Berning up the Internet; Conspiracy Theories Poison the Well

What kind of absurd nonsense is being passed around on the internet by Sanders supporters these days? And why does it matter? Maybe because it poisons the well from which we all drink, and particularly poisons the people for whom social media has become, perhaps unwisely, their primary source for news.

Perhaps you've seen conspiracy theory craziness before, on the part of so-called 9-11 "Truthers" who are convinced that the Twin Towers came down because of a conspiracy between some Muslim groups and the George W. Bush administration, the ridiculous "Birthers" who still believe Obama was born in Kenya, or the despicable asshats who consider themselves Sandy Hook "Truthers" who are totally sure the entire mass murder of children was a staged hoax. You would never pass around such crap to others on your social network, right?

I've been shocked lately to discover a person on one of my social media feeds has been re-posting this sort of stuff, and encouraging others who Feel the Bern to pass it around as well. The material below comes from one Kathryne Anne Hamilton, who has posted this to just about every Facebook page dedicated to Bernie Sanders, including various state chapters of Bernie Sanders for President pages, and the page of "Bernie Believers." She is not on my feed, but her work has been passed around to me. This is one crazed disciple's analysis of the New York primary defeat.

"The reasons for this "loss" are quite simple. In Nov and Dec last year the Dem Party database firewall went down on 3 occasions. On the last occurrence a former Clinton employee who was placed within the Sanders Campaign staff as manager of their own database within the Dem Party overall voter database, "downloaded" a portion of Clinton's voter database. This "inside job" created a false story that hid the actions of the Clinton Campaign, who in all likelihood accessed the complete Sander's voter database and used that as a basis to organize a purge of Sander's voters from Ohio, Arizona, NY (as well as more states to come and past).
Also note that tonight's poll results, just like Ohio and Arizona are being reported as static % voting for Clinton over Sanders with a 21% lead. This is an impossibility tonight just as it was in the previous two "odd" elections where exit polling (usually highly accurate) shows a small vote differential or 3-6%. In truth the states different regions and precincts votes in very different patterns than the static 21% being shown. In some Clinton win by 60-40, in others Bernie won 60-40...and larger variable % differences have already been individually reported. If those were being accurately reported in the major media counts, the % difference between the candidates would be jumping around dramatically. The very static nature of the % the media is reporting is a definitive sign of collusion between the DNC/Clinton camps and those major media news outlets. Please Share and repost."

This is unedited. You can go and check this out yourself on her Facebook page, or on the page for Bernie Sanders for President 2016 Pennsylvania, which is where I tracked it down.

Of course, one of the biggest hazards of social media is repeating "information" from sources that may have zero credibility. Say what you will about the Mainstream Media, an editor will ask a journalist "what is the source of this information" in terms of news, and in terms of opinion, "in what way do any of your assertions here resemble anything close to verifiable data"?

Notice the classic hallmarks of paranoid fantasy without evidence: that the downloading of data from the Clinton campaign by a Sanders researcher was an "inside job" done by a closet Clinton operative, for what reason exactly? Oh, to create a "false story" that the Sanders campaign downloaded this stuff, so that the Clinton campaign could then "in all likelihood" download all of the Sanders' voters database, which then would allow the Clinton campaign to work with the DNC to somehow "purge" only the Sanders voters from voters rolls in states like New York.

Debunking this stuff is like shooting fish in a barrel, so almost nobody in the Mainstream Media bothers to do it. For one thing, there's so much of this crap floating around on social media that it could quickly become a full time job. And who wants to spend all their time doing the sewage work of patrolling social media? Nobody.

Who would believe this stuff? Sadly, some people I actually had a distant relationship with, who friended me on Facebook a while back. People who seemed reasonable and interesting and fun when I accepted them into my social media network. But the end of the Sanders campaign has made them, well, crazed. These are plots worthy of "House of Cards." And if you are inclined to believe that there are secret cabals of DNC officials and Board of Elections people all over the country, well, stuff this crazy can't actually be disproved just by showing the extreme unlikelihood of all of that happening with nobody ever getting called out by journalists hungry for any crumb of a campaign scandal. Because, conveniently, the media are all involved, too.

A few weeks ago I wrote a Huff Post Politics essay on Campaign Psychosis, a condition in which a losing campaign grabs onto tiny pieces of wishful thinking and blows them up into supposed life rafts. At the time, I was writing about the Sanders campaign's ludicrous and hypocritical "we'll win with Super delegates" strategy. Sadly, this is still the strategy the Sanders campaign is using to continue to ask for money from their supporters. At the time I wrote the Campaign Psychosis piece, many Sandernistas filled my comment section with blistering screeds; how dare I call them "psycho" (I did nothing of the kind, just described a common condition that happens in all losing campaigns). But now, after Sanders' massive defeat in the New York Primary, there is even more proof of my original diagnosis.

Unfortunately, this stuff is not harmless. It multiplies on social media and is shared by people who are angry and frustrated enough to believe anything that offers them a way to continue hating the other side. If these angry folks were a tad more rational right now, they might check out other posts by the same person, and realize this person is just as obsessed and over the top as any Trump supporter who still thinks Obama wasn't really elected President. For example, this gem by the same Kathryne Anne Hamilton was posted to "Bernie Believers" on Facebook, March 26th at 9:29. Again, I present it unedited, caps and errors and all; you can go to Facebook and find it yourself.

"SORRY ABOUT THE CAPS BUT I WANT THIS TO BE SEEN. WE HAVE A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY IN COMING RACES WITH SENIORS. THEY KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT BERNIE BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA BLACKOUT, BUT THEY DO KNOW her, SO THAT IS LIKELY WHOM THEY WILL VOTE FOR. . WE COULD FLOCK TO SENIOR LIVING CENTERS WITH ABSENTEE BALLOTS. TELL THEM ABOUT BERNIE, SHOW THEM SOME OF HIS SPEECHES AND THEY WOULD RECALL FDR AND ROOSEVELT AND CHANGE THEIR MINDS. I'VE READ SO MANY CASES OF IT HAPPENING! IF YOU'RE WORKING FOR THE CAMPAIGN PLEASE TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THIS; MAKE THE SUGGESTION! IT IS A WEALTH OF VOTES ALL IN ONE PLACE!!!! A WEALTH OF VOTES!!!!"

I tried the Google, and found only a couple of references to a page for Kathryne Anne Hamilton that had been on the website for the Tennessee Democratic Party, but when I followed the links I got the dreaded 404 error code. Perhaps she was, at one time, part of the state party in Tennessee, and then...well, I won't speculate. But she's not there now. In an earlier era, she'd be confined to sending Letters to the Editor that would likely never get printed. But now, thanks to social media, she can be a source of "information" for Sanders supporters everywhere.

Campaign Psychosis is a real thing. And only Bernie Sanders can cure it, by being the responsible adult in the room, and ending his campaign with grace and dignity. Until then, he and Tad Devine and Jeff Weaver have to be reminded that this is the anger they are churning up, and is this really why they got into politics, to do this?