Part One of a Series of Posts

Our country is facing a crisis when it comes to toxic, erroneous, and purposely misleading information.  Trump and his allies on the right have been huge accelerants of both mis and disinformation. There is a reason why they lie. It helps them to achieve their goals, namely, gaining and keeping political power. Trump has intensified and enlarged the spread of lies. Social media accelerates and amplifies them. And too many Republicans are consciously using mis and dis information to gain political advantage and break down our democracy.

Why does the right wing use disinformation? Because it is effective. It is a tool that creates outrage and fear, two emotions that get people to get and stay angry and drive people to the polls to vote for Republicans. Disinformation keeps Americans divided giving Trump supporters a different universe of “alternate” facts to stew about. It also threatens our democracy.

We need to understand the danger so we can understand how to combat it.

When distinguishing between misinformation and disinformation, keep one very important word in mind: intent. Although both words refer to types of wrong or false information, only disinformation is wrong on purpose. 

With the rise of Trump and Trumpism accelerated by social media, the fear engendered by a rising population of black and brown people in America, the grievance of low education older white men worried and angry about being “replaced”, our country is facing a barrage of toxic disinformation  intentionally being used by the right wing to support their political goals.

Trump Promoted Disinformation and Still Does

When Trump entered the political scene riding down the escalator at Trump Tower and declaring that Mexico was not sending its best people to our country, he accelerated what has become a massive assault on the truth that intensified when he became president. Fact checkers like Daniel Dale were counting up his lies and were astounded by the amount of disinformation Trump spewed. He spewed over 30,000 critical lies in his time in office.

Some of them caused people to die- like his repeated assertions that the pandemic was over and under control when it was not or that ivermectin would cure covid. Others were just ridiculous and infantile like when he insisted that his inauguration was bigger than Obama’s and it didn’t rain that day. Trump’s use of Twitter to amplify his lies got him kicked off the site until now. He has been reinstated by Elon Musk who has taken over Twitter and is allowing all manner of mis and disinformation back on that platform including misinformation about how to treat covid. Twitter may be banned in Europe for that reason. And Trump is back to his lying ways on the site mis and disinforming the American people once again. He never stopped. The Big Lie is just that. A Big Lie.

When Trump is fearful he spews more disinformation to try to rally support for himself. He plays the poor unfairly treated aggrieved white man. Trump and his allies on his Truth-less Social platform are going after Jack Smith’s wife as a way to launch an attack on Jack Smith, the newly appointed special counsel tasked by DOJ with investigating the January 6th Insurrection and the Mar-a-Lago stolen documents cases. There was never any doubt that once a special counsel was assigned, Trump and his minions on the right would go after Smith to discredit him.

Smith is a registered Independent voter. His wife helped to make the Michelle Obama documentary and she donated $2,000 to Biden’s campaign. Trump and his allies pounced on that. They will say Jack Smith cannot be unbiased about Trump because of these actions of his wife. Yet the same people argue that Ginni Thomas’ efforts to overturn the 2020 election did not impugn her husband, Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, who even now refuses to recuse himself from ruling on matters before the Court connected to the January 6th insurrection. (He should recuse himself. Other federal judges are required to do so in comparable circumstances.)

Another example of shaping the information narrative to support disinformation comes out of Trump’s dinner with Kanye West. West brought Holocaust denier, Nick Fuentes and two others with him to have dinner with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. Trump claimed at first that he did not know who Fuentes was. Now he knows if he didn’t before. But Trump still has not condemned either West or Fuentes for their anti-Semitism. To deny the Holocaust happened is part of a huge disinformation campaign that Trump is supporting while pretending not to. Trump has given Fuentes and West a platform that amplifies their mis and disinformation.

Why does Trump and a GOP that cannot seem to rid itself of Trump need to rely on this kind of junk thinking? Because they need the extremists and crazies if they hope to win elections these days. They need the white supremacists and evangelicals too. Without these angry, energized haters they cannot win elections anymore because their policies favor the ultra rich who fund the Republican Party with dark money but pretend they don’t.


The Democrats have been faulted for failing to play as rough and dirty as the Republicans. They are often accused of bringing a knife to a gun fight. More to the point, however, Democrats often do not even show up to the fight at all. They try to ignore it. As Michelle Obama once famously said,” When they go low we go high.” Unfortunately that was a different era.

Democrats might want to ignore the gun fight, but they do so at their peril. Trying to go high when they go low is a recipe for the loss of our democracy and victory for the right wing that wants to install an autocracy, a dictatorship led by a right wing strong man that let’s them get whatever they want without having to navigate a divided and gridlocked Congress. Dictators get what they want without compromising.

This fight cannot be ignored.

