Robert Brent Toplin is the author of several books on history, politics, and film including Radical Conservatism: The Right's Political Religion (2006), Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11": How One Film Divided a Nation (2006), Reel History: In Defense of Hollywood (2002), Oliver Stone's USA: Film, History, and Controversy (2000), and History by Hollywood: The Use and Abuse of the American Past (1996, 2010). He has served as the editor of film reviews for the Journal of American History as well as the "Masters of the Movies" series in the American Historical Association's Perspectives on History. He has made numerous appearances as a commentator on history and film for cbs, pbs, the History Channel, cspan, the Turner Classic Movies Channel, and National Public Radio, and he has served as a principal creator of historical dramas that appeared nationally on pbs, the Disney Channel, and Starz. He is an emeritus professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and has been an adjunct professor of history at the University of Virginia.
In 1807 Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Invented facts have long been evident in presidential elections and in wartime propaganda. This analysis traces the phenomenon’s long history in American life, and it draws special attention to the Internet’s striking impact. Online communication since the 1990s facilitated the partisan manipulation of facts, evidenced by political events associated with the Iraq War and the 2016 presidential election.