2021
January
15
Friday

Monitor Daily Podcast

January 15, 2021
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TODAY’S INTRO

The moral of the pandemic story

There are many morals to the coronavirus story. How much we value face-to-face interaction with each other is most certainly one. But for me, one of the biggest takeaways has been finding new life for the old adage “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

So much of what happened in 2020 seemed impossible just months before. Flights were grounded. Businesses shuttered. Conferences, weddings, major international summits – all canceled. The closures were devastating for economies and our collective psyche. But in a way, they were also liberating. Lockdowns shattered the illusion that society, institutions, and “the way things are” are fixed entities incapable of radical change. 

That liberation sparked hopes in climate circles that change is possible. It had been a long-accepted fact that millions of workers needed to slog through commuter traffic to work together in the same space. Executives simply had to fly around the world to put in face time at meetings. The associated emissions were the cost of doing business in a globally interconnected world.

The plunge in global emissions during the height of lockdowns last spring was but a blip in the grand scheme of greenhouse gas pollution. But it became a powerful symbol for the idea that we get to decide what kind of a world we want to live in. The pandemic has taken many things from us, but perhaps that lesson is its greatest gift.

The Monitor is looking for stories of climate action, adaptation, and resilience. Send us your comments and tips. Email me at swann@csmonitor.com.

Truth, lies, and insurrection. How falsehood shakes democracy.

At the root of the assault on the U.S. Capitol last week was a false claim of election victory. Disavowal of this lie by Republican leaders may be a crucial way to begin dousing mob anger.

Noelle
Paula Bronstein/AP
A supporter of President Donald Trump gathers to protest in solidarity in Salem, Oregon, on Jan. 6, 2021. Statehouses where Trump loyalists have rallied since the Nov. 3 election are heightening security after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.

Two ways to read the story

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In the early morning hours of Nov. 4, 2020, President Donald Trump told possibly the most consequential falsehood of his life. The lie was that he had been reelected by American voters to a second term, despite tens of millions of votes still outstanding and rapidly narrowing margins in key states. 

“Frankly, we did win this election,” he said.

What happened on Jan. 6 spun directly out of the original falsity and its subsequent embellishment. Supporters stormed the Capitol, wrecking historic rooms, barely missing the chance to seize elected officials. President Trump was impeached by the House for inciting the riot. 

Lies can be powerful. Some wear on the truth and lead those who want to believe into a parallel world more in accordance with their presuppositions. The notion that Mr. Trump actually won the election, and that a liberal-elite conspiracy is denying him a second term, is such a lie.

It is not a “Big Lie” in the sense of establishing an entire, sinister, and false view of the world, as did the Nazi myth that Germany lost World War I because Jews and socialists stabbed the nation in the back. But it is big enough to shake American democracy.

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1. Truth, lies, and insurrection. How falsehood shakes democracy.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 4, 2020, President Donald Trump told possibly the most consequential falsehood of his life.

The lie was that he had been reelected by American voters to a second term, despite tens of millions of votes still outstanding and rapidly narrowing margins in key states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

“Frankly, we did win this election. We did win this election,” he said.

The president had paved the way for this lie with others, saying for months that mail-in voting was rife with fraud and that he would only lose if Democrats stole the election. He solidified it in the months following Election Day, repeating and honing his words, convincing legions of supporters that they needed to help him “stop the steal.”

What happened on Jan. 6 and in the days that followed spun directly out of the original falsity and its subsequent embellishment. Supporters stormed the Capitol, wrecking historic rooms, barely missing the chance to seize elected officials. President Trump was impeached by the House for inciting the riot. He now awaits a Senate trial on the charge, his Republican Party riven by the events, Democrats aghast and furious, and threats of further violence hanging in the air.

It's a problem not unique to today's America. Its implications stem not just from one leader's actions but also from the psychology of followers and a fractured​​ political ​and media ​culture.​ ​And the answers may hinge not merely on efforts to hold Mr. Trump accountable but on the messages ​that others – notably ​his erstwhile political allies – ​choose from here​.

