The Quest for Common Ground Against Disinformation

by | Jul 15, 2019 | Culture

We need a cleansing, a purification of the false data and disinformation that has poisoned our discourse. Russia sought to divide us, and the Trump campaign gave them the passcode.

“Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.” Mahatma Gandhi

A friend of mine recently posted a meme on Facebook that was racist. Its message was a denunciation of parasites, people living off the dole, and next to the broadside was a picture of this weird looking African-American who seemed to be promoting a lifestyle of milking the government rather than earning a paycheck. The inference was clear.

Another friend and I called him out on it and he removed the post. He had received the post from another friend and he felt he was doing the community a service by forwarding the post. I think he is apolitical, was just forwarding something a friend had sent. I suspect he doesn’t study the issues and he lives in a community of Trump loyalists. The ironic thing is that he has spent the last few decades working to enhance the educational and moral levels of 3rd world countries throughout the world—mostly countries of color.

After he posted the meme, a friend of his started a political debate with me: myself denouncing Trump, his character and his polices. Her main argument for Trump was the economy, which appears to be the main virtue espoused by people when defending our President. Now I feel Obama teed it up for Trump, economy wise, which Trump has never acknowledged, and the rate of economic growth has actually slowed when compared to Obama’s last year in office. And I won’t even mention the 2 trillion added to our national debt since Trump took office. That will come home to roost at some point for our nation.

But that’s not the point of this posting, whether I’m right about Trump or not. Back to the friend: we went back and forth for a couple of days, neither achieving traction with each other. At the end she said that neither of us will change and there was no sense in carrying on the debate. In other words, we should both retreat to our bunkers and call it a day.

But I disagree. I refused to think there is no common ground. Two rational people should be able to have a political debate in this country without each one retreating to their respective bunker. I refused to accept that change can’t be affected though honest debate. And then I started to think about the meme my friend posted, and it dawned on me that its source was Russia. It was just to weird, starting with the strange looking African-American and the almost illiterate and divisive copy.

And then I realized that there were hundreds of millions of these divisive memes choking our social media and airways. The stated purpose of the Russian hackers was to divide us, render America less powerful by injecting false data and disinformation. Russia even created a “Black Lives Matter” website whose purpose was to create racial disharmony. And quarterbacking this campaign of divisiveness was our President, who fuels the flames of discord almost daily by his tweets and his policy initiatives. According to the FBI, hate crimes increased by 17% in Trump’s first year in office.

By the way, the idea of compromising our elections was borne out of a meeting between Hillary Clinton and Putin when Hillary lambasted Putin for conducting sham elections. (He definitely has a problem with strong women but gets along very well with our current President.) After that meeting, Putin vowed revenge. Too bad we don’t have a President who had the courage to confront Putin.

But here’s my point: American has been poisoned by a 2-year disinformation campaign from the Russian troll factory. It has so poisoned our discourse that we no longer engage in political debate, an exercise that is the life blood of our democracy.

People are always telling me, ‘make sure you don’t talk politics. I refuse to accept that. I believe political discourse nourishes the soul of America. I refuse to believe common ground can’t be found. I refuse to believe I don’t have a lot in common with a contemporary that resides in Iowa. I refuse to believe that someone from South Carolina doesn’t have the same hopes and dreams for their kids as I do. I refuse to believe that Americans don’t believe in justice for all.

We need a cleansing, a purification of the false data and disinformation that has poisoned our discourse. Russia sought to divide us, and the Trump campaign gave them the passcode. We need a purging of our airways, our social media. Our democracy has been compromised and the perpetuators need to answer for their sins.

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