“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.