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COLUMNISTS

OPED: Trump and his followers must be called out on lies

Rex Huppke
Tribune News Service
  • The Trump campaign has been amplifying voices from the dangerously kooky fringes of society.
  • This cannot be OK. This garbage cannot get normalized.
  • There aren't two sides to a conspiracy theory, or a lie. There's one side — the truth.
  • I want to be able to say I did all I could to stand up to the mainstreaming of dark craziness.

There is a war on facts, and we are all soldiers.

CARTOON: Trump Talking

Allow me to explain that. The morning after his father's lies and policy nonsense went unchecked on a nationally televised presidential forum, Donald Trump Jr. hopped on Twitter and shared with his 600,000-some-odd followers a story from the website Infowars.

That website is a conspiracy-laden bundle of xenophobic, borderline-racist bunk masquerading as news. It's run by Alex Jones, an unhinged ranter with zero credibility in the real world.

The Infowars link led to a "story" about a photo of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at the presidential forum. The photo, according to people with too much time on their hands, showed she was wearing an earpiece, meaning someone might have been feeding her information during the forum.

Except, of course, there was no earpiece. A slew of photos from other angles revealed nothing in her ear. That one image likely showed a reflection off her skin. This was mindless, stupid speculation meant to foment the ignorant, akin to claims of a Big Foot sighting.

What matters here is not the content of the Infowars story, but the very fact that the son of a presidential candidate is giving that site any form of credibility. (It's worth noting that candidate Trump himself has said he respects Jones, and Jones has bragged of advising the Trump campaign.)

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This cannot be OK. This garbage cannot get normalized.

In case you haven't noticed, the Trump campaign has been steadily amplifying voices from the dangerously kooky fringes of society, voices undeserving of amplification. That has caused regular people, politicians and the media to often treat lunacy like it's merely a differing opinion.

It's not. Lunacy is lunacy. That's why there's a word for it.

Factless nonsense served up to angry people hungry to hear what they want to hear is still factless nonsense, no matter the distributor.

And now, with the presidential debates coming up, people are actually quibbling over whether a moderator should hold the candidates' feet to the fire when they say something known to be false.

That's insane. And that brings us back to the war on facts.

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We need facts right now as a bulwark against the pure idiocy that is attempting to take over our politics. Without facts, what's the point?

It is fabulists like Jones and the Trumps, by their support of people like Jones, who are cementing the belief that facts don't mean a thing. This allows them to speak with impunity, weave whatever narrative they want, no matter how demonstrably false it might be.

Trump's son has the audacity to normalize someone like Alex Jones? How dare a presidential candidate's son offer that man up as anything but a wretched sham.

We know better, at least those of us who don't live in the fever swamp of conspiratorial innuendo. But we're behaving like each crazy thing that comes out of Trump's mouth or each fringe concept that he or someone from his campaign tweets demands the usual "there are two sides to every story" treatment.

There aren't two sides to a conspiracy theory. There aren't two sides to a lie. There's one side — the truth. Period.

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These insidious untruths and absurdities have to be called out. Now. Called out in debates, on television, in print, on radio. Everywhere.

I've worried in the past that I'm writing too much about Trump and his bafflingly nonsensical and rhetorically dangerous campaign. I'm done worrying about that.

Because when this is over, I want to be able to say I did everything I could to stand up to the mainstreaming of dark craziness.

I hope others will be able to say the same as well.

Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.