by Matthew Connolly, LUTU member
It seems that everyone is talking about exiting these days. It started with #Brexit, and when it became clear that the California electorate was out of step with the rest of the country, there were mumbles of #Calexit. Some even considered #Demexit when it became clear that the Democratic National Committee stacked the deck against Bernie Sanders.
As I pored over the endless stream of ignorant, false, and angering posts pouring out of my Facebook feed, I seriously considered a #FBexit. I considered boycotting it completely partly out of self-preservation, and partly to fight against what Facebook has become. Instead, I’ve decided to protest.
At its core, to protest is to say no. But exiting is not saying no. Exiting is giving up. We must be strong and knowledgeable enough to say no when we see injustice.
Injustice is usually sold as a false story based on lies. Too many people are buying these stories these days, even when they are preposterous. A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that 29 percent of American adults believed that the “Pizzagate” story is “probably” or “definitely” true even after it was thoroughly and blatantly debunked on national television following the actions of a deluded armed man who was inspired by the fake story to “self-investigate.”
Nearly a third of our fellow Americans believe that, during the Clinton campaign, John Podesta ran a pedophile ring out of the nonexistent basement of a Washington pizza restaurant and used code words on his emails to organize despicable acts.
Not since Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure has such a ridiculous tale been spun about a fictional basement. But many believe it, and noted local conspiracy theorist Alex Jones still promotes the story through his fake news organization, InfoWars.
So how are the rational among us to say no to this? How do we protest the pervasive lies that seem to be poisoning the minds of so many?
It was once sufficient to walk quickly by the fear monger on the corner screaming about mind control, chemtrails, and dark government conspiracies. Not now. That fear monger is now screaming on your Facebook feed and Twitter and Reddit and Breitbart and InfoWars.
The tinfoil hat crowd has evolved into a web of screen-gazing trolls bolstered by fake news operations that profit off their attention both directly, through advertising revenue, and indirectly, by leveraging their apocalyptic fear into an appetite for purchasing water filters, food dehydrators, and magic nutrient powders.
This must not stand. We must use the tried-and-true lessons of real-life civil protests and apply them the online world.
- Act locally. Start with your own feed. We must call out false stories and false sources whenever they pop up on our social media. Be the one that calls people out, even friends — especially friends — when they repeat false information.
- Get informed. Knowledge is power. If you aren’t sure about the facts of a story, spend three minutes researching it. That is probably three minutes more than the person who posted the fake news spent confirming it.
- Be brave. Marching or engaging in civil disobedience takes courage, and so does standing up to people who make false statement on the web. You are making a public statement. Get ready for a fight. Fight well. Logic and well-sourced information will eventually vanquish ignorance every time.
- Be persistent. Getting a person or sometimes an entire community to rethink something they believe is not easy and won’t happen instantly. But if you are rational, polite, and persistent, people will hear what you are saying, even if they don’t acknowledge it immediately.
- Be realistic. It is very easy to let the fight for truth turn into an unhealthy obsession. Limit yourself. Spend much more time being you than you spend being an online crusader.
Protest the lies. Stand up for the truth. Say no to fake news.
The progressives who considered #Calexit and #Demexit — decided to organize instead. Recently, they managed to elect over 600 Sanders progressives as delegates to the California State Democratic Committee. The way forward is not to leave, it is to fight.
This column is devoted to winning the struggle for truth and giving others the tools to fight the good fight. If you see fake news that needs to be fought or have any questions about how to fight lies, send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.