What Is It
The 2020 election and startling events that followed show that the US is as polarized as ever. Not only is there fundamental disagreement over values and goals, but people can’t seem to agree on the most basic, easily verifiable facts, like who actually won. With so many seemingly living in an alternative reality, how do we continue the business of democracy together? Should we adopt paternalistic policies towards fellow citizens who are so profoundly divorced from truth? And does our current plight suggest that the project of liberal democracy is failing? Ray and guest co-host (emeritus) John Perry stay informed about their guest, attorney and political analyst Dean Johnson, co-host of KALW's Your Legal Rights.
In a world of disinformation, can anyone make informed political decisions? How can we come together as a nation if we can’t even agree on the truth? John thinks that democracy is hopeless unless we do a better job of cracking down on disinformation, but Ray protests that free speech cannot be taken away by silencing people. John responds that people should be more careful about fact-checking articles and making sure sources of information are credible, but Ray argues that not everyone has a philosophy education or an education equipped to make those decisions.
The philosophers welcome Dean Johnson, a political analyst and criminal defense attorney, to the show. In response to Ray’s request for current sources of disinformation that are especially worrying, Dean describes how the depth and breadth of propaganda makes it more concerning than in the past. Plus, disinformation is promoted through social media and new technologies which are growing more and more prolific. John wonders if this new form of propaganda makes it more threatening to democracy, and Dean explains that the peril comes from the increased frequency of information consumption. Not only are people consuming more fake information, but their interpretation of facts is also affected by existing ideologies.
In the last segment of the show, John, Ray, and Dean discuss confirmation bias and the place of the private sector in democracy. Ray asks about personal responsibilities as consumers of news versus viewing disinformation as a structural problem, and John suggests ways to make a difference as an individual, such as through fact-checking our friends. When confronted with an undermining of truth, he believes that providing demonstrable facts is the strongest defense.
- Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 4:25) → Holly J. McDede looks at the effects of a controversial website that filled the news and information void in Stockton, California.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher (Seek to 45:25) → Ian Shoales looks at the end of the Trump era, wokeness, and conservatism.
In a world of disinformation, can anyone make informed political decisions?
Anti-vaxxers, Q-Anon devotees, 911 truthers -- how out of touch can America get?