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“If you’ve studied how societies fall apart and how dictatorships arise, you know that strangling an independent press is key.”

–Rebecca Solnit, The Guardian

As we approach Jan. 6, 2022 and the ignoble anniversary of the violent attempted coup on our democracy and the insurrection that threatened to overwhelm our Capitol, Ark Valley Voice (AVV) is getting increasing social media comments demanding that we “tell their truth.”

At this point, AVV reminds readers that in July 2018, we warned about a future that looks a lot like what Trump supporters are pushing today – a fascist future.

In 2016, two years before AVV was launched, The Guardian, a national-size, free-to-readers news media whose mission is similar to ours, published a cautionary tale of what happens when dictatorships and those who would subvert the will of an informed electorate prevail and take power by force.

They said :

“Imagine that the free press disappeared and you got all your news from rumor and social media. Imagine that there was no way to find out who wields power, who profits, who tells the truth, and who lies.

We came close to that this year, with fake news, warped news, timid news, and confirmation-bias bubbles that offered reinforcement instead of challenge. But a free press – one that is independent and unfettered – is crucial to a free society.”

Well, we agree. And that was 2016. What has occurred since then in our country’s leadership and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of a playbook for the installation of authoritarianism.

Not a week goes by that AVV doesn’t get several social media comments on our Facebook page, and attempts to add comments to the news platform, calling us lib media… liars (and worse), demanding that we link to Breitbart or Fox News, that we stop lying or explain what is happening their way, with their “facts.”

In the past week, the strident messages are coming with affirmations of the terrorist group known as the Proud Boys, a litany of claims that Trump won the election, disinformation about the infectiousness of the Omicron variant, that hospitals aren’t filling up, that kids don’t get sick from it. We’re waiting for the claims that the moon is indeed made of blue cheese.

We won’t do it.

This isn’t about a conservative or a liberal bias that Trump supporters blindly taunt us about. It’s the difference between news media that keeps a clear and truthful eye on developments and where they are going ( the Wayne Gretzky approach) and media that takes a status quo approach; otherwise upstanding news organizations that exhibit a failure to imagine that what they always assumed to be true is no longer the reality, and miss what is happening before their eyes.

These two approaches now stand against a third: the outright avalanche of disinformation-marketing masquerading as news being dished out by Breitbart, Fox News, and the power-hungry (and some would say, crazy QAnon believers) who want their way and to hell with the rest of us in this democracy. For that matter– their view is – to hell with democracy.

A new poll by The Washington Post and the University of Maryland shows just how divided the nation is and paints a potentially grim future for democracy:

  • 72 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Trump voters say the former president bears “just some” responsibility or “none at all” for the insurrection.
  • Overall, 60 percent of Americans say Trump bears either a “great deal” or a “good amount” of responsibility.
  • 54 percent of Americans characterize the protesters who entered the Capitol as “mostly violent,” while 19 percent call them “mostly peaceful” and another 27 percent say they were equally peaceful and violent.
  • One in 3 Americans – 34 percent – say violence against the government can be justified, citing fears of political schism or pandemic.

Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election have spawned ongoing efforts in some states to revisit the results. No such inquiry has turned up anything to suggest that the certified results were inaccurate. That has not blunted a persistent and erroneous belief by most of his supporters that the election was somehow rigged. That this is a severe case of “sore looser-ism” should be obvious.

Also tracked in the survey:

  • The survey found that 68 percent of Americans say there is no solid evidence of widespread fraud but 30 percent say there is; those being apparently Republicans.
  • Big majorities of Democrats (88 percent) and Independents (74 percent) say there is no evidence of such irregularities, but 62 percent of Republicans say there is such evidence — although not a shred of irregularities has been presented.
  • Today, 54 percent of Americans characterize the protesters who entered the Capitol as “mostly violent,” (if you were watching it live that day, it would be hard to describe what happened as planting daisies and handing out donuts.) Another 19 percent call them “mostly peaceful” and another 27 percent say they were equally peaceful and violent. Broken down by party, 78 percent of Democrats describe the protesters as mostly violent compared with 26 percent of Republicans.
  • It should be noted: 36 percent of Republicans say the protesters were mostly peaceful, compared to five percent of Democrats, who apparently had their eyes open.

The House Investigation Committee on what happened Jan. 6, 2021, now says that it has evidence of dereliction of duty by former President Donald Trump.

“We have first-hand testimony now that he was just sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on the Capitol and staffers kept going in pleading with him to stop the violence,” said Republican House Committee Member Liz Cheney. “His daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to stop the violence.”

The majority of those surveyed had an ominous prediction: two-thirds said the events of Jan. 6 appear to be a harbinger of increasing politically motivated violence.

AVV’s prediction is this: The role of the media in documenting the facts and standing up to those who would attempt to intimidate journalists into silence as this continued fascist grab for minority control continues, is more crucial than ever. It is especially important on the local and state level, where insurrection will manifest itself, community by community.

Journalism that asks,”What does this mean?” “Where is this going? “What are the implications for us all?” These are the right questions, and AVV will continue to ask them.

Featured image:  Photo by McGregor.Pacific.Barcroft Images