Lies can be powerful. Some wear on the truth and lead those who want to believe into a parallel world more in accordance with their presuppositions. The notion that Mr. Trump actually won the election, and that a liberal-elite conspiracy is denying him a second term, is such a lie. It is not a “Big Lie,” in the sense of establishing an entire, sinister, and false view of the world, as did the Nazi myth that Germany lost World War I because Jews and socialists stabbed the nation in the back. But it is big enough to shake American democracy.

Many GOP lawmakers helped perpetuate the president’s lie prior to last Wednesday’s Capitol riot. And many have declined to disavow it even after a mob rampaged through their chambers. Seven senators and 138 representatives voted to sustain objections to Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes, for instance, even after seeing the damage rioters had done.

Republicans who continue to support those challenges give the president’s falsehoods more credence and ensure they continue to spread through the rank-and-file. And disavowal of the president’s claim to victory by leaders the GOP base will listen to may be the only way to begin dousing the embers of the mob’s anger.

President Trump himself on Wednesday released a video denouncing the Capitol violence, saying it stands against everything “our movement” believes in. However, he did not back down from his insistence that he was the election’s rightful winner.

“If you want reconciliation, it’s first of all important to recognize the legitimacy of the election results,” says Michael Brenner, a professor of history at American University and author of the forthcoming book “In Hitler’s Munich: Jews, Antisemites, and the Rise of Nazism.”

Evan Vucci/AP
President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 4, 2020, in Washington.

Lies surging around the world

In some ways, last week’s Capitol riot is like the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of Nov. 8, 1923, a failed coup attempt by the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler, says Professor Brenner. 

In both, an outraged mob marched through the streets after a long and disjointed angry speech by their leader. In both there was violence, including broken windows, shots, and bloodshed. Order was eventually restored in both.

Both also had falsehoods at their heart. The Nazis’ was a large one of national betrayal. President Trump’s is a narrow one of an allegedly stolen victory.

“If you to set up your own truth because the real truth does not fit your political agenda, the lying is important,” says Professor Brenner. “That’s what we’re witnessing now.”

Indeed, lying and deceit may be surging at the national level in other parts of the world.

In Hungary populist leader Viktor Orban has attacked financier George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, as a shadowy force undermining the country. Evocations of a Jewish cabal controlling global money flows are among the oldest of anti-Semitic tropes.

In Poland the conservative Law and Justice Party has pushed a wide-ranging conspiracy theory centered on allegations that a 2010 plane crash that killed many Polish officials - including the then-president, brother of the current president – was caused by Russia. Investigations by regional experts have all blamed bad weather and pilot error for the crash.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin himself often makes false statements about matters big and small. Recently he insisted that journalists who exposed the role of Russian security services in poisoning opposition leader Aleksei Navalny were CIA operatives, for instance.

Back in America, the false Dominion voting machine theory of voter fraud, a nearly impossible-to-follow tale that begins in Venezuela and ends with “back doors” and “vote shuffling” and allegations that the company is spiriting parts of its machines out of the country, is one sub-plot of the stolen-election conspiracy falsehood. The fact that it was ludicrously complicated and would have had to involve so many people it would be impossible to conceal did not stop President Trump from berating Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not taking it seriously in an extraordinary phone call earlier this month.

Earlier this week, actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger accused President Trump of instigating the insurrection in the Capitol by misleading people with lies. Raised in a defeated Austria in the years following World War II, Mr. Schwarzenegger says his father and neighbors were also misled with lies, and suffered accordingly.

“I know where such lies lead,” Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said.

Who’s telling the truth?

President Trump’s devoted followers do not think he is telling them lies. Many believe he is telling the real truth, and it is the media, especially the non-right-wing media, that is the greatest source of American falsehoods.

In numerous interviews prior to Election Day, and even afterward, Monitor reporters heard from Trump voters that they were sure he had won. Many said they also believed President-elect Joe Biden would not be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Polls show the same story. While there has been erosion for President Trump in approval ratings since Jan. 6, even among Republicans, a sizable majority of members of the GOP still back his victory claim. A just-released poll by Pew Research finds that 64% of his supporters say Trump definitely or probably won the election. (Among all Americans, 65% say Mr. Biden won, and three-quarters believe Mr. Trump bears at least some responsibility for the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion.)

