The plague of disinformation

Computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices have provided us the ability to not only communicate with our friends and family, but others across the globe. They’ve become our encyclopedia, thesaurus, weather hub, and social gathering site. Literally, anything you wish to know can be found in a matter of seconds.

This has been both an asset and detriment to humanity. Propaganda and disinformation have been around since the beginning of civilization; however, never before has it been so easily accessible. Throughout history propaganda has been used to defame leaders, discredit science, and incite hate and rage towards a culture or race.

Most recently, we witnessed the effects of propaganda as massive crowds feeding into conspiracy theories propagated by QAnon laid siege to the Capitol in a deadly assault against our country’s democracy. In history, propaganda has caused world wars, enslavement, and the eradication of culture and indigenous people.

In the 1930s, the hellish dictator Adolf Hilter began waging war across Europe on those who stood in opposition to him. His rule spanned more than a decade and ended the lives of 6 million Jews and approximately 5 million others who fell victim to the Nazi death camps and deadly assaults fueled by Nazi propaganda.

In the US, campaigns against African Americans sought to remand slaves into the custody of their “masters” causing a secession of the Southern states and a Civil War against the Union. Similar propaganda campaigns were published about indigenous Americans, citing them as “savages.” This led to the Trail of Tears, tribal relocation onto government-issued reservations, and a Christian crusade to “civilize” the group.

Those movements of disinformation all occurred well before the age of technology. They were published on flyers, in news publications, and passed by word of mouth. Yet the outcome of all of the campaigns caused mass genocide.

Currently, the average American spends approximately 3.5 hours on their phone or device per day. According to a Pew research study, nearly half get their news from Facebook. Therein lies the problem. Society has become obsessed with clickbait headlines and sensationalism – the more outlandish the claim, the more shares it receives. We have become dumb to facts and instead seek stories that excite us or enrage us.

Media is not the enemy, disinformation is. I fear social media and our devices have infected us with idiocy. We have become lazy, not seeking the facts, not reading to understand or to learn; rather to stroke our egos and pander to our own selfish ideologies.

-rs