Are You Part of The “Attack From Within” or Part Of The Defense?

It was November of 2020 when the United States of America was on edge and I was doing something I couldn’t have possibly envisioned before that night.

I was sitting at my kitchen table when the then-President of the United States was addressing the nation from the White House Briefing Room and I was texting with a national news producer in that room fact checking, in real time, disinformation the then-President was spewing to try to cast doubt on the election he lost. That truth-driven work led to this piece, “The Most Dishonest Speech of His Presidency.”

As the spokesperson and media contact for a nonpartisan voter information effort in the City of Detroit in 2020 and a similar project in 2022, I have battled disinformation by talking to the Associated Press, Reuters, Politifact and even, in addition to dozens of local news interviews of all kinds. In nearly every case, the disinformation was planted in the public’s minds by the former President himself. The rest were by his followers. That is not a statement of political opinion, it’s fact based in actual experience.

I couldn’t help but thinking of those experience by reading the pages of “Attack From Within,” the new book from law professor and legal analyst Barbara McQuade, who I interviewed for this blog in 2017 (and full disclosure, who I have known personally for more than 30 years). But I also think of them every day, as I see the bombardment of disinformation and misinformation in all we consume.

In the book, the former federal prosecutor makes a case of why disinformation and misinformation combine to imminently threatened our democracy and proves that case far beyond a reasonable doubt. She also offers potential solutions, all of which will require hard work and/or cultural changes.

I recommend the book to anyone who cares about how communications could lead to the demise of something we have taken for granted our entire lives. Read it as soon as you can. I especially recommend it to anyone in PR or the greater communications industry because we each have a decision to make.

Disinformation is a lucrative business. I can’t even imagine how much political campaign contractors, for example, have made over the past few cycles by disseminating it. But this isn’t just about politics, although the situation is acute there. Are you creating or spreading lies for anyone else, under any other circumstances?

Are you going to be a part of the problem? If so, you’ll have to live with it.

Or can you be a part of the solution? My colleagues and I plan to be again. We just hope there continues to be an audience for the truth.