For years, Facebook has been a cesspool of conspiracy theorists, political ragemonsters, and quacks pushing cures for decaying Boomers. But as dangerous as these creeps were, they were mostly contained to the social network.
Until the pandemic hit.
Now, all of us are locked down. And Facebook’s worst actors and brainwormiest thinking is bursting out into the real world—and threatening to take it over.
“I see it a lot actually in local community pages,” The Daily Beast’s Kelly Weill explains on the latest episode of The New Abnormal. “To give an example, I was looking at a page, a local news site, about my 5,000-population hometown. The main restaurant, they closed down for a COVID exposure or something. And people were saying, ‘Ah! This is tyranny. We don’t have to do this.’ Someone was posting an image macro in the comments with the ‘Where we go one, we go all’ QAnon thing. And I’m like, ‘Oh my God, like, this is about the salad bar.’”
“You really see the conspiracy theories and the atomization, the disconnection from real people and how you would hopefully behave in a real-life setting. That just vanishes on Facebook. And I think with so many people using that now as their main means of communicating, it’s spreading,” Weill tells Molly Jong-Fast.
Take the icky phenomenon of online multi-level marketing. Those “are those parasitic posts that you see all over your Facebook. It’s your friend from home saying, ‘Hey, I just got a great deal on vitamin supplements. And, uh, if you, you know, give me $50, I’ll send them to you. Or you can go into business with me and become my associate,’” Weill says. “It’s something that you’re not legally allowed to call a financial cult, but golly, does it sound like one.”
One local politician in Kansas was in so deep, he had “someone come and make a sales pitch for during a political meeting on preventing COVID,” Weill continues. “During a council meeting on COVID, he brought in someone from an essential oil company to make the pitch about how these products can help you and your family and empower you to live the healthy lifestyle.”
“I don’t think there are official rules against doing that. We’ve just been, uh, coasting on people not doing that. That’s been kind of the unspoken expectation,” Weill says.
Speaking of expectations, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) stops by the show to talk about what he wants to see from former President Donald Trump’s upcoming second impeachment. And Rick Wilson has a message for the Republican senators who want to let the ex-president off the hook: “This is one of those votes, like the Iraq war or Obamacare, that you never escape. You never escape it. And if you think the tide isn’t turning, you’re not paying attention. Trumpism is still a threat and will be for a long time, so I know that’s why those guys are afraid. But the rest of the country is done with this bullshit.”