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There are many discussions in the media, and online, about “Russian interference” in our election system. While the Russian government has done so, there is been complete silence about other governments, religious groups, business groups and individuals who are doing the same thing.
The fact is that this has been going on for a very long time. The Soviet Union used newspaper and magazine articles, as well as government and business meetings, to spread rumors to create instability in our elections during the Cold War. Today’s internet and social media environment just makes it more visible and immediate. It is also more effective since it reaches many more people at the same time.
While using anonymous sources has been common for a long time, the current media environment has made it the hallmark of reporting. The media expects that we will just trust that terms like “a source close to,” “a source not authorized to speak to the media,” “an insider to,” etc. are real or truthful. We are given information that we do not have the ability to validate or evaluate for ourselves.
As for social media, there is no standard for posting. Anyone can post anything, often with the intention to evoke raw emotion. When that happens, items are forwarded and shared, creating a long trail of rumor-mongering.
Going back to the issue of election interference, this is exactly how It happens. Items are reported or posted on social media that arouse emotion, based in half-truths or outright fabrication. There is no intention to support any particular candidate, just to create doubt and confusion.
We cannot control the information or its flow. What we can do is evaluate for ourselves, research the sources and make our own determinations. We need to listen to candidates, ask questions and not just accept what others tell us.
The hardest thing to do is evaluate without emotion. We must all ensure we know what and who we are voting for, and most importantly, participate in our election processes. Get registered, go vote!