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Courtesy of Rosanne Wickman
Remembering G. Fred Wickman: Journalist, Professor and Mentor
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A picture of the posters on the University Walkway.
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Visit the City Market to explore local vendors.
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A Disarray of Disinformation

Illustration shows William Randolph Hearst as a jester tossing newspapers (Library of Congress)

In the aftermath of the right-wing Capitol insurrection, Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas did the right thing. While it should seem odd to call it courageous, Moran broke with many colleagues and voted to certify the 2020 election results.  

What was the senator’s reward for upholding the basic tenets of democracy? He would have hoped for rallies by supporters back in his home state, a record amount of campaign donations, or perhaps support to further his career. None of that panned out. Instead, his party treated him like a heretic trying to break bread in a church.  

The Kansas Clay County Republican Party on Feb. 5 passed a resolution of censure. This resolution says he “violated the trust of voters, failed to faithfully represent a very large majority of Kansas voters and neglected his duty.” 

That reaction is, unfortunately, not an extreme outlier. In states such as Wyoming, Arizona and North Carolina, Republican leaders who break with the Trumpian orthodoxy are getting similar treatment. These figures, treated like traitors, are not heroes by any means. However, this kind of reaction to their upright, reasonable actions shows how deep the rot of disinformation goes in our society. 

It is far too easy to dismiss the problem of conspiracy theories and viral lies. After all, the comical craziness of QAnon or Pizzagate is hard to take seriously when looking at it from afar.   

However, we cannot let crazy ideas, like Democrats worshipping the devil, distract us from the real truth. These conspiracies are not only wrong, but they are the primary feeder for a modern day fascist movement. It is not a club of well meaning do-gooders, but a cult of personality seeking to become “heroes” in the most toxic sense of the word. 

The deadly and chaotic effects of these lies were shown clearly in the violent attack on the Capitol and aggressive actions by other right-wing mobs. The scariest form of this problem, though, is not seen in the halls of Congress or at the National Mall. 

It is in the local party committees and the statehouses. It is the state parties and state party leaders denouncing national Republicans who have strayed from the lie-ridden party line on issues like the 2020 election. 

It is also on the local and state level, where these baseless theories are being used to further push ideas and laws that would further crush many of the people who live in those areas. Lies about the last election being “rigged” or subject to “fraud” are the basis for vile laws that undermine the foundations of democracy. 

Knowing all of this can be frustrating. There are no easy solutions to this problem. The Republican Party and conservative movement, which has become the home to these lies, is no longer able to effectively push back against this wave of conspiracy. 

For now, it is more important than ever to educate yourself with the real facts. That might get harder as time marches on, but we cannot give up on that quest.  

Without a foundation of common facts, there can be no democracy. Hopefully all Americans, no matter the political party, learn that lesson sooner rather than later. 

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