Jehmu: The Peripheral, a sci-fi series on Prime Video
Claire: Eat the Rich: The GameStop Saga, a documentary series on Netflix
Nichole: Love is Blind, Season 3 on Netflix
Jehmu’s organization is We Defend Truth at https://wedefendtruth.org/
Newsguard at https://www.newsguardtech.com/
Join us in conversation with Jehmu Greene of We Defend Truth as we discuss today’s heightened political climate. Jehmu shares her personal connection to Texas and her deep love of America. We learn about her strategy to fight back against disinformation and her humble approach to building messages based on fact and truth. She educates us about the difference between misinformation and disinformation and how we can develop and use critical thinking skills in an age when we are bombarded with competing messages.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How To Uncover Truth And Lies In Our Age Of Disinformation With Jehmu Greene Of We Defend Truth (Culture Wars)
We are thankful that you are here with us now joining us for our conversation with our wonderful guest, Jehmu Greene. She is fascinating. She has had quite a political background. She is the Founder and CEO of We Defend Truth, which is an organization that fights online disinformation in a creative and unique way that is super accessible to people. She has also worked with Rock The Vote, which is about helping register folks to vote. She also trained thousands of women to run for office through an organization called VoteRunLead.
It was great talking to Jehmu about the different places she has worked in the political realm, and about how to identify disinformation, how to be better media consumers, and learn from her because she is well versed in the political sphere. I enjoyed a lot of what she shared and some tools she gave us on how to be better truth discerners. What did you think of our conversation, Nichole?
What I love about Jehmu is that she is incredibly well-versed and knowledgeable about all the things that she talks about. She is willing to engage with people exactly where they are. She doesn’t have any highfalutin ideals about the ways that we should communicate with each other. She is based on practicality. She is based on wanting to see disinformation disappear. Whatever that takes is what she is willing to do. I appreciate the level of pragmatism that she demonstrates. The fight against disinformation couldn’t be more important, especially in this day and time. I appreciate the work that she does.
She feels very holistic about it. Yes, there is a goal in mind, but we have to have good humor and patience, meet people where they are, and find a way to communicate with them in a language that they will understand. That was a nice message to hear and a reminder to keep trying.
Here is the word that I was looking for earlier, “Never in a condescending way.” She never talks about that in a way like, “This is how you have to bring people along.” There is no condescension in what she says. That is something I appreciate. It is refreshing and it is not that common. I appreciated that.
Tune in to this episode. Let us know what you think, and we hope you enjoy it.
We are excited to speak with Jehmu Greene and talk about her involvement in Texas politics, her involvement in politics, and her organization called We Defend Truth, and learn more about disinformation and how to identify it, which we’re learning more and more is such a necessary skill in this day and age. Thanks for joining us, Jehmu.
Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be in conversation with you.
You have quite the biography and the experience level. It is going to be exciting to talk about some of the different places that you have worked in the past. To start with, we always like to go back to the beginning with our guests and hear a little bit about their origin story. Can you tell us where you grow up? Are you from Texas?
As they say, I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could. I moved to Austin when I was five years old. I did all of my public schoolings here in Austin. I left for 23 years. Austin was always on my mind. Texas was always top of mind. I have always walked outside of Texas as a proud Texan. I’m thrilled to be back home since 2018.
We are glad that you are here.
All of your Texas living has been in Austin.
Yes, and as it should be.
You will get no arguments from either of us.
I live in Austin as an activist and organizer. Growing up in Austin is such a core part of who I am and why I’m progressive. I’m Texas proud, but I’m in Austin only.
We love it here too. Speaking of growing up in politics, when you were younger, was this something that your family discussed around the dinner table? Was this something that you remember hearing from your family and your parents?
My parents immigrated from Liberia. They came to the US to go to grad school. Both of my parents wanted to go back to Liberia and run for office. Their vision for their future was always political involvement and running for office. When the coup happened in Liberia, they could not go back. They had their children here in the US. Politics was always discussed.
When you get a large group of Liberians in a room at a dinner table, there is always a loud conversation about whatever is going on in politics. Not just in Liberia but everything in the US was yelled about at our dinner table. There was this feeling and spirit around me that my parents were not citizens. At one point, they were undocumented when their student visas ran out like the cases of millions of undocumented Americans now. There was this energy that we were citizens. I was born in Washington, DC. I had a responsibility to participate in the politics of the country that I was a citizen of.
