Photo by Gage Skidmore
DISCLAIMER: This article is not a full-staff editorial and should not be recognized as the cumulative opinion of the Omega editorial staff. It was written by Sam Bull and represents the views of 14 of the Omega’s 22 staff members.
Well, that’s it. Biden has been elected president, according to the projections of most major news sources. Still, as amateur journalists and citizens of a democracy, we were frustrated with the rampant disinformation spewing from social media and the White House over the last several days. The spread of disinformation sows the seeds of preventable polarization, manipulation, and anti-democratic sentiment and it is our hope that it will be curbed with Donald Trump no longer in office come January.
This is not a partisan issue. Anyone can spread falsehoods. We are not blaming a specific party or ideological affiliation as a whole. It just so happens that the current President of the United States is a factory of pervasive disinformation.
After a turbulent day of ballot-counting Thursday, the President made an appearance in the White House press room to brief a handful of reporters on the administration’s position. What it turned into was a series of audacious accusations.
Trump stated that “We were winning in all the key locations, by a lot, actually, and then our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away, in secret.”
He’s the President. He knows better. He knows that his leads in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were very big in the early hours of the election because those initial counts included mainly in-person votes, which skewed in his favor. The reason Biden “miraculously” came back in those states is that Trump told his supporters not to vote by mail, so mail-in votes skewed heavily towards Biden (77% in Pennsylvania as of Saturday). It’s not very hard to understand.
It would be understandable if these were mistakes in the reporting of facts from the President. Unfortunately, we know that these claims are deliberate attempts to incite unrest and mistrust from within his base support allowing for full-scale questioning of the election’s integrity. Questioning has a time, a place, and a purpose in a democracy. But when it is paired with no evidence by the most influential person in the country with the sole purpose of dividing our nation that, in its very name, promises to be united, it’s not leadership. It’s childish.
Unfortunately, these are not isolated events. Trump told the 20,000th lie of his presidency on July 9 and has told many more since. Many of these lies are not just wrong; they’re dangerous, and they incite further divide. The more that people see a President who recklessly bends the truth, the more inclined they will be to accept those claims as a reality, blurring the line between fact and fiction.
Here’s the simple truth: Biden is projected to have won the election. His strength came with mail-in votes, which were counted later than those that were cast in-person on election day. There’s nothing Trump can do, so he’s working to create false narratives and promoting conspiracy theories on social media as “evidence” to undermine the integrity of the election and steal away the presidency in the courts. This should not work. If it does, we know our democratic foundations and our very definition of truth have been destroyed.
The danger of Trump’s disinformation is that it can create a subset of public opinion on specific issues that have zero factual evidence for basis. These opinions can become strong and powerful and provide a false equivalence when matched up to real factual information, with both seeming to hold similar influence. This allows people to completely swap facts for fiction and destroy the established platform of truth upon which anything of importance is discussed (for example: denying the scientific truth that climate change is real at all, therefore eliminating a critical discussion about what to do to save our planet from the impending crisis). Allowing this to happen is unacceptable, and journalism can only do so much.
It is largely up to the American people to distinguish fact from fiction, real from fake, and democracy from authoritarianism. We can disagree on political and ideological issues, but we shouldn’t disagree about basic facts and their accessibility. Republicans and Democrats are both respected parties with valid platforms, but Trump has been a different story.
It is our hope that these past four years are a mere asterisk in the history of the United States and not the start of an entire chapter disregarding the importance of truth. It is up to us as young people to understand the difference between fact and fiction and actively work to fact check and discredit false claims, stories, and accusations—as well as the people who create them—in order to ensure a prosperous future for our nation. Based on Biden’s projected win, we feel reassured; it seems that most people understand these differences and support preserving the integrity of truth, regardless of party alignment.