Citizen truth brigades steer us back toward reality

“The people who run and rely upon basic community institutions will increasingly recognize how much they rely upon a common understanding of objective truth.”

The lies became more constant and increasingly outlandish. The DNC masterminding a satanic child sex abuse ring. North Korea smuggling ballots into the country on a lobster boat in Maine. The Trump-supporting Republican governor of Georgia conspiring with a Venezuelan dictator who died seven years ago and a voting machine manufacturer to rig the election for Biden.

The consequences of a literally shameless and desperate attempt to hold on to power through subversion of the Constitution, American institutions, democratic norms, and objective truth is starting to impact even the local officials and public servants who voted for the guy.

It has all gone too far,” declared a Republican official in Georgia who cited death threats and harassment resulting from the president’s disinformation. Like thousands of men and women across the country of all political leanings, he handles the nuts and bolts of making elections and other fundamentally grassroots democratic institutions work.

In 2021, look for average Americans — Republican registrars of voters who worked their asses off to provide a safe and accessible election in a pandemic; librarians; school board members; PTO presidents; apolitical neighborhood Facebook group administrators; small business owners — to fight back.

When even Fox News, which has provided prime-time credence to disinformation for years, isn’t brazen enough in its lying for Trump, there’s a playbook of misinformation and disinformation that’s going to start to infect local politics and policy discussions.

The people who run and rely upon basic community institutions will increasingly recognize how much they rely upon a common understanding of objective truth. We’ll see citizen efforts, solo and semi-organized, emerge to push back on this.

This won’t be as simple as fact-checking campaigns that cite local journalism. After decades of decline, that journalism doesn’t exist at a hyperlocal level in many communities. And the campaign to destroy trust in “the media” has been so successful with 35 to 45 percent of the population that citing a local news site might even backfire.

The most progressive local news organizations will see the opportunity to equip citizens with the fact-checking and verification tools used by journalists, and be humble about it. The most depleted legacy newsrooms and tiniest local news startups should recognize the impact that a broad view of how journalism can equip citizens to protect democracy is a better use of resources than limited stenography of its decline.

Matt DeRienzo is editor-in-chief of the Center for Public Integrity.

The lies became more constant and increasingly outlandish. The DNC masterminding a satanic child sex abuse ring. North Korea smuggling ballots into the country on a lobster boat in Maine. The Trump-supporting Republican governor of Georgia conspiring with a Venezuelan dictator who died seven years ago and a voting machine manufacturer to rig the election for Biden.

The consequences of a literally shameless and desperate attempt to hold on to power through subversion of the Constitution, American institutions, democratic norms, and objective truth is starting to impact even the local officials and public servants who voted for the guy.

It has all gone too far,” declared a Republican official in Georgia who cited death threats and harassment resulting from the president’s disinformation. Like thousands of men and women across the country of all political leanings, he handles the nuts and bolts of making elections and other fundamentally grassroots democratic institutions work.

In 2021, look for average Americans — Republican registrars of voters who worked their asses off to provide a safe and accessible election in a pandemic; librarians; school board members; PTO presidents; apolitical neighborhood Facebook group administrators; small business owners — to fight back.

When even Fox News, which has provided prime-time credence to disinformation for years, isn’t brazen enough in its lying for Trump, there’s a playbook of misinformation and disinformation that’s going to start to infect local politics and policy discussions.

The people who run and rely upon basic community institutions will increasingly recognize how much they rely upon a common understanding of objective truth. We’ll see citizen efforts, solo and semi-organized, emerge to push back on this.

This won’t be as simple as fact-checking campaigns that cite local journalism. After decades of decline, that journalism doesn’t exist at a hyperlocal level in many communities. And the campaign to destroy trust in “the media” has been so successful with 35 to 45 percent of the population that citing a local news site might even backfire.

The most progressive local news organizations will see the opportunity to equip citizens with the fact-checking and verification tools used by journalists, and be humble about it. The most depleted legacy newsrooms and tiniest local news startups should recognize the impact that a broad view of how journalism can equip citizens to protect democracy is a better use of resources than limited stenography of its decline.

Matt DeRienzo is editor-in-chief of the Center for Public Integrity.

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