SXSW 2020: After Truth

After Truth captures the human toll of false news stories spread by disinformation purveyors like Alex Jones. Photo credit: Abstract LLC.

After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News isn’t just an examination of “fake news” but a look into the horrifying consequences.

I believe it was President Abraham Lincoln who once said that we shouldn’t believe everything we read on the internet.  The nation’s 16th president most certainly didn’t say those comments but every now and then, a meme circulates around the internet with Lincoln being credited.  However, this film isn’t so much about the threat against those of us declared by Donald Trump to be an “enemy of the people.”  No, it’s about something that’s far more serious: the real-world consequences of conspiracy theories from the likes that he’s enabled.

Pizzagate.  Seth Rich.  Alex Jones.  This is a list that goes on and on in a world of post-truth.  When John Podesta’s emails were hacked, there would be terrifying consequences for a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.  A neighborhood pizza restaurant would go onto be the subject of vicious internet rumors.  Rumors with no sense of truth to them.  Emails that were strictly about pizza somehow got misconstrued into being about child pornography.  In what world?!?  One cannot help but feel bad for James Alefantis.  If it were up to him, the Comet Ping Pong would have closed for good.  It was the community that saved the restaurant from permanently closing.

While Pizzagate is but one subject, the reality is only so much can be covered in 95 minutes.  Many conspiracies behind a 2015 military operation, Jade Helm 15, are discussed.  Even with no truth to them, the Texas governor still took action.  While no evidence connects Seth Rich’s murder to the leaked Hillary Clinton emails, conspiracy theorists believe they are tied.  Some of the same people suggested that former FBI Director Robert Mueller was a perpetrator of sexual assault.  Again, he did nothing of that kind.  In late 2017, activists on the left decided to imitate Russian tactics during a special election in Alabama.  Finally, there’s Facebook and all the issues that come with it.  There’s more than enough material to look into Facebook alone.

After Truth is a documentary with access not only to the victims but to the people who sread the awful rumors.  On top of that, industry experts and journalists discuss the impact and remind us why quality journalism is important.  As much as we’d like to think that such news stories are a result of the Trump era, the harsh truth is they predate him.

After Truth only covers a snippet of the misinformation, which is only going to get worse in the social media age.  Any of the covered subjects could be a documentary in their own right.

DIRECTOR:  Andrew Rossi
FEATURING:  Kara Swisher, James Alefantis, Aaron Rich, Oliver Darcy, Will Sommer, Craig Silverman, Ross Ramsey, Elizabeth Williamson, Adam Goldman, Yochai Benkler

After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News holds its world premiere during the 2020 SXSW Film Festival in the Documentary Spotlight program. HBO will air the documentary on March 19, 2020. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.