Two lies dominated right-wing media spheres a couple of weeks ago. The first, and more laughable of the two, was the idea that Joe Biden wants to force all Americans to cut their red meat consumption by 90% by 2030. This lie was invented out of whole cloth by the Daily Mail, and then got legs when at least five Fox News hosts (who else?) amplified it. It continued to gain steam on social media when such luminaries as Rep. Lauren Boebert, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Gov. Greg Abbott, and Donald Trump Jr., picked it up. Don Jr. deleted his tweet without comment, and John Roberts of Fox quietly walked it back the next night. No one else, as far as I can tell, has retracted. (Indeed, Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy repeated the lie on Fox several days after it was thoroughly debunked.)
The second lie was more insidious. As a brief background: lots of unaccompanied kids are crossing the southern border, fleeing a cascading series of humanitarian disasters in their countries of origin. The federal government has set up numerous temporary facilities to shelter these children while their families, sponsors, or foster homes are found for them. Republicans have jumped to criticize the Biden administration, claiming that this is family separation and “kids in cages” redux. It is not.
The New York Post and Fox News (owned by the same family, naturally) reported that at one facility that can house up to a thousand kids, a convention center in Long Beach, every child was being given a “welcome kit” that included a copy of Vice President Harris’s children’s book. The clear implication, picked up on by numerous elected Republicans, the Chairwoman of the RNC, Fox opinion hosts like Tucker Carlson, other GOP favorites like the conspiracy theory-peddling OAN and Newsmax, and one left-wing journalist with an anti-Biden grudge, was that our government is spending money buying the Vice President’s book, spending taxpayer dollars to enrich the VP. This alleged plot was based on nothing except exactly one picture of one copy of her book sitting on a cot. As it turns out, that was the only copy in the whole facility—and it, like hundreds of other books, was donated as part of a local book and toy drive for the kids. As with the meat lie, the perpetrators of this conspiracy theory have not corrected themselves. It seems unlikely that the truth will reach the vast majority of the millions who heard the lie.
These were two of the biggest lies, but far from the only ones that have dominated conservative talking points in recent weeks. Virginia is not, for instance, eliminating advanced high school math. No, seeing a kid wearing a mask outside is not grounds for calling Child Protective Services, nor are COVID vaccines secretly ineffective and dangerous. Democrats do not want to “replace” you with “obedient” immigrants from other countries. DC statehood is perfectly constitutional. The list goes on and on and on and on. And often, the people most harmed by this onslaught of lies are those most eager to tune into them. (See, for instance, the untold numbers who have been convinced by the Republican propaganda machine that COVID-19 and/or its vaccine is a hoax, making it more likely than not that America will never reach herd immunity and this horrific disease will be with us indefinitely.)
Today marks four months since a right-wing mob committed an act of domestic terrorism in the Capitol complex—killing one Capitol Police officer and causing brain injuries to multiple others, erecting gallows on the lawn, searching for Members of Congress to assassinate, looting offices, planting pipe bombs—in the name of the Big Lie of “election fraud” that had been spread for months by these same people, on these same platforms. To this day, a disturbingly low 23% of Republicans believe that Biden was lawfully elected. Rep. Liz Cheney will imminently be replaced in House Republican leadership for acknowledging the election’s legitimacy. The Big Lie continues to be spread and is the basis for a slew of draconian voting restrictions being proposed and enacted across the country that are tailored to disproportionately benefit Republicans.
Why would they stop lying when it leads to outcomes they want?