In his excellent convention speech, Joe Biden identified four crises in America: “The worst pandemic in over 100 years. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most compelling call for racial justice since the ’60s. And the undeniable realities and accelerating threats of climate change.”
I think it is vitally important to the future of America to add one more crisis: the easy spread of misinformation and the inclination of citizens to suspect data and facts.
To quote Michelle Obama from her convention speech, Joe Biden needs to “tell the truth and trust science.”
If it could only be that simple.
Republicans Still Trust Trump
After four years of Donald Trump lying nearly every day, the majority of Republicans still trust him, Fox News, and Facebook posts from unnamed sources, but not NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, New York Times, and the Washington Post. A recently released poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the following:
Nearly half of adults hold at least one misconception about coronavirus prevention and treatment, including one in five who say wearing a face mask is harmful to your health and one in four who say hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for coronavirus. Three in four Republicans have at least one misconception, compared to 46% of independents and one in four Democrats. At the same time, trust in some official sources of information on coronavirus has declined since April, including a particularly steep drop in Republicans’ trust of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC.
The conclusion is that trusting in Trump means that you mistrust facts from other sources like scientists and government officials.
The spread of misinformation by citizens across the country might be just as dangerous as the spread of coronavirus.
Biden Daily Truth Briefings
Making this comparison presents an opportunity for President Biden to become a champion for the truth. Surprisingly, this solution comes from Donald Trump, but also New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As the coronavirus started to spread, Trump and Cuomo started holding daily news briefings.
My proposal to President Biden is to hold a daily briefing during the first 100 days he is in office to immediately identify misinformation and bring scientists and noted experts to refute it. Let’s call them Joe Biden’s Daily Truth Briefings. To be successful, Biden must be willing to name the individuals and outlets that originate and spread misinformation – specifically Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham.
I’m making this recommendation because I firmly believe that conspiracy theories and a failure to respect experts present a serious challenge to this country. As Fred Kaplan feared in a recent column at Slate.com, America might be in the early stages of armed insurgency led by racist, white-nationalist, alt-right organizations. Trump is fanning the flames of this insurgency. 5-10% of the hard-core Trump true believers are willing to arm themselves to support QAnon (which is based on fables) and fight Antifa (which is not a threat).
Don’t try to convince me that Antifa poses as great a risk as racist, white-nationalist terrorists. Antifa is a loosely organized collection of small groups scattered around the country. The white-nationalists are a significant influence in the Republican party.
The goal of Biden’s Daily Fact Briefings would not be to convince Republicans or white nationalists to become Democrats. The aim is to convince Republicans that racist alt-right individuals are a threat to this country and should not be tolerated. Joe needs to separate the reasonable conservatives from the crazy conservatives by telling the truth every day.