Extremism and Disinformation: A Deadly Pandemic

Delnaz Kazemi, Reporter

Just over one year ago the nation witnessed a disastrous event take place at the nation’s capital. Although this devastating event took place during extremely divided times, it surprised most citizens. 

The sight of angry people storming the Capitol, filled with fury after being fed “The Big Lie” that was been spread over months before the 2020 presidential election filled the airwaves and shocked people all over the globe. 

 The most important lesson to take away from this event and the occurrences that lead up to it and that took place directly after is how terrifyingly easy it is to influence so many individuals to believe in something so deeply that they would do the unthinkable for it, even though what they are fighting for may not exist at all.  

 To attempt to understand how and why such an event could take place, one must rewind to who or what initially sparked the beliefs that the participants in the insurrection had.  

 The “reason” the insurrection happened was because of the “Big Lie,” which was that then President-elect Joe Biden had not won the election fairly and that the true winner was then President Donald Trump. This, of course, was false, as it had been proven repeatedly that Biden had legitimately won the 2020 election. Those in support of the lie had been hearing the message of the “stolen election” many months prior to the election itself.  

 

 

 

 The fear that these individuals were strategically exposed to had ultimately worked.  

 At 1 PM the riot started. However, they were only outside. Shortly after 2 PM, the rioters broke the windows and entered the Capitol. (continue) 

 The reactions from citizens around the country and individuals around the world created an interesting message.  

Most of the country believed what they saw, violence because of a fear-spreading lie, was wrong and those who caused the fury that led to the event should be held accountable. Another part of the country believed that the insurrection happened for a just cause or that those individuals were tourists, which, by definition, certainly were not. On the other hand, some individuals, being victims of disinformation, believed that it did not happen at all and was staged by actors.  

 

 

 A saddening sight shortly after the attacks on January 6th was the new, unwelcoming, security surrounding the capitol and its grounds. Although necessary for the time, and some could argue for more than just after the attacks,  it was almost a symbol to citizens that showed how even an incredibly powerful and symbolic place like the nation’s capitol could be infiltrated. 

Starting from the day after the event up to today, there are still false accounts of what actually happened going around on social media and on television segments. These conspiracy theories about what happened and didn’t happen successfully divided the nation, once again, completely.

 

 

The thing is, extremism is not a new thing. Extremist language and messaging has never failed to form disasters following the start of its spread. It is important to look throughout history and compare how similarly to recent times extremist messaging took effect.  

One of history’s most precise examples is the anti-Jewish sentiment during and surrounding World War II. This kind of messaging has had a deep effect from its start. It causes a group of individuals to rally together and please whatever person or organization is the leader of their cause. In recent times, the power that these types of messages hold seemed to once again become known to bad actors, although extremist messaging was never really off the scene.  

There is no simple or easy solution to keep citizens from being affected and swayed by disinformation spewed every day on easily accessible places, such as social media. The only way one can attempt to ignore the opinions and look into the truth on any matter, especially those that are divisive, one must have awareness of what emotions are arising when seeing the nonstop flow of digital content that uses trigger words and keeping calm while fact-checking and using other methods to decide whether a source is trustable or if it’s simply fueling the fire for clicks and views (money/popularity).

If, and only if, everyone attempts to use these steps, we as a citizenry will see a decrease with how easily any triggering content will turn people against each other. It is a deeply rooted issue, and it will take great effort to come together and ignore the lies while seeking and finding the truth.