An armed gunman walked into a pizza joint in Washington, D.C., Monday and shot the place up. No one was injured.
For the most part, these types of incidents in the United States are so frequent they seldom make the news, particularly all the way up north to Winnipeg. Except this particular pizza joint had been the victim of a fake news report suggesting failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her top campaign aide were running a child-pornography ring on the site. The shooter apparently had come to "self-investigate" the restaurant for himself.
Welcome to the era of fake news, as media outlets and platforms such as Google, Twitter and Facebook try to figure out how to control their proliferation and what role they played in the ascension of Donald Trump’s presidency. But Canadians shouldn’t look down their noses at the gullibility of the American news consumer, given the role fake news is playing in politics in this country.
Take for example the ridiculous rumour that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the love child of Margaret Trudeau and Fidel Castro. According to Snopes.com, this little nugget came from a user on the Donald Trump subreddit /r/The_Donald. This, by the way, would be physically impossible as neither of Mr. Trudeau’s parents had visited Cuba prior to the pregnancy. Regardless, the rumour was embraced and then when discovered played off as satire. Why can’t anyone just take a joke?
Except the "satire" allowed the public to begin taking potshots at not only Mr. Trudeau’s mother and her morality but also at his political ideology and his too-close ties to communism. It’s bunk, but that didn’t stop viewers from piling on the outrage.
Fake news may be laughed off as satire, but it is also propaganda. It’s very deliberately set up to support claims climate change is fake, the media are lying to us all and feminists, Muslims and gay people are denying everyday Canadians/Americans what’s rightfully theirs.
Fake news comes from a certain ideological segment, the "alt-right." By the way, "alt-right" is just code. It’s a veiled way of talking about values that endorse racism and white supremacy, and it rose to the public’s attention, again in the context of the Trump win. Misnaming a viewpoint as "alt-right" instead of labelling it for what it is — racism, is part and parcel of this propagandist bent.
If there’s any doubt the idea of the "alt-right" with its package of fake news hasn’t hit Canada yet, the events last weekend in Edmonton serve as a chilling reminder it has. At a rally organized by Rebel Media to protest the carbon tax, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean called the imposition of the tax an "attack on our way of life." Protesters chanted: "Lock her up" in reference to Premier Rachel Notley, who has been irrationally blamed for the drop in the Alberta economy. Federal Conservative candidate Chris Alexander, also at the rally, was the impetus for that chant. Another federal Conservative hopeful, Kellie Leitch, has also been criticized for a survey that discussed preventing immigrants into the country who espouse "anti-Canadian values."
Sound familiar? In Canada, we have our very own rust-belt outrage being fuelled by propaganda from the "alt-right" including Rebel Media. It’s easy to be smug about the American election of Donald Trump, but history could be repeating itself in this country.