In 2020, disinformation in the United States will no longer come from Russia - as in 2016, it will come from the White House. On Wednesday, November 4, 2020, Donald Trump claimed victory as President of the United States, although not yet all electoral votes have been counted. He announced the claim in the East Room, White House to supporters and journalists. A number of media broadcast this victory claim, although some media like Reuters call it a "false claim."
On YouTube, the video claiming victory was then uploaded by a number of mass media and watched by hundreds of thousands of people. However, a number of media outlets then decided to delete the broadcast, as soon as social media platforms Facebook and Twitter deleted the posts of Donald Trump and his supporters. Facebook and Twitter even labeled the post as misleading content. The Twitter account belonging to Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 tweeted:
“Once President Trump starts making premature winning claims, we will make notifications on Facebook and Instagram that votes are still counting and a winner has not been projected. We also automatically label the posts of the two candidates with this information. "
Once President Trump began making premature claims of victory, we started running notifications on Facebook and Instagram that votes are still being counted and a winner is not projected. We're also automatically applying labels to both candidates' posts with this information. pic.twitter.com/tuGGLJkwcy
- Facebook Newsroom (@fbnewsroom) November 4, 2020
Twitter also blocked a number of other Trump statements alleging that vote counting was rigged. A total of 13 Trump tweets were deleted by Twitter from November 3-6. Twitter also marked the tweet as "content that is still under debate and potentially misleading about elections and other civil processes."
Journalism professor from George Washington University, Janet E. Steele called the actions taken by the American mass media, Facebook, and Twitter as justified.
“In claiming victory at the White House, Trump was off on two things. First, using the White House for political campaigns. Second, deceiving the public because the announcement was made before all votes had been counted, "Steele said in an interview with Jaring.id, Saturday, November 7, 2020.
However, it seems that Trump is unfazed by his conviction. Even when his political opponent from the Democratic Party, Joseph R. Biden Jr. successfully bagging an electoral vote of 279 on November 7 — exceeding the target of at least 270 votes needed to win, Trump tweeted still spouting lies: "I won the election by so many."
Trump also tweeted that the election was fraudulent because of para observer were not allowed into the counting room and that the millions of ballots sent by post — many of which many Democrats voted by post — had been sent to the wrong address. Both tweets were immediately labeled Twitter as problematic. However, both tweets can still be retweeted by hundreds of thousands of people.
Steele and a number of political observers worry that Biden's victory is not enough to bury Trumpism. The difference of about 4 million public votes (popular votes) between Biden and Trump - Biden earned about 74 million votes and Trump around 70 million votes - shows that Trumpism cannot be ignored.
Trumpism, Steele argues, is fundamentally based on race.
"Trumpism is an attraction for the penniless white working class and in a bad situation," explained Steele.
Trump implies that the white working class feels that they are real Americans, not Mexicans, not blacks or other immigrants. They see that the poverty and hardships they experience as a result of their work are taken by migrants or people of black or color who are already American citizens.
"There is an element of racism and white supremacy," stressed Steele.
This racial sentiment has actually emerged since the Barack Obama era. Not a few Americans have questioned Obama's American "authenticity". When Biden took Kamala Haris, a woman of Jamaican and Indian descent, as a vice presidential candidate, the question of American "authenticity" slipped back into the public consciousness. "And Trump succeeded in bringing it up," Steele said. It also explains why Trump won votes in a region with a majority of poor white people, even though he does not have a good health care program.
"They support (Trump) on the basis of racial sentiment, not on the basis of their interests," he said.
Borrowing a Marxist term, Steele referred to it as false consciousness (false consciousness). Meanwhile, an observer of culture and digital communication from the University of Indonesia, Firman Kurniawan, called it collective unconsciousness (collective unconscious).
However, both Steele and Firman agree that this racial sentiment is actually still there and remains in the minds of the American public. It was Trump who then managed to stir these sentiments shamelessly since he became the number one US person in 2016.
"Trump's behavior is the behavior of (some) American society," Firman told Jaring.id on Thursday, November 5, 2020.
This racial sentiment was further strengthened by Trump's declaration of war on journalism, the bankruptcy of local media in America and propaganda spread through social media. Trump with the power of twitter, according to Firman, is a strong magnet. With 88 million followers, Trump is able to build public opinion that conventional media is now struggling to do. "The reality of media today is the reality of social media," said Firman. This information network that is built through social media refers to the concept of Manuel Castells, which then forms a new identity and becomes an "opposition" to American identity.
