First, neo-Nazis organized by the internet booked a bunch of tables at an Italian restaurant around the corner from my house. They gave each other Hitler salutes, including, bizarrely, Tila Tequila. This upset the neighborhood, as you might imagine.
Then, yesterday, my wife found herself delayed while driving our kids back from a swimming pool by police called out because a man with a gun fired shots inside a pizzeria a few blocks away from our house and next to my favorite D.C. bookstore. The shooter had been inspired by a bizarre internet lie that Hillary Clinton had been running a child prostitution ring out of the place.
That would be disturbing enough, but it seems that the national security adviser to-be believes the pizza-pedophile story, as does his son. (Links go to tweets by Gen. Michael Flynn and Michael Flynn, Jr. No hearsay.)
This is not normal. This is certainly not normal from people close to the President-elect of the United States, or the President-elect himself.
This morning, an email correspondent reminded me that in February 2010, in a post about potential failure modes for American political institutions, I had written the following: “The U.S. population might become apathetic and gullible to the point of civic dysfunction.” But I followed up with:
“That said, I see two problems, one potential and unlikely, one with us right now. The potential and (IMHO) unlikely one is that the internet and cable news will somehow interact with America’s ideological cleavages to produce a dysfunctional electorate. I really have my doubts that there is anything to worry about here, but I can of course be convinced otherwise by a good argument.”
The 2016 election and its aftermath appears to be providing such a good argument.