Yesterday, I poked some fun on Twitter at Montana State Representative Barry Usher, who claimed on Facebook that he, not the frontline doctors and nurses fighting to keep us safe, knew the truth about COVID-19.
He posted this statement, an accusation that a friend of a friend knew that country singer Joe Diffie had not, in fact, died of COVID-19, as his friends, family, and medical officials said.
It was a strange comment from a person known to spread Internet conspiracy theories as if they are true, but this one was different, as Usher was claiming personal knowledge.
That was especially strange when I searched for others who might be sharing this conspiracy theory about Diffie. It turns out that someone on Facebook named Tony Phillips had the exact same friend—and phraseology—about Diffie on April 12, something posted in a group called “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine.”
That post, from someone who works at a greenhouse and claims to have studied “brain surgery” at Harvard, got 79,000 shares on Facebook.
Now you might be thinking that Usher didn’t intend to be conveying this as his personal experience, that he just inadvertently copied and pasted someone else’s experiences as if they were his own. That is until you read the comment on his page, in which he doubles down when someone called him out for hid sad plagiarism of a Facebook post:
Barry Usher is a member of the Montana Legislature and business owner. He willfully spreads misinformation that fits his political agenda all the time, but this time, he went so far as to, during a global pandemic that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives, claim that a family and doctors lied about the death of a loved one to promoted his anti-science, anti-medicine agenda.
Facebook, which refuses to take down false claims about COVID-19, is fueling the fires of ignorance and hatred in our country. It’s a malignant force on our political and social life, and one that lets the dishonesty of people like Representative Barry Usher dangerously proliferate.
Shame on Representative Usher for his lie. And shame on Facebook for leaving it there unchallenged.