You could see it happening in real time. Flailing as returns indicated President Trump won Florida with a heavy assist from the state’s Hispanic population, pundits and journalists landed on “disinformation” as their explanation for Joe Biden’s underperformance.
The congealing argument is that GOP efforts to connect Biden with socialism amounted to a “disinformation campaign.” In reality, those efforts were just part of a normal campaign. The Democratic Party has obviously welcomed open “democratic socialists” into its ranks in the years since Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the 2016 presidential primary.
Indeed, some of the party’s most high-profile leaders identify as democratic socialists. Those are people who hold influence over Biden’s party and could be given leadership roles in his administration. It’s also not a terrible stretch to say advocating for significant federal takeovers of certain industries, health care included, is socialism.
Painting your opponent’s policies in the worst possible terms is a normal part of campaigning. That always involves some gymnastics. Virtually every single piece of campaign material from every single Republican and Democrat could constitute “disinformation” if the definition is broadened to this ridiculous extent. Biden himself did this during the Democratic primary.
Here’s a sampling of the post-election complaints from journalists and pundits.
Massive disinformation campaign targeted Miami Hispanics, shameless demagoguery about communism and socialism including an anti-Semitic and racist newspaper @simonschuster's @MindyMarques published inside @elnuevoherald every Friday for 32 weeks this year https://t.co/CG997scU3M
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) November 4, 2020
Because of a major disinformation campaign.
Fear mongering words like
“Socialism” “Communism” https://t.co/gO3lABQCJ0
— Constance Marie: check me out-Instagram & Tik Tok (@goconstance) November 4, 2020
— Brittny Mejia (@brittny_mejia) November 4, 2020
CBS's Maria Elena Salinas complains about how there was so much "disinformation" from the Trump campaign and allied groups in Florida that successfully "scared" Latinos into voting for Trump over fears of socialism from Democrats pic.twitter.com/GAxEpwLLKk
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) November 4, 2020
“Disinformation” is quickly becoming a blue-check buzzword, used to signal reasonableness and intellectual superiority. If the same people eagerly denouncing disinformation now actually cared about its spread, they would be gravely disturbed by the disinformation campaign that Democrats and corporate media spent years boosting in the Russian collusion narrative. The irony is that disinformation is a very legitimate problem, particularly in the age of Big Tech dominance.
Foreign actors use social media to spread disinformation to American voters. Extremely cynical operators blatantly use it to further their own agenda. Some people use it to raise money or suppress votes. Changing the definition to include normal campaign attacks is helpful for no one, least of all those who work to combat legitimate disinformation. (This is arguably the same problem Trump created when he popularized the term “fake news” to include coverage that was biased but not outright fake.)
Democrats should be wary of allowing disinformation to become the new collusion, a fashionable but murky charge used reflexively to delegitimize Republicans rather than engage with their supporters. It’s a wildly unproductive game to play, one that actually sets the purported cause back. Save yourselves years of trouble and assume Hispanic voters are smart enough to separate campaign attacks from false information, and may even have some compelling personal reasons to support Trump.