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Barth Keck

While TikTok, a treasure trove of misinformation, might be the “new Google” for teenagers, Facebook remains the adults’ go-to source for factual inaccuracies and outright lies – especially when it comes to politics.

Not unlike my social-media conversations regarding the faux-documentary “Plandemic,” I recently found myself engaged in an exasperating Facebook exchange regarding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ surprise delivery of asylum-seeking Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. 

“The hoity toity leftist elitists who live on Martha’s Vineyard, threw an absolute fit!!!” wrote a Facebook friend in a post. “Even though they called themselves a sanctuary place! They were so ticked off, they had the illegals removed from the island to the mainland, Massachusetts! Showing how the elitist leftists are the biggest hypocrites there are!!!”

The post, appearing four days after the Sept. 14 arrival of the migrants, surprised me (sort of) since it came from a self-proclaimed Christian who often shares Bible verses like this one from Hebrews 4:16: “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.”

If anyone was in a “time of need,” it was the Venezuelan migrants. As the New York Times reported, “Many of the migrants described having traveled for more than two months from Venezuela as they made their way through half a dozen or more countries to reach the United States, where they have a legal right to seek asylum. Once in Texas, they said they had been offered transportation to Massachusetts – on flights arranged by Mr. DeSantis at Florida’s expense that were designed to grab headlines about what he calls lax border security just weeks before voting begins.”

The plight of these human beings left my Christian Facebook friend unmoved. Even after I noted that “DeSantis throwing asylum seekers on a plane under false pretenses is not a very Christian act,” he pushed back. In particular, he cited the predicament of border states like Texas, where he lives, that see scores of immigrants entering the country every day.

“[T]he hell with Democrat controlled states and cities,” he wrote, “I could care less! And yes, they are the biggest hypocrites there are! I hope these Governors keep sending them! I wish we could send them all!!!”

As I looked more closely at his words, it became apparent that he was not expressing original ideas so much as parroting the talking points of partisan websites whose content is repeatedly shared on social media.

“Martha’s Vineyard Homeless Shelter Coordinator Lisa Belcastro melted down over the 50 illegals during an interview with the Cape Cod Times,” reported the Gateway Pundit, rated by Media Bias Fact Check as a “questionable source” due to its “promotion of conspiracies and numerous instances of publishing false (fake) news.”

“The meltdown over the 50 illegals flown to Martha’s Vineyard is fun to watch,” continued the Pundit story. “The racist white limousine liberals on Martha’s Vineyard are not happy about their new poor, brown neighbors.”

Problem was, no one on Martha’s Vineyard was “melting down.” Any rational person who bothered to watch the three-minute video the Gateway Pundit lifted from the Cape Cod Times can plainly see that Lisa Belcastro is simply describing the situation, not whining. Indeed, she explains how the Vineyarders were not ridding themselves of some unwanted scourge, but watching Massachusetts officials move the migrants to facilities on the Cape that could more adequately care for them.

In fact, the people of Martha’s Vineyard acted, well, Christian toward the migrants, according to the Rev. Father Chip Seadale of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church.

“Calling it ‘an incredible miracle,’ [Seadale] said that ‘all the sectors of the community – we’re talking police, emergency, fire, the people who know how to make meals for our winter community suppers, the people who help to staff our overnight winter shelter program – they all came out and knew exactly what they needed to do’.”

This entire story, frankly, is a case study in how social-media platforms not only enable the spread of misinformation; they invite it.

“Online posts claim the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is a designated ‘sanctuary for undocumented migrants’,” reported AFP Fact Check, “and that a group flown there by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has since been ‘deported.’ This is inaccurate; none of the towns on the resort island are sanctuary cities, and the migrants have been relocated to the nearby Joint Base Cape Cod.”

“Similar posts circulated on Facebook and Instagram in English and Spanish,” continued the AFP story. “Many include photos of the New York Post‘s September 17, 2022 issue, which had a headline that said: ‘Liberals deport migrants’.”

Thus, it didn’t matter how many fact-checks I shared with my Texas Facebook friend; he was undeterred: “The leftists did throw a fit on the island. I read it and I heard it. The silent ones were responsible for raising hell with the Gov. of Massachusetts to get them out of there.”

It’s a clear-cut example of the findings uncovered by Dartmouth researcher Brendan Nyhan: “In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup.”

For the record, I never claimed that this country’s immigration policy is efficient or effective, or that border states must bear the responsibility for housing asylum seekers. What I stated is that we all should seek facts when confronting social-political issues rather than information that conveniently confirms our beliefs.

Based on the experience with my Facebook friend in Texas, I think my plea is falling on deaf ears.

Barth Keck is in his 32nd year as an English teacher and 18th year as an assistant football coach at Haddam-Killingworth High School where he teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition. Follow Barth on Twitter @keckb33 or email him here.

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