Democrats are not at liberty to cheat or fight dirty. Democrats do not have the same rabid MAGA base that is desperate to win at any cost even if they have to cheat and lie to win. The base that supports Democrats generally insists on playing fair and being truthful. It was also made clear in the midterms that a majority of Americans align with these Democratic ideals and want to preserve our democracy while Republicans have opted to become a shrinking minority party populated by extremists. Trying to be fair and truthful are good goals that must be adhered to and continued, so who will combat mis and disinformation? Failure to do so will result in more damage.

Loss of Shared Facts to Start With

The real problem that spawns the divide we are experiencing is that we no longer have shared facts in America. We start the conversation with very different facts that we believe are true. Walter Cronkite reporting the nightly news is gone and with him the sense of community that Americans used to have that helped us stay on the same page and work on solutions together. Instead, Americans live in information silos that feed us the information we already trust and want to believe. If information comes from outside our silos too many Americans reject it outright.

People fall back on whataboutism and bizarre conspiracies to protect themselves from a viewpoint they don’t like.  Trump is embracing white nationalists, having dinner with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes who denies there was a Holocaust? Well, what about Hunter Biden’s laptop?! What about Hillary Clinton drinking babies blood?!

Is there any way to rescue people from a political cult if they don’t want to be rescued? I don’t think so. Fortunately, there are still millions of Americans who are willing to think independently when presented with realistic fact based truth.

As a former prosecutor I continue to have faith in the legal process to cut through the crazy and get to the facts and the truth. Even most of the Federalist Society judges appointed by Trump insist on fact based evidence in their courtrooms and base their rulings on precedent (with some notable exceptions like Judge Cannon and Clarence Thomas who allow their politics to influence their legal judgement and decisions). The judicial system is one of the best ways to combat mis and disinformation and discourage it by imposing harsh economic penalties on purveyors of intentionally false information.


Dominion and Smartmatic are spearheading a fight our country needs to have against disinformation by suing Fox News and other outlets for lying about their products and services to explain Trump’s election loss in 2020. Under the laws in our country, libel can be proven if the statements made were intentional  and verifiably false and there was monetary damage to the company that resulted from these lies. In these upcoming cases the elements favor plaintiffs Dominion and Smartmatic. The lies were intentional and verifiably false. Fox hosts repeated them and are on countless taped segments of their shows repeating them. The damage to these companies can be proven and quantified in lost brand status and lost profits.

Sean Hannity. Tucker Carlson. Steve Doocy. Maria Bartiromo. Lou Dobbs. Jeanine Pirro. Shepard Smith. They’re among the parade of current and former Fox hosts who have been called for a deposition in the ongoing libel litigation initiated by Dominion Voting Systems, which claims in a $1.7 billion lawsuit that Fox “intentionally and falsely” blamed Dominion for Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.

Dominion provided voting technologies to dozens of states during the election, and the company alleges Fox “endorsed, repeated, and broadcast…verifiably false yet devastating lies” about its products and services, among them that Dominion committed election fraud; that its software manipulated vote counts; that it’s owned by a firm founded in Venezuela to rig elections for the late Hugo Chávez; and that it paid kickbacks to government officials who used its technologies. 


The multiple lawsuits for defamation against Alex Jones brought by the parents of children murdered in Sandy Hook are also a strong defense against and attack on future disinformation. Jones faces huge losses and will probably declare bankruptcy to try to avoid payments of damages including punitive damages. Here again courts have the power to limit what Jones can do to try to hide or avoid the consequences of his actions. Texas and Connecticut juries have both imposed damages on Jones although the Connecticut jury slammed Jones with huge career ending damages where Texas has laws limiting the amount of damages that can be assessed against a single defendant.

Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been ordered to pay nearly $1 billion for the lies he spread about the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. Jones falsely claimed the attack was a hoax and accused a grieving parent of being an actor in the days after the murders. (NPR)

Update: Alex Jones has now filed for personal bankruptcy in Texas.


Millions of Americans watched the January 6th Committee and voted to reject Trump, election denialists, and extremism in 2022. Because they voted in large numbers, these Americans denied the GOP their highly anticipated red wave. The House will, however, be dominated and led by the right wing Republicans. Extremists like Marjorie Taylor Greene and others in the House will ignore the wishes of the voters, They will clamor to impeach Biden, Merrick Garland, Anthony Fauci, and run investigations using taxpayer money that Americans don’t want.

This will annoy Americans no end and continue the damage already being done to the Republican brand. The GOP will be seen as too extreme if they cannot stop the House extremists from overreach. Over the next two years Republicans will do what Trump has been doing to himself-  damaging their potential to win elections by being too extreme and too dishonest.

Ironically, House Republicans could help to combat mis and dis information by being too extreme for moderate Americans because I think that will trigger a backlash against them. If the GOP keeps losing elections they could have won if their candidates were more moderate and less dishonest, that should eventually help Republicans to learn that they can win again only if they are more moderate and tell the truth instead of relying on intentionally false and misleading information to gain the upper hand.

There will be more future posts in this series on what can be done about mis and dis information.