Thursday, February 21, 2019

Deciding on how to decide

The process we go through to make our own personal choices on the person we will support for US president is entirely, well, personal. It may be based on following the news, or maybe reading policy papers put out by a candidates, or maybe it’ll be listening to what other people have to say. However we get there, sooner or later we will get there.

For the 2020 election, Democrats have awesome choices, and we don’t actually HAVE to choose yet, of course. But I’ve started to form the process for how I’ll eventually choose by picking a few basic rules I’ll follow. It may or may not be useful to anyone else, but, naturally, I’ll share the rules anyway.

I made the graphic along the right side of this post from screen shots of my visit to the “2020 presidential quiz” on I Side With. Such things are always, um, interesting, but mostly just for entertainment, because I haven’t seen any evidence that their quiz produces accurate or valid results (or at least accurate or valid enough).

When I took the quiz, I always chose to answer more questions (more data increases the accuracy of the results—theoretically, anyway). I tried to be as honest as I could be, though there were times I was keenly aware of wanting to answer the exact opposite of the position the current occupant of the White House would espouse. Fortunately for me, this was my position on most issues, anyway.

I took the quiz mainly for fun, but also out of curiosity: What would the results show? Any surprises? Well, no, not really. I may not currently rank the candidates in just that order, but then, maybe I would? It’s far too early to tell.

Like Roger Green said in his post today, I can’t be too concerned about the candidates at the moment. However, there’s one thing that concerns me a LOT, and it’s that we’re being played already.

Some of what we’re seeing is the usual internal stuff, the fights that Democrats often get into with each other. I agree with Roger:
But too much of the rhetoric I’m seeing seems to tear down people before the race has even started. By this standard, NO ONE is qualified to be the nominee. One can write off everyone who’s running, or thinking about it, as too old, too shrill, too corporate, too Harold Stassen, throws things, is wrong on one issue or the other. Trump wins in 2020 against a fractured Democratic party.
That was the point of the two videos I shared yesterday, that we have to be better and do better this time. But, as we all know, and just like 2016, it won’t be just us trying to destroy Democratic candidates.

Today Politico reported that a “‘Sustained and ongoing’ disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates”. They reported that experts have seen “a recent surge in false narratives or negative memes against 2020 candidates,” adding:
A recent analysis from the social media intelligence firm Storyful detected spikes in misinformation activity over social media platforms and online comment boards in the days after each of the 2020 candidates launched their presidential bids, beginning with Warren’s announcement on Dec. 31.
They also report that in addition to attacks from foreign countries—especially, Russia, North Korea, and Iran—there are also disinformation and smear campaigns being organised on 4Chan and 8Chan:
Kelly Jones, a researcher with Storyful who tracked suspicious activity in the three days after the campaign announcements of [Sen. Kamala] Harris [D-CA], [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren {D-MA], Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), said she’s seen a concerted push over separate online message boards to build false or derogatory narratives.
Both Twitter and Facebook have promised that this time they’ll crack down on disinformation campaigns, especially from foreign countries. Can we trust them to do that? Of course not. Both companies rely on ad revenue that comes from eyes on the screen, and they have a strong incentive to ignore disinformation campaigns as long as possible, basically, until the mainstream newsmedia starts breathing down their necks.

The federal government is similarly of no help. In most states, the election system is still wide open to cyberattacks by foreign governments because the current occupant of the White House cannot fight it without implicitly admitting it happened in 2016, something he continues to deny. This is mainly because he benefitted from the foreign disinformation campaigns in 2016, something he also denies ever happened. He lies constantly about the extent to which his own campaign participated in those foreign disinformation campaigns, so that’s why he can’t do anything to protect the USA’s election system from foreign attacks, because, in his mind, it would be providing a tacit admission that the disinformation campaign happened, too.

Worse still, the evidence is that campaigns don’t yet understand that they’re engaged in global cyberwarfare in which they’re the targets and victims. Their own efforts so far have been limited to promoting a positive message, which, while vital, does nothing to stop the attacks nor to prevent the cancer of disinformation from being distributed widely.

