The battle for America’s mind

Nick Campbell, @TheNCExperience

Recently, Former Vice President Joe Biden launched his 2020 campaign for the presidency. One of his signature campaign battle cries is that we are in a “battle for America’s soul.” Whether that’s accurate or not is subject to interpretation. What is undisputed, however, is that America’s collective mind is up for grabs.

As Scott Adams, the creator of the famous comic Dilbert once put it: “Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public.” As the nation and the world continues to find out more about the Russian interference in the 2016 election, fate as it would seem, is not without a sense of irony. For Russia to successfully engage in a disinformation campaign, it would have required a willing recipient. The American public.

Using social media proved to be brilliant provided America’s addiction to social media. According to a report given to Congress, over 126 million users on Facebook saw content and information from Russian agents. Seeking to sow discord among Americans during the election, the disinformation campaign also worked its way on Twitter and YouTube.

131,000 tweets on Twitter and over a 1,000 videos made by Russian agents were spread through these respective channels alone.

One does not need a Master’s degree in International politics or relations to question the common sense of many falsehoods. Did I need to be a political expert to doubt pizzagate which contended that a former Secretary of State was participating in a childhood sex trafficking ring? Absolutely not.

Yet, according to a poll by the Economist and YouGov, over 50 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of Democrats actually believed this debunked conspiracy theory. Are we that dumb as a nation? Let’s go back to before the election with the racist “birther” conspiracy theory of Donald Trump.

Trump, at the time a presidential candidate, questioned if Barack Obama was born in America. According to a poll by the Slate and YouGov, 51 percent of Republicans believed Obama was not born i the US compared to 14 percent of Democrats. Why do people believe these false conspiracy theories? A common explanation is the “Occam’s razor” theory.

Founded by the 14th-century philosopher and Franciscan friar William Occam, he developed the “Law of Parsimony.” According to the razor principle, the simplest explanation for an event is almost always the best; shave away any extraneous assumptions, and what you’ve got left is For example that occurred after the death of rap star Tupac Shakur. When he was murdered in 1996, he was so revered that people wouldn’t accept his death. It was widely rumored that he simply faked his death and moved to Cuba.

With that in mind, it’s easy to see how people can fall for the okie doke in the news or even worse, social media. Social media is its own house of horrors for misinformation and fake news. During the 2016 election, I used to cringe on the daily at things people were either posting or even sharing.

Some of the common ones were about the electoral college. Many people falsely believe that their votes don’t count in the presidential election and that a shadow government secretly selects the president.

Others, including “Pizzagate” previously mentioned, and more infamous, Clinton’s misinterpreted remarks about criminal justice reform all made their way around the net. All, which had Russian agents and trolls behind it. Consider this, Clinton made the often misquoted “Superpredators” remark way back in 1996. It was never mentioned again until the 2016 election. Why?

These common sense questions that Americans are not asking themselves is the reason why the battle is not for America’s soul, but rather America’s mind.