officials finalized the results showing that Joe Biden won by about 12,000 votes, Kemp called for tightening voter ID laws in Georgia and making other technical changes in how the state conducts future elections. But he also certified the result of the 2020 election, against Trump’s wishes.

Since then, he’s been a target for Trump, who vowed not long after the 2020 election to boot Kemp from office. Trump has helped Perdue fundraise and has even chipped in $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Perdue’s campaign.”

“Perdue is staking his claim to the governorship on the hope that Republican voters are motivated primarily by the former president’s delusions and rage.

But Georgia is hardly the only swing state where this year’s Republican gubernatorial elections are focused on Trump. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, too, Trump-backed candidates who say they believe the 2020 election was stolen are running at or near the top of the polls. If they’re successful, those governors might create major complications for the next presidential election—as they would be in a position to do some of what Kemp, and others, refused to do in 2020: decertify results that go against the Republican nominee.”

“Is this really how Republican voters want to define their party going forward: as little more than a tool for for Trump’s self-serving lies about the 2020 election? These three races will provide an answer—and it might not be one Trump likes, as his preferred candidates are facing difficult paths to winning in November. Perhaps it’s too simple of an explanation, but the average Republican voter is likely not as motivated by Trump’s grievances as Trump himself.”

“it remains unnerving that so many high-profile Republicans—in Perdue’s case, even a former U.S. senator—have decided that the path to political success on the political right requires rallying around a blatant falsehood constructed to serve the political ambitions of a single man.”

“it is a falsehood. Audits and recounts in swing state after swing state failed to turn up evidence of a stolen election—one much-ballyhooed audit conducted by Arizona Republicans actually found that Biden won by a slightly larger margin than originally thought. Dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign or its supporters alleging voter fraud and anti-Trump conspiracies collapsed in court. The myth of the stolen election lives on as a way to raise money and as a way to snare the endorsement of the most popular man in conservative politics.”

“In a nutshell, this is the worry of liberals, anti-Trump conservatives, and anyone else harboring concerns about rising authoritarianism on the political right: What if this campaign rhetoric translates into official behavior. What happens if elected Republicans begin ignoring their oaths of office and the rule of law to declare illegitimate any election the GOP loses?”

“Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial races are rated as “toss-ups” right now. That means characters like Lake, Perdue, and Mastriano will have a decent shot at being elected in the fall (and helped by a political environment that’s shaping up to be favorable to Republicans across the board) if they can win their respective GOP primaries during the spring and summer. And this trend goes beyond those three. In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Kleefisch said this week that she believes the 2020 election was “rigged.” According to Politico, some 57 participants in the January 6 protest are running for office this year—though mostly for lower-level posts.”

“polls say the majority of Republican voters believe, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, that Biden’s victory was not legitimate.”

Town Official Lies, Files Lawsuit When Someone Calls Him a Liar

“The village of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, is still dealing with the fallout of the infamous Foxconn deal the state struck in 2017. Former Governor Scott Walker promised the Taiwan-based tech giant $3 billion in state subsidies in exchange for a state-of-the-art factory to be built in Mount Pleasant, and said that the deal would generate 13,000 high-paying jobs.
Four years later, the factory was nowhere near completion, and the company had created merely 1,400 jobs. The state rescinded most of the subsidies, but the Mount Pleasant Village Board, the local governing body, had already authorized bulldozing dozens of homes, including via eminent domain, designating more than four square miles “blighted” to make the land even easier to seize from private owners. It also took on hundreds of millions in debt, leading to the town’s credit rating being downgraded.”

How Putin became the victim of his own lies

“dictators are often victims of the information bubbles they create around themselves. The sorts of errors that are easily avoidable in democratic systems (thanks to various checks) become commonplace in autocracies, and that leads to profound missteps by leaders.”

“It’s a mistake that dictators make where they become the victim of their own lies. To be more specific, it’s what happens when authoritarian leaders make catastrophic short-term errors because they start to believe in the fake realities they’ve constructed around themselves.”

“it’s the story of 22 years of consolidating authority in a place where crossing the dictator is potentially a death sentence. Putin has been in charge for a very long time, and he’s grown increasingly impatient with people who cross him. The effect of getting increasingly isolated and increasingly repressive is that you get increasingly bad information. If independent media is shut down and you can’t freely discuss things, if people are afraid of telling pollsters what they actually think, if propaganda is so rooted in the regime’s survival that it becomes really what you believe to be true, you’re going to make massive mistakes.
I think what happened with Putin is basically the combination of being surrounded by yes-men and being surrounded by propaganda. When you have both of those things, and you’re trying to invade a country that people around you probably think will go badly but they’re afraid to say so, it’s understandable that eventually you start to think, “Maybe it’ll go really well,” because that’s all you’re hearing.”

