There is no evidence of voter fraud or election administration errors that would have made enough difference to change the 2020 presidential election result in any state. Yet lawn signs seen here in Sanpete County say, “Fix 2020 first.”
When Manti City started installing a system to automatically read electricity meters, some residents asked to opt-out of the system because they believed the radio waves used to transmit electricity usage data to a central city computer would affect DNA, the brain and how much sugar is in the bloodstream.
Yet scientists say 5G radio waves, the system that would be used, cannot penetrate past the skin. Questar Gas has used the same system statewide for 20 years with no reports of ill effects.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccines of all types, including the COVID-19 vaccine, completely prevent or, at minimum, reduce the severity of disease.
Yet a Sanpete County resident, who said she is a registered nurse, wrote a letter to the editor, stating, “I don’t believe what is being taught by the mainstream media. They are lock-step involved with the corrupt leaders in our nation such as Dr. Fauci…Don’t get the COVID-19 shots and don’t give [them] to your children! (The Messenger did not publish the letter.)
Disinformation is undermining confidence in democracy, impeding scientific and
technological progress, and costing lives. How do we get a handle on it?
This column will be tricky for me to write, partly because I’m as guilty as many Americans of consuming news in my like-minded bubble, I’m careful to seek out responsible, authoritative sources, but I don’t go looking for other viewpoints in an effort to refute the information I get—that’s uncomfortable! I avoid uncomfortable.
With that disclaimer on the table, I do want to address the issue of disinformation. I agree with our editor’s assertion that disinformation is the source of many dangerous trends in our country, Let’s talk about two issues:
Who publishes false information, and why?
Why do we believe and even seek it?
Looking at the first question: I believe that writers who generate false information, mostly online, have an agenda to persuade us, not just inform us. They may earn advertising income from their web-based publications. They may enjoy the fame and power they have as they reach and influence tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Self-publishing online is easy, cheap and your credentials are often not questioned—if you say it, and it resonates, you can be famous.
The second issue is why we gobble up lies. In my view, this has to do with something called confirmation bias: We want to have power over our lives, our health and our government, and when we sense that we don’t have control, we want to know why. We look for answers that verify our suspicions and validate our own ideas and sometimes answers from people we like and respect.
Your thoughts, Steve?
I define disinformation as any false statement intended to mislead, confuse or misdirect another person’s thoughts or actions. In other words, lies. They have become the stock-in-trade of the political class. Disinformation threatens the very existence of our democracy. Why? Because actions based on false information will inevitably prove to be the wrong actions.
Disinformation is not the exclusive province of any particular political party; it is the product of dishonest people trying to persuade others that a lie or half-truth is the truth, and that erroneous information should be trusted over actual fact. It makes it nearly impossible for average citizens to deduce truth, especially when the falsehood is propagated by supposedly unbiased news organizations.
Politicians can get away with it because they have exempted themselves from the libel and slander laws by which the rest of us are bound. There is no accountability other than the court of public opinion when a politician utters a lie.
Americans have been subjected to disinformation for so long that they have lost their disgust with untruth and no longer punish political leaders who blatantly and knowingly speak untruth. It is we who have created the atmosphere where disinformation can thrive and metastasize faster than truth.
It is we who tolerate mainstream news networks who have disposed of objective journalism in order to ally themselves with a political philosophy that thrives on half-truths and outright untruth.
Thankfully, there’s one thing they can’t avoid, and that’s, wait for it…wait for it… “The Truth.” Today the truth is devastating their positions and unraveling their voter base faster than any wrecking ball ever could.
And that’s the truth, Alison. How do you see it?
Steve, I don’t have the same confidence that you seem to have in The Truth winning out, There is evidence, in fact, that refuting conspiracy theories with facts reinforces them, because attention is drawn to false assertions, Examples of this are the Pizzagate conspiracy, the Sandy Hook hoax and the birther lies of 2008.
I think there is a significant difference between the news published by mainstream media, however biased, and that published on social media and online news sites, The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and many local newspapers expect their journalists to have college credentials, to fact-check their sources, and to make an effort to publish “truth.” If an error is made, they print a retraction, or another reputable source will call “foul.”
In my opinion, TV news and commentary are a step down from printed news sources—and their airtime is so short that they’re very selective in what they cover or leave out, so their bias is even more extreme.
Social media news and online news sources are at the bottom of the pile, where virtually no accountability seems to exist. It took nine years for the parents of the Sandy Hook victims to bring Alex Jones to justice for his lies about the school shooting that took the lives of their children.
Countless people were taken in by his conspiracy theories, and he has done irreparable damage to the reputations of many decent people, Jones is just one of many of these perpetrators, and the most substantial damage that he and his co-conspirators have done is to their believers, for whom the thread of truth has been completely lost.
Disinformation is pervasive in virtually every major political issue. The problem is that one person’s disinformation is another person’s truth. I’ve seen this within my own family in regard to COVID.
When I said I thought we should get my 98-year-old father vaccinated, one of my sisters went ballistic, citing all kinds of people who say the CDC is wrong and that the NIH is filled with liars. What do you do with people who sincerely believe COVID shots contain microchips that can be used to control our lives?
What gets lost in the shuffle of all this is political integrity. If politicians had a shred of it, they would never utter an untruth. But such a concept is a utopian pipe dream likely never to come true.
In answer to the question posed above, the bottom line is that each of us has the responsibility to determine what’s actually the truth. But it takes a bit of effort and the willingness to objectively listen to both sides of the argument. Then all we must do is apply a little common sense.
Let’s try it: “The government spending more money than it has will bring down inflation” …truth or lie?
“Spending trillions of borrowed dollars on social issues is good for the economy” …truth or lie?
“Not enforcing America’s borders makes us a stronger nation” …truth or lie?
“Black lives matter is more important than all lives matter” …truth or lie?
See, it’s not so hard. We can figure out the truth all by ourselves. How important is it that we do so? Our Constitution, our country as we know it, and democracy itself hang in the balance.