Was there a particular thing that animated them in their political conversation?
They were Democrats. I remember when Reagan was elected. That was not a good thing. There was a lot of yelling. I can’t remember any one specific issue. There was always a lot of debate around the individual candidates running for office. That is the nature of the world. Ideally, people would be voting for candidates and not parties, but we are not there yet.
That is what I was thinking. Here we are.
I don’t know if I am adding my own thoughts with the things that you are saying, Jehmu, but I’m getting this sense that political activation and discussion feel maybe slightly culturally based. It sounds like it was such a part of the way that your parents experienced the world. I’m curious if that rings true to you at all, or does it feel more individualistic to who your parents were? I’m wondering if there is a cultural aspect to any of that discussion.
I got three siblings, and none of them is in politics. I’m the only one. It was the path that my parents had wanted to take that was denied to them. As much as it was debated around the dinner table, I’m the only one that absorbed all of it. From a young age, I was always very passionate about my opinion and making sure that my voice was going to be heard, whether it was a teacher in kindergarten or a stranger. This has been a part of my personal drive for as long as I can remember.
How did you first get involved in politics professionally? What was your first job in politics? It sounds like you were always interested in it.
I was doing something. I’m running for class office or student council positions. My first job professionally was in Mattox’s campaign in 1994. He was running in the Democratic primary for the US Senate against Richard Fisher. I was 18 or 19 at the time. No, I was not 18. It doesn’t matter what age I was, but I was a couple of years off there. It was my first campaign. I was in charge of volunteers.
Interestingly, the campaign manager who hired me had done his Peace Corps work in Liberia. When I went to volunteer for the campaign, we had a conversation at the end of the night. I shared that my parents were from Liberia. He shared his passionate memories of his Peace Corps work. He hired me on the spot. Thanks to my parents, I got that first job.
I bet they loved that.
I took every advantage of it as a volunteer coordinator and even got on the news at one point. I started dealing with young Democrats out of that whole process that a lot of the young folks go through within the party. I also quickly got disillusioned with the Democratic party back in ’94. There was some excuse. I had to bounce and left Texas, and came back 27 years later.
Can you tell us some of the different areas you have worked in politics? Reading your biography, I know that you helped an organization that helped train women to run for office, and Rock The Vote with mobilization and training. Can you tell us some of those different areas that you have touched on throughout your life?
I went to vote for the first time for Ann Richards when I was eighteen, and that was in 1990. When I went to vote for Ann Richards, I registered to vote. I’m a very political person. As a young person, I wasn’t someone that needed to be convinced to vote. It was something I was running towards. I was excited about that first vote. They told me that I wasn’t on the list and I couldn’t vote. My heart was broken. I tried. I was close to that moment. I was going to make sure no other young person had that same experience. I got to it within a few years. I volunteered for Rock the Boat. Several years later, I became the President of Rock The Vote, where we registered over two million young people to vote.
Looking back at that time at Rock The Vote, what I’m probably most proud of is the work we did to pioneer online voter registration, which is now everywhere and build-up to many every website and clicks on a link. That was something that we launched for the first time. I have been honored to train through VoteRunLead thousands of women across the country to run for office.
VoteRunLead, as a whole, has trained over 35,000 women to run for office. It is now hyper-focused on looking at state legislatures and being targeted in how we get to 51% women in state legislatures across the country, starting with New York, Minnesota, and Georgia. We will be adding more states to that quickly. Our vision is a future where state legislatures are 51% women.
Can you tell us now nationally what the average is? Is it 25% or 30%?
We have not cracked 30%. It’s different if you are looking at Congress, Governor’s Mansions, or State Houses. In general, we hover around 20% across the board. There are places that have never had a woman as governor or a congressperson. We have a lot of work to do to increase those numbers because we had plateaued since 1992 when there was the big Pink Wave.
Have you studied what that plateau is about? Is it possible to know?
There are more men in elected office than women. The patriarchy is right there. There is sexism in the media. The list is long. When you look at online harassment and just harassment of candidates in general, the overwhelming target of that is going to be women who are running for office and elected to office. Mostly, those are going to be women of color. I feel a clear intended purpose which is to keep women from political leadership.
