Mandryk: Internet propaganda that spurred U.S. riot a pox everywhere | #firefox | #chrome | #microsoftedge

If stopping today’s tsunami of Internet propaganda seems hopeless, consider for a moment what you’ve been liking, re-posting or re-tweeting.

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A year and two days after the insurrection on Capitol Hill, it appears Americans haven’t learned much about why it happened or how they can stop it from happening again.

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The United States democracy seems paralyzed, at a loss to understand from where this problem originated.

Such is the power of political division. Such is the power of propaganda in the modern-age Internet that would surely make Goebbels and Stalin envious.

And while Canadians remain rather smug about this, how we are also now being influenced by social media propaganda is more chilling than the current Saskatchewan weather.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it surely must be how dangerous misinformation is.

Today’s problems go well beyond the millennia-old issue of formal political bodies using propaganda to control societies. This tactic is no longer exclusively the domain of the elite, which actually makes it even more dangerous.

Propaganda is everywhere on social media. We can’t source it. We can’t see it coming. It’s simply everywhere.

Th e Internet and social media have democratized propaganda, allowing anyone to engage in it at warp speed. Once it arrives in its cozy cubby holes, it festers and becomes that much more toxic.

While many can identify others being sucked into Internet propaganda, the bigger problem may be not seeing how they are engaging in it themselves because they find it so intoxicating.

Look no further than the misleading social media posts about Premier Scott Moe or most any politician.

It’s easy to see the Internet propaganda crisis as a problem of the simple-minded, like those Americans who fell victim to the “Stop the Steal” movement that led to the Capitol Hill riot orchestrated and organized by supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump.

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It’s even easy to see how it became pervasive in their lives, spilling over into other issues. A recent opinion piece in the New York Times entitled “Why Republicans Keep falling for Trump’s lies ” noted that counties that voted for Trump in 2020 now have three times the rate of COVID-19 deaths as counties that voted for current U.S. President Joe Biden.

The fallout from such propaganda has dangerously seeped over the Canadian border into the Western separation movement that’s now merging with the anti-lockdown/anti-mask/anti-vaccination crowds. Many get how such movements utilize propaganda to suck more people into their worldview.

It is for that reason that politicians like Moe have been rightly criticized on social media (and in spaces like this) for aiding and abetting those spewing anti-vaccine propaganda largely for his own political benefit. Yes, our very policies have been influenced by propaganda that started elsewhere. This has to stop.

But there’s a vast difference between legitimate critique and those on social media who spew nonsense to advance their own cause.

Take recent social media posters, for example, suggesting Moe recently took a tropical vacation because they claimed to see tan lines from a watch in the photo of him getting his COVID-19 booster shot.

For the record, it was a very pale Moe who mocked the notion at his Dec. 30 news conference. His media office unequivocally states the Premier has been in either Regina or Shellbrook since before Christmas.

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Yet the social media rumour posts about the warm southern holiday persist, even spread by leaders of minor political parties who wonder why they can’t get a seat in the legislature.

That’s exactly what propaganda is — false information to demean and advance your beliefs and cause.

So if stopping today’s tsunami of Internet propaganda seems hopeless, consider for a moment what you’ve been liking, re-posting or re-tweeting.

Ask yourself if you can prove it’s true. Consider how you could fairly present your case and yourself to the public.

A tiny bit of civility may contribute to a better civilization.

Mandryk is the political columnist for the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

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