If you are among the hundreds of thousands of Twitter users who follow Claude Taylor or Louise Mensch—unhinged opportunists masquerading as the digital vanguard of #Resistance “citizen journalists”—I very much hope you saw this story in The Guardian. It’s a simple story: A hoaxer claiming to work for the New York state Attorney General fed Taylor a stream of disinformation, and Taylor, credulous or uncaring as ever, regurgitated it into his timeline without trying to confirm either the facts or the legitimacy of his source.
Louise Mensch, who has even more followers, retweeted the information, and implied that the bombshells were only beginning—that, in fact, she had sources beyond Taylor’s. It is the clearest indication yet that these digital sleuths have no standards, no real sources, and in fact only adhere to a very flimsy version of the truth as they pursue their Russia-based conspiracy theories. Further, Donald Trump would be hard-pressed to custom-design a pair of more useful idiots—this is literal “fake news.” People like Taylor and Mensch, when they are inevitably discredited as over-credulous paranoiacs, actively feed into the narrative of the Russia investigation as a witch hunt pursued only by agenda-driven lunatics. Which, as those who have paid attention to Robert Mueller’s investigation know, is clearly not the case.
(This is the part where, if I learned at the school of Taylor/Mensch, I would imply that they were in fact Russian agents under the employ of Vladimir Putin, specifically tasked with undermining legitimate inquiries into the Trump-Russia imbroglio by casting doubt on the integrity of all inquiries. I would invent a few sources, or let them invent themselves to me, and there’s probably even a fancy Russian word for this kind of disinformation campaign I would use, to devastating effect with my tenterhooked audience.)
The details of the hoax are actually very funny, as is the fact that the hoaxer specifically set out to dupe Taylor due to her frustration with his influence. Beneath a veneer of legitimate-sounding language, came a flood of ridiculous information, including:
— “Trump’s inactive fashion model agency is under investigation by New York authorities for possible sex trafficking.”
— “former president Bill Clinton knew of criminal wrongdoing by Trump’s model agency and was was preparing to testify for the prosecution.”
— Rudy Giuliani was “currently a subject in the investigation involving money laundering and the Russian mob”
All of this outlandish material, and more, was tweeted out by Taylor without so much as a token effort to verify. “The possibility exists that our president was a sex trafficker,” he wrote. Mensch retweeted it all, and then—hilariously—claimed that the real story was even worse, and that she had her own sources in the New York attorney general’s office that predated Taylor’s.
This is far from the first time that these two have circulated bogus information. Mensch’s record, in particular, is quite incredible—my favorite is her claim that Steve Bannon and Putin conspired to have Andrew Breitbart killed so that Bannon could take over. But the two have teamed up on unproved speculation as well:
Their false stories about Trump have included a claim that he was already being replaced as president by Senator Orrin Hatch in a process kept secret from the American public.
One of the favorite liberal narratives in the aftermath of the Trump election is that Trump voters are somehow more “stupid” than those on the left—that they would believe anything their candidate told them. (This despite the fact that the stupid people won.) Watching people like Taylor and Mensch amass such large followings among the self-styled liberal #resistance community is proof that they are wrong—liberals are equally prone to being seduced by outlandish fantasies, as long as it matches their belief systems. Under the proper circumstances, their credulity is just as embarrassing as anything you’d find on the right, and they’re equally susceptible to believing, and even seeking out, false information that suits their worldview. The only real difference is that there’s more empathy and less cruelty among liberals—marginally.
In short, the fervent desire of #resistance liberals—who tend to fall along moderate, centrist lines—for an easy, policy-free solution to the Trump nightmare has created fertile ground in which hucksters like Taylor and Mensch may flourish. It should come as no surprise, of course, that both Taylor and Mensch are in it for material gain:
Claiming to report things that the mainstream media will not, they have also moved to collect money from readers. Mensch’s website Patribiotics accepts donations “to fund more writers and research”. Taylor has said he will soon establish an online fundraising campaign to protect himself from legal threats. A GoFundMe page created by supporters of Taylor has already raised more than $18,000 in his name.
Perhaps this a by-product of a Democratic party that abandoned working class interests decades ago—there is a healthy portion of the American center-left that can’t imagine a political victory that comes by virtue of progressive policy. Instead, they dream of the Trump nightmare ending in one dramatic flourish, as though it was nefarious Russian masterminds alone who placed him in our highest office, and not an expression of populist anger that will persist beyond him. It makes sense—when you’ve lost all sense of political righteousness, and can’t envision anything better than the status quo, you forget the grassroots and dream of rescue from above. Lost is the notion that there is a way to fight our way out from the Trump regime, and in its place is a child-like desire to be cared for by a more benevolent mother.
(It’s no coincidence, of course, that there’s significant overlap between the Hillary Clinton cultists—those who bridled at any policy-based criticism of her candidacy, and whose political activism now consists entirely of saying “but her emails!” at opportune moments—and Taylor- and Mensch-ites.)
The success of people like Taylor and Mensch is a symptom of liberals who can’t grow up, and who long for the days when they could ignore politics and float along on the lazy river of American life. They long to go back to sleep, and so they place their faith in the digital equivalent of snake oil salesmen. But the time of ease has passed for all but the richest of us, and belief in the likes of Taylor and Mensch is a good litmus test for where the American left stands. Reject them, and fight for the wildly popular progressive agenda that could sweep this nation clean of centrism, fascism, and the darker effects of capitalism, and you can count yourself as an adult. Embrace them, and you are the fearful child, doomed to believe any fairy-tale that soothes your anxious sense that the world is changing in ways you can’t control.