Vanderbilt explains that she isn’t a news watcher as she’s been told by the Republican Party and Trump—who she voted for twice—that most news is “fake.” She said she was a relatively passive citizen politically, voting “straight red,” because that’s kind of what she was taught to do by her family. Vanderbilt’s social media life was spent, by her account, following “entertainment” Tik-Tok accounts. However, as Republicans began campaigning for both themselves and Trump, Vanderbilt began receiving more and more QAnon-style conspiracy news in her Tik-Tok account. A big part of this is that as campaigning began, Vanderbilt would like pro-Trump posts and anti-Biden posts. And that’s how you begin to see the algorithm at work.
Vanderbilt then showed one of the conspiracy video clips to “different friends of mine that were bigger Trump supporters,” asking them about the video, and some of those friends sent her into YouTube conspiracy videos. The thing about rabbit-holing into conspiracy videos is that they can be very convincing if you don’t know which parts are actual facts and which arguments the conspiracy is actually tackling versus how many are simply made-up strawman arguments that create the illusion that a secret is being revealed about the general reality going on. If you have friends who position themselves in your life as experts or more knowledgable about a certain subject, it is very easy to believe them. Why would they lie to you? In our best relationships with others there is a trust that we are not being mislead.
By Inauguration Day, Vanderbilt fully believed that there would be a blackout, that Donald Trump and the military would arrest all of the liberals and “Hollywood elite” and fake conservatives attending the inauguration. Martial law would be called for a few weeks as “dangerous” leftists were rounded up, and then Donald Trump would be rightfully reinstalled as president at some point. It’s wacky and hard to believe. After Vanderbilt recovered from her devastation that none of the above happened, she came to the conclusion that she had been had. That she was tricked and had bought into a big bogus reality.
Her only excuse for this walk into madness is that she spent “a lot of time, this year, isolated. From everybody.” She says that she may have lost touch with a “little bit of reality,” but that she doesn’t feel “embarrassed for what I believed, but a little foolish for what I believed.” She says she has had to apologize more to her daughter for being so frustrated and short with her. Vanderbilt, in the end says she thought that she might have been pulled out of the delusion if Donald Trump himself had at any point disavowed any of the conspiracy theories he rode so opportunistically upon.
Let me say here, I don’t think Vanderbilt is some kind of hero for talking about her bad politics and her support of fascism. But this isn’t someone sharpening her bowie knife and fantasizing about owning bigger guns either. I do not believe in repealing or amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. I also think this story goes to show that there is a broader need for more of our education to be based on the tenets of critical thinking and how to be a critical thinker, and less on test-taking metrics.
There are more issues revealed here about economics and isolation and disenfranchisement and a political class that continues to screw around with stimulus paychecks while people are living hour to hour in desperation from uncertainty.
You can watch the report below.