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Mechanisms behind increased resistance to facts

Seven in ten Republican voters suspect or are completely convinced that election fraud was behind President Biden's 2020 victory, according to a CNN poll. Among all voters, the percentage is 39 percent.

How do we understand these numbers? How did these phenomena arise – and what do they mean for the possibility of holding presidential elections in the fall in the United States? “In the age of postal truth, there can be no democracy,” the Washington Post wrote when we were still in the middle of Donald Trump’s presidency. Since then, resistance to and suppression of facts has worsened.

Constant repetition This inaccuracy and conspiracy theories have laid the foundation for an “illusion of truth,” in the words of academy member Åsa Wikforss, where you lose the ability to question the content you encounter. They constitute a society in which it becomes increasingly difficult to agree on basic objective facts. The result risks being what researchers Jennifer Kavanagh and Michael Rich have called “truth decay” — “truth decay.”

And now this too is receiving a new feed from the fake turbo that generative AI has put into the hands of those who want to feed mistrust and spread delusions and propaganda. According to a report released by Europol this summer, we risk a development where 90 percent of all content on the Internet is fake as early as 2026.

Enligt Organizations News Guard Which monitors the rise of fake news sources, there are nearly 700 “news sources” with content generated entirely by artificial intelligence, with little or no human control. They create or amplify fake news narratives, sometimes to access advertising revenue, sometimes for obvious ideological reasons.

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The supply side of everything This fake content is well documented. What Johns Hopkins University researcher Danajal Goldthwait-Young focuses on in his easy-to-read and hopeful book, “Wrong,” is what happens on the receiving end. What constitutes the identity of someone who believes, for example, that Biden cheated his way to victory, or that the Covid-19 pandemic can be linked to the 5G rollout, or that George Soros controls what all Swedish journalists write?

According to the model Jung outlines, our political and social identities are distilled into a constantly self-reinforcing cycle that essentially revolves around three things: how we try to understand the world, how we try to control the world, and how we seek community.

Understanding is built not only through our personal backgrounds and experiences, but also through the drive to belong to an identity-based community. This is reinforced by political elites and unfettered social media, but also by the news standards of traditional media and the tendency to focus on conflicts, drama and culture wars. This makes them a key part of polarization in many countries.

And the result was It seems impossible to collapse a society where identity-driven resistance to facts and distrust of reliable sources exists in so many quarters.

Young's thesis is that we can never combat this by criticizing and trying to persuade those who support these claims. Instead, we must change all the components that contribute to shaping identities, from news logic to political discourse. “It is possible to explain why we ended up where we did. What can be explained is predictable — and even controllable,” she wrote.

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The first step, according to Young, is to recover what was lost in the explosion of “social facts”: the realization that one might be wrong.

Non-fiction

Danajal Goldthwaite Young

“Wrong. How media, politics, and identity drive our appetite for misinformation

Johns Hopkins, 244 pages