There is an issue that is plaguing our country today and could lead to our collective downfall as a country and society.
No, it’s not coronavirus — although that is dangerous enough and will probably get worse as we head into the fall and winter months. But it does begin with a “c.”
The continued rise, prevalence, and destructive tendencies of conspiracy theories pose the greatest threat to our democracy as we know it.
You see, as dangerous as coronavirus is, at some point, science will come up with a vaccine. Facts, truth, reason, and logic will beat back this virus.
But the opposite of science; the lack of fact, truth, reason, and logic — conspiracy theories — are seeing a resurgence in our society that threatens our democratic republic of nearly 250 years. And the scary thing about it is people who fall victim to conspiracy theories are the hardest to convince that what they believe to be true is, in fact, not true.
It is bad enough when Joe or Jane Everyperson shares something they’ve seen in the bowels of social media, but when sitting U.S. representatives, senators, and even the president peddle this nonsense for political gain — and with no shame — our country is in deep trouble. This erosion of trust in the most educated of our country, from teachers to doctors to scientists and others, to our institutions of government such as the Justice Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many others, represent one of the most serious threats to our country’s future that we have ever seen.
So what can be done? Can anything stop this national scourge on fact, logic, and reason? Should we all just throw up our hands, join the Greeks, Romans, and other failed democracies and republics of human history and say, “Oh well, we had a good run?”
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No. It is up to all of us, in our own ways, big, small, and everything in between, to meet this challenge head on and at every opportunity. Helpful and trusted fact-checking websites include factcheck.org, snopes.com, and politifact.com. The media bias chart at adfontesmedia.com and allsides.com are great sources to check our own biases as well as the media we consume. Votesmart.org and isidewith.com are great for researching candidates and helping to become an informed and educated voter. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we need to vote — whether that is in person or by absentee ballot — for candidates who will reject outright conspiracy theories and defend this country’s long held values of liberty, equality, justice for all, truth, and the greater good!
Whether it is a respectful conversation with a friend, family member, or co-worker, challenging posts on social media and backing with trusted sources and actual facts, calling your elected officials, peacefully protesting, writing op-eds, and/or many other ways it is up to all of us to save ourselves ... from ourselves.
Michael J. Jacobsen works in higher education, is a parent of two, and is a former high school government, U.S. history, world history, geography, psychology, sociology, world political theory, and economics teacher. He is a native of Sac City and now resides in Williamsburg. firstname.lastname@example.org.