The 2020 general election is still more than a year away, but campaigning season is well underway. Already, voters are being bombarded with messages from candidates, especially from some of the more highly publicized races like president and governor.
Along with legitimate messages about policy, beliefs and concrete ideas, the campaign season is littered with content that is false, misleading and deceptive.
There is a plethora of propaganda aimed at dividing voters using sneaky tactics to sway them to one side or the other.
Propaganda defined is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
The truth is, not everything you read, hear or watch should influence you as as a voter.
So how can voters differentiate what is reliable information that should be used to influence their decisions and what is propaganda used to trick them?
Kirsti Kenneth and Pierce McManus wrote in a June column for NewseumED about some red flags that can be used to notice propaganda in the political landscape.
“Propaganda simplifies the situation,” they wrote. “Does the content cite only convenient or helpful facts while glossing over counter-arguments? Red flag. Propaganda exaggerates. Does the content present its candidate as perfect or nearly so? Red flag. Propaganda also uses our emotions against us, exploiting our weaknesses and deepest desires. Does the content you’re looking at make you feel afraid, and then conveniently promise a cure for that fear? Another red flag.”
While these are great ways to scope out propaganda, we believe the most valuable tool to avoid being swayed by propaganda is to be an educated, well-informed voter.
The best way to do that is to make sure you are not getting your information from only one source and in one method.
Rather than blindly believing that article you read on Facebook, a quick web search of the same topic would likely bring up several other articles that would help add more context to the story to determine its accuracy and fairness.
Instead of getting all your information from, say, CNN, Fox, ABC, NBC, etc. news stations, seek out information from various sources. Watch TV news.
Listen to radio news shows.
Read a newspaper, an online news site, commentary, editorials, etc.
Seek out non-partisan news sources.
If you do use partisan sources, seek out both liberal and conservative sources to learn more.
Seek out information that is accurate, fair and balanced. The information should come from a reliable, factual source, be unbiased and present views supported by evidence from all sides of the issue.
Be open-minded about the news you consume. Consider that you might grow from seeking to understand the various sides of the issues at hand during this election season.
Most importantly, consider that if all voters were well-informed and avoided being influenced by propaganda, the truly best candidates would be more likely to be elected.
Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”