In an atmosphere of outrage, dirty tricks and credulity don’t help

Here’s something that a friend of mine found on Facebook and shared there. I’m presenting it in exactly the form in which I saw it.

12801529_10206455025950859_4331881560012002005_nWhat’s your reaction?

Here’s mine. I thought something about it was a little off. Why would Donald Trump ridicule the entire city of Chicago? Intending to check the original tweet and the conversation it engendered, I hovered my mouse over it. That’s when I discovered that this was not an embedded tweet but a graphic. That was suspicious. An embedded tweet is live; it’ll always show the current statistics for retweets and likes, and you can click it to see responses. These features are useful. A graphic is frozen, doesn’t link to the original tweet, can’t be verified. Further, it actually takes more work to make and share a screencap of someone’s tweet than it takes simply to embed the original.

So I now doubted whether this tweet was authentic. I searched Donald Trump’s Twitter feed for the word “Chicago,” and that one didn’t show up. (See for yourself: https://twitter.com/search…) I also manually scanned his feed and didn’t see it on March 11, the date given on the tweet in question. Another suspicious sign is that Trump tends to get retweets and likes on a scale of tens of thousands at best, not millions. (Again, you can judge this from surveying his feed.)

My conclusion: Someone who was not content to let Donald Trump speak for himself fabricated a tweet for him. Whoever did that knew what he or she was doing, but those who have shared it seem not to have questioned it. Does it occur to anyone else that March 11 is the day on which a Trump rally in Chicago became disorderly, led to injuries and arrests, and was canceled? The files of snopes.com are full of photos and reports that somebody faked and that many other people accepted. It may do little harm to go through your day believing that a jumping shark almost snagged a man dangling from a helicopter. It can do harm to believe—and, by sharing, to invite others to believe—that a candidate for the presidential nomination has said something he didn’t say.

When in doubt, question. Do the same when you’re not in doubt.

(Postscript: After I questioned that tweet’s authenticity, the friend who shared it removed his post. But the image remains elsewhere on Facebook.)

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