Yet the evidence appears overwhelming. None of the dozens of court cases brought by the Trump campaign legal team succeeded. Former Attorney General Bill Barr said there was no widespread fraud, among other top officials. Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger, a Republican, was among the officials of both parties who attested to their vote counts. Videos of alleged vote stuffing and boxes of ballots being delivered after the count and so forth were routinely exposed as benign legal procedures or not even about voting at all.

Why the persistence of belief in Trump’s victory? Among the reasons, say experts: motivated reasoning, in which people reach conclusions they emotionally desire; and confirmation bias, in which people interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs.

When it comes to decisions, we think of ourselves as scientists, dispassionately weighing evidence to reach conclusions, says Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of rhetoric and expert in political discourse at Texas A&M University.

“That’s not the case. Instead we are more like lawyers,” she says. “We already have a point and we look for evidence to support that point.”

In addition, over the past 30 years or so a cold war has developed between historic legacy media and new right-wing media for the eyes and ears of voters. In that context Republicans have steadily grown more powerful, whatever their fortunes at the ballot box.

With social media contributing to a deluge of information, political discourse becomes less a reasoned debate and more a display of spectacle, says Professor Mercieca. That’s something at which Mr. Trump excels.

The Capitol mob itself was an example of this trend. As they breached barriers and stormed the halls of Congress it seemed every MAGA-hat wearer was also taking selfies, live-streaming, or otherwise creating content for their social media.

As for President Trump, his loss of Twitter and other social media accounts must be a blow, taking away his means of speaking directly to his supporters and forcing him to depend on the news media to communicate.

“He is dependent on them to carry his message. And for him dependency is weakness,” Professor Mercieca says.

CEOs spurn Trump and his allies: How big a blow?

Corporations are spurning politicians who challenged state-certified election results. The moves impose a financial penalty – not least on Donald Trump. Yet firms also have a history of returning to old patterns of political giving.

Noelle

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Corporations have rushed to suspend donations for members of Congress who voted last week to challenge the 2020 presidential election outcome without meaningful evidence.

President Donald Trump’s political and financial future may be taking an even bigger hit from the backlash over his role in rallying a mob that ended up invading the U.S. Capitol in opposition to Mr. Trump’s election loss. 

Deutsche Bank, a key lender to the Trump Organization, reportedly said it was cutting its ties to the business. The PGA of America said it would no longer hold its 2022 championship on a Trump golf course in New Jersey. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram suspended the president’s accounts.

The damage to Mr. Trump and his allies could be long term. Yet corporations also have a history of funding politicians in concert with their efforts to lobby for influence over legislation.

“There was genuine outrage” by CEOs, says David Primo, an expert on business and politics at the University of Rochester in New York. “But the responses were very carefully calibrated. ... They wanted to buy themselves flexibility.”

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2. CEOs spurn Trump and his allies: How big a blow?

The stunning Capitol riot has engendered its own remarkable reaction: Corporate America is voicing anger about the violence and the Republican “stolen election” rhetoric that accompanied it.

From pointed statements to voiding contracts to pausing political contributions, corporations and other entities have made their positions known in ways that would have seemed unthinkable two weeks ago. The immediate damage to President Donald Trump’s reputation is evident as staunch business allies like Deutsche Bank pull away from him and social media companies “deplatform” him by suspending his accounts. 

Corporations may be reflecting public opinion as much as leading it. A new Pew Research Center poll finds Mr. Trump is leaving the White House with the lowest job approval of his presidency (29%) and that 68% of Americans do not want him to remain a political figure after leaving office. 

Still, the corporate voices are important. The public currently bestows greater trust in business than in politicians. The damage could be long term to Mr. Trump – and to politicians who continue to support him.

The question is how broad and persistent a corporate backlash will be. Corporations, after all, have a history of funding politicians in concert with their efforts to lobby for influence over legislation.

“This is primarily a symbolic move as a way to send a signal to the Republican Party that the violence that we saw ... is simply not acceptable in a democracy,” says David Primo, a professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester. “There was genuine outrage. But the responses were very carefully calibrated. ... They wanted to buy themselves flexibility.”

