the “fake news” deliberately adopted by Republican candidates for the “midterms” in the United States

Several candidates for the US midterm elections have taken up a myth that has gone viral that schools have installed litter boxes for students who identify as cats. They have ridiculed, but analysts see it as a calculated, serious and effective strategy.

At least 20 mid-term conservative candidates, including many Republicans already in office, have claimed that some schools are piling up bags of litter for lost students.“identified as animals”according to a compilation of public statements by NBC News.

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This is what some observers call “disinformation about zombies” — lies that continue to circulate, even though they have been repeatedly refuted by “fact-checkers”. In this case, the information was denied even by schools, as well as by an elected Republican who passed the information on himself before apologizing in March.

Wider Culture War

The wave of misinformation during the midterm election reflects a wider cultural war taking place in the United States over the rights of transgender people and schools being labeled “awake”, educating students about gender identity – issues to which conservative voters are very sensitive. to be .

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“The elected officials who continue to pass these stories, however denied, do so because they think it’s politically appropriate whether they abide by it or not.”Joshua Tucker, a political science professor and co-director of the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University, told AFP.

“As long as we live in a time when identity and culture are at the root of the major political divides in American society, we will continue to see political figures clinging to outlandish claims to show whose side they are in the culture war.he explains.

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Conservative politicians are thus forced to insinuate that they believe this misinformation, Matthew Motta, an assistant professor at Boston University, told AFP.

“Political science research suggests that culture war issues like these (LGBT rights, issues”woke up”etc.) are relatively easy for voters to integrate”explains the academic, adding that: “Elected Republicans can spread misinformation in an effort to improve their electoral position.”

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Conservative politicians have long been accused of amplifying false narratives — from former President Donald Trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen to misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic when perusing the QAnon conspiracy theory.

More stigma, violence and discrimination

An analysis by New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics of Facebook posts from congressional candidates found that Republican candidates for this midterm election shared more resource links, dubious information, than they did in 2020. The report finds that “Unelected Republican candidates consistently share more unreliable sources than incumbent Republicans.”

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However, Hemant Kakkar, an assistant professor at Duke University, warns of the risk of accentuating the already existing divide around disinformation by equating all conservatives with proponents of false information.

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Failure to stop the litter from spreading could nevertheless have real consequences, with activists warning that misinformation could lead to increased stigma, violence and discrimination against sexual minorities, particularly with regard to women, transgender people and non-binary people.

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