When it comes to how you get past some of these barriers, there is some great work that is being done out there with VoteRunLead on the training forefront, and making sure that women understand how to put together a campaign but also how to design their life to fit a campaign, allow for a campaign, tap into their life, and how to get those resources that every campaign is going to need.
There are a lot of those resources out there, but one of the things we need to see a little bit more work on is the pushback against harassment and disinformation, which is something I know we are going to talk about soon. A lot of targeted disinformation is going toward women candidates. We have a natural tendency not to want to be confrontational sometimes.
We see a lot of women who are running for office don’t respond to disinformation, attacks, and harassment because they want it to go away. It is not going to go away. It is also important to voters and to the community that we start pushing back and clapping back, as some folks say, and holding folks accountable for disinformation, harassment, and all of the ways they are trying to stop us from political leadership.
This is a question that I’m thinking about, especially with what Nichole had asked. Nichole and I offline think a lot about what is the most pressing issue that keeps us from having better and more fulfilling lives like us, our community, and the nation. If you could wave your magic wand, what one thing would you solve first? Would it be having more women in office or making it easier to vote? What do you think is that thing that if we could get a grip on this, the other things could maybe fall into place better?
Every part of me wants to stay for only one thing, but it is impossible. Do I believe that if we snapped our fingers and women were 51% of every political body in this country that there would be an immediate change in our politics? Yes. That would be amazing. There would be more listening and compromising. There would be more bills that were directly impacting the communities that are most vulnerable. All of those things would happen in a tsunami.
At the same time, we are unfortunately dealing with the media ecosystem. It has gotten our democracy to a place where we would never have imagined we would be. Civil war is actively being discussed on the local news. The democratic norms that we all thought were a part of how we were going to move closer to the promise of America have all been stripped away. A lot of that is because of the media ecosystem and how ripe it is for disinformation.
If there was something I could snap my fingers and do to get rid of all of it, I feel like that would have such an immediate impact. It is also naive to get rid of social media. When you look at the common thread of the disinformation that is destroying our democracy, whatever the disinformation is, whether it is on COVID, QAnon or climate denial, all of it, that common thread is social media.
Nichole, in our conversations with our guests, I feel like we are learning along with our audience about all these different aspects that go into our government system. It is like, “That is a mess.” I have used this analogy of opening up a door, and the house is a disaster. It is like, “Where do you start?” That is why I’m curious. I’m like, “If we could start here, maybe the rest will fall into place.”
It is a beautiful mess. I love this country. I love our democracy. I love the fact that we can move closer to the promise of America, and we have seen that done effectively. Certainly, there is a lot to be done, but it is a beautiful mess. I think voter registration might be the one thing that could do it. We were talking and I was like, “Voter registration in and of itself is an obstacle to voting and was originally intended to be an obstacle to voting for people who they didn’t want voting.”
Get ready for voter registration. We need to protect our electoral system. I’m okay with having some national ID cards. That means that you don’t have to register to vote. The limited number of people who participate in local politics and the percentages of voter turnout in local elections are scary. Anything we could do to get more people participating might be the moonshot or the cure-all.Developing a national ID card system will let people vote without having to register. This can increase voter turnout in local elections. Click To Tweet
We appreciate your take on that.
I’m going to come back with a list of ten.
A mix of them sounds okay.
We will have a plan of attack. We love for you to tell us about your organization, We Defend Truth, why it was created, and why it felt like now is the time to make this organization happen.
For the last twelve years, I have been Fox News’s political analyst, which also reminds me of another cure-all. If we would listen to the other side or everyone on all sides that was way too much in our silos, that could fix everything.
What does it mean specifically to be a political analyst?
I go on air and talk about politics, all of the horse race issues, the news of the day, and the disinformation and conspiracy theories that have taken over our conversations. I provide my opinion, commentary, and analysis of it using the experience I have built up over the last few decades. I have done that exclusively with Fox News for the last twelve years. I have an appreciation for communicating with people who don’t agree with you, don’t look like you, and don’t live where you live. There is so much growth that comes from that.
