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Commentary: There is more that unites us than divides us, time to let go of disinformation

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 7, 2023//

Commentary: There is more that unites us than divides us, time to let go of disinformation

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//April 7, 2023//

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Steve Schuster is the managing editor at the Wisconsin Law Journal. He can be reached at [email protected].

When we say the pledge of allegiance, it’s to the Republic. One Nation Under God. Indivisible. With Liberty and Justice for all.

Our founding fathers created a Republic, which is a representative form of democracy — not a straight up democracy. We elect officials to represent us. One of the things that over the centuries has made the United States so great and sets us apart and above other nations is that we hold elections, accept the results and have a peaceful transition of power.

One of the biggest threats to our Republic and what our ancestors have fought so hard for us to be where we are today is misinformation and disinformation.

While both are forms of false information, disinformation is produced with the goal of causing harm, while some misinformation can be classified as “free speech.”

We saw a lot of disinformation during Fergueson and the Baltimore riots protesting the death of an African-American man, Freddie Gray, while in the custody of the Baltimore Police.

Russian propaganda mills have been built across the world, including in the United States, which added fuel to the fire in the riots and protests we’ve seen over the last decade. Former President Obama was responsible for kicking out two Russian troll farms. We need leaders to kick Russian Propaganda out.

This foreign influence and false information campaigns are very harmful to our Republic and divide us even further in ways we could never imagine.

Even the one thing that united most, if not all Wisconsinites — the Green Bay Packers — were a victim of disinformation campaigns with the “take a knee” controversy, resulting even in a sharp divide among Republican and Democrat Packers fans, according to an intelligence community source.

In the digital age we live in where a daily newspaper is obsolete just moments after going to the printer because a digital app or tweet conveyed a new update, there are a lot of opportunities to spread false information. With that comes a great responsibility to consider your sources of information.

During the April 4 election for Wisconsin Supreme Court and several other important races, two individuals (Jessica McBride and Jim Piwowarczyk) claiming to be journalists with Wisconsin Right Now wrote a series of stories that, in my opinion, were produced without credible evidence or facts, and with the sole intention of influencing an election through harming the opposition party.

Let me be clear. Objective journalists NEVER raise funds for a candidate. To claim they are journalists and go before the Milwaukee Press Club to win awards for “news coverage” is outrageous and is insulting to every hard-working journalist who reports facts and gathers news and is also insulting to every elected official that got where they are without the help of a right-wing propaganda machine like Wisconsin Right Now.

As evidenced by the above ad that was published on Wisconsin Right Now’s Facebook page, these so-called “journalists” were actively campaigning for Republican candidates yet calling out The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, New York Times and Wisconsin Law Journal for not covering a story that had absolute no credibility and would have harmed the Democrats with whom they were actively campaigning against.

Then when the mainstream press declined to cover the questionable news, Wisconsin Right Now pressured credible journalists to write about not-so credible stories. After the NAACP provided evidence to the Wisconsin Law Journal of Wisconsin Right Now’s “inaccurate reporting,” we received a long email from Wisconsin Right Now demanding changes to our story, which we to date still stand by. In a lengthily reply we sent to Wisconsin Right now we said, “We will not be bullied to change facts.” In response, McBride took to social media and began a slur campaign calling me names and making false statements.

It’s a sad state when false propaganda from either side influences media coverage and elections. This is a true threat to our Republic.

Lesson to be taken away from all of this: Consider your sources of news. If a “journalist” is posting campaign solicitations, they probably aren’t the reliable source of news grounded in facts.

Despite differences among Republicans and Democrats, “There is much more that unites us than divides us.”

Former  Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and left-leaning Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Protasiewicz both have said those words.

It’s time we put aside our political differences as Wisconsinites and focus on the issues we all share in common, such as public safety. We are on the brink of a constitutional crisis because of the low paying district attorney and public defender jobs. It’s time Wisconsin adequately funds our criminal justice system.

It’s time for Wisconsin to once again become the progressive state what we once were. Let’s make Wisconsin great again by focusing on what unites us. Like … those spring and summer tailgate parties before a Brewers games, State Fair, Summerfest, the Milwaukee Bucks, traveling and exploring Wisconsin from the Apostle Islands to Door County and from Lake Geneva to the Wisconsin Dells. From the hills of the Kettle Moraine to the shores of Lake Superior, our beer, our cheese, our butter burgers, our frozen custard, our state pride unites us. Never forget what unites us.

Let’s show the rest of the nation and the world what it means to be a Wisconsinite and work together for the greater good of everyone.

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