Critical thinking, fake news & HATE

People laughed at the preposterous notion Hillary Clinton was running a child pedophilia operation out of the back of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor. Lots of us just groan when someone spouted off about President Obama’s birth certificate.

How do these crazy, unproven, undocumented narratives take hold?

Lecia Brooks, outreach director at Southern Poverty Law Center, gave us some insights into how these lies take root nourished in a culture of fake news and hatred.

Brooks spoke to about 550 people at a forum Aug. 29 co-sponsored by Community Word and Bradley University Department of Sociology & Social Work, African American Studies and Intellectual & Cultural Activities Committee.

She showed a brief video produced by Southern Poverty Law Center titled “The Miseducation of Dylann Roof.”

Instead of labeling this 21-year-old white supremacist as evil and insane, the documentary analyzed what transformed a person who did not grow up in a racist home and had black friends into a racist murderer.

On June 17, 2015, Roof entered the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., sat in on a Bible study and then open fired, killing nine people.

Roof later explained he couldn’t understand the Trayvon Martin murder that was dominating the news so he googled “black on white crime” and was deluged with fake white supremacist literature. He concluded Martin’s murderer George Zimmerman was in the right, and he couldn’t believe the mainstream news media was focusing on the Trayvon Martin case while ignoring “rampant” black on white crime.

Roof was misled by the algorithm Google uses in its search engine. The more he read from fake news sites like The Daily Stormer, the more racist material was sent to him by the Google algorithm. The algorithm is supposed to use our preferences to send us more of the materials we are interested in.

According to the video, Google wants to be the library to the world. But if someone walked into a real library and asked the librarian for information about black-on-white crime, the librarian would not point to shelves filled with fake, racist materials. More likely, the librarian
would point to FBI statistics on crime.

The Google algorithm promotes false propaganda written by radical extremists at the expense of accurate information from credible sources. Some people who don’t have critical thinking skills, especially the young, fall prey to these distortions and lies.

Google contends its algorithm takes into account how trustworthy a news source is. In Roof’s case, Google and its algorithm are complicit in mass murder.

Watch the five-minute video and understand the origins of some of these hate crimes:

The best counter: educate, speak up. “Apathy is not an option.”

“Silence is violence.”

Clare Howard

Clare Howard is the editor of the Community Word. She can be reached at

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