Hate­ful the­o­ries are not just on dark web

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - BUSINESS REPORT - By Jim Ruten­berg

You don’t have to go deep into the in­ter­net to find the base­less con­spir­a­cies that pro­vided a back­drop for mass mur­der in Pitts­burgh and the re­cent pipe-bomb mail­ings to Barack Obama, the Clin­tons, Ge­orge Soros and CNN. They are served up in plain sight, for profit, at air­port book­stores, at movie-the­ater chains and on cable tele­vi­sion.

They come by way of pub­lish­ing houses like Ha­chette and Pen­guin Ran­dom House; film dis­trib­u­tors like Uni­ver­sal Home Stu­dios and Lion­s­gate; the­ater chains like AMC and Cine­mark; and 21st Cen­tury Fox, the par­ent com­pany of Fox News.

Those com­pa­nies have all helped feed a seg­ment of the me­dia busi­ness that should be called what it is — the Incite­ment In­dus­try.

It rakes in profit by serv­ing up at­tacks on lib­er­als, Democrats and “deep state” op­er­a­tives who are said to be plot­ting to de­stroy Amer­ica for the ben­e­fit of dark­er­skinned mi­grants or a shad­owy con­sor­tium of elites.

You can see this kind of thing in the pages of “Liars, Leak­ers and Lib­er­als” by Fox News opin­ion host Jea­nine Pirro. Pub­lished in July by Cen­ter Street, a divi­sion of the Ha­chette Book Group, Pirro’s book lays out “the glob­al­ist, open-border oli­garchy” that, the au­thor as­serts, is seek­ing to nul­lify the re­sults of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“The per­pe­tra­tors of this anti-Amer­i­can plot in­clude, but are not lim­ited to, the

“I don’t want some pub­lisher telling me that some­thing is be­yond bounds.”

Bill Kris­tol, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst

lead­er­ship at the FBI, the CIA, NSA and other in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, the Demo­cratic Party and per­haps even the FISA courts,” she writes.

“Liars, Leak­ers and Lib­er­als” has spent 13 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

An­other re­cent best­seller in the same vein, “Re­sis­tance Is Fu­tile!” by con­ser­va­tive provo­ca­teur Ann Coul­ter, was pub­lished by Sen­tinel, an im­print of the pub­lish­ing gi­ant Pen­guin Ran­dom House. It ar­gues that the “re­sis­tance” that sprang up in the wake of Trump’s elec­tion is “noth­ing less than a coup.” And it lights into a con­ve­niently vague vil­lain — “the me­dia” — in a chap­ter ti­tled “For Democ­racy to Live, We Must Kill the Me­dia.”

“The me­dia’s po­si­tion is that they’re al­lowed to en­gage in lies, de­cep­tion and even il­le­gal acts to swing an elec­tion,” Coul­ter writes.

A sim­i­lar point of view char­ac­ter­izes the films of Di­nesh D’Souza, the polemi­cist who had pleaded guilty to mak­ing il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions in 2014, only to be par­doned by Trump this year. Movie­go­ers did not have to go out of their way to catch D’Souza’s most re­cent ef­fort, “Death of a Na­tion.” The film had a wide re­lease last sum­mer, play­ing in more than 1,000 theaters, in­clud­ing those be­long­ing to the AMC and Cine­mark chains.

The film makes the case that the Nazi plat­form was sim­i­lar to that of to­day’s Demo­cratic Party. Prom­i­nent among its vil­lains is Ge­orge Soros, who was al­legedly sent a pipe bomb by Ce­sar Sayoc Jr., who also is ac­cused of send­ing sim­i­lar pack­ages to Hil­lary Clin­ton and Obama.

“The pro­gres­sive Democrats are the true racists,” the film’s nar­ra­tor in­tones. “They are the true fas­cists. They want to steal our in­come. They want to steal our earn­ings and our wealth and our free­dom and our lives.”

The PG-13 rated film had a box of­fice take of roughly $6 mil­lion, which paled next to the $33 mil­lion brought in by “Obama’s Amer­ica,” a 2012 film by D’Souza that claimed Obama, as the pres­i­dent, sought to de­stroy the United States from within to sate the “anti-Colo­nial­ism” im­pulses of the African fa­ther he hardly knew.

“Death of a Na­tion” will have a sec­ond life by stream­ing on Ama­zon, iTunes and Google Play, as well as on DVD, sold at Wal­mart, Best Buy and other re­tail­ers. The dis­tri­bu­tion is be­ing han­dled by Qual­ity Flix and Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures Home En­ter­tain­ment.

