US Representative Ted Lieu stared down Candace Owens. He was about to take her down with her own words. He whipped out his smartphone and pressed play. It was an audio clip of Ms. Owens saying, “When we say ‘nationalism,’ the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler. You know, he was a national socialist, but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK then, fine. The problem is, he had dreams outside of Germany.”
This, on the surface, sounded devastating. Except that it wasn’t. The short excerpt of Owens speaking was taken out of context, and had already been used previously to smear her and paint her as a Nazi sympathizer. The full two hour clip reveals that she has no affection for Hitler whatsoever, and was making a point about nationalism vs. “globalism.” When Owens was first attacked for this clip, she responded with a video of her own back on February 8th, clarifying that believes Hitler to be a “homicidal, psychotic, maniac.”
I’m a liberal, so I’m not particularly a fan of Owens or of the nationalism she espouses. I tend to agree with Cathy Young that Owens is a terrible messenger. But it’s clear to reasonable people that she is not a supporter of Hitler or a “white nationalist” as some have suggested. When she was finally permitted to respond to Lieu’s mischaracterization of her views, she went off:
What happens when the misinformation is debunked? It tends to go viral. Indeed, Owens’ tirade is now the most watched C-span clip in Twitter history.
So, thanks to Ted Lieu, Candace Owens is more of a hero to her fans today than she was yesterday. The so-called “resistance” do this to Donald Trump all the time—they force a narrative instead of focusing on his actual flaws. This only makes him stronger, and it has to stop. The media and the Democrats can’t hoax their way out of a presidency, but they can hoax their way out of relevancy. Why not try honesty? Is it really that hard to do better than Donald Trump?
This Candace Owens nonsense, Covington Catholic, Brett Kavanaugh, and Jussie Smollett are all examples of recent hoaxes. And you don’t have to look for long to find avid truthers who insist that these hoaxes are real despite the overwhelming evidence that they are not.
Why are we so deeply immersed in hoax culture at the moment? Perhaps one answer is the media’s relentless regurgitation of nonsense.
Consider this essay in Slate called “As a College Student, I Had My Own Close Encounter With Joe Biden. I’m Still Not Sure How to Feel About It.” (yes, that’s actually the title) by a young woman named Lilly Jay. She claims that she now feels retroactively unsafe because Joe Biden once held her hand and was a close talker with coffee breath. She used to be fine with the experience, but reading the trumped-up #metoo claims aimed to take Biden down changed her mind.
We are actually living in a context where a college-educated, grown woman can pen a “serious” essay in a major outlet that claims that she was unable to experience something on her own and make up her own mind. She instead had to learn about her experience from other people’s reactions to what they had experienced. She then determined that her experience sufficiently mirrored their experiences to the point where she now believes she must feel negatively about the experience that she had previously felt fine about.
If that sounds completely stupid, it’s because it is.
The desire to recast one’s self as a victim plays into a narrative of weakness. The fact that this kind of braindead sentiment is being normalized is scary, and exemplifies the groupthink tendencies of our day.
Grievance culture. Safety culture. Victimhood culture. Hoax culture. It’s as real as we make it. It appears that we’ve been staging our own little hoaxes all the time. We should stop reframing our personal mythologies to show ourselves as being in holes we have to climb out of. We should instead walk forward with determination and agency.
This is the slippery slope thinking that makes people susceptible to believing in and staging hoaxes. Don’t be like Kathy Griffin, Jussie Smollett, Ted Lieu, or Brian Stelter. It’s time for liberals to get real.