Last night I got banned from a conservative Facebook group. My unforgivable crime, according to the moderator of the group, was that I dared to call out a piece of fake news being shared in the group.
I have no regrets for my actions.
Over the years, I’ve become a member of various conservative groups. I rarely participate in most, but, sometimes, when a shared story shows up in my news feed, I feel compelled to respond. Almost every time it’s to point out that the shared story is fake news, and to alert the group that they shouldn’t be sharing it. As an author of a few books, and a contributor at PJ Media, I understand the importance of using reliable sources and verified stories. It bugs me to see obvious fake news being spread on social media, and it bugs me the most when conservative groups are doing it. These days, it’s so easy to spread a forged tweet that by default I go to Twitter to find the source before sharing anything alleging to be a legitimate tweet.
To be clear, I don’t believe the conservative groups I belong to are any worse than liberal groups I’ve dropped in on in the past. Occupy Democrats, for example, has 7.6 million followers (more followers than all the conservative groups I belong to have combined) and they disseminate false or misleading garbage without hesitation.
The fake news that I called out, resulting in my being banned from the group (with a membership of close to six thousand), was a re-post of a previously debunked story alleging that actress Julia Roberts claimed that Michelle Obama “isn’t fit to clean First Lady Melania Trump’s toilet.” When the story showed up in my news feed, I immediately commented that the story was bogus, and called on my fellow conservatives not to fall for such blatantly false stories. I mean, come on, it doesn’t take a genius to see the red flags. But, that didn’t prevent the story from being shared and for a small handful of people to comment on it, expressing newfound respect for Julia Roberts. Those of us who dared to point out the story was pure bunk were called out by the group’s moderator. We were labeled Obama-loving liberals, banned from group, and personally blocked by the moderator.
I’ve been accused of many things, but being an Obama-lover is a new one.
Last year I called out conservatives who were sharing a doctored video of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez tearing up the Constitution. It was, I noted, an impressive forgery. Even now I can understand why so many were duped into believing it. People on both sides of the aisle are guilty of falling for fake news. In psychology, this is called belief perseverance, and is defined as “a tendency to persist with one’s held beliefs despite the fact that the information is inaccurate or that evidence shows otherwise.” This phenomenon is why so many on the left still believe Brett Kavanaugh to be guilty of sexual assault despite all the exculpatory evidence, lack of corroboration, obvious flaws, contradictions, and holes in Christine Blasey Ford’s story.
I will continue to point out fake news being shared by conservatives because we’re supposed to be better than liberals who will perpetuate fake stories even at the expense of an innocent man’s life and reputation. But sharing fake news about Julia Roberts claiming Michelle Obama isn’t fit to clean Melania’s toilet isn’t the same as maintaining a man is guilty of sexual assault despite a lack of evidence, both are symptoms of a big problem in this country of people allowing themselves to believe things simply because they want them to be true out of political convenience.
My fellow conservatives, we are better than this. No one can argue that I don’t like Barack Obama… but I will call out fake stories about him because every fake story that goes viral makes it harder for the real stuff to be accepted when it’s out there. There’s plenty of real stuff to hit Obama and other Democrats with. We don’t need fake news stories. We don’t need to waste our time talking about birth certificates or other conspiracy theories.
I shed no tears over being booted from a conservative Facebook group that so easily shares fake news, and then dares to accuse me of being a liberal snowflake concerned more about feelings than facts. I won’t cite dubious sources in my columns, I extensively (if not excessively) source my books, and I check links before sharing them on social media. If you don’t want to hurt the conservative movement, be similarly diligent.
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis