Meet David Booth, the fake news peddler who is helping Russia spread its lies.
https://newrepublic.com/article/155896/ ... ign=bufferThere are exceptions, however. In a handful of cases, it’s possible to trace some of the most destructive theories back to their source. Take, for example, the conspiracy theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was killed in 2016 by a “hit team”; or the campaign seeking to tar Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Justice Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school, as deeply tied to the CIA; or the report that the bones of children were found on Jeffrey Epstein’s island—all these myths lead back to one person. In each of these cases, we can confidently trace the confabulation in question to a man named David Lawrence Booth.
A 64-year-old retired chemical plant control-room operator, Booth is one of the world’s foremost purveyors of conspiracies and fake news. Writing under the nom de plume of Sorcha Faal on his website What Does It Mean, Booth and his wife have spent the past 15 years cooking up fabricated tales of impending war, government cover-ups, looming financial collapse, alien arrivals, Satanic acts, earthquake weapons, man-made hurricanes, global apocalypse, and “deep state” machinations of all descriptions. On his website, Booth has falsely suggested that he is an officer in the Mossad or the CIA. The truth about his life is equally fascinating—Booth happens to have been the youngest person ever to attempt to hijack a plane in the U.S.—and an examination of his past, with its links to both Russia and Russian disinformation campaigns, opens a rare window into how and why someone can be drawn into the world of conspiracies.
At first glance, it’s hard to imagine that anyone takes What Does It Mean seriously. The site’s logo is stuffed with a fifth grader’s idea of mysticism: the Virgin Mary, a dragon, a tarot card, a winged horse, and Noah’s ark. Pages are littered with multicolored links, and the whole thing has an amateurish feel, harkening back to the days of DIY web construction in the mid-1990s. Yet What Does It Mean attracts visitors in numbers that would be a marked improvement over those pulled down by, say, a midsize newspaper’s website—roughly three-quarters of a million views in busy months, according to Alexa search rankings. Fans translate the site’s posts into French and Spanish, read them aloud on YouTube, and discuss them online. One measure of the power of a conspiracy theory is how far and how deeply it spreads, and Booth’s reports travel the globe. Laundered through a constellation of more respectable-looking, but no less empirically dodgy websites, they emerge in overseas news outlets cited as fact. That’s how, to take just one example, Iran’s news agency, Fars, was duped into reporting in 2014 that top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that U.S. policy has been guided by extraterrestrial intelligence.
One measure of the power of a conspiracy theory is how far and how deeply it spreads, and Booth’s reports travel the globe.
The site’s slogan is “the news you need today … for the world you’ll live in tomorrow,” but in many ways Booth’s world is already here. The election of a conspiracy theorist in chief has pushed conspiracies, lies, and half-truths onto the front pages and the evening news, while the advent of the internet and social media give web-savvy conspiracy peddlers access to a much larger global market than they formerly dared to dream of reaching. Conspiracy theories have become the political lingua franca of the Trump era—another sordid, sensationalist body of lies sold to people on the fringes of society who have been lied to so often they make sense out of nonsense. The stories are fake, told by a fictional person, but to many devotees, they feel true, and that keeps people coming back to Booth’s site for more.