When it comes to ballistic missiles, a miss is just a miss, while every miss by an anti-ballistic missile is a potential catastrophe, which is why ABMs, anti-ballistic missiles cost so much more than offensive ballistic missiles. Their job is harder and with less margin for error. That cost factor explains another problem, why when a ballistic missile misses, more are likely on the way, while the anti-ballistic missile arsenal is likely to be smaller, probably much smaller.
The same logic applies to the on-going, ever-growing war on “fake news.” Incoming propaganda and lies are cheap and easy to generate and can come at information consumers and the Big Distributors like Facebook and Google from a myriad of angles. No defense can stop ‘em all, although a jolly little industry is being built around trying to.
Just as the definitive defense against ballistic missile attacks in the 20th Century was a belief in, or at least choice of peace over war, the best defense against fake news is a belief in, or at least a choice of real news, and much more important, of the processes of governance under rule of law.
A free press, a concept and opportunity that has defined my life, is only a part of a much greater whole, a society that lives its democracy, that supports or loyally opposes its government, that values its laws and constitution, that sees itself as a nation, among a world of many nations.
While much is made – and rightly so – of President Trump’s campaign against the news media and its perversion of the fake news label to mean “news I don’t like” it’s just part of wider, much worse war of Trump against rule of law, against the Constitution, against the old credo of e pluribus unum – America the inclusive, proud to be a land of immigrants.
From the beginning Trump played to America’s fears, especially to the part of America that felt “up against it,” that was losing ground, status, income and was scared to death and angry about it. Trump’s message was somehow consoling: it’s not your fault, it’s theirs. And you’re right to hate them. Let it loose, all that hatred, all that fear of the ones who don’t look like losers to you, African-Americans, Latin Americans, Muslim Americans, LGBT-Q Americans.
Now that atmosphere of socio-political fear that got Trump elected has been recharged by a fear even more direct, of death by Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, this fear has grown so great is has spawned an emergency, a crisis and an opportunity for monomaniacal populists like Donald Trump to change the normal rules and seize dangerous amounts if power.
Our guest today, Cas Muddle, Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and author of the recent book “The Far Right Today” has been paying close attention to what he calls “corona coups,” authoritarian power grab opportunities seized by political leaders from Beijing to Budapest to Ankara to Washington.
Cas Mudde is the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and Professor II at the Center for Research on Extremism at the University of Oslo. He is author of the new book The Far Right Today, the award-winning book Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe (2007) and Populism: A Very Short Introduction (2017) and a columnist for the Guardian US.