A true democracy can only exist when voters are employing shared facts in their decision making. Democracies are designed for people to decide their representation through elections based on how candidates’ positions agree with their own. Through this ingenious system, the government is composed of the intentions of the majority of the people. However, this can only work when people know the candidates’ positions. That relies on facts, which are becoming maligned commodities.
Facts are not partisan. They exist in a neutral space to be interpreted in a partisan and personal manner. Facts are, by their nature, true, or else they would cease to be facts. Therefore, it is upon facts that we should attempt to base our decisions.
It is a fact that Russia launched a deliberate program designed to influence the American populace before, during, and after the 2016 election. It is as true as anything in a history textbook, for it has been confirmed by the nonpartisan FBI, CIA and Justice Department based on their research. It is not a fact that this caused Donald Trump to be elected president, nor that Trump colluded with the Russians during this attack. The latter is a question yet to be answered, and the former will never be known, so this article will not discuss it.
Russia, America’s erstwhile Cold War enemy, launched an attack against the United States. It is not as noticable nor ostensibly dangerous as the proxy wars fought throughout the mid-20th century; tweets from troll farms are harder to rally against than the inexorable Communist tide. But the fact remains that Russia aggressively attempted to delegitimize our democracy and reduce our faith in our institutions, both of which are side effects of conventional warfare.
So, what is America to do? Unlike in conventional warfare, there is no clear counterattack. Putin enjoys incomparable security in his office, likely immune to tweeting and Facebook posts. Despite being riddled by bellicose tweets, Mueller is doing an important job of officially denoting the exact magnitude of this security breach. But it is not Mueller’s job to prevent further intrusions into the American consciousness.
Much of that onus falls onto the “fake news” epidemic. In this article “fake news” is being used objectively and nonpartisan. It is not denoting misreporting, or more commonly reporting that the subject does not like. Rather, take the story titled “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide” from the Denver Guardian that was shared over half a million times with over 14.4 million impressions. That story is fake news, not just because the entire basis of the story never happened, but because the Denver Guardian does not exist, it is a fake publication.
I do not believe it is necessarily the government’s duty to disseminate fake from real news. I flinch at the thought of a Donald Trump regime deciding which stories about them are true or false. The obligation rather falls on Facebook, Twitter, and associated social media giants. Their omnipresence in our lives far exceed any other media source in history. The majority of adults receive at least some of their news from these social media sources. It is inexcusable that companies based on extraordinarily complex algorithms sorting which content to show their users cannot evaluate whether trending stories bear merit.
Elections are increasingly technology-dependent. From voting machines to online publications, people are tied to electronics and find themselves increasingly vulnerable to their machinations. It the duty of these social media giants, as they force themselves into our daily lives, to employ responsible practices representative of their outsized role.
A true democracy can only exist when the voters are employing shared facts in their decision making. This is a true statement in a society increasingly bereft of them.