Demystifying the Disinformation Machine

Resources for Protecting Science & Democracy

Published Jul 27, 2021

Protestors stand in front of steps to US Supreme Court
Slowking4/Creative Commons (Wikimedia Commons)

Disinformation is deliberate. Individuals and corporate players have manipulated data time and again, to influence public opinion of climate change, COVID-19, voting rights, and more.

Why and how its happening

Some lawmakers claim that their motivation is grounded in concerns over voter fraud. However, as the voting restrictions Republicans are pushing will disproportionately make it harder for Black, Brown, and young voters to participate in the electoral process, this quote by the Heritage Foundations' founder and early leader of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) better represents the truth.

"I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." Paul Weyrich, 1980

Model bills written and disseminated by industry-backed groups like Heritage Action and the ALEC are flooding state capitals across the nation.

In Arizona, one bill would allow state legislators, by a majority vote, to select the Electoral College electors of their choice regardless of the state’s popular vote.

In Georgia, the legislature now has greater influence over the state board that regulates elections and empowers it to remove local election officials deemed to be “underperforming.”

With our democracy at stake, UCS is launching a series of opportunities for science advocates to combat anti-democracy legislation and lift the veil on the bad actors fueling these bills in your state.

What You Can Do

Fill out this survey to join forces with other science advocates from your state. If you’re unable or unwilling to fill out the survey, here are some other ways to take action:

  • Identify anti- (and, in a few cases) pro-democracy) bills moving in your state
  • Learn who the bad actors behind these attacks are using this editable research tracking template. Start consistently naming the bad actors, especially the legislators behind harmful bills and the networks reinforcing them. Do this in your meetings, conversations with partners, media work, advocacy, etc.
  • Plug in with state-based democracy allies in your state to learn which legislative battles to prioritize and how to best leverage your science voice to have the greatest impact!
    • Common Cause: Check out their map to see if they have folks active in your state. If so, email [email protected] to be connected with one of their democracy leaders in your state. Tell them UCS referred you.
      -State Voices: Check out their map to see if they have folks active in your state. If so, email [email protected] to be connected with one of their democracy leaders in your state. Tell them UCS referred you.
    • Stand Up to ALEC: If your state is not supported by the above organizations, click “Sign Up” on Stand Up to ALEC’s page and the moderator will connect you with democracy leaders in your state. Tell them UCS referred you.

Upcoming Events

  • August 23 -- 50th anniversary of the Powell Memo, a corporate blueprint to dominate democracy through the legislature, courts, press, and academia [relevant events and resources coming soon]
  • August 24, 3:00-4:00ET -- The Census, Science, and Fair Representation: How science-based practices can help guard against gerrymandering, and the role of scientists. Register here.
    • The Union of Concerned Scientists is coming together with partner groups to offer a web briefing and discussion on the challenges of the 2020 Census for redistricting, science-based practices to make the data work for fair maps, and how scientific community can engage in their state’s process.

Public Mapping Resources:

Public mapping and web-based GIS software with updated census and geographic data that allow users to easily build and save districting plans for their own communities. These plans will be used to demonstrate how effective representation can be designed when redistricting power is placed with the people.

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