As shocking lies continue to spread about the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, federal and state law enforcement authorities have moved quickly to file charges against the assailant that could keep him in prison for life.
Yet in an appalling reaction to the assault, the son of a former president, a sitting Senator, and the new owner of one of the world’s most significant social media platforms are among those who have spread vicious lies that major news outlets report as “conspiracy theories.”
This attack was the foreseeable and preventable outcome of the growing rage that has superseded political discourse in much of our country. It is a rage stoked by political leaders who took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, and then ignored their obligation to keep that oath and protect the rule of law.
It is also a rage stoked by media outlets that tell lies instead of news, and news outlets that refuse to call out lies in plain English. And while dishonesty travels across the Globe, many news outlets think they are providing balance by politely sharing “both sides,” even when they know that one of those sides is an outright lie.
No reputable media outlet should report known lies when our democracy is drowning in false assertions. In a 21st century global environment where lies spread in an instant, traditional media outlets cannot continue to deliver 19th century journalism.
Describing the circumstances behind this attack, Robert Hubbell describes the “maddening and sickening” focus away from the facts, and the failure by so many to draw the direct line between hate speech and the coded incitement to violence we are seeing from too many political leaders.
Our colleague, Dennis Aftergut, and co-author Jeffrey Abramson, wrote that intimidation is the bread and butter of terrorism – and will succeed without citizen resistance. They note the lessons of history: no one is safe if democracy fails.
As our colleague, Estelle Rogers, writes about her poll watching experience in Nevada, the time for involvement is now – when the very legitimacy of elections is called into question.
We must demand truth, reject lies, and act constructively and with purpose. Our democracy depends on it.