Juan Williams: Trump’s witches’ brew has made America sick

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Here are some outrageous lies that only 15 percent of you have to believe to keep the nation spiraling downward into a pit of confusion and tribal political hatred:

— Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is dead.

— Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-Calif.) time as a child in Canada makes her ineligible to be president.

— Special Counsel Robert Mueller engaged in sexual misconduct.

All three lies come from Jacob Wohl, a 21-year-old who had 186,000 Twitter followers until the social media platform banned him. He told USA Today last week that telling people the truth is “not the important part” of the messages he sends out to President Trump’s base.

{mosads}Focusing on the accuracy of news is outdated, he told reporter Gus Garcia-Roberts.

What’s important to Wohl, a Trump backer, is that the smear against Harris, for example, got into national political conversation. Some mainstream newspapers had to report it was false because, Wohl said, “the believability stuck at about 15 to 18 percent by my measurement…not a bad campaign.”

Wohl’s abuse of social media is in line with Trump’s use of a witches’ brew of outright lies and distortion to hold the support of at least one-third of Americans.

Do you recall that the nation was facing an invasion on the southern border, for example?

Don’t forget another element needed for a good brew of disinformation — several spoonfuls of attacks on journalists, such as the president’s recent tweet that the New York Times is a “true enemy of the people!”

Then throw in regular doses of resentment against elites in colleges and Hollywood. Don’t forget to include some racially-charged lies. In one recent Trump tweet, he made himself and his base victims of a black movie director: Spike Lee did a “racist hit on your president,” he insisted.

“My use of social media is not Presidential,” Trump once tweeted. “It’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”

For once, he was telling the truth. And that truth spells real trouble for the modern presidency and modern presidential elections. 

“Trump unleashing digital juggernaut ahead of 2020,” The Hill reported last week. 

The Trump 2020 reelection campaign has already spent more than $3.5 million on Facebook ads with more than 600 days to go before the election. 

“Trump’s digital operation in 2016 was so successful he appointed the man widely credited with steering it, Brad Parscale, as his campaign manager for 2020,” according to The Hill.

And it is not just Trump and his campaign who are busy distorting reality on social media to distract and confuse voters.

Trump is getting a major assist from alt-right social media activists. Wohl, however, hit a roadblock after the USA Today story.

“Twitter has permanently suspended Jacob Wohl, a far-right activist who previously tried to fabricate evidence about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, for creating fake accounts in an alleged attempt to manipulate the 2020 presidential election,” The Washington Post reported last week. 

Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are slowly putting these policies in place, the Post said, to “prohibit users from creating misleading accounts to influence conversations… [and] destabilize U.S. politics on social media during the presidential election four years earlier.”

But Wohl is no outlier.

There are hundreds of alt-right social media accounts that pump inflammatory, conspiratorial nonsense into our politics on a daily basis. They are aided by trolls, bots and all manner of digital malfeasance, especially by the Russians.

Last week, it was reported that U.S. Cyber Command disrupted a big push by Russian trolls on the day of the 2018 midterm elections.

And Trump’s base eats it up.  

A Hill-HarrisX survey taken last month found that Trump still enjoys a 79 percent approval rating among the shrinking number of people who are self-described Republicans.

{mossecondads}Trump’s support among independent voters has gone down after his government shutdown and dubious claim of a national emergency. It can’t be helped by the failed summit with North Korea and damning public testimony from his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who called Trump a “racist… a conman. And he is a cheat.”  

Overall, Trump retains a 44 percent approval rating (along with 53 percent disapproval) in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, told the House Oversight Committee last week that he fears that if Trump loses the 2020 election “there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Similarly, Ted Koppel, the legendary newsman, recently wrote that if Trump is forced from office or defeated at the polls, there is no reason to think he “will become a quieter, humbler, more restrained presence on Twitter and Facebook than heretofore.”

Trump has succeeded in using social media to open a Pandora’s Box of racism, hatred, paranoia, conspiracy-mongering, and rejection of the legitimacy of major American institutions, from the courts to the CIA. 

Closing that horror show will be tough because Trump has inspired imitators like Wohl.

It is no longer outside the realm of possibility that Trump could refuse to leave if he loses the 2020 election. And if he does not accept an election defeat — a scenario he threatened in 2016 — he will have a virtual army on social media to defend him.

Where does this stop?

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags Democracy Donald Trump Polarization Robert Mueller Social media Twitter

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