The real threat to democracy – Lies and the Lying Liars who spread them.

“Alternative facts” is a cute name for a very ugly thing – the technologically enhanced and systematic spreading of lies and disinformation. Voltaire’s famous aphorism is spot on – “If you can make someone believe absurdities you can make them commit atrocities.”

There is no better recent example than the absurdity that Donald Trump won the recent election in a landslide but victory was stolen from him. Millions of people have been made to believe absurdity this and the atrocity of an assault on Congress followed from it.

The problem is clear. The solutions are not easy or obvious but we must find them. On social media, various studies have found that the overwhelming bulk of disinformation originates in relatively few but very popular sources. Trump’s feed is an obvious example, but there are others. Begin there with stricter control over lies and incitements.

Beyond that I would suggest a return of the “Fairness Doctrine” in any media outlet that in any way relies on public resources. If the purveyors of lies knew that every lie would have to be matched with the opposite, there would be less incentive for those who finance these disinformation efforts to do so. Imagine the difference in our body politic if Fox News and Talk Radio actually were “fair and balanced” instead of being the mother lode of lies.

28 thoughts on “The real threat to democracy – Lies and the Lying Liars who spread them.

  1. The biggest single spouter of lies to ever call the Oval Office his ‘work place’ is gone. THAT is truly worthy of huge celebration; and, what a great way to start the day!

    He slithered out of town and headed to FL. Good riddance is all that comes to mind . . . other than his flying away to Sinatra’s version of “MY WAY” being too, too hilarious.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. “Unfortunately, the platforms have a well-established history of being inconsistent, ineffective, opportunistic, and somewhat haphazard in designing and implementing their content curation and moderation policies.”

    I think the reason is pretty simple: social media is a data marketplace above all else. Ideas are secondary. Data from and about posters and users is gold.

    The USPS is mandated in the Constitution. It was never intended to be a profit center, but rather a public utility to tie the new nation together through communication and information. These were considered crucial keys to the survival of a new form of governance in which citizens had a voice.

    If we wrote the Constitution today, the post office could be supplanted by the internet. For now, however the tech world has created a casino. The addictive nature of FB, Twitter, and virtually any blog, like this one even, provides platforms for vigorous use, “eyeballs”, that are so marketable as to make the owners the richest folks in the world.

    And therein lies the Gordian Knot. The good and bad news is that the debates can cross access lines like never before. A clever person in Peoria can have outsized influence with ideas that in the past were relegated to the man walking down the street mumbling to himself. Then, because of the addictive qualities built in to the system specifically to generate volumes of salable data, he has an audience. Witness the QAnon phenomenon. Million of followers, most probably sane, cloak the thousands who might not be. So now we see the incredible coordination among terror groups like Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, 3%ers, etc.

    This is a problem. There is zero difference between ISIS and our domestic terrorists. Recruitment, radicalization and coordination are all there. Yet because they are not Muslim, we ignored this.

    Of course, Trump was the Imam, so there is that. And the right spent its political capital trying to frame President Obama as the Muslim threat.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Yawn…just another chest beating babblefest of “I’m right and you’re wrong” so everything I disagree with is a lie to be suppressed by my hyper liberal buddies.


  4. Why is it always your position to silence views with which you disagree instead of meeting them in the marketplace of ideas?

    DO you not understand that others see the MSM as the real purveyors of disinformation? Do you think that because you agree with then that is the only view that can be expressed?

    To give you an example, the AP’s Seth Borenstien is widely cited in MSM climate articles as an authority. yet he has a consistent history of reporting ONLY one side of the issue. If you get your information on climate solely from the MSM, you are being brainwashed, not informed. You would not know Judith Curry exists, for example, as her peer reviewed work is never mentioned by the AP.

    But that’s OK with you, and you would cheerfully silence any opposing information, no matter how well documented.

    That way, you can be sure you’re right, after all, everyone you listen to says so.


    1. Your personal attacks are getting kind of old. Especially combined with your threats. The other day I offered the opinion that Patrick Henry’s rhetoric was over the top and a threat to public safety. That is an opinion shared by many of his contemporaries and, at the very least, a subject that could be discussed in an “adult” and “civil” way. What was your response? A quote casting me as a craven coward happy to live in chains. You do this all the time. But you sit there feeling all aggrieved because I am the one who is “nasty.” Look in the mirror.

      And now this. There is a world of difference between purging falsehoods from responsible media and censoring opinions. A distinction that is not hard to understand but somehow it continues to elude you. I have not advocated silencing anybody’s opinion, but “alternative facts” are not opinions. They are lies. And civic life would be enhanced if it was a bit harder to spread lies. And, BTW, lies are not “opposing information.”

