I heard this term in the last week. It was attributed to an editor of Breitbart who was speaking to a journalism school. He allegedly told these budding journalists that journalism is dead, and that Breitbart has no desire to practice journalism. While I’m not an expert, I congratulate Breitbart on its historic success in fulfilling that goal. They are not in danger of coming close to anything that could be called journalism. Allegedly, this editor described Breitbart’s methodology as having “weaponized information” as its goal. This goal has also been successfully achieved.
In nature, polarization induces polarization. When highly charged clouds induce an opposite charge in the earth below, lightning happens. This is also true with people. Highly polarized people create polarization in those around them, and sparks are likely to fly. This drives the culture wars, and divides our society.
When right-wing radio and then right-wing cable outlets popularize conspiracy theories, demonize their opponents, and play to the worst fears of its audience, they are profiting by their weaponization of information. When left-wing radio or cable outlets spend 30-70% of its air time talking about the deplorableness of Donald Trump’s behavior, they are also weaponizing information. Is there anyone in the United States that doesn’t know about Trump’s behavior? Does covering Trump’s behavior in his 10th month have any news value? Is there any new information in it? In the campaign, conceivably, it would be a relevant item to voters, who might still affect outcomes. No one is voting now, so what is the purpose of this endless coverage? If the purpose is to keep up the outrage, then that is certainly a definition of weaponized information. It isn’t “fake news”, but it is clearly politically motivated. It no longer qualifies as “news” in the traditional sense.
There is so much deplorable action by this administration that deserves coverage. It is more news-worthy than Trump’s outbursts about the NFL, or how he speaks to soldiers’ parents. Don’t misunderstand me, I am appalled and outraged by the lack of a bottom in Trump’s behavior, communications, and actions. But when this is the center of the debate, instead of how the judiciary is being constructed to prevent any consequences to GOP misbehavior, then there is a massive mistake in priorities in the news.
So now, both the left and right are participating in the grand battle to influence their audience. This has led to the distrust of all media outlets. If this continues, the divisions will deepen. I personally watch the most popular “news show” on cable. On that show, I find that along with a significant amount of politically driven content, there is also a lot of good information presented. I’d be even happier with more information and less institutional outrage.
As a progressive, I think the GOP’s goals and actions are close to universally deplorable. I know that just informational coverage could fill a library. Those facts will not only keep people motivated to resist, they will also be able to be used to influence republican “moderates”. No one will be moved by “Trump is a deplorable human being”. That was proven in the last election. It hasn’t changed in the months since his election. His base remains committed to him.
Let’s publish the governmental failure to handle Puerto Rico. Let’s publish the harm increasing the deficit will do. Let’s show that 37 years of trickle-down economics has only lead to income inequality. Let’s talk about how republican lawmakers created legislation that makes distributors of opioids unable to be prosecuted while more people in the U.S. are now dying from opioid overdose than car accidents. Let’s publish how Russia used Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet. Let’s publish how the administration is taking no steps to protect the next election from Russia. Here are the beats of the drums.
Trumpism is more dangerous than Trump. He is the symptom, not the disease. If you haven’t investigated Pence, McConnel, or Ryan, you don’t know how deeply in trouble the U.S. is. Watching Roy Moore and Luther Strange in Alabama should show you how deep the trouble is. We can’t spend all our time voicing outrage. We need to focus on how GOP actions are going to destroy lives in red and blue states. At least explaining their actions and predicting the results holds the prospect of changing minds. Only truth can help, but it has to be recognizable as the truth. Outrage in the presentation of truth only lessens its effectiveness.
Editor – Political Nation
Twitter – @RepairmanBill