By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Forgive the idealism of this editorial—but perhaps it’s time for us to hold elected officials to a higher standard.
By that I mean, make them promise when they take the Oath of Office, that they will never lie and never spread lies. And that if they do, that would mean an immediate removal from office.
As a society, we seem to accept that politicians are liars. What if we stop accepting that and expect them to be truthful always?
Don Miguel Ruiz wrote in his book, “The Four Agreements”—“Be impeccable with your word.” Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Truth and love is not the feeling I get when Donald Trump lets loose a barrage of tweets promoting a conspiracy theory that the presidential race was rigged against him by a nationwide voter fraud scheme, and when he refuses to acknowledge his electoral loss and pumps out disinformation on Twitter.
The rampage on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 is the culmination of public officials’ actions and use of social media to spread disinformation. Trump’s statements like “They’re not going to take this White House,” “We will never concede,” were like throwing matches onto a gasoline spill. Not only did the president egg the rioters on, he made clear on Twitter afterward that he was on their side—calling them “great patriots.”
The First Amendment protects even wildly irresponsible speech unless it is calculated to produce imminent lawlessness.
Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and associate professor of communications at Syracuse University, said the way many public officials and government agencies—from the federal to the local level—use social media, presents a risk to democracy because it gives them the ability to circumvent the free press and steer public opinion.
Before the rise of social media, political figures had to pay for campaign ads or have something legitimate to report in order to call a news conference.
Now, public figures with a large number of followers can generate a great deal of attention for themselves with social media posts.
This is not a partisan issue. Other elected officials besides Trump are famous for effectively using social media, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a Democrat.
We put them in office through the power of our votes—they get paid to act on behalf of our wellbeing. We can certainly impose certain conditions on them—conditions they must agree to—before they decide to run for office.