I had a conversation with a Holocaust denier last year. Nice guy, and I don’t know that he hated Jews; he was just really sure the Holocaust never happened. For every reference cited for the well-documented historical proof of the Holocaust, he had an answer that countered the reality. Finally I asked him, “Where did you get your information?”
“The internet,” he responded. Evidently, that was as good as saying the Encyclopedia Britannica.
“But where did the information you saw on the internet come from?” I asked.
“Smart people,” he replied. He needed no further confirmation. The vast collections of archival material, photographs, first-hand accounts, film from liberated death camps, records from the Third Reich—all were relegated to insignificance by the weight of pure opinion on electronic media.
Factual accuracy in this time has become dethroned in the vast electronic subconscious mind that is cyberspace. Today there are voices crying in the virtual wilderness, many of them leading people further into the wilderness. It’s a because-I-say-so arena where facts are tools of hidden states and dangerous agendas, precarious icons that need to be overthrown. And it’s happening right here in Klickitat County.
For example, there’s a big sign on the side of a house in Goldendale announcing, “Covid-19 is a lie.” That notion is a key idea floated by conspiracy-theory hotbeds and a pair of wildly bizarre (and wildly viral) videos called “Plandemic.” For the adherents of these viewpoints, “The truth shall make me free, so long as it’s the truth I want.” “My mind is made up,” the old joke goes, “don’t confuse me with facts.”
Here in the county, we have a candidate for county commissioner who largely exemplifies this trend of inventing pseudo-information, though we do not place him in the same camp as wild conspiracy theorists. While The Sentinel has never endorsed a candidate in its 141-year history, during this election we will take a stand against this candidate, and I’ll explain our concern.
He first sent out a detailed letter laden with misspellings, grammatical errors, dark personal attacks on his opponent, and what he called deeply disturbing facts. He seems to have abandoned that approach when his putative facts turned out to be entirely erroneous. Now he’s mostly campaigning on the issue of a need for change. Even as an extremely far-right Republican, he’s courting Democratic voters in the county—key to the coming election—who are keenly sensitive to that perceived need. But all should be aware that if they vote for him, the ostensible cure could be far worse than the disease.
This is a man who little knows how little he knows. Nonetheless he pushes his ideas with guns-blazing bluster and maintains a puzzling focus on Goldendale, as if the rest of the county weren’t there. He thinks a budget is something you can discern with a 30-second search on Google and apply that simplistic summary to county finances. In his original messaging, he called himself a constitutional Republican (in his case, that means a couple miles to the right of moderate conservatives), and he applauded the constitutional stand of the county sheriff—but even the sheriff chooses not to endorse him. This candidate has no agenda other than that he really dislikes the incumbent and wants good stuff for Goldendale.
Democrats in the county are focused on a need for change, a desire to break out of what they see as decades of same-party rule and good-old-boy networks. The candidate I’m talking about is trying to play to that focus, to win them and others over as the guy who can break up the monopoly, largely working through social media with its tireless penchant for conspiracy and outrage. But we caution voters to realize this candidate would likely place the values of the far-right faction behind him above other concerns. The Sentinel has copies of emails to this candidate from some chillingly belligerent supportive voices, one of them coaching the candidate on how to sabotage a recent candidates’ meeting. The voices—electronic and in his head—would be strident and insistent if he were elected. For the good of this county, don’t let that happen.