Thought Policing and the Battle of ‘Disinformation’: How Political Debates and the Exchange of Divers Ideas are Needed Now More than Ever

By Austin Pellizzer

This week’s articles and video media sheds light on conspiracy theories and how this has made its way into the mainstream of American politics and across the pond into the European political community. Looking at the Hungarian populist governments’ use of conspiracy theories to push anti-Semitism and islamophobia (184) in Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism: The Case of Hungary and the ‘Soros plot’ by Ivan Kalmar, these ideas can grow into an Ethno-nationalist scope with detrimental consequences (185). With such nationalist happenings, this inevitably spreads both intolerance and hate in the name of preserving particular values and ways of life (186). On the other hand, both Politico and Vice’s materials talk about the need to battle ‘disinformation’ related to more well-known and global movements from the right, which can have detrimental consequences to one of the most sacred freedoms to democratic nations, the freedom of speech. 

The Politico article by Mark Scott titled Qanon Goes European looks at the 2017 fringe political movement Qanon which has made the mainstream news in more recent years. Scott, in detail, looks at how European populist parties (particularly in the UK, Germany, and Italy) have used many of these Qanon theories from Trump’s 2017 Presidential Election to the recent Covid Pandemic to shape this phenomenon which found its beginning on the social chat site 4chan. While it is essential to consider how these movements can have serious consequences, like the Capital Hill Riot of January 6, which brought Qanon believers together, the idea of having to silence and de-platform individuals and organizations in the name of combatting ‘disinformation’ is problematic of an in itself. Demonstrated in the Vice video, How this TV Chef Turned Covid Truther Helped Qanon Boom in Germany, brings to light the need to combat this ‘disinformation’ within the political sphere. However, while this idea might sound like something needed to preserve democracy, it is in many ways doing the exact opposite. 

With collective action predominantly coming from the political left concerning social media platforms and politicians bent on censoring people based on the idea of spreading ‘disinformation’ related to topics like Trump and the Covid-19 pandemic, this will only lead to more people embracing alternative beliefs as a whole. If companies and politicians alike genuinely want to have a united political dialogue and discourse to improve society, it is in their best interest to end the censoring and silencing of one side based on having diverse ideas and beliefs which is only human. Instead, what is needed is to open the doors of dialogue for a free exchange of ideas and debate, which will inevitably lead to the truth prevailing and mending political wounds of past years. 

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