Forum: Before Nov. 8, hone your skills for detecting crap

Learn how to spot CRAP now, so you don’t step in it and spoil your ballot for the general election.

By Ken W. White / Herald Forum

On Nov. 8, there will be nearly 300 election deniers on ballots nationwide who claim that Trump was robbed of victory in 2020. Some are up for key jobs in at least five states that could likely determine the outcome of the next presidential race. reports that sycophants of former president Donald Trump are set up for critical positions that could throw the 2024 election into chaos. So more than two years after Joe Biden won the election, Trump still pushes — without evidence — that the election was counterfeit.

Despite Trump’s lies, the Associated Press found fewer than 475 potential instances of election fraud out of more than 25 million votes. Why, then, the racket?

Eugene Kiely of suggests that false molehills can become disinformation mountains because of voter apathy, a growing number of social media users pay little attention to the national election.

Apathy does help spread lies, but the problem is not just indifference. There are radical Trump voters who are willingly open to being misled and who keep the “big lie” alive. People generally are disposed to accepting what they agree with, but MAGA extremists choose to believe proven lies. They follow Trump no matter what. They are lost.

More moderate people voted for Trump because he is “Republican,” or a “rich television celebrity” or a “man of action” who would bring some sort of change. They follow Trump conditionally and are not lost. They are teachable.

One attitude most Trump voters share — lost or conditional — and as expressed by one former supporter, is that they are “tired of all the crap.” Thus the main challenge is giving all voters, but especially moderate Trump voters who are confused or unclear about what crap actually is, a means for distinguishing real information from crap.

The late Neil Postman, American author, educator, media theorist and cultural critic, offered a means. He argued for crap-detecting to be a part of critical thinking. For Postman, such skills would promote basic literacy for decoding social and traditional media, and confront technology’s growing capacity to spread false information.

Crap-detecting gives thinking a means for critically judging and identifying messages (and messengers) — on social media, television or streaming, radio or internet, and in print — that dishonestly manipulate information. One approach points out four fraudulent characteristics of CRAP:

CRAP is Cunning: Like a Fox. Fox News promotes crap and only reports awkward facts when forced. In 2020, Fox paid a settlement of millions to the family of a murdered Democratic National Committee staff member and admitted that the network repeatedly hyped false talking points that the young man leaked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In fact, Russia hacked and leaked the emails. But Fox didn’t report the settlement or Russian hacking, and viewers were left with the lie.

Most importantly, cunning is not about “left” or “right” bias (that can be transparent) but about surreptitiously dictating what is newsworthy.

CRAP is Reactive: When not delivered in a calm and thoughtful response, but in an emotive, unthinking, and knee-jerk reaction. The technique heightens strong emotions about minor issues in order to deflect away from more important matters. CRAP is often more worked up over transient topics like imaginary “immigrant caravans” or “The Little Mermaid” being a Black character than about indispensable concerns like an ex-president hoarding classified information or the dismantling of democracy.

CRAP is Angry: When it fumes with over-the-top ranting and raving. The best example, of course, is Alex Jones who unleashes homophobic rants against Democratic congressmen, throws tantrums about the next lawsuit he’s facing and whines about an order to pay nearly $1 billion in defamation trials. He relentlessly deflects and distracts from the lies he’s told about the Sandy Hook shooting being a hoax,and hoping that people confuse anger with honesty, ignoring that anger is not honest when it is a pretense.

CRAP is Predatory: When it pounces on opponents with extreme name-calling, threats and insults. For example, while even some Republican leaders stepped up to defend Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman against personal attacks by Trump and his allies, Fox pundit Laura Ingraham derided the patriotism and personal integrity of Vindman — a decorated U.S. veteran — when she made the insulting innuendo: “Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest, and usually they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle to this story?”

CRAP attacks the person with predatory ad hominem charges rather than addressing the issue.

Trump has conned America for over 30 years. Today, we continue to deal with his election deniers and insurrection, but reason and the rule of law may be catching up. Yet many ask: Why did it take so long? Well, maybe it’s been a failure of crap-detecting.

But maybe some, as The Seattle Times reports, like moderate Cary Condotta, chair of the Chelan County Republican Party, are calling out claims of widespread election fraud as “a bunch of crap.”

And maybe some deniers who don’t trust the vote-counting could visit a county auditor’s office and take a tour of the ballot verification and counting process. Maybe then, actual research and crap-detecting could still save democracy on Nov. 8.

Ken W. White lives in Marysville.

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