In that role, I also had an up close and personal perspective of how disinformation and these bubbles were impacting viewers. After twelve years, I realized that I wanted to do more to address that disinformation bubble that I had seen up close and personal. Partnering with David Goldstein, who had done some incredible work in Alabama in 2017. He was able to talk to strong conservative voters who were supporting Roy Moore and the type of people that people on the left never talked to. He put together a digital campaign and was able to move 4% of them away from Roy Moore.
I connected with David in 2020. We put together a campaign in Pennsylvania where we connected with Trump voters from 2016. We were able to move 9% of them away from Trump, 5% went to Biden and 4% didn’t vote for Trump. Ultimately, this is what folks on the right are doing. This is what the peddlers of disinformation are doing. They are operating in the margins. It is an important conversation that needs to happen. We have to find ways to have conversations with people who are being fed lies on a daily basis and funneled into their brains. We can’t just see that territory, not to call people territory.
What have you found has been effective to help expose those lies, and for people to come around and be like, “You are right.”
Engagement is the most important thing. We feel like you have to lead with compassion and validate identity. Using culturally compelling content is important. It is an easy way to validate identity and prioritize engagement over persuasion. What do I mean by that? In We Defend Truth, we believe that we are competing with cat videos on the internet. We are not competing with videos from political consultants.
We use humor a lot in the way that we can pull from culture, iconic scenes, images, and characters that they feel familiar with, and get them to engage with our content. We prioritize that first engagement. As soon as they engage with our content, we then move them to spaces on the internet websites that have truthful information, messengers and conservative voices that they trust.
I’m not someone who has been a proud Democrat my entire life, even with the good and the bad. I’m not saying to a hardcore conservative person, “Let me change your mind on this.” We are using the images, the language, the humor, and the messengers that can convince that person. We are presenting it to them in a way that is not political speech. One of our best partners is the number one GIF creator in Reddit history. His GIFs have been viewed more times than any other creator in Reddit history. He helps create our content. We run a lot of political organizations that are working with creatives like that. Most folks stick with the traditional approach, and we are never going to win that.
I love a good GIF.
It is all to get them to click so we can get them the correct information they haven’t gotten. We are excited to have now moved from a pack of political action committees to a 501(c)(3). We did a vaccine campaign where in the spring of 2022, we connected with people who were likely not going to get vaccinated. They had waited this whole time.
We talked to folks in rural areas and African American communities who were vaccine-hesitant. Our campaign outperformed Stanford University’s campaign by 31%. Ultimately, through that model, we were able to have produced 100,000 new vaccinations. This is not just about what was on a ballot. This is about how disinformation has been in our healthcare and all of the issues that we care about. There is work to be done to burst those bubbles.
There is something in your approach that feels atypical. There is something humble about it that makes it unique. This is my completely non-analyst, Nichole, who is a consumer of many things and has impressions about things. I’m curious to check in with you after I finally get these words out. There is something that feels humble about this. You are meeting people where they are.
Some people have this a high brow look at these types of issues and were like, “If you are not going to consume it the way I want to share it with you, then you are beneath me.” I feel like there’s something humble about what you are talking about, which feels unique and novel. It’s something that I have not heard articulated before. I’m wondering if I’m hearing you right.
I think so. There had been some conversations around this, even in what President Obama had commented on as he was critiquing the left and the Democratic party. I can’t remember if he used the word woke, but to paraphrase it, he was saying, “We might be too woke.” It was more around how we’ve gotten away from being able to keep things simple.
The way human beings connect when political consultants put their ads together, and think through what they are going to put on television and in the radio ads they are doing, they are not talking how normal human beings talk. There is political speak and there is normal people speak. There is this disconnect around keeping it simple, connecting with people, and building trust first before you try to give them a list of ten facts, figures, percentages, and data to convince them.
If we were living in caves, what would you have done if someone you don’t know came to your cave and started talking to you? What I’m trying to get at is we have it built in that the first thing you have to do is build trust, and then you can do other things. Back in the cave, if you didn’t have that trust, it was fight or flight. Folks on the left, where I’m from, have either forgotten or decided that building trust is not as important, that being right is more important and all of the information that Nichole was saying.
That almost feeds back into the patriarchy like, “We know what is best here. Listen to us.” If you don’t, there is a dismissiveness that people feel, and it turns them off. Why would they want to come around to you down the road if they have already decided you are not their kind of person? I appreciate the approach you guys are taking to sharing information. It sounds like it is not about the ends. It is about the journey. This is going to be a journey and process. Hopefully, we get where we want to get, but in the meantime, we are all people.