The Incite­ment In­dus­try can also be a driv­ing force at Fox News, which has lately fea­tured guests who have as­serted with­out ev­i­dence that Soros fi­nanced the mi­grant car­a­van mak­ing its slow way to­ward the south­ern border of the United States. Some­one who shared that view was the man charged with killing 11 con­gre­gants dur­ing a hate-driven shoot­ing ram­page at the Tree of Life syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.

The Fox Busi­ness Net­work opin­ion show “Lou Dobbs Tonight” was the set­ting for two par­tic­u­larly glar­ing as­ser­tions. Dobbs played the friendly in­ter­viewer as Chris Far­rell, a di­rec­tor of a right-wing ac­tivist group called Ju­di­cial Watch, said that “the Sorosoc­cu­pied State De­part­ment” was in­volved in the mi­grant car­a­van. Af­ter his ap­pear­ance on Dobbs’ pro­gram, Fox News con­demned the state­ment and said that Far­rell would no longer ap­pear on the net­work.

An­other guest on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” au­thor Sid­ney Pow­ell, likened the car­a­van to an “in­va­sion” that was lead­ing to “dis­eases spread­ing across the coun­try that are caus­ing po­lio-like paral­y­sis of our chil­dren.” In that case, Dobbs pushed back, say­ing, “You can’t very well blame that dis­ease on il­le­gal im­mi­grants.”

The hys­te­ria led Bill Kris­tol, the con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can who was once a reg­u­lar on the Ru­pert Mur­doch-owned Fox News, to tell Brian Stel­ter of CNN that it was time for Fox’s own­ers and in­vestors to take a hard look at the rhetoric spilling out of its news chan­nel.

And Fox News an­chor Shep­ard Smith, who has be­come some­thing of an in-house om­buds­man for the net­work, told his view­ers on Mon­day, “There is no in­va­sion. No one’s com­ing to get you. There’s noth­ing to worry about.”

(Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Fox News and its par­ent com­pany, 21st Cen­tury Fox, did not com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.)

There is cer­tainly enough hy­per­bole to go around. Last week, GQ cor­re­spon­dent Ju­lia Ioffe apol­o­gized for say­ing on CNN that Trump had “rad­i­cal­ized so many more peo­ple than ISIS ever did.”

Vi­o­lent acts, it should be noted, are the re­spon­si­bil­ity of those who com­mit them, and the per­pe­tra­tors have var­i­ous ide­o­log­i­cal mo­ti­va­tions. But the grist for emo­tion­ally dis­turbed or just plain vi­o­lent peo­ple has never seemed so read­ily avail­able.

“It might be fun or prof­itable for peo­ple to take up a mega­phone against oth­ers,” said James Ale­fan­tis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong in Wash­ing­ton, the site of the in­ter­net’s “piz­za­gate” con­spir­acy. “The fact is, it takes just one in­di­vid­ual to de­cide to take vi­o­lent ac­tion.”

Ale­fan­tis’ liveli­hood suf­fered last year when a gun­man — who was sup­pos­edly “in­ves­ti­gat­ing” the the­ory that the restau­rant housed a Clin­ton-run child pros­ti­tu­tion ring — fired an AR-15 ri­fle at his place of busi­ness.

Alex Jones of In­fowars got rich by pro­mot­ing con­spir­a­cies like that one. While he is in his own cat­e­gory, Jones got his mes­sage out to a mass au­di­ence through YouTube, Face­book, Twit­ter and Ap­ple — which even­tu­ally cut ties with him un­der in­ten­si­fy­ing crit­i­cism of their fail­ure to curb the spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion. That, in turn, fed com­plaints among some con­ser­va­tives that the ma­jor tech firms, un­der pres­sure from lib­er­als and the news me­dia, was guilty of thought­polic­ing.

But where is the line be­tween false­hoods that may in­cite vi­o­lence and good, old-fash­ioned Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal hy­per­bole? And should book pub­lish­ers and en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies be more care­ful about the prod­ucts they send out into the world in a tense so­ciopo­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere?

“I don’t want some pub­lisher telling me that some­thing is be­yond bounds,” Kris­tol said in an in­ter­view. “I’m a lib­er­tar­ian on points of view and even in­ter­pre­ta­tions of his­tory.”

But af­ter not­ing that con­spir­acy the­o­ries of re­cent vin­tage have whipped up fear and ha­tred, Kris­tol added, “There are things that nor­mal fact-check­ing would rule out. It’s not a mat­ter of ide­ol­ogy; it’s truth.”

Chad Batka / New York Times

Ann Coul­ter’s best-seller was put out by an im­print of pub­lish­ing gi­ant Pen­guin Ran­dom House.

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