There Is More Than One Big Lie

“There’s a mountain of baseless overlapping claims piled up inside the stultifying biodome of the Big Lie: voters casting multiple ballots, dead people voting, ballot-counting machines flipping votes, foreign nations hacking systems to swap totals. The Big Lie is an à la carte conspiracy theory — a bit like QAnon in that respect — where adherents pick and choose what sounds right to them and disregard what doesn’t. Each individual who believes the Big Lie has their own suspicions about what took place, a personal recipe of different conspiracies to nourish their belief that the election was illegitimate. In right-wing chat groups on the messaging app Telegram, these theories are traded as casually as chats about the weather.”

“Every iteration of the Big Lie, though, is wrong. The ones in the darkest corner of the Internet? Wrong. The ones brought forward in lawsuits by the Trump campaign? Wrong. The ones already debunked by news sources? Still wrong. There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.
Still, polling gives us a glimpse of the most popular theories on the Big Lie menu. Last summer, a YouGov/CBS News poll asked voters who thought there had been widespread voter fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exactly what they thought had happened. They were asked about various sources of voting and how much of the voter fraud came from those sources, either “a lot of it,” “some of it” or “hardly any or none.”

Seventy-seven percent said “a lot” of voter fraud and irregularities had come from ballots cast by mail, and 70 percent said a lot of it had come from voting machines or equipment that were manipulated, but just 22 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in person. Racism also appeared to inform a lot of thinking around the Big Lie: 72 percent said a lot of the fraud had come from ballots cast in major cities and urban areas, compared with 22 percent and 14 percent who said a lot of it had come from suburbs and rural areas, respectively. And 39 percent of those who believed voter fraud was widespread said “a lot” of fraud had come from ballots cast in Black communities, while 25 percent said so for white communities and 27 percent said so for voters in Hispanic communities.”

“When they asked Americans to compare hypothetical political candidates, Republican voters favored candidates who embraced the Big Lie by an average of 5.7 percentage points to candidates who accurately said Trump lost the election. This suggests that the Big Lie is not going anywhere soon and that it will have a meaningful sway on elections. Already we’ve witnessed the Big Lie being wielded as a campaign tool by Republican candidates across the country, demonstrating the power of this belief among the party’s voters.

And as polls continue to capture the millions of Americans who endorse the Big Lie, precisely what they believe matters less than how that belief influences their actions.”

January 6 texts from Fox hosts reveal the lie at the heart of the conservative movement

“As the Capitol riot unfolded on January 6, Fox News hosts knew exactly how bad things were.

“The president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Laura Ingraham texted to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “Please, get him on TV — [the riot is] destroying everything you accomplished,” Brian Kilmeade wrote to Meadows. “Can he make a statement, ask people to leave the Capitol?” wrote Sean Hannity in yet another Meadows text.

The texts, revealed during a Monday hearing of the House January 6 Commission, were at odds with the hosts’ on-air comments on the night of the attack. Ingraham suggested that “antifa supporters” may have been responsible for the violence. Kilmeade took a similar line: “I do not know Trump supporters that have ever demonstrated violence that I know of in a big situation.” Hannity, for his part, asserted that “the majority of them were peaceful.”

This is tangible proof that some of Fox’s marquee personalities knowingly lied to their audience about January. The lying began basically immediately, in the direct aftermath of a national tragedy.

This isn’t the only issue on which Fox’s dishonesty has been exposed. On one of the fundamental policy topics of the day, the pandemic, the right’s most influential news network is saying one thing to its audience and doing another in private.

Fox News’s programming on vaccines and vaccine mandates has been relentlessly hostile. Yet more than 90 percent of Fox News employees are fully vaccinated, and the company has a vaccine mandate that’s actually stricter than the one President Joe Biden has proposed for large corporations. Hosts tend not to mention this on air and, on the rare occasions that they do, they mislead their audience about it.

They are lying to their audience, and anyone paying close attention can see it.

These incidents speak to a deep pattern in modern conservatism, a parasitic relationship in which a super-wealthy elite preys on the fears of the conservative base for profit.”