Social media platforms, streaming “information” channels and innumerable web sites will spew lies and conspiracy theories, and can maintain weakening the inspiration of actuality that America’s democracy wants so as to operate.
So what, if something, can the reality-based press do to counter it?
First, be bolder and extra direct than ever in telling it like it’s. No extra pussy-foooting or punch-pulling. No extra of what’s been known as “false equivalence” — giving equal weight to fact and lies within the identify of equity.
I’ve been inspired to see extra of this unabashed method these days. “Trump wages full assault to overturn election,” learn the print-edition banner headline in Friday’s Washington Publish. The primary paragraph described his “orchestrating a far-reaching strain marketing campaign . . . to overturn the desire of voters.”
And David Sanger of the New York Occasions started his analysis: “President Trump’s makes an attempt to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American historical past, an much more audacious use of brute political power to achieve the White Home than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency throughout Reconstruction.”
Reid’s first phrases: “At the same time as high well being consultants warned the pandemic is spiraling uncontrolled, President Trump made no point out of it immediately, had no public appearances and tweeted solely falsehoods concerning the election.” One of many first visuals: A hospital room with health-care employees scrambling to deal with covid sufferers.
“I don’t assume I’ve ever seen a gap three minutes of a community night information broadcast fairly like this,” mentioned College of Maine media historian Michael Socolow.
Socolow known as it “good displaying not telling,” and instructed me that it was extra prone to get by to these in denial as a result of it used on a regular basis Individuals — Michigan voters, nurses, and so on. — as an alternative of politicians to ship the message.
Can these mainstream shops, influential as they’re, actually go up in opposition to the counter-messaging on locations like Fox Information, or Steve Bannon’s podcast or fact-averse shops like Newsmax, with its surging, although nonetheless comparatively small, viewership? On the latter, Trump marketing campaign legal professional Sidney Powell was given an unchecked platform to declare: “The election couldn’t have been extra rigged than it was.” In what needs to be astonishing, however isn’t, the Republican Nationwide Committee used its official Twitter account Thursday to advertise this identical lie of hers: “President Trump received by a landslide.”
This battle can’t be fought with info alone, argues journalism scholar Nikki Usher of the College of Illinois.
The one hope, she wrote, is for mainstream journalism to attraction to ardour in addition to cause — “offering ethical readability together with truthful content material.” Or, as NYU’s Jay Rosen just lately wrote, journalism should reposition itself within the media ecosystem, to grab this second in historical past to take a transparent stance, in all the pieces it does, as “pro-truth, pro-voting, anti-racist, and aggressively pro-democracy.”
In different phrases, the reality-based press has to unapologetically stand for one thing. In any other case, it’s only a pallid different to the joy of burgeoning lies.
And third, journalists and information organizations must get far more concerned in media literacy — working with educators and advocates to show folks of all ages, however particularly college students, to tell apart lies from fact, propaganda from factual reporting.
This may be an uncomfortable function for journalists as a result of it smacks of advocacy, one thing that mainstream journalists are taught to be cautious of. Nonetheless, some organizations and journalists are engaged on it.
Final week, I used to be a visitor on a call-in radio program on Wisconsin Public Radio, speaking about media protection of the election’s aftermath. Two of the three callers I fielded, although well mannered, have been misinformed. Each have been satisfied that it’s too early for President-elect Biden to say victory for the reason that votes haven’t actually been counted.
That is unfaithful. With a couple of minor exceptions in locations that may’t probably make a distinction, the tallies are full. There isn’t any query that Biden is the unequivocal winner, each within the in style vote and the electoral faculty.
However I can’t think about that my responses modified their minds. They sounded dug in. And, keep in mind, these have been public-radio listeners, presumably not Alex Jones followers.
Can journalists, mired in our “how we’ve at all times finished it” mind-set, actually change their stripes to struggle the struggle on disinformation? Can we be extra clear and direct, embrace an ethical objective, assist to coach information shoppers? And even when we do, will it make a major distinction?
I have severe doubts concerning the solutions to these questions. However I do know that we’ve to attempt.
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