When an angry mob stormed the Washington Capitol on January 6, 2021, the widespread reaction was stunned. The carnivalesque costumes of some of the assailants caused hilarity, but their objective was not a joke: to prevent the winner of the elections, Joe Biden, from being proclaimed president; an attack on the heart of the most powerful state in the world that opened the ban on replicas like the one that took place on Sunday in the Brazilian Congress, invaded by thousands of radical Bolsonaristas.

Investigations are still open to clarify the events of that day and the responsibility of its main instigator and beneficiary, who followed the assault by his followers live from the White House without lifting a finger to stop them. But what no commission or court will explain is that it went through the minds of those angry citizens to convince them that violently breaking into the temple of democracy was the only way to save it.

Trump kept repeating that he had won the elections and denouncing an alleged massive fraud without evidence, but his excuse of being a sore loser would not have found any echo if it had not fallen on the fertile ground of a population intoxicated for years by an overdose of lies.

The last book by Ignacio Ramonet, The era of conspiracy. Trump, the cult of lies and the assault on the Capitol, sits American society on the couch and analyzes how he has been sliding down the slope of paranoia until he reached the brink of civil confrontation. The slogan “it’s the economy, stupid” from Clinton’s campaign against Bush senior, in 1992, could now be changed to “it’s the frustration, stupid” to explain why millions of poor and impoverished citizens supported a Trump whose tax policy benefited to potentates like him and harmed the majority.

For that to be possible, what the former director of Le Monde Diplomatique and president of its Spanish edition called “the end of the American dream” had to take place: the economic debacle of the white working class, which during the 20th century was identified with the prototype of the enterprising and successful American. It is true that the rubble of the fall of Lehman Brothers hit African-Americans or Latinos harder, but they did not have the feeling of having been robbed of what they always believed to be theirs. For Ramonet (a citizen of the world born in Redondela, Pontevedra, sociologist and semiotician, PhD in Social Sciences from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris) the epidemic of antidepressants and opiates that is sweeping the United States is the result of the lack of scruples of the pharmaceuticals, but also a symptom of a deep social malaise. The “positive discrimination” in favor of minorities has served as an alibi to feed the identity sentiment of some white workers who attribute their fall from grace to their ethnic condition and not to growing inequality and interpret Trump’s “Make America Great Again” as a promise of going back to the good old days.

Protesters outside the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Kent Nishimura (Los Angeles Time

Against this background, social networks have emerged as privileged channels for the transmission of information. Far from multiplying social interactions, its algorithms create fragmented audiences, encourage users to only receive messages that reaffirm their prejudices, and generate closed circles without contrast with the outside world. If before the whole society was exposed to the bombardment of the mass media, now each group receives feedback from its own sources, often toxic.

The doctrine of “alternative facts” claims that all versions have the same value, whether they are true or not. It does not matter that a piece of news is false if it reaffirms a higher truth: the one felt in their guts by those who feel mistreated or victims of injustice; for example, the theft of Trump’s elections. The referents that should guide society in the midst of confusion and uncertainty (journalists, politicians, academics, scientists) are discredited. They are no longer regarded with reverential respect but with suspicion and even resentment.

The conspiracy mentality claims that the media, the political class, economic powers and cultural figures form a corrupt caste responsible for all evils. His word is worth the same as that of charlatans or witches. The scientific method inspires less confidence than a spell. It’s back to the Dark Ages, the world before the Enlightenment.

Conspiracyism claims that a cabal is secretly pulling the strings of the world. The members of that elite are powerful; but those who believe in this theory also feel special: they can see what others cannot see, their eyes are open in a world of the blind, like in the Matrix movie. In this ecosystem, Pizzagate triumphed, the story of an alleged sect of satanic pedophiles led by Hillary Clinton with its epicenter in a pizzeria in Washington. After gaining millions of followers in the virtual world, one of her believers crossed the border of the real world and on December 4, 2016 shot her in the restaurant.

The attack on the pizzeria and the assault on the Capitol demonstrated that hoaxes, however delusional and outlandish they may be, are not innocuous. Trump was evicted from the White House and lost the loudspeaker of the big social networks. But the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, has invited him back. Although he has declined the offer for the moment, racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic speeches are once again circulating on the great information highways and not just on secondary roads.