The Firehose of Falsehood is Out of Control


Everything is political. That statement isn’t as controversial as it once was. The era of color blindness and objectivity is behind us. Republicans in particular have taken some dire steps to ensure they stand apart from Democrats on almost every possible idea. It’s leaders are now anti-military, anti-democracy, anti-football, and most incomprehensibly anti-vaccine. 

How a voting bloc got to such a place is complex. It took decades of social and economic changes combined with bad faith politicians and the media delving deeper and deeper into culture wars. This history has been well documented by historians and even here on The Colloquial. Even still, we’ve seen the GOP base dig exponentially lower the past few years. Social media is the cause but that only tells a partial story. 

Understanding the Firehose of Falsehood helps provide a more solid framework for how so many outlandish conspiracy theories make their way to the national political scene. Most notably used by Russia, the Firehose of Falsehood is a propaganda technique used to overwhelm an audience with false information and sow confusion. It’s proven its worth time and again. 

By issuing a constant barrage of misinformation in the form of messages, fake news articles, outrageous headlines, and memes, the firehose seeks to emotionally trigger average citizens into taking extreme stances. The purpose of the headline or meme is to find the emotional pressure point that will cause a reader to take the most linear logical path to an extreme. Unfortunately for conservatives, grifters have been curating and refining these pressure points since the Civil Rights Movement. Making them prime targets to be triggered. 

Whether consciously or subconsciously, American Conservatives have become very easy to trigger over the years. Their over-reliance on symbolism has made them easy targets and each symbol can have a plethora of emotional triggers built into it. This is why so many people found themselves turning into Trump supporters or anti-vaxxers so quickly. An upper class evangelical, an atheist union member, and a single mother on government assistance can all wind up falling into the same bucket if they are triggered by the same symbols even if for different reasons. The firehose’s hope is for those symbols to contain a complexity of emotions. This makes combating the problem all the more difficult. 

The firehose of falsehood is primarily known as a propaganda technique, but it is wrong to assume our current situation is the cause of a single party seeking a single goal. The firehose is out of control and no one wants to take responsibility. It is true that the majority of COVID misinformation has been attributed to 12 social media accounts, but they are not the ones who helped get Donald Trump elected or convince people Barrack Obama was born in Africa. 

Social Media sites like Facebook continue to be a breeding ground for conspiracists and grifters to gain fame and fortune by creating the next big lie. Thus the Firehose of Falsehood is no longer a proper metaphor for this societal plague. It has become a vicious circle of shortsighted lies spread by bad faith actors. They spread like COVID and are just as hard to combat. There is no CDC for the misinformation pandemic. No organization to find a cure. If the vicious cycle isn’t broken the misinformation will continue to threaten more than individual health. The republic is at risk.