Ad Hominem Fake News on Facebook and Elsewhere

by Richard John Stapleton

I had an interesting experience on Facebook Thanksgiving Day 2016.

I had recently shared a post on my Facebook page written by someone other than me containing some negative allegations about the Clintons. I pointed out in my comments about the post that I had seen the post posted on Facebook several times over several weeks by various people. I also pointed out the post could be fake news.

The allegations in the article were egregious and defamatory, although containing what could be real facts, containing numbers and such. I pointed out in my comments about the piece that if it was fake news something should be done about fake news, fake news having been in the news in recent days, as if people had suddenly awakened to the fact such news exists.

Seems to me there should be some sort of fact-checking device that will block Facebook posts containing made-up facts, numbers, data, etc., unless the piece is clearly labeled as fiction or satire.

Someone read the above-referenced anonymous post I made on Facebook and posted a post to me below the post, presumably after reading the article, telling me I am an idiot. I responded with my reasons for posting the piece and let him know I did not appreciate his fake news ad hominem slur about my intelligence.

I did not explain to him what ad hominem is, as perhaps I should have, an attack on the character, past behavior, intelligence, and persona of a person illogically attempting to prove false what the person said in a current argument. I assumed the respondent would look ad hominem up on Google if he did not know what it was. The argument I was making is that it’s difficult for anyone to know with certainty what is fake news in any media, such as the Clinton post I used as an example.

Over the next three or four hours in the Thanksgiving afternoon eight or so other people then entered the fray on my Facebook page replying to what had been said about the post.

Most of the group generally agreed with the first respondent attacking me for being an idiot and a character-disordered degenerate for posting the post about the Clintons in the first place, however many times it had already been posted by others, elaborating other perspectives on why they were justified in attacking me, asserting that anyone but an idiot should have known that something this egregious and defamatory was fake. It was like someone entertaining the thought Bigfoot was real, one of them said. One of them said he checked my Facebook profile and I lacked “legitimacy”, that I was probably just trying to get attention, and I needed counseling. One said if I was really concerned about fake news on Facebook I should have contacted the people who run the Facebook page and talk to them. One said I was inappropriate and did the wrong thing but he wished me well. One said I was a fool. One said I was beyond hope. One said I did it to piss people off while expecting him to believe I did it out of the goodness of my heart in the interest of truth. One respondent, the last one in the thread, a female, said it was not fake news since it was all over wikileaks.

None of them except the last respondent said anything about my basic point in the argument, that almost no one could know whether the post I posted was fake, however egregious and scandalous it was. I told them I did not know it was fake, and they did not know, eliciting not one response to the basic point of the argument, only unleashing more ad hominem drivel. Apparently what really incensed them was that I would not say I knew it was fake. I admitted most likely it was fake, but that was not good enough. They wanted me to say I knew with certainty it was fake, which I do not.

Another respondent, a female, contacted me confidentially outside the feed line thread on my Facebook page, and asked me to please take the post down, telling me it included misleading information; so I took it down, ending the discussion.

She seemed like a reasonable responsible person and I had no desire to piss anyone off. It never occurred to me the post would piss anyone off. Why was I doing this in the first place? I told one of the respondents in one of my responses I did not know why I did it, that maybe I did it just because I felt like doing it (which is my First Amendment right as a US citizen). I told one of them I did it to educate people.

Posting the article did no harm to the Clintons since few people read my posts and the post had been widely posted by others for some time on Facebook. As much as the Clintons have been defamed and slandered in various media for forty or so years my making this post would not make one whit worth of difference, as I told the group. Unlike Socrates however I have no desire to drink hemlock because of pursuing truth inflaming people in philosophical discussions, however bigoted they might be. It’s better to be smarter than martyr. So I took the post down, dispersing the group, which could have gotten much larger.

In the various responses I made to the group I told several they were making ad hominem attacks and were ignoring my basic point, that few people can know for sure what is fake in media of any sort today. What I did not say is that the more general problem is massive lying in all media and institutions, taking both lying by commission and lying by omission into account.

Lying by commission is making up fake news telling outright falsehoods; lying by omission is not publishing relevant facts that people in a free society need to know. The US government has taken lying by omission to a high level, calling omitted facts state secrets and classified information, making truth tellers such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning outcasts and criminals, and threatening Hillary Clinton with prison for mishandling emails.

It’s as if US citizens are supposed to be meek obsequious sheeple lapping up whatever they’re told, never questioning what they’re not told, like grade school children.

I have read in the media lately that Hillary now has her own cult. Cult members could care less about the real truth of anything. They believe whatever their fellow sheeple believe and adore and follow their superhuman leader, attacking anyone who attacks her or him. Maybe the post about the Hillary cult is just another example of fake news; but it’s also possible I encountered some of its members yesterday on Facebook, Thanksgiving Day.

You can build the case Trump also has his own cult, and if one of the negative posts I have posted about him had been read by his true believers on my Facebook page their responses would have been even more venomous than were Hillary’s in the above referenced post.

I don’t have to worry much about Trump’s supporters reading anything on my Facebook page though, since Facebook algorithmic robots try to make sure anyone posting anything on Facebook is not read by sheeple not believing the same thing. I still pick up some Hillary sheeple because I used to support Bernie Sanders, which was tacitly OK with the DNC, for a while. After I came out for Jill Stein after Bernie dropped out I was blocked from most Demo groups, and most of her sheeple are blocked from me. It seems some of them however were not penned up by the Facebook robots as my Thanksgiving experience shows.

Don’t get me wrong. I do not agree with Facebook’s computer programming. I think all Facebook posts and responses should be made to the public at large, which you can click off in your Facebook preferences, as I have. The problem is even if you tell them to post all your posts to the public at large you are mostly locked into your own silo mostly preaching to your own choir, since most sheeple probably choose to only post and listen to their own kind of sheeple. Unfortunately, it seems, sheeple get their preconceptions and biases pleasantly reinforced over and over by what they read on Facebook just like they do everywhere else, as in churches and in most schools.

As you can see on my Facebook page I have about 4,864 Facebook friends aboard Spaceship Earth. I used to have almost 5,000 such friends, the arbitrary limit imposed by Facebook for some reason, almost all of whom requested me to confirm them as friends. After coming out for Jill Stein a little over a hundred of them unfriended me.

Why did I post the above post? Why am I posting this post? Why have I posted all posts I have posted? The bottom line is I think I am as qualified to quarterback the US as anyone else, especially Hillary and Trump, as I pointed out on my Facebook page in a comment above a picture of our 1953 Frenship High School football team, which I quarterbacked in 1953 as the youngest and smallest starting Class A high school quarterback in the US, at 13 years old, 5’3″ tall, and 110 pounds.

Furthermore, I think you could randomly select a reasonably bright adult well educated in US public education systems off the streets and send her or him to Washington and she or he could do a better job quarterbacking the US than establishment bought and paid for politicians, as I have pointed out on my Stapleton Gallery of Folk History and Conversation on my Facebook page for many years.

With respect to the allegation made yesterday that I lack “legitimacy” and therefore I am unqualified to make posts as a US citizen such as these on Facebook, check out my credentials in detail on this page by clicking on the options above, especially my RJS Academic Vita.