We certainly are. I will say that the end is important if it is about moving people out of their disinformation bubbles and getting to a place where climate denial is not going to destroy our planet, and getting to a place where we can all have some appreciation agreement on basic facts and science. When it comes to our health and pandemics that may pop up, we do have a need to use the journey to get to a better place than where we are right now.
Thank you for correcting me on that. When I was putting these questions together, a lot of what I was thinking about was COVID-19. That was a big surprise to me because, all of a sudden, it felt like we weren’t collectively agreeing with what the medical community was saying. There were these fractions of like, “I don’t believe COVID is real. I don’t believe the vaccines are effective.” This was coming from people I had never ever thought would be saying these things. What do we do when we have these big crises where we can’t even agree on who is the authority and which facts are real facts?
That goes back to that cure-all question. What did I say? Get rid of social media, the common thread. What happened through the democratization of media, which was heralded as a great thing? I do think it is a good thing, but when we lost the editors, the media was democratized, and it was all about the media, these platforms became the ripest places for disinformation and conspiracy theories that feel real. When you think of what AI brings to disinformation possibilities, deep fakes, and all of those, it is scary.
What can we do? Individually, people need to be intentional in getting their information from sources that disagree with them to make sure that they have the full picture. I have close friends who don’t do that. I have people I love dearly, and we agree on every issue. They don’t do that. This is not just the other side that needs to do it. We could get a lot of good done if we all consumed information that was outside of what we agreed with and different from our opinion. That would open up a lot of possibilities for countering disinformation and false narratives. That’s one step.
I do try to make it a point to peek. What is going through my mind is both–sides–ism. Maybe what I’m thinking about is backing up a couple of steps to be a thoughtful consumer. When I am consuming multiple sources, I’m able to ask some good critical thinking questions. I’m not a passive consumer. I’m wondering, what do you recommend in terms of that? Not all news and information are the same. Some of it is better researched and more vetted. What are the steps before consuming multiple sources to make sure that you, as a consumer, are asking the right questions about what you are hearing so that you are not just absorbing?
I don’t think you would go to any platform that was ripe with disinformation and would win you over. We don’t know each other that well, but I think you would be okay. However, I do know that maybe not all are like you, Nichole. There are two different paths for you. Your goal of consuming is to strategically understand the people who disagree with you, what they are absorbing and what is being fed to them so that when you engage in a conversation with them, you have a better perspective.
One of the things that always comes up around Thanksgiving dinner is talking about politics and speaking a different language. It is because we are consuming a different set of facts. There is a lot of anger and emotion that comes when you are having that conversation. How can we not even agree on the basic set of facts around this? It makes sense if you have some experience with what the other side has been consuming, whatever the other side is, and whatever that means for you. Strategically, that is important. For folks who might get drawn into conspiracy theories, if they start to consume that type of information, there are some good resources out there. I might not be able to remember the exact name, but they did partner with the American Federation of Teachers.
I can look it up as you are describing.
I will come back to you with it, but it is a site that ranks media outlets. It is a nonpartisan site. They are in schools around the country, and they help normal folks figure out what the media landscape is and what is trustworthy.
Maybe I found it. There is this press release that says, “AFT, the American Federation of Teachers, partners with NewsGuard to combat misinformation online.”
That makes me think of two things. I’m going to try to tie it together, and the more we talk about this, the more I feel like I’m having conversations with people who have a different belief system than I do. The more I have to back up and try to find that place of commonality. What I have noticed, and I mentioned this in the notes I submitted as I was preparing for this interview, was I heard this podcast called The Run-Up. The guest and the host were talking about Christian nationalism. It sounded like they couldn’t have a good conversation about that specific topic because they couldn’t even agree on the definition of it. What do we do when we can’t have the same definition for what something is and isn’t? How far do we have to go back before we can start talking and have a meaningful conversation?
My friend Jose Vargas founded Define American. What might be I’m most proud of professionally is the work that we did to change the conversation around immigration. Jose has been known as the most famous undocumented American at one point. He is a Pulitzer award-winning journalist who wrote a piece coming out as undocumented. He traveled the country talking in the most conservative spaces, and talking to people who thought that he should be arrested and shipped out of the country. He is very intentional in these conversations.
