The following is an editorial by PoliticusUSA‘s co-publisher Sarah Jones.
The day before a judge admonished Trump‘s former National Security Adviser for selling out his country, suggesting that Flynn committed treason, former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone admitted to spreading lies on Alex Jones’ conspiracy oriented InfoWars.
Stone made the admission during the settlement of a defamation suit brought against him by an exiled Chinese businessman, the Wall Street Journal reported. The defamation suit sought $100 million in damages for publishing false and misleading statements.
Per the agreement, Stone must if he is to avoid paying the damages:
1. Run ads in national newspapers apologizing for making defamatory statements
2. Publish a retraction of the false statements on social media
In case you’re concerned that Stone can just Trump his way out of this statement by making some more crap up, no.
Here’s the screengrab of the agreed upon statement, and note that he credits former political advisor to Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign, Sam Nunberg, as one source of the misinformation. Nunberg was subpoenaed by a grand jury for Mueller’s Russia investigation in March of 2018. You probably remember him from his seemingly (and hopefully or else he has larger issues) drunken cable appearances during which he declared, “Let him (Mueller) arrest me!”
“Unrelated to the Russia probe, Mr. Stone’s settlement is the latest indication that Mr. Stone’s use of various media platforms to spread unfounded claims isn’t without consequences. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Mr. Stone’s role in orchestrating stories about key events being examined in the Russia probe, the Journal has reported,” the Journal noted.
The larger takeaway from this is that being held to account publicly can be a great force and should be used to check unrepentant liars. This would solve the problem of repeating falsehoods until they become part of the legitimate news of the day and in so doing, work to protect and enable an enormous liar such as Donald Trump, who lies about things we have on video and can see for ourselves are not accurate or even trying to be truthful. This should be reserved for known lies, not spin or hot takes.
But for the big lies, roll out the big gun of public humiliation. The idea of using public shame to regulate and control behavior has conservative roots, but you’d be hard pressed to find many Trump supporting conservatives on board with it now.
As I noted at the time regarding Nunberg’s panicked cable news marathon in which re refused to turn over emails to Stone and Steve Bannon, The obvious irony that it could be emails that cause Trump associated to be “locked up” is just one more way that Donald Trump has reminded us that he is not very bright, and he does indeed telegraph so much with his projections. It is also possible that Sam Nunberg is more afraid of Roger Stone and or Donald Trump than he is of jail.”
Perhaps Nunberg was simply afraid of the truth. The truth is such toxic garlic to a vampire for the entire Trump circle that it seems they will do anything to avoid it.
The man who refused to turn over his emails to Roger Stone is the source of the misinformation Stone published on a conspiracy website. This is how disinformation on either side works, but it has jumped the shark on the Right, which is so far off the cliff that then presidential candidate Trump was on Alex Jones’ show and he praised the 9/11 truther, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”
Jones shared the love, telling Trump that “(M)y audience, 90% of them, they support you.”
That’s probably the most accurate thing Jones has ever said – 90% of his marks supported Trump. But he left out that the reason they supported Trump is they were being fed a steady diet of conspiracies and flat out lies.
Imagine if Donald Trump had to apologize publicly for lying or Sarah Sanders or Alex Jones himself.
Shame can be a powerful weapon. The only reason it doesn’t work on the Right currently is because they are inoculated from it in the lie cocoon of right wing news.
That cocoon could be pierced with the liar’s own words apologizing in a large U.S. newspaper like the Washington Post, the New York Times and the conservative Wall Street Journal. Sure, the most devoted in the cult would blame the media for the apologies, but the power of the lies would be sufficiently deflated and this would put a dent in the conspiracies that fuel a liar like Trump.
The best way to stop a conspiracy is to fact check it before people hear it. But since we can’t always do that given the presidential megaphone and bully pulpit, the next best thing would be forced public shaming.
Yes, it would be unprecedented, but these are unprecedented times and there’s a danger in relying solely on the criminal courts to bring Trump down; it invites further abuse of the truth by the next inclined president. We should shame the blatant, politically motivated abusers of reality now, to send a message to future contenders that the American public won’t tolerate being lied to every day and yes, lying matters.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.