Misinformation and mistrust damage our politics and our health


The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Amy Fried is professor of political science at the University of Maine. Her views are hers and do not represent those of any group she is affiliated with. His most recent book, co-authored with Douglas B. Harris, is “At War With Government: How Conservatives Weaponized Distrust from Goldwater to Trump”.

Twisted logic and disinformation undermines our nation and our democracy. Today’s disagreements go far beyond normal arguments and carry more danger, as they are based on a longer model of armed mistrust.

Take a recent opinion piece on the pandemic, with its absurd inferences.

Writing for Breitbart, John Nolte postulates that the left may try to harm the Conservatives by encouraging them to get vaccinated, while acknowledging that vaccines prevent deaths. Nolte also suggests that leftists can seek political advantage, asking, “In a country where elections are decided on very thin margins, doesn’t it benefit a party if their opponents just drop dead?” “

How is this insidious plot – to secretly try to get a group of people to get hurt for political reasons by openly encouraging them to prevent this evil – being set up?

By simply asking questions, Nolte suggests that “the left has manipulated huge swathes of Trump voters into believing they own the left by not taking the life-saving Trump vaccine.” By Nolte’s “logic”, everyone knows that conservatives will reject what they hear from certain people, which leads to his bottom-up conjecture that encouraging Republicans to take life-saving vaccines may aim to kill them.

Unlike anti-vaccination campaigners, Nolte does not claim that COVID-19 vaccinations are harmful or do not target doctors and hospitals. And he’s right that the virus is disproportionately killing people in Trump voting areas. Yet it does much to promote mistrust, even posing a conspiracy theory that vaccine education is political connivance.

This same dynamic of rejection, mistrust and conspiracy is predominant when it comes to how people perceive the legitimacy of elections. It was also stoked. Last weekend Donald Trump told Georgian spectators that the 2020 election was stolen.

It came after dozens of courts ruled against the Trump campaign complaints and a review of the Arizona ballots by a partisan and unprofessional Republican-backed group that found out that Biden had indeed won the state.

The electoral lies employed by right-wing legal and political strategists have consequences.

Angry believers and reactive to false stories of stolen elections stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 and continued to threaten national and local election officials.

John Eastman, a lawyer closely involved with the Federalist Society, laid out a strategy for then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject election votes from seven states and declare Trump the winner in the 2020 election. Trump has told Pence to follow Eastman’s advice on Jan.4, two days before the insurgency after a rally staged to prevent Congress and Pence from fulfilling their constitutional duty. Eastman spoke at the rally and said Pence should take action.

As Robert Kagan, a former Republican recently warned, “The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of war. mass violence, a collapse of the federal government. the authority and division of the country into warring Red and Blue enclaves.

Indeed, Trump strategist Steve Bannon has urged proponents of the Big Lie to seek lower-level positions within the Republican Party and as GOP employees. A flood has happened.

Kagan warns that we don’t take seriously how Trump’s lies have become at the heart of Republican identity. Some of Kagan’s harshest languages ​​address critics of the GOP Trump who behave like everything is normal, focusing on “the preservation of orderly order and the conduct of political and legislative affairs as usual,” even though they know that Trump’s lieutenants in their party are working to subvert the next presidential election.

Lies about the election damage our body politic, further endangering our Republican system of government. It is a frightening possibility that, as electoral law scholar Rick Hasen warned, January 6 could have been a “dress rehearsal”.

Late vaccinations are harmful to our public health. And while not everyone turns down a vaccine for political reasons, this dynamic is literally fatal.

Intense damage results from a combination of armed mistrust and misinformation. It is only by sharing certain common realities that we can live together in mutual respect, health security and support for democratic standards and practices.

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