Jose came out with a formula and I tried to share this as much as possible. It takes thirteen interactions before the conversation can even begin. To your question, we have to be patient because we do get into these conversations with folks who think differently, disagree with us, and have a different set of facts. It is like 1, 2, 3 and done. We are out. We can’t go any further.
After all of his travels talking to people who do not like undocumented Americans, he said, “The conversation starts after those thirteen interactions.” I tried to put the formula to the test. Whether it is 13, 15 or 10, it is not going to be immediate. You do have to start from a place of, “I’m invested in this human being. I’m invested in the outcome of the knowledge that they have in their head and what they might do with it.” The first thing is also to be willing to have the conversation. Most people are not even willing. We are living separate lives, and that is scary.
How do you recommend we do that? Do you just say to someone, “What do you think about immigration?” How do you open up the opportunity for those kinds of conversations?
I imagine there are people in our immediate circles and communities who we know think differently. In your normal interactions, try to have those conversations but maybe expand that process. I would not consume media that is different. I would go to spaces that maybe feel a little bit uncomfortable or you don’t look, sound, and think like everyone in the room. Start with the assessment of your life. In every space you are in, everyone is in agreement with you. Comfort is important. I get it. We all came through a pandemic. I’m big on comfort. Carving out a little bit of space to be uncomfortable in conversation in our time and the spaces we spend are some big steps.
Nichole and I were speaking of discomfort. We got to know each other through an acting class which was always uncomfortable every week, but it was good for us. We grew. There is something I want to circle back to because we were talking about NewsGuard and how this is a great site to go to because it ranks news sources.
The thing I was thinking was I’m sure there are folks who will see certain sources as more trustworthy, but they will still question that. It almost feels like some folks don’t even put much stock in the word by parts anymore. There always has to be some slant one way or another. Do you agree with this? Do you think this is the case? Do you think there are still places where people will mutually agree that it is trustworthy or are they in the pursuit of truth?
There are places that will always be more credible and most credible. The New York Times, for example, I don’t think they are going anywhere. Questioning the media is a great thing. I encourage it. Even the most credible of places do get things wrong. If you have the general position that “I’m going to question this information that is coming in front of me, whether it is from a media outlet that I agree with all of the time or it is an outlet that I disagree with,” it is a healthy practice.Questioning and disagreeing with the media is a healthy practice. Even the most credible place can sometimes get things wrong. Click To Tweet
I sometimes get a little bit frustrated as I’m reading an article on different online sites because now I’m to the point where I’m like, “I know who placed this. I know what the pitch was that got this article written.” I’m constantly dissecting it. Sometimes, I want to turn that noise off. I do think that folks who are not as entrenched as I am should turn up the process, especially for outlets that you agree with.
Media is a business. We can’t forget that. There are lots of forces at play, whether it is candidates, organizations or corporations. They have messages and they want to get those messages in the media. They are going to craft them to get their messages in. The journalists have a goal. The producers have another goal. The people running the media business have a bottom-line profit goal. They are all of these forces at play. That means they are going to be shenanigans. I don’t want to necessarily say question everything, but question.Media is a business with a lot of forces at play. They still have a bottom-line profit goal. Click To Tweet
A healthy skepticism is what you are describing. A theme of our other conversations is questioning leadership in general and believing that we have a right to question it. The things that we participate in should be accountable to us in some form or another, and should be comfortable with questions.
We should critique so that we can learn and grow. One of the things that have been hard, folks have not been as welcoming of this, but I have been having a frank conversation about the lesson that we learned from the decision that she waited to retire because she was confident that Hillary Clinton was going to become president. You wanted Hillary to replace her. That was a decision that was made because of ego. It was not a decision that was made because of the impact.
This woman’s incredible life was so impactful. The impact was so prioritized. There are so many victories won. It is a shame that in the end, ego had more of an influence. From a leadership development standpoint, I think that is something that leaders need to understand and hopefully, make different decisions when given the opportunity. I can say that, and I adore her. It should be okay to question and critique and hopefully, grow.
I feel like we are getting into a culture where it is loyalty at all costs. That doesn’t help us grow and get better. It is good to have it called out and maybe corrected because then we can do better going forward. Nichole, do you have any outstanding questions before we move into our final little portion, which is hopefully fun?
