Ep 12: Aftermath of Disinformation

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the United States Congress met in a Joint Session to count the Electoral College votes certified by the states, to finalize formal approval of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the next President and Vice President of the United States. After attending a rally where Donald Trump urged them to “take” the Capitol and Rudolph Giuliani called for “trial by combat”, an armed mob of coordinated extremists attacked the Capitol building and attempted a coup against the US Constitution.

In Episode 12 of Earth Intelligence, we talk about why democracy requires a commitment to evidence, truth, and nonviolence.

We recorded this podast 24 hours after insurrectionists tried to take over the Capitol and stop the people’s business. The deaths and desecration were fomented by lies. The people had been misled. Without truth-telling from our elected officials, how long can democracy sustain itself? 

Democracy starts from the principle that all people have the right to speak truth to power. That starts from having access to truth. This is why the free press is protected. Trump’s quest to dissolve Americans’ understanding of the difference between fact and fantasy is a deliberate effort to make room for unlawful abuses.

Our elected officials have an inescapable duty to share facts, speak truth, and ensure the public is well-informed. It is also their duty to honor the law in affirming the genuine, verified and certified results of a free and fair election.

And what of the lost skill of critical thinking?  What has become of our requirement that facts and evidence are fundamental against lies, deception and false promises? 

There is a media echo-chamber that is often described as “conservative”. It isn’t conservative. The common characteristic is disinformation. Major funders of so-called conservative media tend to have an impunity agenda.

A well-documented well-financed campaign seeks to sow doubt about specific science, policy, and politicians—the ones aiming to hold powerful interests to account, to ensure all people are well served and basic rights protected. Four major things result from this echo-chamber:

  1. expanded (irrational) political support for impunity;
  2. an appetite for alternate realities;
  3. erosion of good-faith public discourse;
  4. collapsing trust in public institutions.

This impunity agenda created the monster that is President Trump. We can call him that, because his own staff are now calling him that.

The attack on the US Capitol on Wednesday was a paramilitary coup attempt. Recently retired famously pro-Trump Attorney General William Barr blamed Trump for “orchestrating” the attack and called it “a betrayal of his office”.

Has America stopped thinking?

Not exactly, but far too many people have allowed credible sources and verifiable evidence to be selected out of their political news, by using emotional reflex instead of critical thinking to judge what is real.

The undermining of our capability of self-government makes it impossible for us to address the biggest challenges we face, including climate disruption, COVID-19, related economic scarcity, and worsening food insecurity.

Historically, and in dystopian novels like 1984, setting up an official arbiter of truth has terrible consequences. Is there no answer?

The answer is to engage and bring to life our democracy, in the right ways. The free press protects us by letting us access evidence and understand our choices. The independent judiciary examines evidence and makes judgments based on law, not emotion or self-interest.

We have to be responsible for the information we take in and share, and we have to demand that of each other.