THE December newsletter for Conservative Party members in the English town of Wellingborough came with a simple reminder: a lie can go round the whole world before the truth can get its boots on – so use that to your advantage.

As The National reported at the time, the newsletter advised on “weaponising fake news” and learning that: “If you make enough dubious claims, fast enough, honest speakers are overwhelmed.”

By sharing a relentless amount of misinformation, it argued, it would become impossible to fact check everything in time.

It’s no surprise that in looking for inspiration, Conservative members were encouraged to cast their eyes across the pond to the actions of Donald Trump.

Misinformation has always been a key weapon of the far right, for whom seizing power is more important than addressing very real issues with integrity. Traditionally, a dishonest statement would lead to a potentially bad headline, but with social media the means now exists to broadcast agenda-driven fake news to audiences of millions with almost zero accountability and potentially terrifying consequences.

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Headlines have limited reach. Tweets are global.

For the past four years, the president of the United States has bombarded America with a tsunami of fake news and scapegoating, building an increasingly hostile mob which believed, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that they were under attack from Democrats, the media and anyone else who dared to challenge Trump’s demagoguery.

As with many fascistic regimes before, Trump utilised the emotional pull of times gone by, with a promise of a return to a golden-age utopia that never really existed.

Dangerously misinformed and radicalised by social media and alternative news outlets, Trump helped create a mob that was willing to tear down democracy for four more years of sticking it to the liberals, and they were seemingly willing to take prisoners to do so, if the photos of militants with zip cuffs in the US Capitol building are anything to go by.

This is how fascistic regimes inevitably come to power.

The Nazis often used the phrase Lügenpresse, lying press, to dismiss inconvenient news during Hitler’s rise to power in 1930s Germany.

Trump has manufactured such hostility to legitimate journalism that, as the mob descended on the US Capitol building, members of the media were attacked and had camera equipment stolen and thrown into a pile.

With the hardware in a heap, the crowd looked for anything it could use to set light to it. The footage of this is unnervingly similar to the infamous photo of the ransacking of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, which Nazi adherents stormed before burning pioneering research into transgender identities. Of course, the Capitol mob wasn’t just analogous to the Nazis – many were actual Nazis. Spotted in the crowd was one man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” hoodie. There were several banners with the far-right slogan 6MWE, meaning Six Million Wasn’t Enough, in reference to the Holocaust.

The ubiquitous nature of social media, seeded with bias-affirming fake news, has allowed far-right ideas, phrases and conspiracies to seep back into the political mainstream in a way that may not have been possible otherwise.

Closer to home, social media misinformation is also used to stoke anger against left-wing and “woke” voices. Just this week, a member of the House of Lords, Ian Austin, claimed: “I don’t believe the hard left would have accepted an election defeat or even held one they’d lose. We’ve become complacent about our democracy and take it for granted, when we must defend it.”

Overlooking the gobsmacking irony of a member of the House of Lords lecturing anyone about not wanting to hold an election, Austin seems to have forgotten the Tories have been in power for more than 10 years now through successive election wins without any leftists attempting to storm the Houses of Parliament.

Of course, he hasn’t really forgotten. He just doesn’t care. Facts are a secondary consideration when it comes to vilifying the left.

While this may seem a trite example, it’s important to note that it is part of a broader cultural narrative, pushed by right-wing social accounts and pundits, that encourages people to vilify the left while disregarding the evidence right in front of your eyes.

It’s something we need to be desperately aware of in the run-up to the Holyrood election and beyond to another referendum on independence.

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In 2018, The Ferret ran analysis on how accurate statements from the main political parties in Scotland were, and found that 70% of claims made by the Scottish Tories were at the very least mostly false.

When the Wellingborough Tories claimed that “a lie can go round the whole world before the truth can get its boots on” they were right and, given the Tories’ apparent lack of integrity, I think we can expect to see social media continue to be used to push misinformation to their benefit.

I could never say if openly lying was an official Tory Party policy, but I can say that Boris Johnson didn’t condemn the newsletter’s advice when given the chance to do so.

In the end, Twitter and Facebook finally took action this week and suspended Donald Trump’s social media accounts – and all it took was five dead bodies and an attempt to overthrow a democratic election.

No-platforming has been an effective tool in tackling the far-right in the past. Look to Milo Yiannopoulos, once a Breitbart editor who made a fortune taking on “woke culture”. Following a ban from the media giants, the former poster boy of the alt-right movement is bankrupt.

If we want to stop the rise of violent and intolerant right-wing populism, the time to act is now. Pushing accounts that seek to deceive and manipulate off mainstream social media is just one of many steps we must take.