Hello and happy Saturday. It’s a lovely day here in the Ohio bureau. The sky is blue, and the sun makes 47 degrees feel a little warmer than you’d think. If you had told me yesterday, though, that I’d be finishing up this newsletter from the car while our son’s baseball team practiced, I’d have looked at you a little funny. We had an all-day downpour that prompted flood warnings and ended in wind gusts powerful enough to trigger our countywide tornado sirens.
If only we could effect change as quickly as Mother Nature. Because if we could flip a switch and turn off all the disinformation that spreads its way across social media and ends up on cable news—or on stage at CPAC—it would make the world just a little more pleasant and a bit safer for democracy.
It’s been more than a few years since it became apparent that social media was a breeding ground for disinformation. Before that, anyone could start a website saying that McDonald’s chicken nuggets have weird fibers in them or that beermakers use antifreeze in the brewing process. But people had to look for it. Once those sites were able to share their work on social media, “viral” took on a meaning that had nothing to do with physical contagion.
All that disinformation was … not great. Let’s be honest, Subway has never been quite the same since the Food Babe heckled the company into taking yoga mats out of the bread recipe. (To be fair, Food Babe Vani Hari complained only that Subway’s bread included azodicarbonamide, an ingredient that conditions dough, which is also used in yoga mats. But you know how the game of telephone works on the internet.) But much of that disinformation was silly and could be ignored.