One of the early political casualties appears to be Doug Steinhardt, a gung-ho pro-Trump New Jersey attorney who suddenly suspended his campaign for governor on Monday, citing “unforeseen professional obligations.”

Other pro-Trump candidates may face similar decisions in the coming weeks and months, at least in heavily Democratic states, as they feel out the electorate and the corporations that might – or might not – donate to their campaigns. 

“Symbolically, it’s important that the Republican Party discovers that they cannot rely on Home Depot and other corporations,” says Jerry Davis, professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. But “that’s a very old-school big business response. What’s interesting to me is that tech responds by deplatforming.”

The corporate backlash has been uncharacteristically direct. “[W]e believe the President’s behavior – including encouraging an assault on the Capitol and attempting to overturn the results of a legitimate, democratic election – deserves the strongest possible condemnation,” the Business Roundtable said in a statement Wednesday.

Corporations’ financial moves have also been direct, potentially hitting Mr. Trump’s ability to get out his message on at least three fronts.

Michael Probst/AP/File
The Deutsche Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 1, 2019. In light of the riot at the U.S. Capitol, several banks, including Deutsche Bank, which is one of the biggest lenders to President Donald Trump's business empire, have said they would no longer lend to Mr. Trump’s company.

Most immediately, they hit Mr. Trump and his business in the pocketbook at a time when his golf and hotel properties were already struggling because of the pandemic. According to Forbes estimates, his net worth fell from $4.5 billion a few months before his 2016 election to $2.5 billion today. 

Deutsche Bank, a key longtime lender to the Trump Organization, reportedly said it was cutting its ties to the business. New York’s Signature Bank said it was closing Mr. Trump’s personal accounts. New York City is moving to cancel its contracts with the company to run skating rinks, a carousel, and a golf course. PGA of America on Sunday announced it would no longer hold its 2022 championship on Mr. Trump’s golf course in New Jersey.

The operations of the privately owned Trump Organization are so opaque that it’s hard to tell how meaningful these losses are. What is clear is that the Trump brand has taken a big hit because of the Capitol riot. From the pandemic to his controversial presidency and reported large business debts, the risks to the Trump corporate empire are significant. 

“What may be disastrous for Trump is being seen as a failed businessman and being seen as a dishonest businessman,” says Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice and author of the 2019 book “Political Brands,” which examines the 2016 election.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is investigating the Trump Organization for criminal activity.

Lost megaphone

Perhaps the bigger blow to the president’s political clout is the deplatforming from the major social media firms. When presidents leave office, they lose a huge megaphone to reach their supporters. Facebook and YouTube have crimped Mr. Trump’s outreach even more by suspending his accounts. Snapchat and Twitter did so permanently, the latter’s move a particular blow for the tweet-prone president.

Social media allowed Mr. Trump to spread his unproven claims of a stolen election quickly and repeatedly. 

“You’re much more likely to believe a lie if it comes to you through your network of trust,” says Ms. Torres-Spelliscy. “Part of what explains the myth of voter fraud being believed by so many people is that it came through a network that they trusted, which was the president and his Twitter feed and his Facebook posts. ‘Deplatforming’ him takes away that vector for that lie.”

The deplatforming is the most effective anti-Trump action that corporations have taken, but it may backfire, says Ray La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “It’s a risk for these organizations to do that because it really calls attention to how much power they have.”

The third front of corporate opposition is targeting his political supporters, especially the 147 members of Congress who last week objected to one or more certifications of President-elect Joe Biden’s election.

More than 50 corporate political action committees, including those for Goldman Sachs, American Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Dow, have temporarily suspended donations to either all members of Congress or the 147 objectors specifically. And other PACs are mulling similar actions. Hallmark’s PAC has asked objecting Sens. Josh Hawley and Roger Marshall for its donations back. Financial adviser Charles Schwab is dissolving its PAC altogether.

As big as corporate PACs are, they’re less important than they used to be. For one thing, politicians increasingly rely on small donors, along with billionaires. In the most recent election cycle, the 147 GOP objectors raised in all some $68 million from corporate PACs – some 16% of their total fundraising, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington nonprofit that tracks campaign money. Some pro-Trump politicians are more reliant on PACs than others.

