A Taste for Blood: The Role Hatred Plays in the Spread of Misinformation

A Taste for Blood: The Role Hatred Plays in the Spread of Misinformation November 6, 2021

Lies, misinformation and the spread of fake news. These aren’t new mischiefs in modern life. They’ve been spreading like wildfire since the invention of the rumor.

It’s human nature for us to assume we’re right, and that the people spreading falsehoods lack the ability to discern reality from fiction. I happen to believe this is true to a large degree. Yet, I also think that another huge factor that’s overlooked involves a breakdown in trust.

Many of the individuals we hear about today who are diving down conspiratorial rabbit holes, who believe the election was stolen by the democrats, or who resist the wearing of masks and getting vaccines share at least two traits: They distrust the institutions and agencies that Americans have long trusted to disseminate facts and they don’t respect the citizens who work for these agencies.

I first noticed this dynamic when President Trump dismissed the assessments of 17 of America’s top intelligence sources, (including trustworthy civilian and military sources), which all confirmed Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections.

(I’m sure I wasn’t the first to conclude that if the President of the U.S. doesn’t even trust America’s own intelligence apparatuses, then he’s not fit to hold office.)

These days, the distrust Trump vocalized regarding these agencies has become emblematic of the skepticism many citizens express towards other long-standing governmental, civic, and private agencies. But even more troubling than this cynicism is the animosity directed specifically towards fellow Americans who work for these institutions.

Here’s a short list of some of these agencies and their representatives:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Governmental agencies like the FBI, CIA, ATF and DEA, as well as their representatives
  • U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy
  • Michael S. Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency

Note: When we think about this level of distrust in the context of what it means to be an American, we are called to question the patriotism of the individuals who distrust these agencies. It seems to me that a true patriot is one who shares a fundamental trust in these agencies, as well as an appreciation and respect for the Americans who work in these agencies on behalf of the American people.

To this list we could easily add a few other institutions and people that are targeted by hatred:

Lies, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, fake news . . . they’ve been with us forever. As long as people stand to gain financially or personally from spreading erroneous fabrications, disorder will be with us forever. / Image by Thanks for your Like • donations welcome from Pixabay
  • Mainstream media
  • Bill Gates and a host of other wealthy and influential people
  • Hollywood
  • Democrats and Independents
  • Institutions of higher learning
  • Election officials
  • Local school board officials
  • Scholars, scientists and other medical professionals

Lies, misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, fake news . . . they’ve been with us forever. As long as people stand to gain financially or personally from spreading fabrications, disorder will be with us forever.

Solving this problem is going to take a two-pronged approach:

  1. We are going to have to continue to combat fiction with facts.
  2. It’s important to recognize that those who are spreading the most lies lack a basic level of trust in the institutions and individuals that are the most qualified to provide us with facts. In many cases, those spreading these lies also harbor a visceral hatred towards those who are disseminating the truth. And this is a bigger issue than a person not having the wherewithal to comprehend fact from fiction. This delves into the role human emotions play in blinding a person from recognizing the truth.

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About Scott R Stahlecker
Scott Stahlecker is a former minister and writes for Thinkadelics about the joys and benefits of living as a freethinker. He is the author of the novel Blind Guides, Picking Wings Off Butterflies and How to Escape Religion Guilt Free. You can read more about the author here.

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10 responses to “A Taste for Blood: The Role Hatred Plays in the Spread of Misinformation”

  1. Rightwing thought leaders latched onto a tactic religious cults have always used: if you get the sheep to distrust anything but the cult, you have them for life. Trump latched onto their playbook, realizing if he could turn the sheep against the experts, they would cling to him.

    Sadly, there are many who can’t think straight who were happy to latch onto him.

  2. Now that Trump has lost many of his public platforms, his followers are slowly starting to distrust him as well. And the other Republican leaders are starting to try to jockey into first place while the distrust spreads to include them as well. The authoritarian tactic only works when one person has a few ‘em grip on the prime authoritarian position.

  3. That’s a good observation. I hadn’t thought of it.

    I’m still not sure if Trump is able to think on that level. I’ve always thought of him as more of a reactive leader. No planning. He just flies off the cuff.

    I think he had a lot of help while in office by others that were far more diabolical and intelligent then he.

  4. I saw that coming. As I’m sure you did too. I mean, at some point he was bound to fade away from relevance.

    I’m sure even many Republican senators think, the sooner he fades the better.

  5. I don’t believe Trump is smart in the traditional ways, and he’s certainly lazy. However, I do think he’s got an instinct for how to manipulate people…much like Sarah Palin. Regular people are repulsed the minute they open their mouths, but there’s a cadre of people who hang on them.

    And I do believe Trump tried to surround himself with people with better executive function and attention skills.

  6. Like you, I think he’s smart in manipulating people. But he’s only able to do this because of his money and power. You said it, he repulses most regular folks, even those who follow him for their own personal benefit.

    Palin . . . When I think about her I think of the Tea Party movement. I also think McCain made a huge mistake in selecting her as his potential VP.

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