Probably the most fallacious claim to sweep over the American public was vote stealing presented by then President Donald Trump that began in the summer of 2020 and simply ramped up to become a mantra by November 2020. In covering this event, the British Broadcast Company (BBC) wrote about its origin and subsequent roll out via various claims (https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-55009950
). In this media link, entitled 'Stop the steal': The deep roots of Trump’s 'voter fraud' strategy
, author Marianna Spring, Specialist disinformation reporter, describes a number of significant events.
The Anti-Disinformation Unit in the BBC revealed that influential accounts contributed to disinformation, particularly Trump himself and then other right wing accounts. “But this time around, the evidence suggests many more people have been seeing unsubstantiated claims all over their social media feeds for weeks”. On election night, videos of voter fraud went viral. The slogan, Stop the Steal
moved from Twitter to Facebook. The BBC investigated dozens of voter fraud claims and found them to be either untrue or impossible to prove, including pens being distributed that would invalidate the vote, dead people voting, and eventually a number of conspiracy theories (including QAnon) leading to claims of fraud. The voter fraud ‘argument’ generally rested on claims that represented hasty generalizations and reference to authority (Trump). Finally, in many states, a more disciplined court (not of public opinion but with legal authority) was invoked: A Reuter news feed noted that “state and federal judges dismissed more than 50 lawsuits presented by then President Donald Trump and his allies challenging the election or its outcome” (https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-courts-election/fact-check-courts-have-dismissed-multiple-lawsuits-of-alleged-electoral-fraud-presented-by-trump-campaign-idUSKBN2AF1G1
A good argument needs to not only include a claim also but evidence to support it, as well as warrant(s) that can bridge the claim with the evidence. Beyond the lack of evidence, a number of warrants are missing in the ‘voter fraud’ claim such as reference to each state’s policies on remote voting, previous base rates of voting in each state, the difference in vote counts that would indeed be too close and a recount needed and completed, opportunity for actually conducting the type of fraud suggested, etc. Beyond these basics of an argument, other sources to back the claim should be provided, anticipatory rebuttals could be invoked, and different qualifiers may be advanced.
A base feature of WriteRightNow is the opportunity to link any media along with the problem prompt, including video feeds, PDFs, internet links, and any number of support documents to structure the writing process. This feature comes with a caveat, however: As writing becomes more integrated across various media, “the medium is the message” (see Marshall McLuhan). Facebook is a classic example of this, particularly as a newsworthy ‘reporting’ outlet.
Moral of this blog: The medium is the message has turned from radio to television and now to social media. These media present both opportunities and obligations for disciplined dialogue.