Reporter Ashley Parker, in an article published in the Washington Post over Labor Day Weekend, discusses some of the ways in which President Donald Trump's campaign and its allies have been aggressively promoting disinformation — from "doctored and misleading videos" to bogus conspiracy theories.
For example, Parker notes, Trump recently "retweeted footage of a black man violently pushing a white woman on a subway platform under the caption, 'Black Lives Matter/Antifa' — but the man was not affiliated with either group, and the video was shot in October (2019)." And according to Parker, "White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino shared a manipulated video that falsely showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seeming to fall asleep during a television interview, complete with a fake TV headline."
In addition to those things, Parker notes that House Minority Whip Steve Scalise — a Louisiana Republican and Trump ally — "released a video splicing together quotes from activist Ady Barkan — who has Lou Gehrig's disease and uses computer voice assistance — to falsely make it sound as if he had persuaded Biden to defund police departments."
Whitney Phillips, a communications professor at Syracuse University, told the Post, "When you have this disinformation and it's introduced to one side of the forest, for example, it can travel so quickly through so many different communities and does so many unintentional things before you can even do a fact-check. He's able to muddy the waters so thoroughly that democracy wilts on the vine."
Trump, Parker points out, has "repeated a false claim that just 6% of the nation's death toll" in the coronavirus pandemic "was actually caused by the novel coronavirus itself — part of his ongoing effort to portray the virus as less deadly or pervasive than it actually is." That conspiracy theory has been promoted by QAnon and has no basis in reality, but that hasn't prevented Trump and other Republicans from promoting it.
Trump is hardly the first candidate to play hardball during a presidential race. From President Lyndon B. Johnson's infamous "daisy ad" of 1964 to President George H.W. Bush's racist Willie Horton ad of 1988 to the Swift Boat Veterans ads that helped President George W. Bush defeat Democrat John Kerry in 2004, presidential candidates — both Democrats and Republicans — have dealt some harsh blows to their rivals over the years. But Lily Adams, a Democratic National Committee senior adviser, argues that Trump's campaign is taking disinformation to another level.
Adams told the Post, "Spin has been something that folks in politics have come to expect, but this is the invention of a totally new reality. Because they can't run on the reality that every American is seeing, they're inventing a new one."