Fixing income, racial, and gender inequity will protect democracy

Fascism feeds on insecurities and lies

Patsy Fergusson
Jan 22 · 6 min read
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AP Photo by Jose Luis Magana from this story in the Montreal City News

Joe Biden has just taken office and already I’m dreaming big. Given the Capitol uprising Jan. 6, he has a clear mandate to deal with the lies and disinformation that proliferates on social and regular media, convincing almost half the population that crazy conspiracy theories like QAnon might be true.

It’s hard to understand how human beings of normal intelligence can believe a cabal of Satan-worshiping, pedophiliac cannibals led by Hillary Clinton is secretly running the country, while the selfish bully who occupied the White House for the past four years is the hero who will bring them to justice; or that the election was fraudulent without any evidence to prove it — just one dishonest and delusional man repeating a #BigLie over and over and over again. But that’s what’s happening here.

Forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee explains to how it all came about in this piece recommended to me by Alan Tabor.

Here’s one of the lines that stood out:

That the “the treatment is removal of exposure” was borne out when Twitter banned Donald Trump and misinformation online went down by an astonishing 73 percent the following week.

That tells us two things: that social media platforms monitor and exclude disinformation, despite their prior claims that the task was too hard; and that they

First Amendment rights don’t apply to disinformation

People saying that banning Trump from Twitter was a violation of his First Amendment rights are misunderstanding the First Amendment. Getting kicked off Twitter is like getting kicked out of a bar. If you’re in there starting fights, of course the owner has the right to throw you out.

Here’s how I saw it explained on Twitter. The cartoonist is Randall Munroe, who draws the comic xkcd.

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Inequity drives disconnect and delusion

Dr. Lee goes on to say that developmental injury or “societal stress” make people vulnerable to the kinds of disinformation that are poisoning the well of American democracy.

And it’s important to note that societal stress is caused by inequity. If you have no shoes but neither does anyone else, it’s not psychologically stressful. The stress comes when your neighbors have shoes but you don’t.

So while it’s amusing and mostly accurate to describe the Capitol rioters as middle-class white men who are “cosplaying” a revolution — dressing up in costumes while acting out a fantasy — it’s not accurate to say they aren’t “really” suffering just because they aren’t starving or desperately poor. Because psychologically, they suffering, and their relative insecurity is what makes them vulnerable to conspiracy theories and lies.

If it were just a small number who were falling for QAnon or the #BigLie that the election was “stolen,” it might make sense to dismiss them as “a basket of deplorables” and push them out to the fringe. But when nearly half the country is caught up in a dangerous delusion that resulted in armed thugs storming the capital, putting lawmakers’ lives in danger and killing five people (plus two more who committed suicide after the riot), it cries out for immediate and decisive remedy.

Here’s what the Dr. Lee recommends:

Biden and Harris have a mandate

That brings me back to my original hopefulness. The election (and Twitter and Facebook bans) took care of #1. Tackling disinformation would remedy #2. And solving the systemic diseases of income, racial and gender inequity that have plagued our country since birth would check off #3.

This isn’t pie in the sky. The failed attempt to overthrow the presidential election and subvert American democracy creates a clear mandate for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to fix a system that is horribly, dangerously, and very publicly broken, and Biden apparently knows that.

He included racial inequity and economic instability in the list of multiple catastrophes he called out in his inauguration speech, and his selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate proves that gender equity is also top of mind. Biden also appointed women to many important posts, including Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who was a joy to behold in the first press briefings of the new administration, where no journalists were bullied, insulted or told that their question was “nasty.”

To his already daunting list of crises, on which the global pandemic is #1, I hope President Biden will add control of the disinformation that is destroying our country and other countries around the world. At least one White House journalist feels the same.

Maybe stopping the spread of disinformation is a task that Biden could give to Kamala Harris, whose intelligence, energy, and capability call out for more difficult and important work than merely backing Biden up.

Figuring out what caused the insurrection and how to address it must be done to protect against it happening again. Other stories that illuminate the issues are The Far Right Embraces Violence Because it has No Real Political Program in the , also recommended to me by Alan Tabor; the American Abyss from the magazine recommended by Evelyn Jean Pine; and Jude Ellison Sady Doyle’s humorous and horrifying analysis, The Most Terrifying Threat to America Is Middle-Class White Guys Cosplaying a Fascist Uprising.

There’s no doubt that Biden and Harris have their work cut out for them. But I hope and believe they’re up to the task. And when all’s said and done, it could be that the Jan. 6 insurrection becomes a turning point, justifying taking action on some of the country’s most intransigent problems: income, racial, and gender inequity, and the wanton spread of disinformation and lies.

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Patsy Fergusson

Written by

Tree hugger. Tour guide. Top Writer. Feminist. Newly-baptized Bay swimmer. Editor of Fourth Wave.

Fourth Wave

Changing the world for the better, one story at a time, with a focus on women and other disempowered groups

Patsy Fergusson

Written by

Tree hugger. Tour guide. Top Writer. Feminist. Newly-baptized Bay swimmer. Editor of Fourth Wave.

Fourth Wave

Changing the world for the better, one story at a time, with a focus on women and other disempowered groups

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