So, yesterday’s post was a bit underwhelming. Sorry about that. But there wasn’t much to say really. But this chapter gets into some really interesting stuff: Fake News.
Were fake articles and headlines invented in 2016? No. Was intentionally misleading fase news invented in 2016? No. Did it get a LOT more attention with the 2016 election? Yes. I agree with Clinton in that 2016 was the breaking point of a problem that had been building for years. Pretty much as long as I’ve been on the internet, I’ve known that people put misinformation up. Hell, I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t gone looking for conspiracy theories online out of morbid curiosity. But some people don’t realize it when something is false. I try to fact check my news, but I’m not perfect. Nobody is. Misinformation is always giong to be out there, and all we can do is try our best to help eachother find it and correct errors.
Now, the misinformation from the 2016 election was unique. Now, let me set one thing straight. While there was hacking, there was more than hacking. A large part of the meddling was by purchacing advertisements on social media through legitimate means. Another strategy was to use phishing emails to collect information. It was almost comical hearing some of the ways that people in the Clinton campaign fell for the phishing emails. Or at least it would be if we weren’t dealing with potiticians and aides falling for scams made by people that want to undermine our elections and our confidence in democracy.
This isn’t a partisan issue. Whether the misinformation campaign benefitted the democrats or the republicans in the end doesn’t matter. For our democracy to be able to function, we have to have a baseline level of confidence in our shared perception of reality. Personally, I have some issues with the notion that “reality has a liberal bias”, a quote from Stephen Colbert that Clinton mentions. But is that a good attitude to walk in with? Should we dismiss an entire political ideaology as disconnected with reality? And this is coming from a liberal. Sure, the actions and words of certain members of the republican party disgust me. Sure, I beleive that some of the stances that republicans take are rooted more strongly in fear than fact. But to dismiss a large group of Americans, though I disagree with them, as seperate from reality is short sighted. People with conservative viewpoints have a different view on the world than people like myself. They have a different interpretation of reality. They have different values that influence how they see the world around them. And if we can’t at the very least see that common experience, I don’t think that anything useful can get done.
Anothter thing that I take pause with is the notion that since Vladimir Putin is a former KBG agent, “by definition, he doesn’t have a soul” perhaps should have been left out. Don’t get me wrong, Putin has done some despicable stuff. But I think that characterizing cruel or frightening people as inhuman is dangerous. Trying to sever that connection of shared humanity lets people distance these actions from any possibility that it would happen again. It leads us to thinking “oh that won’t even happen again” instead of thinking “we have to stop that from ever happening again.”