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Obama's partisan 'disinformation' campaign - Byron York


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Washington Examiner

OBAMA'S PARTISAN 'DISINFORMATION' CAMPAIGN. A big fad in Democratic circles is to hold events devoted to discussing the threat of "disinformation" in America. Former top Obama adviser David Axelrod, who now runs the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, recently held a conference on "disinformation and the erosion of democracy." His old boss, former President Barack Obama, stopped by. But now Obama has taken center stage for himself on the disinformation issue with a speech Thursday at Stanford University, in the heart of the nation's tech industry.

Obama's speech is important, in part because it will likely be influential among powerful tech executives. It might be seen as giving new energy to an effort to regulate social media. But the speech is also important for what it did not say. Obama, like others in the Democratic Party and in establishment media circles, is targeting some types of disinformation while remaining strikingly silent about others. There is disinformation that he finds deeply threatening, and there is disinformation he doesn't seem to notice at all.

The address began with the commonly expressed talking point that developments in the United States are part of a larger, global trend toward authoritarianism. Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine "isn't happening in a vacuum," Obama said. "Autocrats and aspiring strongmen have become emboldened around the globe. They're actively subverting democracy. They're undermining hard-won human rights. They're ignoring international law."

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"Right here in the United States of America," Obama continued, "we just saw a sitting president deny the clear results of an election and help incite a violent insurrection at the nation's Capitol. Not only that, but a majority of his party, including many who occupy some of the highest offices in the land, continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the last election and are using it to justify laws that restrict the vote and make it easier to overturn the will of the people in states where they hold power."

These developments inside the Republican Party are a warning, Obama said. "For those of us who believe in democracy and the rule of law, this should serve as a wake-up call." It is an important topic to bring up in Silicon Valley, he continued, because the rise of social media is contributing to "one of the biggest reasons for democracy's weakening: the profound change that has taken place in how we communicate and consume information."

Obama, who last year turned 60, based his speech on a nostalgic vision of a rosy, or at least rosier, past. In that past, people had fewer sources of information and thus fewer conflicts. "If you were watching TV between about 1960 and 1990," he said, mentioning the once-popular sitcoms I Dream of Jeannie and The Jeffersons, "chances are you were watching one of the Big Three networks." Obama said that sort of television had its own failings, including the exclusion of women and people of color, "but it did fortify a sense of shared culture." That was particularly true in the area of journalism. "When it came to the news, at least, citizens across the political spectrum tended to operate using a shared set of facts — what they saw, what they heard from Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley or others," Obama said.


It was a classic liberal boomer lament, a desire for a past before the arrival of Rush Limbaugh and talk radio and the internet and Fox News — developments that gave conservatives a greater voice in the political world. And of course, it is entirely ahistorical. It doesn't take a professor to list the terrible conflicts that occurred in history long before the arrival of social media.:snip:

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