April 2, 2020

Who are you listening to?  And who do you believe?  As we adapt to our new coronavirus existence with newly-thrown-together home offices, vacation-style games and jigsaw puzzles, Zoom conference calls and close living with our chosen “hunker-down” family members or roommates, we sift through the daily bombardment of news about the COVID-19 scourge as it marches across the world. 

We see the virus cases increase.  We’re shocked as statistics on the video screen become very real when the virus actually attacks close to home.  We listen to our political leaders and the public health experts and try to take it all in – listening carefully to information that could seriously impact our health, finances, and very lives. 

We are forced to make judgments about who to trust as we digest it all.  And try to stay faithful and not fret.

While gleaning through the almost numbing amount of information, two items have jarred my sensibilities.  The first was a pure political attack launched by the left-wing NC Policy Watch group, who amazingly called for Governor Cooper to appoint an “Acting Officer” to act in State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s place while Folwell recovers from the coronavirus illness.  

This astounding assertion was called out in an article by the Civitas Institute – which clearly laid out the facts about the Treasurer’s Office leadership process. Hopefully the people of North Carolina will see this as raw politics and won’t stand for bullying a man when he’s down and in the bed sick.

The second item is more worrisome.  It’s about the coronavirus and new press reports describing disinformation campaigns conducted by China and Russia. 

No less sources than the New York Times have written stories about China and Russia cranking up their disinformation machines full throttle in an attempt to disillusion and misinform those in western Europe and the U.S. about the disease and how it has been handled by their governments.  

It is a compelling story of China’s efforts to manipulate its own image: “In a highly coordinated campaign, Chinese officials and institutions have spread talking points centered on two narratives: that the United States is to blame for the origins of the virus and that the Communist Party has successfully contained the virus after a hard-fought campaign, affirming the superiority of its system.

“As part of the information war, China is also expelling journalists from three major American newspapers, including The New York Times.”

Another news story cites how Russian disinformation tools like RT (Russia Television) and Sputnik have tried to portray European countries as crumbling under the virus crisis and promoted distrust in the European political systems.  The head of the European Commission, speaking to the issue, said, “Those spreading disinformation harm you…. Disinformation can cost lives.”

This message was echoed by U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in yet another article, “We need every country to step up and provide accurate, transparent information,” he told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday. “And if we can’t have that, if we have disinformation instead, there are more lives that will be at risk not only today but in the weeks ahead as we battle this enormous challenge.”

The stories are worth the read and may help people understand the big picture story of this disease as it is being told around the world.  It is a surreal feeling when you read it – reminiscent of Cold War days.

What’s the troubling tie between these two items?  The increasing use of fake narratives that abound in today’s news delivery that make people trust less and less in their government at a time when that’s really all we can do. 

It is a huge problem regardless of your political party or ideology.  A free society depends on the rule of law.  And it depends on people getting the truth so they can make decisions about the issues and about those who govern them.  It is a sad commentary that we must constantly question and ask ourselves if what we hear and read is straight talk and an accurate narrative.

The Carolina Partnership for Reform will continue to work to make sure the people of our state get straight talk – based on facts, statistics and legislative votes, and that we’ll seek to cut through the fog of politics and misdirection as we discuss the tax and spend and free enterprise issues that impact our daily lives and the critical educational issues that impact the education of our children.