Daily Resource Highlight - 2/7/2022

Posted by on February 07, 2022 at 12:36 PM

Below are the highlights and featured resources of this past week’s Daily* Resource.

February 1, 2022 - Combating Extremism Legislatively and Socially

One of my favorite Supreme Court cases is National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977). If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a landmark First Amendment rights case that essentially gave Nazis the right to march in the heavily Jewish town of Skokie, Illinois.

My reason for loving this case is two-fold. First, I’m a strong proponent of free speech. Second, I’m Jewish, and more specifically a German Jew. Thus, Skokie allows me to authentically say that I support free speech rights and oppose censorship even for people who hate my existence. 

So when I support “combating extremism legislatively,” I don’t mean censoring extremists. Instead I’m interested in what organizations like R Street and Unite America will have to say tomorrow @ Noon ET when they discuss “How America’s Electoral System Benefits Authoritarianism, and How We Can Fix it.” 

Presumably they will tout the impressive, bipartisan electoral reform report they created with Issue One and others, which could well be part of the solution for nipping American authoritarianism in the bud. I’m also intrigued by efforts to update the Electoral Count Act (IVN), which advocates argue is due for some clarifications.

As for social solutions – that’s a whole different ball game, and I’m realizing that it deserves its own newsletter. So at the risk of being accused of a misleading subject line, I kindly ask you to open this newsletter on Thursday for a discussion of social solutions to extremism. We will highlight more fantastic resources from Bridge Alliance members, including some thought-provoking posts about fact-checking and legal censorship.

February 3, 2022 - Combating Extremism & Misinformation Socially

On Tuesday, we covered the government’s possible role in combating extremism and misinformation. And as I have said, I support strong First Amendment free speech rights, even for extremists.

That said, the First Amendment only limits government restrictions on speech. The First Amendment does not apply to individuals and corporations, which is why Facebook’s new “Supreme Court” (Civic Genius) can suppress extremist views and misinformation. But should it? It can feel “right and just” to banish misinformation and extremist rhetoric, but is that an effective way of achieving an educated citizenry?

What about fighting against it with fact-checking? According to this article from AllSides and the studies it cites, fact-checking has a very limited impact on people’s beliefs, and overconfident fact-checks with incomplete information can lead to further distrust. To counter these shortcomings, the author proposes that news outlets also offer disagreement-checking, which would highlight the complexities involved in the discussion.

Another approach is to couple the fact-checks with persuasive anecdotes. That’s part of Issue One’s approach in their Truthtellers campaign to set the record straight about the 2020 election. In the linked video (just 2 ½ minutes long), Weston Wamp discusses the claims of fraud in Arizona, and notes that Democratic county reporter in Maricopa County actually lost his race even as President Biden and Senator Kelly won the county. The implication? If the election was rigged, wouldn’t the official who was directly involved with processing ballots have ensured their own reelection?

Of course, all the logic in the world may not matter when people are afraid. As April of AllSides puts it, “Fear closes our ability to reason and understand each other.” With how widespread fear is right now, does it make sense to try to persuade in the face of hate and misinformation? Is censorship the best option for extremist rhetoric? I want to say “no,” but I’m honestly not sure. And at the end of the day, my opinion only matters so much. It’s up to the collective us, the American people, to decide the path forward.