"Trumpism uncovers the roots of hidden racism in a group of American society and it is a resistance to the values of pluralism and democracy which are glorified as American values," said Firman.
Trump's supporters build trust in the information they believe in and share on their networks, whether or not it is fact-based. Efforts were made by a number of parties, especially the media and the team fact checker-question, to convince them that they had received misinformation would also be ignored.
Trump's tweets that scare US voters with an increase in the number of refugees from the terrorist state if Joe Biden wins on polling day, for example, is an example of how Trump “inserts” a message of white supremacy and is shared by his followers.
“Joe Biden will increase refugees from terrorist countries by 700 percent. The plan will flood your community and turn Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the entire Midwest into refugee camps. I protect your family and keep Radical Islamic Terrorists out of our country! ” So was the tweet, which was retweeted 34,000 times.
Nortwestern University political observer Jefrry Winters sees that the false information that is spread unedited and unfiltered on the internet has indirectly increased the number of communities who believe in conspiracy theories and paranoia in the United States.
"Groups (that believe in) conspiracy and paranoid theories have been around in America for a long time, but never as massive as now," Winters said in an online discussion that was held two days before the vote in the United States.
The Qanon is one of those groups born with the belief that America is run by a satanic pedophile secret gang. They provide support to Trump and believe Trump will end the secret gang.
According to Winters, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which have their own algorithms, have contributed to the massiveness of this group. That's why, in the American elections, Facebook and Twitter are so responsive to ensure that sparks of lies don't pass by on their platforms.
America itself has many organizations that carry out fact checks. However, the problem is that according to Steele, the people spreading disinformation aren't the ones who look at fact-checking sites.
Media and Democratic Reform
Interestingly, however, American disinformation has prompted media organizations to develop tactics against it. One of them is "truth sandwich. " Like a sandwich, journalists can still make false statements made by politicians - especially Trump - but wrap it up with real facts. Steele gave an example, if Trump made a statement that the Democrat Party had stolen votes but in fact there was no vote theft, journalists could write it as follows:
"In an election that took place fairly and honestly, President Trump said votes were stolen by Democrats, but there is no evidence to support that claim."
This strategy, according to Steele, was carried out because journalists did not want to be trapped or contributed to reinforcing the lie. "This is a very positive development in how media organizations are dealing with lying (statements)," said Steele. He hopes that the strategy carried out by mass media in America can be imitated by mass media in other countries, including Indonesia. But Steele remains concerned that polarization in American society will last.
"This polarization is related to the decline of local media / newspapers and also to Trump's statement that the media are liars," said Steele.
The bankruptcy of local media made Americans turn to national media. However, the problem is that the national media are divided with their respective political positions. This sharpens polarization among the people. This is not to mention the decline in public trust in the media due to Trump's statements that always call the media the spreaders of fake news (fake news). People then fled to social media. The problem is social media has an algorithm that allows users to only be exposed to information similar to their interests.
“We really don't know what will happen in the next three months. If the Trump supporters mobilize (to reject the election results), this is very terrible, "said Steele.
Progressive senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, in his tweet on November 6, argued that what Trump is doing right now - by undermining the legitimacy of elections - is the work of demagogues (instigators) who destroy belief in democracy and move society towards authoritarianism.
Biden's job will not be easy. In his victory speech, Biden mentioned that he understood the dissatisfaction of Trump's supporters. But he invited all parties to reduce tension and learn to listen to one another. He also expressed determination to "eradicate systemic racism" and unify America.
"I pledge to be a president who is not divisive but unifying, that does not see the red states and the blue states, only the United States," Biden said.
While Winters previously said, whoever wins the election, there must be democratic reform in the United States. "This is the time for America to be more humble and willing to learn from the international community how they can adopt democracy," he said.
Winters refused to call US democracy a failure. However, he acknowledged that democratic practices in the United States have been problematic and tend to be anti-democratic. The element of citizen representation is still lacking. America, according to Winters, must reposition at the international level.
"Stop telling everyone what to do, but start learning to see what is happening in other countries," Winters said. (Fransisca Ria Susanti)