In recent months I’ve become convinced that there’s a broader disinformation campaign going on against the Left. For example, there have been numerous attacks on the leadership of the Women’s March, alleging all sorts of bad beliefs and positions held by the leaders. But who benefits from dividing the movement? It’s not the supporters of the movement, clearly, nor opponents of the current regime generally. It looks like we’re all being played by supporters of the current regime—foreign and/or domestic—who have as their goal dividing the Left by trying to open up the very real fracture lines on the Left.

Dividing one’s enemy is one of the oldest political tactics in the book, and social media makes it easy to do that, and all without leaving any clear evidence that the other side is behind it in order to sow political discord among their adversaries. The Left makes it too easy for them by rising to the bait nearly every single time.

So, here are my personal rules for navigating this new political terrain:
  1. Assume that everyone is lying. Whenever we see something bad said about a candidate, especially Democrats, assume it’s all lies until and unless you can prove otherwise. Don’t share articles, memes, or rumours unless you’ve had a chance to verify the content is actually true. Because this takes time and effort, the short version is simple: Don’t share memes and links. Even if true, a negative meme/story may not advance the debate at all.
  2. Who stands to win? Whenever there’s a news report about a candidate or their policy proposals, even in the mainstream news, ask yourself who stands to benefit if the story is true? This is related to Rule 1, but it includes seemingly positive news stories, too—spin works in both directions, after all.
  3. Avoid social media. Obviously, using social media for personal stuff is different, but don’t share attacking memes or links (bears repeating), and don’t ever read and definitely never comment on things posted on Facebook by mainstream media sites (there be trolls and disinformation soldiers there). Those comments are left so the false narratives become more likely to spread by making the post look more “popular” than it actually is—using Facebook’s own algorithms to spread the fake news and disinformation (same thing happens on Twitter, but it’s often bots doing the dirty work). I’d add, think twice before commenting on anything about candidates that a Facebook Friend posts, too.
  4. Stick to discussing policy differences only. As Roger was saying up above, there are always personal things about a candidate that someone will be concerned about. However, dwelling on those aspects tears down a candidate without ever debating the issues. Stick to the facts and the policies. As the campaign goes on, we may come to sincerely believe that a candidate’s personal qualities or characteristics are very important, but that has to exist only within the wider context of whether that candidate would be a good president, whether their policies are good, those sorts of things.
  5. We’re going to elect a president, not a saint. Whoever gets the Democratic nomination will not tick all the boxes you’d like them to (look at my graphic again—no one matches me 100%). There may be things about the nominee you truly dislike, or that just make you uncomfortable. Get over it. There is no more important single duty of any American citizen than ensuring the defeat of the current regime in 2020. None. If you want to ensure the candidate who’s the best match for you wins the nomination, then get involved early: Give money, volunteer, register to vote—and be sure you’re eligible to vote in the Democratic Primary in your state (or participate in the Democratic Caucus). States have different rules, and it’s your job to learn what they are so you can take part. But whoever the nominee is, pledge you will vote for the Democrat no matter what. This Rule trumps, so to speak, all the others.
To sum up the rules: Distrust and Verify, Ask Questions About Every News Story, Opt Out of Social Media, Stick to Policy Only, and Pledge to vote for the Democratic Nominee, no matter what.

This is going to be a long campaign. The only upside I can see at this early point is that the more attention Democrats are getting, the less the current occupant of the White House will get, and that’s an absolutely good thing (and his inevitable Twitter Tantrums about Democrats will help motivate people to vote for change). We each need to find our own way to decide on a candidate to support, and to get through the disinformation campaigns. My real message here is, find the way that works best for you.

That, and vote Democratic as if your life depends on it, because it every well could.

1 comment:

rogerogreen said...

I saw Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, IN (Mike Pence's state, of course) on This Week (ABC in the US) and I thought he was impressive. Can a white guy win the Dem nomination? Can a gay man win the White House? Here's a nice article: https://www.thenation.com/article/pete-buttigieg-democracy-electoral-college/