Russians aren’t the only ones deceived by lies and propaganda

And yet, segments of our own citizens are also deeply susceptible to absurd claims and blatant lies.

Look at the percentage of Republicans who still believe the 2020 presidential election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump. As Trump’s former attorney general noted, the Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread fraud. Dozens of lawsuits alleging illegality or fraud have come to nothing and proved nothing. Several Trump lawyers have been sanctioned for the manufacture false statements or advance frivolous and unfounded legal claims.

Republican officials in Georgia and Arizona have long refuted claims of electoral wrongdoing. Even the Cyber ​​Ninjas stupid audit on the pivot of Maricopa County, Arizona, confirmed Biden’s victory the.

Yet this unsubstantiated belief endured among many Republicans, with some 70 percent saying that Joe Biden’s victory was definitely or probably not legitimate.

This is not the only area in which Republicans have been largely and willfully misled. In 2016, 60% of Trump approvers thought that Barack Obama was not really born in this country, whereas two-thirds of this group thought he was a Muslim rather than a Christian. Notice, this is not to say that rash beliefs are exclusively a conservative phenomenon; as Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan notedDemocrats have disproportionately embraced the absurd idea that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack was an inside job.

Unlike Russians deceived by false narratives, Americans have ample access to factual information. Even if they distrust the mainstream media, reliable organizations regularly check the most important facts in our political debate. An excellent truth team is PolitiFactto Pointer; another is FactCheck.orgto Annenberg Center for Public Policy.

But as fact-checking revealed the false or dubious nature of considerable aspects of the contemporary right-wing narrative, conservatives began to attack fact-checkers as biased.

Or they simply ignored them, as they do other diligent refutations of favorite storylines. After repeated allegations that the Biden administration implemented an “open border” immigration policy, the libertarian-conservative party The Cato Institute published a thorough review of Biden’s policy, which detailed why the charge of open borders simply wasn’t true.

Its impact? Judging by, say, the statement of conservative politicians or prime-time Fox News hosts, akin to that of a sparrow’s feather landing in a stormy sea.

Then, of course, there is QAnon, the bizarre collection of conspiracy theories built around the idea that a cabal of satan-worshipping pedophiles, blood-drinking cannibals and child sex traffickers control the government. About 15-20% of the American population believes some aspect of it. A quarter of Republicans give him credit, compared to 14% of independents and 9% of Democrats, according to a series of surveys from 2021.

This reflects a segment of the population completely detached from reality.

It also speaks to the strange patina of authority that the internet can lend to madness, even on a grand scale. The web makes it easy for people to find communities that reinforce things they are already inclined to believe. This, in turn, makes it easy for propagandists and disinformation spreaders to spread their lies.

But why, on the whole, does this currently seem to be such an unbalanced right-wing phenomenon?

The best explanation I’ve read is from a 2021 study by two Ohio State University communications professors. Their conclusion: “American conservatives in the early 21st century are particularly susceptible to political misperceptions. This is due, in large part, to the characteristics of the messages circulating in the political information environment. Accurate, widely shared political information disproportionately advances liberal interests, while viral lies most often favor conservative interests.

To put it more simply, conservatives are more often deceived by misinformation because there are more lies, fabrications, and fictions emanating from the right and reinforcing conservative intrigues.

Unfortunately, too many Republican politicians seem willing to pander to these false claims and distorted perceptions for profit.

Perhaps a cynic can justify this if he believes that the American project is immutable and therefore immune to corrosive civic diseases. But on January 6, 2021, The storming of the Capitol suggests an alternative possibility: When a pandemic of fakery overwhelms the truth, democracy itself may come under siege.


Scot Lehigh is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.



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