Hillary Clinton on growing Republican culture of conspiracy theories and false news: “there has to be a global reckoning with disinformation”
After her run for the presidency was marred by overwhelming amounts of false news and outlandish conspiracy theories, Hillary Clinton is now calling for a “global reckoning” with disinformation – and it includes scaling back some of the power of big tech.
The 73 year old former first lady and secretary of state, has cautioned that she believes this breakdown of truth and the divisiveness that follows is a real danger to our country.
Clinton became the first woman to be nominated by a major political party with her 2016 presidential nomination. Unfortunately, mainstream media trended toward creating a false equivalence between the missteps from her long and successful career and those of Donald Trump, who had questionable contacts with Russian entities as well as multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
To add to her campaign trouble, Moscow ran a huge social media campaign full of disinformation, most notably the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which made the outrageous and false claim that Clinton was the head of a huge child sex trafficking network that was located at a Washington pizzeria.
Although we are now five years down the road from Clinton’s history-making run for presidency and are now enjoying our first female VP in Kamala Harris, the internet is still a hot bed of dangerous lies and theories, with QAnon leading the way. Most recently, they made their way right to the steps of the US Capitol in those deadly riots on January 6. QAnon supporters and far-right Republicans have even become aggressively anti-democratic, pushing Trump’s lies and trying to suppress voters of color.
Clinton is speaking out amid the current climate.
She says, “They’ve got to rid themselves of both-sidesism. It is not the same to say something critical of somebody on the other side of the aisle and to instigate an attack on the Capitol and to vote against certifying the election. Those are not comparable, and it goes back to the problem of the press actually coming to grips with how out of bounds and dangerous the new political philosophy on the right happens to be.”
And more than any point in history, we can no longer rely on the press to restore a common baseline of truth.
Clinton said, “The technology platforms are so much more powerful than any organ of the so-called mainstream press, and I do think that there has to be not just an American reckoning but a global reckoning with the disinformation, with the monopolistic power and control, with the lack of accountability that the platforms currently enjoy.”
She added: “In particular Facebook, which has the worst track record for enabling mistruths, misinformation, extremism, conspiracy, for goodness’ sake, even genocide in Myanmar against the Rohingya. So governments are going to have to decide right now that the platforms have to be held to some kind of standard, and it’s tricky.”
In 2018, a report found that the company failed to stop its site from being used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar. More recently, the Guardian conducted an investigation that found that the social media giant was ridiculously slow to heed warnings about political figures who were intentionally publishing false news and harassing opponents.
Keep in mind that on a monthly basis, Facebook has almost 2.8 BILLION global active users resulting in a revenue in just the fourth quarter 2020 of $28bn.
While the Biden administration, US Congress and the FTC have stated their intentions to come down harder on big tech, Clinton warns, “It’s not easily done. They’re incredibly powerful. But I don’t see any alternative if we’re going to try to deal with the very real dangers that disinformation and the divisiveness it breeds pose to our democracies.”
Trump focused his energies less on social media internet companies and MORE on legitimate news outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and other mainstream media. Although he couldn’t live without their attention, he painted them as “the enemy of the people”.
Clinton was outraged by his treatment of the press, saying, “Once an American president said that the press was the enemy of the people, that gave permission to all kinds of autocrats to make the same claim. I don’t know any American president who’s ever thought he got fair press; they always believe that they are not understood, or they’re being held to impossible standards or whatever their complaints might be.
“But we never had a president who essentially aligned himself with authoritarian thinking and acting the way we did with our former president.
The fact is that certain media really became mouthpieces for Trump’s view of reality
Clinton added, “It did do damage inside our own country, because it fed paranoia, conspiracy theories, partisan differences in our own political system that led many people to claim that the press was the enemy of the people, or at least the enemy of what they believed in.”
Clinton noted: “The fact is that certain media really became mouthpieces for Trump’s view of reality and fed the kind of disbelief and very negative view about anything that ‘the mainstream press’ had to say.
“On the other hand, the mainstream press had a very hard time coming to grips with the mendacity and the danger posed by Trump and his enablers and followers.
“It was very difficult. I understand the challenge that they faced. I think they were too slow in coming around to understanding that this was not an ordinary difference of opinion, this was not a different kind of leader in degree. This was a wholesale jettisoning of what we had come to understand as being appropriate boundaries for our leaders to operate within.”
Biden has pointed out China’s particular threat to democracy as it promotes a different model to the world, suggesting that future generations with scrutinize this specific time in history to see whether autocracy or democracy was more successful.
Clinton weighed in, “There’s no doubt that the Chinese are basically making the opposite case that democracy is messy, things take too long, people are in and out of office, there’s no continuity, you can’t have the kind of fixed goals that can be moved forward in a socially cohesive way and therefore choose us. We are facing that struggle.”
Clinton’s still believes in the “foundational” relationship between the US and UK, opposed Brexit, and still worries about its consequences.
She said, “I’m concerned about decision making on behalf of the west because, as complicated as these relationships are and as sometimes distressing the bureaucracy can be, it’s really important, especially talking about democracy versus autocracy, that democracies stick together. So the separation of the UK from Europe, I hope, doesn’t lead to a weakening of the commitment to democracy and the strength of standing up against both internal and external threats.”
Clinton has also expressed concern about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
She said, “I’ve been disturbed at the recent violence and, as someone who was very committed to assisting my husband and George Mitchell and working with the British government and the Irish government for the Good Friday peace agreement, I would hate to see Brexit undermine that: it would be a tragedy of historic proportions.”
She believes that until the border issue is resolved, it is hard to discern what a UK-US bilateral trade agreement might look like.