Unfortunately, the memo also fits a pattern. Before the US election, Donald Trump welcomed the use of data hacked by Russia and released by WikiLeaks to undercut his opponent in the campaign. Afterwards, Trump continued to dismiss the intelligence community’s finding that Russia had sought to influence the election. So the attacks that started before Trump was president continue today. They come even as sanctions against Russia, passed by Congress, haven’t been put into place. And there is no White House-directed effort to counter aggressive Russian influence in the US or West.
This contributes to the momentum of information (much of it incorrect or invented or wilfully conflating facts) flowing online. Like-minded supporters build community and through them maintain channels to push out the Trump campaign’s “firehose of falsehoods”.
At the same time, fact-checking organisations, which have grown as a popular corrective to the spin of the political world online, struggle to keep up with the onslaught surrounding the Trump campaign.
If voters in the US, the public and the mainstream media in Western democracies today find themselves speechless in sizing up Trump’s statements and behaviour, there may be a scientific reason why this is so.
The strategy of his campaign and the people who back him isn’t simply to spin facts to make the candidate look good, as much as to create a blizzard of information that blinds the public.