I can’t adequately account for clicking on the political ad atop my YouTube feed when I opened the app on my phone yesterday. My best defense is that I’ve been seeing–and ignoring–those ads several times a day for weeks now, and I’ve been a good boy, not clicking on a one, even if it was obviously a booster to my preferred candidate. Surely a click of one by the other guy out of curiosity would be harmless. It might even be virtuous.
Lies. All lies. All the lies.
Shock at dishonesty online is a tired posture in 2020. We are over 20 years into the internet era by now, and we have had nearly a decade to get used to algorithm-driven and advertising-supported social media. That this information ecosystem is exploited to mislead and confuse its users cannot come as a surprise.
But it must be resisted. Improving the trustworthiness of mass communication channels is as morally urgent as any change we seek, because, as opponents to change know well, confusion aids the status quo. Meaningful correction of climate change, advances in racial equity, redressing the wealth gap, expansion of health care–none of these stand a chance of persuading a needed majority unless changes are made at the personal and regulatory levels to curb the ability of opponents to lie about them. Of course, this means that we must not lie about them either.
We are six days from an election, and everyone is tired of the heightened tension and animosity that is driving our politics, including yours truly. Yet I suspect that’s the point to peppering the public with infuriating claims that are demonstrably false: to wear us down. Once we are too tired by it all to keep checking for facts and questioning sources we have been neutralized.
Let’s not be neutralized.