Mark Zuckerberg

Here we go again, another political cycle. The Presidential Election.

Except this time, in 2020, with Trump having destroyed most of our time-honored traditions and images of the Presidency, it’s more important than ever to be a critical, intelligent voter.

Aaron Sorkin (the guy who made The Social Network movie) wrote a great letter to Mark Zuckerberg in the New York Times.

What happened in 2016 can be chalked up to populists on both sides throwing a tantrum. On one hand, the Left and Bernie Bros, voters who passionately stood by Bernie Sanders and his vision of Democratic Socialism.

On the other side, Trump Populists disgusted with Washington as usual politics and crying for a change. In fact, here are Trump supporters explaining why they support Trump even through all the scandals and obvious racism.

And I get it. Trump supporters want the same thing as Bernie supporters: change. They see their world crumbling under invading immigrants and crime. They see their jobs being lost to automation and advancement in AI. Donald Trump provides an answer to these voter’s fears. With promises of continuing coal mining jobs and tariffs against foreign products, bringing manufacturing back to the USA. It’s comforting to hear someone say they’ll protect you as the world changes drastically.

That’s partly why Trump won in 2016.

That, and Hillary Clinton wrongly getting the Democratic nomination in 2016. This led to a lot of hurt and disappointment amongst Progressive’s who latched onto Bernie Sander’s message and believed now was the time for the revolution!

Only, the revolution was handed over to a corrupt politician and the flame fizzled.

So we got Trump.

It’s kind of sad that we’ve descended to this level in our political discourse. That a reality tv huckster can manipulate the true and genuine fears of people for his own gain.

On the Democratic side, we have a plethora of candidates, though only a few matter. Bernie Sanders is back at it again. And good for him. Elizabeth Warren is shooting up the polls. Joe Biden thinks he can run against a new form of politics, though I think he’ll not get the nomination. He’s too ”old Washington.” He speaks for the Baby Boomers who are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

No, it’s going to be Warren, Bernie, and Trump (and maybe Mayor Pete Buttigieg). And the 2020 election is going to be all about Democratic Socialism and Trump’s Populism.

Which is why Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are becoming dangerous. Right now, on Facebook, is a 30-second ad falsely accusing Joe Biden of blackmailing Ukrainian officials to stop an investigation of his son. The ad is paid for and running on the platform.

People are viewing this ad even though the premise of it has constantly been debunked and proven false. And yet, people will believe it. Because their friend shared it and, well, their friend can’t be wrong, right? It must be true, right? Otherwise, Zuckerberg and Facebook would have taken the ad down for being fake.

So the lie becomes truth because we believe it to be true. George Orwell warned us of this very thing way back in the early 20th Century. And they didn’t have the internet or social media in those days.

When I taught my English classes at the university, I made sure to teach my students critical thinking. I beat it into them to question their sources and make sure the information they were presenting was factual and true. This was at the cusp of Wikipedia and the explosion of the internet. Smartphones weren’t a thing when I was teaching.

One of my favorite exercises was to gather my students into groups and have them read an official document about the dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide

Warning against Dihydrogen Monoxide

Warning against Dihydrogen Monoxide

I would ask them to construct an argument as to why we should ban DHMO or why we should not ban it. The group members had to be unanimous in their decision.

I would always have the cocky science major raise an eyebrow at me, as if to say are you serious? But most of the time the groups would vote to ban DHMO. They’d present perfectly logical arguments as to why; their presentation based on the information I gave them.

And every student would groan and be upset with me when I told them they effectively banned the usage of water. Many students would complain that I tricked them and made them feel stupid.

I would tell them that’s the exact point of the exercise: how information, language, and rhetoric can manipulate your opinion. I would enforce the lesson that they were not stupid, just not trained to be critical of information presented to them. That they believed everything because it was printed as true.

It was a good lesson and all of my students thanked me for it.

Which brings me back to Zuckerburg and Free Speech and Social Media.

Zuckerberg thinks he’s defending the holy idea of free speech. But most people don’t understand that speech has consequences. Yes, you are free to say what you want. But don’t expect people to respect your opinion if it’s based on lies and debunked information. You are wrong. And you need to understand that you are wrong. Don’t fight the critics who are telling you your information is flawed.

Look, the XKCD guy said it better than me:

So be smart. Be critical of the information you ingest. Question your sources. And for god’s sake, do NOT get your news from social media It’s corrupted already.

Oh, and just a reminder of the quality of person Donald Trump is, here are some straight from the source videos showing him lying, mocking, and just being a horrible human being.

Remember these when you vote in 2020. Maybe your candidate didn’t get the nomination. But is the alternative better?

And the point that should have ended his candidacy: