In recent decades, Republican party has earned a reputation for denying science even when the evidence is smacking them in the face.
The global pandemic has infected over a million people, but that didn't stop the El Paso County Republican party in Colorado from doubting whether the virus was real.
Nor did they hesitate to share their disbelief in reality on Facebook.
In a post that was removed shortly thereafter, the El Paso Republicans suggested the virus may be a "PSYOP," which they then defined:
"Psychological operations (PSYOP) are operations to convey select information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals."
Posted then quickly deleted by @gopelpaso. Insane and reckless that it went up at all. Be better. (Updated to refle… https://t.co/FDzku7cYAY— Guy Benson (@Guy Benson)1585781214.0
The now-deleted Facebook post
The state GOP quickly pressured their El Paso chapter to remove the post and it disappeared.
But County Chair Vickie Tonkins later told Colorado Politics she didn't understand what the big deal was.
"I posted a question. I'm sorry people couldn't answer it. Don't get all offended."
@guypbenson @gopelpaso El Paso County does not represent @GOPDenver— DPBrittain (@DPBrittain)1585783120.0
@brittain_dp @guypbenson @gopelpaso No, they don’t. This is irresponsible.— Denver Republicans (@Denver Republicans)1585791101.0
Of course, the only people who might have taken personal offense from Tonkins' post were the people whose lives were directly affected by the virus.
El Paso County has one of the nation's highest death rates related to the pandemic and Tonkins was publicly questioning the cause of those deaths.
@guypbenson @gopelpaso https://t.co/WHmdB3dz2s— brewsawa (@brewsawa)1585781342.0
Most people weren't offended so much as outraged that even as most of the nation is on lockdown, the El Paso County GOP continues to endanger people by downplaying the severity of the issue.
@guypbenson @gopelpaso Sigh. Be better, El Paso County GOP.— Laurel Van Driest (@Laurel Van Driest)1585781494.0
Tonkins, however, was unfazed, writing on Facebook:
"I put a post on our Facebook earlier today to see what people thought! I am sorry a few of you were offended by a definition, that was NOT the intention. I did not give an opinion I just asked what people's thoughts as we have asked your thoughts on other issues."
Whether she knows it or not, Tonkins is employing a classic technique extremists often use to make their radical views seem more mainstream.
By framing her insane idea (the pandemic isn't real) as "someone else's view" or "just another perspective," while simultaneously shaming the reader for their valid feelings of outrage, Tonkins is trying to make herself seem normal.
@guypbenson @gopelpaso Vickie Tonkins should not be representing us and should be let go. #ElPasoGOP #NoPsyops— Larry Ganz (@Larry Ganz)1585853116.0
Tonkins also both misidentifies and downplays the source of people's negative feelings, saying ("a few of you were offended by a definition") further clouding the real issue: that her post put people's lives in danger.
Twitter was, fortunately, not taken in by Tonkins' misinformation.
@guypbenson @gopelpaso This was an embarrassment.— Missy Ward (@Missy Ward)1585865689.0
@gopelpaso Please inform Vickie Tonkins she is welcome to volunteer in an Emergency department at any area hospital… https://t.co/TcNwCITBtU— email@example.com (@firstname.lastname@example.org)1585869583.0
As communities come together to fight the spread of the virus, it's important that our leaders spread information they know to be accurate. Obviously, now is not the time to be spreading fringe conspiracy theories.