Next week, if all goes well, someone will win the presidency. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Will the losing side believe the results? Will the bulk of Americans recognize the legitimacy of the new president? And will we all be able to clean up the piles of lies, hoaxes and other dung that have been hurled so freely in this hyper-charged, fact-free election?
Much of that remains unclear, because the internet is distorting our collective grasp on the truth. Polls show that many of us have burrowed into our own echo chambers of information. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 81 percent of respondents said that partisans not only differed about policies, but also about “basic facts.”
For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that online news would be a boon to democracy. That has not been the case.
More than a decade ago, as a young reporter covering the intersection of technology and politics, I noticed the opposite. The internet was filled with 9/11 truthers, and partisans who believed against all evidence that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election from John Kerry, or that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim. (He was born in Hawaii and is a practicing Christian.)
Of course, America has long been entranced by conspiracy theories. But the online hoaxes and fringe theories appeared more virulent than their offline predecessors. They were also more numerous and more persistent. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, every attempt to debunk the birther rumor seemed to raise its prevalence online.
In a 2008 book, I argued that the internet would usher in a “post-fact” age. Eight years later, in the death throes of an election that features a candidate who once led the campaign to lie about President Obama’s birth, there is more reason to despair about truth in the online age.
Why? Because if you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against truth.
You’re Not Rational
The root of the problem with online news is something that initially sounds great: We have a lot more media to choose from.
The Latest on: Truth and facts
via Google News
The Latest on: Truth and facts
- Trump, Impeachment, and the Lessons of the Nixon Pardonon January 14, 2021 at 4:56 pm
The historian Rick Perlstein discusses President Gerald Ford’s motivation, whether liberals should care about the health of the Republican Party, and why the Trump siege may have been the culmination ...
- Words Matter: Why Integrity Is Essential In The Real Estate Business (And Everywhere Else)on January 14, 2021 at 2:37 pm
As real estate agents licensed by the New York Department of State, we need to know the difference between the truth and a lie.
- We must speak the truth, stand up for it, and have respectful dialogueon January 14, 2021 at 1:43 pm
Don't let your neighbors be divorced from reality. It is the burden and the duty of leaders, including journalists, to tell voters the truth.
- Having superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden trump culture for Netson January 14, 2021 at 1:41 pm
For five years, the big buzzword around the Nets has been culture. The narrative was that the Nets were building the right kind of culture, that they were scouring the world for underrated gems they c ...
- What the 1798 Sedition Act got right — and what it means todayon January 14, 2021 at 8:58 am
Secrecy, Transparency, and the Birth of Representative Democracy." What danger does widespread misinformation pose to democracy? Conspiracy-addled insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol last week ...
- Analysis: 'He could never tell the truth:' Trump's presidency was kneecapped by his lieson January 14, 2021 at 6:51 am
A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.In the final week before Joe Biden takes office, the Trump presidency is in tatters.
- Fact-checking the House impeachment debate on Trump, Capitol rioton January 14, 2021 at 6:18 am
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump a "clear and present danger" to the nation. The final vote was 232 to 197. While most Republicans rejected impeachment as unnecessary, vindictive or rushed, 10 ...
- The truth about rumors surrounding the Dolphins, Deshaun Watson and Xavien Howardon January 11, 2021 at 7:53 pm
If you thought the past two Miami Dolphins offseasons were a wild ride and this one will be relatively calm by contrast, well, you probably weren’t paying attention Sunday.
- Republican or Democrat, our system requires accepting facts and losing with graceon January 9, 2021 at 1:00 am
The storming of the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday demonstrated a fundamental truth about our nation: Democracy requires losing. We need citizens that can experience loss as a productive experience ...
via Bing News