      I fully understand that many people believe that the MSM are purveyors of disinformation. You apparently do not understand that the measure of truth is not what many people believe, but what is actually true. And what is actually true is ultimately based on evidence. Another concept that seems to elude you since you have spent the last two months supporting the “opposing information” that the election was a fraud.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Demonizing the MSM is a reflection of the damage done by the sickness that trump brought to our Country. For those “lightly” infected it will hopefully wane quickly, but for the seriously infected it may find a permanent home.

        I wish for the best, but will not be surprised by the worse..

        Liked by 2 people

    2. It’s not about “silencing views”. It is about telling the truth. Views based in falsehoods are not legitimate views. They are corrupted by the lies they are based in. Stopping the spread of the lie-virus is important to getting this country back where it belongs.

      I know after the past 5 years the concept is alien. But honesty and truthfulness beats the living daylights out of lies and thruthiness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shep Smith, formerly of Fox News, makes a very relevant point.

        “”Opine all you like, but if you’re going to opine, begin with the truth and opine from there,” Smith said. “When people begin with a false premise and lead people astray, that’s injurious to society and it’s the antithesis of what we should be doing: Those of us who are so honored and grateful to have a platform of public influence have to use it for the public good.””

        “”I don’t know how some people sleep at night,” Smith said of the Fox News employees who knowingly spread falsehoods. “I know that there are a lot of people who have propagated the lies and who have pushed them forward over and over again who are smart enough and educated enough to know better.””

        From an interview with Christiane Amanpour.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. If views based on falsehoods are not legitimate, then the whole climate change agenda is bogus.

        And I can make every bit as good a case for that as the contrary.

        There are issues that have truth on both sides, and what we are really debating is costs and benefits. Yet the left would silence those arguments.


          1. No, it doesn’t.

            Science neither denies nor proves climate change, it provides a range of predictions of costs and benefits.

            It is not a binary issue.

            Now that you have some time to devote to something other than hating Trump, I suggest you read Byorn Lomberg’s FALSE ALARM.

            He accepts the UN’s IPCC projections as valid, but then he looks at practicality and cost/benefit before advocating policy.

            You are not too far gone to benefit from his point of view.


          2. Here is a very critical review of FALSE ALARM . . .

            where is it wrong in its criticism?

            I believe a very significant point about the debate is expressed this way in the review . . .

            “A third critical mistake, compounding the second, is not taking due account of risk. As the atmospheric concentration of carbon increases, we are entering uncharted territory . . . . Economists emphasize the importance of avoiding bad outcomes. The whole multibillion-dollar insurance industry is predicated on risk aversion. If there were another planet we could all move to, that would be one thing. But there isn’t. So that means we have to be cautious. And caution is especially warranted once we realize how bad things could get. Damages can increase disproportionally with increased carbon concentrations, and when those bad outcomes occur, our ability to weather the storm (metaphorically and literally) will be greatly diminished.”

            In other words, even if the risk is small that there could be a shocking global catastrophe the results – should it happen – are so bad that we must be cautious while we can be.

            Liked by 2 people

        1. There is a very large universe of provable facts based on evidence that support the opinion that we must do something about fossil fuel emissions as a matter of urgency. There are also a few that support the opinion that it is not particularly urgent that we do so. So, yes, there can be and are legitimate disagreements that are based on facts. It so happens that the views you prefer have not persuaded as many people as you would like. Especially in the scientific community. Maybe try a little harder and a little more honestly (less cherry-picking) in the “marketplace of ideas” instead of all the cringeworthy whining and the attribution of base motives to the people you cannot persuade.

          Speaking of falsehoods – here is a doozy . . . “the left would silence those arguments.” That is clearly another example of projection. The “left” is reality based and is open to real evidence on every subject.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. WIRED, like the Atlantic Monthly, used to be a great magazine.

    Instead of stating flatly that any talk of fraud is illegitimate, WIRED should examine the techniques and technology that let these machines do their dirty work. They have many features which seem to have no other purpose than fraud.

    I tend to suspect that mere possession of a Dominion voting machine should be considered prima facie evidence of intent to defraud. These are very complex machines. A machine whose only purpose is to count votes honestly would be a simple machine.


    1. “very complex machines“

      Not really. If/than logic is easily audited and certified. And it was.

      Educate yourself prior to making more embarrassing posts about issues on which you are ignorant.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Uh, make sure your liability insurance is up to date before slandering innocent people in public spaces with garbage like this. Dominion has shown it will defend its good name in court and they might not appreciate your ill-informed opinions being spread around. So, if you are not moved by common decency to now at long last stop spreading lies, do it to protect yourself.

      Oh, never mind. You are safe. They would not waste their legal efforts on a nobody. Too many slanderous fat cats with deep pockets ahead of you.

      Liked by 2 people

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