This was understood in the things that we have been talking about. If you had to define disinformation and misinformation, is there a difference, and how would you define each of those?
They are both bad, and they have some shared qualities. They both are sharing bad or debunked information with various purposes and intense goals behind the sharing of that bad information. Where do they differ? Misinformation is false or out-of-context information that is presented as being true regardless of your intent to deceit.
I have been guilty of passing on misinformation. For example, there was a point in my life where I would go around saying to people, “In Texas, pedestrians don’t have the right of way.” I don’t know why I would say that. It made no sense, and it wasn’t true. I wasn’t going around saying it with malicious intent. For some reason, I thought that in Texas, pedestrians didn’t have the right of way. I would like to share it because I thought it was interesting. That was misinformation.
Disinformation is a type of misinformation that is intentionally false. It is intended to deceive and mislead. We talked a little bit about the COVID disinformation. When you look at the breadth of all of the disinformation that was out there, they were able to identify the top twelve spreaders of COVID disinformation. What they all had in common was they were all making money off of selling products and services that were benefiting from the disinformation they were spraying.
These folks were intentionally piecing together fake scientific research and studies. They took things out of context and were grandiose in ways that were disgusting. They are intentional because they were getting rich off of it. They are both bad. We are probably all guilty of sharing misinformation. The peddlers of disinformation are the ones that are intentionally trying to destroy everything. I’m not being hyperbolic right now.
It sounds like for their own gain, although when it comes to climate, we all live on the same planet.
It is not going to happen in their lifetime.
Thank you for clarifying the two of those. Before we let you go, we will do our last little segment, which is hopefully a fun way to send people off into their days. It is called Attention Mentions, where we mention something that has our attention like a book, show, politician, article, or anything like that.
I will go first because it connects with what we are talking about. My sister was like, “I have an Attention Mention for you. You need to go watch this show on Netflix called Eat the Rich: The GameStops Saga.” This is fascinating. They made it in production with The Washington Post. They made it in connection with the news organization that talked all about that period in time when GameStops stock went bonkers because retail traders were trying to benefit from these people who were short-selling. I didn’t understand any of this stuff, but the documentary does a good job of explaining it all. It is all about the meme culture that blows it up. It is an interesting moment in history. I recommend you all to check it out.
I tend to bring the unsubstantial, the light and the fluffy, and I’m going to do it again. I have been watching Love is Blind Season 3 on Netflix. That is what has my attention for sure. It is an escape from reality, even though it is reality tv. You know how that works.
I feel like because the election is days away and people are voting right now, it should be oriented because everyone should be get-out-to-vote focused. My mention is The Peripheral. I love sci-fi. Any sci-fi fantasy I’m a big fan of, and it is a new show on Amazon. It is all about a future world connecting with of world in the past, and the lessons that you can learn through that connection and communication. What I love about sci-fi is it gives us a vision of what we can strive for or that type of sci-fi. The world ends and everything gets bad, I get that also. I’m very much into, “How can we get there? How can we leapfrog where we are now?”
We need a vision.
How can we leapfrog from the current reality to get to that sci-fi?
I love some good sci-fi. I’m going to check this out for sure. The Expanse is over. That was another good one.
Thank you, Jehmu, for sharing that recommendation and for letting us know more about how to be more media savvy, which is a skill I know all of us can improve upon, and for giving us tangible tips on how to be better consumers, more aware of the information coming at us, and how to have this dialogue with each other better. It is important.
How to engage, and the reminder too to do it.
Keep doing it thirteen times.
Thank you all for the conversation. This was great.
Thank you, everybody, for joining us. Hopefully, we have demystified some little portion of Texas politics, and we hope that you will do more with us. Check out our website at www.GoBehindTheBallot.com, where you’ll find links to all of our social media, and you will find our community. Let’s join together and do more. We hope you will let us know what is working, and we hope you will join us next episode. Thanks, everybody, and have a good one.
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About Jehmu Greene
Jehmu Greene is the Founder and CEO of We Defend Truth, an organization fighting online disinformation by giving truth a digital ally. She has served as a television political analyst for the last 12 years, pioneered online voter registration as President of Rock the Vote and has trained thousands of women to run for office as a Founding Board Member and National Trainer for Vote Run Lead.