Lying is far too prevalent in the field of politics. No faction of the political spectrum is innocent. Though some are worse than others. Unfortunately, for some factions, lying is an acceptable means of achieving a desired political goal. It’s the old “the ends justify the means” mentality. So, what are the people supposed to do in the face of such lies? The answer… demand accountability.
Political lies can destroy individuals, campaigns, and entire movements that may otherwise be relevant. In the modern day arena of social media, the lies can be perpetrated and the damage so far reaching within a short period of time that it can often take months (even longer) to combat the effects. Oftentimes the damage done in the short-term is so devastating that some individuals, campaigns, and movements never fully recover.
An obvious example of this is found in the #NODAPL protests that North Dakota has been dealing with for some time now. At the height of the protests, crafty agitators utilized social media to perpetuate a multitude of lies and a false narrative– not only in North Dakota, but throughout the United States and the world.
The results of such lies and false narrative was the recruitment of thousands of people and millions of dollars in favor of the #NODAPL movement. For North Dakota, the economic costs now run in the tens of millions. The impact on local law enforcement cannot be forgotten either. The damaged relationships between the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and North Dakota’s state/local governments and citizens cannot be overstated. Those relationships may take years, decades, and even generations to mend.
A key to effectively combating these types of political lies is accountability. A good example of this is found in relation to the #NODAPL movement. Recognizing a need for accountability, some local citizens of Bismarck-Mandan formed a group called “Defend BisMan”. Together they tracked protesters in a non-confrontational way, videoed them on live feeds, shared information with law enforcement, coordinated relief efforts, etc. The impacts were immediate.
A more current example of the negative impact of political lies may be found in relation to Senate Bill 2180. In a nutshell, this bill would mandate that the state of North Dakota refuse federal education funds that have strings attached to them. The bill essentially asserts state’s rights and local control over education. Some people call it the “Anti-FedEd Bill”.
Unfortunately, from among the ranks of the opposition to SB 2180 has come whispers that should the state pass such legislation that ALL federal funding would be put at risk (ex. transportation funding, etc.). One story told to a member of the Senate was that years ago Michigan wanted to reject federal funding in relation to No Child Left Behind, but were threatened that if they did they would lose other non-education related federal funding.
When proponents of SB 2180 had the Heartland Institute look into these claims, the response back was that the claims were false. Yet, what are proponents of SB 2180 to do now? The Senate Education Committee hearing is over. They are set to vote on their recommendation any time now. So, the only thing that can be done is for supporters to scramble in contacting members of the committee to set the record straight.
When these claims began circulating, legislators should have asked those making the claims to provide documentation to support them. In short, they should have demanded accountability. After all, this is the only way to discover and combat a Political Pinnochio.