To the Editor:

Will democracy survive?

I think so, but that is not a given. How we get our facts is a big part of democracy. I don’t have to look much further back than the events leading up to World War II to see how the media can be used to influence people to act in ways we thought impossible.

The Texas History Museum in Austin had an exhibit in 2016 on the rise of Hitler and how he used the media to promote his agenda.

The world was in a depression and Germany was also being required to pay for World War I.

The exhibit showed that Hitler was probably the first to use the media to stir up the frustrations, resentments and prejudices of certain groups, thus creating divisions among Germans and appealing to the nationalism of “us versus them.” One of the “thems” were the Jews.

What was shocking to me is that I saw the same thing happening in the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump. By his own admission to a reporter, he very early labeled certain news outlets as “fake news” so that when they printed or broadcast something unfavorable, he had already discredited them.

In the 1930s, the rise of totalitarian governments meant controlling the media.

That is still true in Turkey, North Korea, Russia and China. Do we think the USA is different?

The Southern Poverty Law Project that tracks hate groups reports an explosion in the number of hate groups since 2017, who feel emboldened to spread their message through social media.

Here and in Europe, governments are struggling on how to control the massive disinformation in social media, without infringing on free speech.

We could have won the battle, but now the Trump administration is a source of disinformation itself.

Attorney General William Barr is a perfect example. He declared the Mueller report a vindication of President Trump on obstruction of justice.

Now Barr is misrepresenting the Inspector General’s report on the Russian investigation.

If you are hand picking your own investigator, then it is like the cigarette company researching lung cancer.

Incidentally, you can’t charge President Trump with obstruction of justice as president, but you can in an impeachment trial.

A recent survey revealed that if one gets all your information from Fox News, you have unwavering support of the president.

In the Republican effort to support the president in the impeachment inquiry, they are repeating Russian propaganda.

When President Trump stood on the international stage with President Putin and declared that Russia was not behind the interference in the 2016 election, I knew we were in trouble.

What I didn’t count on was the Republican Party caving in to his abuse of power, including taking funds from Fort Hood to build his wall.

I see on Facebook unauthenticated material that is passed on as fact. Democracy requires citizens to be well informed, and today that means listening to sources that report the facts, not opinions.

I check in on Fox, CNN and MSNBC to see what “opinions” are being represented, but rely on the facts reported by NBC and PBS evening news and the research of the New York Times and Washington Post.

Give me factual information and let me make my own decision!

Remember, all conspiracy theories have enough truth in them to suck you into a lie.

For democracy to survive, we must be vigilant and truthfully informed.

Warren Townsend

Kempner

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