Thursday, May 13, 2021

Thoughts on disinformation

| December 2, 2020 12:55 AM

Fake news. Election fraud. Voter fraud. Our country is on a paralysis trajectory towards authoritarianism. And the reason---an understanding of truth because of the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation.

First of all, misinformation is information that is provably false. Disinformation is information that is false but is intended to mislead, i.e. propaganda. For example, misinformation about Covid-19 has been perpetuated by organizations with credible titles, such as the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.  This source is given for the response to the Covid pandemic by a medical officer on the Flathead Health Board. This is not an accredited medical journal; it is a political group. They claimed that vaccinations cause autism; they claimed President Obama used a “covert form of hypnosis” to win over the public; they opposed medical peer review and electronic record-keeping because they fear Big Brother will spy on you. Nevertheless, this is one of the sources of misinformation (JAPS political motive is unconfirmed) the people of Flathead and Lincoln County depend upon. And it cost lives. The explosion of Covid cases in Kalispell is a good reason why.

Then there are the disinformation superspreaders, such as One America News Network that has been sanctioned by YouTube for its demonstrably false information.

Or, right-wing commentators Sidney Powell, Dan Bongino, Mark Levin, Diamond and Silk,  Donald Trump, Jr., Fox commentators,  accounted for millions of likes on Facebook and other social media sites, taking every opportunity to create a flood of falsehoods about the voting process, malfunctioning voting machines, and how the election was stolen from Trump. Even though the GOP gained seats in the House and Biden won by more than 6 million votes and Trump’s picked federal judge in Pennsylvania and 35 federal courts in battleground states agreed with cybersecurity official Chris Krebs stating that there was no election fraud.  Krebs was summarily fired for his honesty. The president gets his news from these sources and using his bully pulpit, broadcasts this nonsense to anyone listening. The result is the majority of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump. 

This war on truth is catastrophic to democracy. Not only will thousands die from the pandemic by listening to this nonsense, but people lose faith in the news, their leaders, and ultimately their system of government. When the president demonstrates a disregard for our most fundamental right, the right to vote and choose our leaders, we as a democratic nation will cease to exist. It is true that 80 million Americans chose a more positive path; however, by spouting this “stab in the back” propaganda for four years, it is difficult to remain hopeful that progress for all Americans will occur. In short, this war on truth must stop for the good and future of the nation.

David R. James