Recently I was reading an article on the January 8 insurrection in Brazil. The writer noted Jan. 8 along with Jan. 6 in the U.S. as examples of what can result from the maelstrom of global authoritarianism, “fake news” and pervasive misinformation. Brazil has also witnessed its own version of the “Big Lie” claiming fraud was behind the ouster of Jair Bolsonaro, and there are various scare stories about the new President Lula da Silva freezing bank accounts or forcing middle class homeowners and renters to house poor people in their homes. You can imagine the kind of stuff I’m talking about and how it can create hysteria in segments of the population in both countries.
But it’s a reminder of something I’ve thought a lot about and written some about over the last few years. We simply don’t have a good theory or understanding of what we’re talking about when we talk about “fake news” and “misinformation.” In most cases we know it when we see it: Jan. 6 was an Antifa operation, millions of “illegals” voting in 2020 gave the election to Joe Biden, young people around the world dropping dead because of COVID vaccines, mass shootings conducted by crisis actors to justify gun confiscation.