– Ahead of the Curve, the FPA goes behind the News –
Simon Erskine Locke, Vice President, Foreign Press Association and Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatchTM
Democracy risks being snuffed out in a country where its people all too recently shed blood for the future they wanted.
With the U.S.’s hard-fought battles for democracy both at home and abroad as context, we might expect all Americans to come together to defend it.
Although George Orwell did not use the word doublespeak, the term has roots in the dystopian world of “1984.” Putin has provided a masterclass in telling the Russian people and the world that what is up is down, of false flags and fake news.
In an irony that should not be lost on Americans, he chose, as pretext for invading Ukraine, to label its democratically elected leaders as neo-fascists, describe the defenders of Ukraine territory being shelled as aggressors, and invading forces as peacekeepers.
The rise of the conspiracy culture in the U.S. and elsewhere, in which Orwell’s actual concept of doublethink – the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them – is not a coincidence. Russian disinformation campaigns have directly and indirectly propagated the seeds of chaos. Playing a long game, they are bearing fruit, driving division that Putin and other dictators around the world count on to weaken their foes.
When dictators control the media or undermine it, and we remain sheltered in partisan bubbles, the ability to make informed decisions essential to the functioning of a democracy is curtailed. Our acceptance of propaganda risks making us puppets on the strings of those who would manipulate us.
As Orwell wrote in the book, “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” The highest exercise of power is when people do not know that power is being exercised.
The acceptance of fake conspiracies and doublespeak has consequences. The tangible results are tanks rolling into Ukraine, the January 6th insurrection, and the alt-right using truckers to block borders.
We are at risk of sleepwalking into the end of our democracy. What we do matters. What is at risk is far greater than the political differences between Democrats and Republicans. It is our freedom to express disagreement – a fundamental freedom that democracy affords us as individuals.
We must hold leaders to account and to stand on the side of what is right, not might.
Orwell wrote, “There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”
We are not mad to value truth and hold our leaders and those who peddle unfounded lies and conspiracies, including the owners of organizations that give them a platform, to account. We are mad if we do not.