voice for democracy

Our View: Disinformation: Recent poll shows threat of ignorance – Mankato Free Press

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Updated: September 26, 2021 @ 8:28 am
Serving South-Central Minnesota

A growing fact gap in American democracy should be disconcerting if not alarming to us all.
A recent Star-Tribune/Minnesota Public Radio/KARE11/PBS’ FRONTLINE poll showed that half of Minnesotans outside Hennepin and Ramsey County do not believe or don’t know if President Joe Biden “legitimately” won the election. Half believe he did legitimately win.
In southern Minnesota, 50 percent doubted or rejected the election result, while 49 percent held the same belief in northern Minnesota.
This comes in the context of an election that was verifiably the most secure in American history, according to former Trump election officials and other experts. Judges appointed by both former President Donald Trump and Democratic presidents resoundingly rejected all legal challenges to the election results in numerous states.
Those are the facts. Yet there are non-believers.
How can this be? It seems there are two options. The anti-facters are either not informed, have not been exposed to the facts or they’re choosing to not believe the facts. Either way, democracy as we know it is in trouble.
Election integrity expert David Levine, of the nonpartisan Alliance for Securing Democracy, told the Star Tribune: “Being able to trust and abide by legitimate election results lies at the heart of U.S. democracy and, frankly, democracy more generally. If people can’t trust legitimate election results, then that raises real questions about how much they trust democracy.”
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon echoed those sentiments. He told the Star Tribune the 2020 election nationally and in Minnesota was “fundamentally fair, accurate, honest and secure.” He supported that statement noting that the 2020 election was “the most watched, studied, scrutinized and litigated election in the history of the United States of America.”
And yet somehow the “rigged” narrative has become persuasive to half the people.
Part of the problem is the disintegration of systems that fostered the widespread dissemination of facts by legitimate fact disseminating institutions like news organizations. Newspaper circulation has declined 64 percent to 23 million in 2020 down from its peak of 63 million in 1990, according to Pew Research. While newspaper print circulation continues to decline, digital news distribution rose 38 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to Pew.
Digital news is still not making up for the loss of hard-copy, home delivered news.
Digital growth is a positive note, but one cannot ignore how the deep decline in the last few decades has affected Americans’ access to facts.
Solutions range from investments in new news organizations that can help increase the inventory of facts to collaborations among existing news organizations. That’s happened in varying degrees with the growth of such non-profit news organizations ProPublica and MinnPost, and other organizations like the Institute for Nonprofit News, which supports 300 independent news organizations and assists entrepreneurs who want to start small community news operations.
The Free Press has a 10-year long partnership with Minnesota Public Radio News to share content relevant to Free Press readers, while MPR can use Free Press content on its website.
Social media, of course, is more of the problem than a solution. While newspapers far and wide use Facebook to distribute their legitimate fact-based news, many other “opinion” news groups have free access to Facebook’s billions of users, who by Facebook algorithms are mostly fed the “news” they already believe, regardless of its factual nature.
Citizens of democracies can help by discerning facts, sharing them and supporting organizations that are committed to a fact-based democracy.
Democracy can decline rapidly as facts become more elusive. Democracy can end when facts are smothered out by disinformation.

Citizens must be able to discern and accept facts for democracy to work.

Edwin “Jim” Zabel, 91, of Albert Lea, passed away on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. A Visitation will be held from 5-7PM on Thursday, September 30, 2021 at Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home of Albert Lea, MN.


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