How social media spread a historical lieBreaking News
tags: social media, KKK, Ku Klux Klan, Fake News
Earlier this month, a hashtag made its way across Twitter: “#triggeraliberalin4words.”
Kambree Kawahine Koa, whose bio identifies her as a “political news contributor,” scored big with her offering, which garnered almost 10,000 likes and close to 1,000 replies. “The Democrats created KKK,” she tweeted over a photo of a Klan march captioned: “This photo was taken at the 1924 Democratic Convention. It was known as the ‘Klanbake’ (just in case you want to Google it).”
The only problem? There was no Klan march at the 1924 Democratic convention — the photo was actually taken in Wisconsin — nor was the convention ever actually known as the “Klanbake.”
The convention was indeed infamous for taking 103 ballots and more than two weeks to nominate a presidential candidate, John W. Davis. Delegates wrangled over a host of contentious issues, the Klan among them.
But it has more recently become ground zero in an online campaign to misrepresent the Democratic Party’s history as uniquely tainted by racism. The noxious nickname — “The Klanbake” — has become, however misguidedly, an online shorthand used to sum up everything the right hates about the Democrats, most especially hypocrisy. (“#klanbake. That is all,” read one recent tweet in response to the suggestion that contemporary gun owners are overwhelmingly white.)
The truth about the complicated racial legacies of both parties — and the Klan’s influence on them in 1924 — has been perniciously contorted by activists deploying digital tricks, abetted (often unwittingly) by good-faith actors such as academics, journalists and volunteer Wikipedia editors. What’s left is a fake historical “fact” that has been “verified” by powerful digital properties such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and various online publishers without being true. Which reflects one actual truth: Now, not only can partisans and malicious actors manufacture fake news, but they can falsify history as well.
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