Now that President-elect Donald J. Trump has started firing people for spreading fake news, let's hope he doesn't stop at one.
On Tuesday, he canned transition team member Michael G. Flynn for taking to Twitter to keep alive the false "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory — involving a believable combination of child sex slaves, a pizzeria and Hillary Clinton — even after it led to a vigilante shooting last weekend inside a Washington D.C. restaurant. ("The intel on this wasn't 100 percent," the gunman told the New York Times on Wednesday. Ya think?)
Next up should be Vice President-elect Mike Pence for claiming Mr. Flynn wasn't part of the Trump transition team, followed by Mr. Flynn's father, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn. The elder Flynn is Mr. Trump's pick for national security adviser, and he's as bad as his son when it comes to misusing social media — endorsing alt-right figures and disparaging Muslims on Twitter and passing along bogus claims about, among other things, Hillary Clinton being headed to jail and plans for a one world church banning Christianity.
And then, of course, Mr. Trump will have to let himself go.
A sample of his misinformation, according to Politifact:
• Millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election. (No they didn't.)
• African-American communities are in the "worst shape they've ever been in." (One word: slavery.)
• There are no chess grandmasters in the U.S. (We have 90.)
• He "finished" the Obama birther controversy. (Try "furthered it.")
• "Inner-city crime is reaching record levels." (Violent crime in cities has been cut in half since the mid-1990s.)
• "We don't know anything about Hillary in terms of religion." (She's a long-practicing Methodist.)
• Ted Cruz's father "was with Lee Harvey Oswald" before the assassination of President JFK. (This is based on a National Enquirer story; need I say more?)
The irony here, of course, is that while it's never been easier to disseminate wild claims — fake election news stories were actually shared far more than real news stories on Facebook in the three months prior to Election Day — it's also never been easier to debunk them. If employing common sense and critical thinking skills aren't enough, there are dozens of websites devoted to fact-checking the latest viral rumors. (Here are some about Mr. Obama we'd like to put to bed: He's not buying a vacation house in Dubai; he hasn't signed an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools; and he did not, unfortunately, ban fake news sites post-election)
But Mr. Trump apparently hasn't learned the finer details of using Google to check his "facts."
And then there are the statements he makes that we can't yet classify as real or fake. Does he really want to cancel the Boeing contract for a new Air Force One, or is tweeting so just a strategy to get a discount on the price? Are flag burners truly in jeopardy of losing their citizenship or spending a year in jail despite First Amendment protections, as he said they should be? And is he indeed planning to "terminate" the Cuba deal Mr. Obama cut if it's not improved in our favor?
He appears to float random ideas to gauge public reaction, like throwing spaghetti at a wall to see if it sticks. "I am seriously considering Dr. Ben Carson as the head of HUD. I've gotten to know him well — he's a greatly talented person who loves people!" he tweeted on Nov. 22. Nearly two weeks later, after relatively little backlash (likely owing to the Thanksgiving holiday), he made it official.
He raised the idea of Mitt Romney as secretary of state weeks ago but has delayed making a decision as his allies trash the former Massachusetts governor, who famously railed against Mr. Trump during the campaign.
Then again, the president-elect might just be messing with Mr. Romney and others he views as antagonistic. Why else would he meet with Al Gore — who co-won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for efforts "to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change" — only turn around a few days later and appoint a climate change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency?
Maybe that's what he was really up to with the Boeing tweet, which caused the company's stock to plummet. After all, it appeared shortly after Boeing's CEO criticized Mr. Trump's trade policies in The Sun's sister paper, the Chicago Tribune.
The only thing we can be sure of when it comes to Mr. Trump is that whatever he's saying, true or false, has been crafted for one purpose: serving his personal interests, whatever they may be.
So can we believe him when he says he'll "make America great again"? I don't think we need to go to Snopes.com to figure out the answer to that.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.