Before I resume business as usual here on Caterpickles, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge what an utterly disorienting moment we are living through as a country. My entire life, I have witnessed one Vice-President after another calmly preside over Congress as they go through the formality of tallying the votes of the election from the preceding November. Even when some of them–Gore in my lifetime, Nixon just before it– were former Presidential candidates who were surely disappointed in the results.
Pence, to his credit, did the same yesterday. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was for our current President, having exhausted all legal remedies to overturn the election in the courts, to incite a mob to attack Congress and his own Vice-President while they were in the process of tallying the state-certified vote. It was astonishing and horrifying.
Like many of you, I have been reading a lot today about yesterday’s events in an attempt to understand what happened. I am not interested in the man in the buffalo costume or the folks in military garb who were obviously there for the insurrection. I’m interested in Elizabeth from Knoxville, who was captured on a video that quickly went viral, and who was so clearly confused about why the Capital Police maced her when all she’d done was storm the Capitol to have a little revolution. I mean, what did she think would happen? The Capitol Police reaction seemed predictable, and yet Elizabeth failed to predict it. Her privilege blinded her.
For all the scenes of rioters smashing furniture, breaking glass, and ransacking offices, I have found just as many stories of people like Elizabeth. In his article for The Nation, “Madness on Capitol Hill”, Andrew McCormick described the atmosphere yesterday as “Part insurrection, part happy hour.” Merchants sold t-shirts and hats for $15. Trump supporters queued up at liquor stores or stopped by bars for margaritas on their afternoon out. As curfew approached last night, I watched streams of casually dressed people on CNN peacefully walking away from the Capitol grounds even as hundreds of their fellow Trump supporters continued to scale the walls and swarm the Capitol steps.
Watching and reading reports of the interviews with the riot-adjacent participants in yesterday’s events, I am struck by the fact that many of these people have trouble discerning the difference between reality and the show. At the very least they are operating on a completely different set of facts.
How did that happen? How can I, as a parent, teach my daughter to guard against it?
For that matter, how can I guard against it myself?
Many of the tricks I was taught as a child to guard against misinformation have been rendered obsolete. After all, it’s not hard to find the same fact in at least three unrelated online sources in the age of copy and paste. To make matters worse, social media algorithms are tuned to feed us more of the content we engage with. I try to fool it by following folks in a wide variety of fields and on all sorts of political aisles, but even so, I’m naturally more inclined to read some articles more carefully than others. My Twitter feed right now is both super interesting and personally quite validating, which undoubtedly means I’ve been successfully siloed despite my best efforts, and it’s time to curate the people I follow again to shake things up.
In reflecting on yesterday’s events, it occurs to me that we all need to think more carefully about the sources we rely on, why we trust them, and whether they have earned that trust.
In line with that, I am going to try to be a little more transparent about the sources I use to answer my various odd ball questions here at Caterpickles. Instead of simply providing a link to the sources I use for various posts, I will work a little harder to make my reasons for choosing that source more transparent. That may mean telling you why I picked a particular source. Every once in a while, it could also mean telling you about a source I chose not to use, and why I chose not to use it.
What about you?
Did you watch the news yesterday? What did you think?
- Election 2020 is upon us. Do you have a plan to vote? (Caterpickles)
- “What’s so important about fostering curiosity anyway?” (Caterpickles)