Also, corporations can donate to so-called dark pools, which makes contributions hard to trace. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America gave some $144,000 to GOP candidates in PAC money but $4.5 million to a GOP dark money group called American Action Network, the CRP reports.

“We don’t know, for the most part, who the corporations are funding,” says Beth Allen, a spokeswoman for the Communications Workers of America, a union that is calling for comprehensive campaign finance reform. 

Backlash as a fundraising tool?

For Trump politicians in red states, the corporate backlash could actually prove to be a valuable fundraising tool if they can position themselves as standing up to corporations rather than caving to them, says Professor Primo of the University of Rochester. “A lot is going to depend, of course, on whether these legislators are still considered viable for reelection in their district.”

For the corporate actions to prove meaningful in the long term, they will have to stay in place for some time, campaign finance experts say. That includes the pause in PAC donations and the social media companies’ bans on Mr. Trump.

But voters’ memories are short. Political fortunes can turn on a dime. In 2018, for example, several corporate PACs asked for their donations back after Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi made controversial comments about attending public hangings and curtailing Democratic votes. Despite the lack of corporate support, she won the special election. A year later, several major PACS, including Exxon Mobil and Genentech, were contributing to her campaign, and she won reelection in 2020. An ardent Trump supporter, she is one of the handful of senators who voted last week against certifying the election results of Arizona and Pennsylvania.

The same uncertainty holds true for Mr. Trump’s political future.

“How many times have we said, ‘Oh, this is it. ... He’s gone too far this time,’” Professor Primo says. “He’s come back time and again. So it would be a mistake to just think he’s going to go away into the night quietly.”

Europe criticizes Trump Twitter ban – but not for reason you’d expect

Whose responsibility is it to decide when someone should be banned from social media: private enterprise or public authorities?

Noelle

Two ways to read the story

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When President Donald Trump’s access to social media was suspended, he found some unexpected allies in Europe: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, who called Twitter’s decision “problematic.”

That’s not because she supported what the U.S. president said and did last week. But she, and many other European leaders, do not think private corporations should have the exclusive right to decide who can say what on social media. That’s a decision that European rules leave to elected legislators.

Germany is a pioneer in the field of digital regulation, and its legislation is continually being updated. It is not clear how effective its laws are in improving civility and accuracy online. But as the debate over online regulation intensifies, the German model – very different from the U.S. approach – is attracting attention.

“It’s not clear cut,” says Ian Rosenberg, an American media lawyer. “Both systems have something to learn from each other.”

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3. Europe criticizes Trump Twitter ban – but not for reason you’d expect

When Twitter banned Donald Trump, the chattering class in Europe began twittering.

The American president was stripped of his digital megaphone? Based on what criteria? And, ultimately, who should be able to decide?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was clear: She found Twitter’s decision “problematic” – not because of the ban, but because of who imposed it. Rather than private companies having final say on the “fundamental right” to expression, it should be “the law and within the framework defined by legislators,” said her spokesman.

Tyson Barker, head of technology policy at the German Council on Foreign Relations, checked the Twitter account of Germany’s most prominent far-right nationalist. Still active. “The platforms’ approach is being applied selectively,” he says, “and at their heart these are political decisions.” Better, he argues, would be an agile, trust-based regulatory ecosystem that includes government, civil society, and users checking each other.

In 2017, the German government embarked on a first step toward a regulatory system by passing a law compelling social media platforms to identify and remove “illegal” content. A few years into the most ambitious attempt to police online content that a Western democracy has yet made, it’s unclear whether the move has civilized online discourse, or simply pushed dark speech off moderated platforms and into closed groups such as Telegram.

Yet with Mr. Trump’s social media bans animating debate, the German law being continually revised, and a Europe-wide version currently before the European Parliament, a long-overdue global conversation is finally underway.

“We’re playing catch-up to 15 years of internet development,” says Lisa Dittmer, internet freedom advocacy officer for Reporters Without Borders. “It’s ridiculous it’s taken this long. This issue has been pushed to the forefront in a huge way now. The positive side is we’re starting this debate of how to democratize internet spaces.”

How they do it in Germany

Under Germany’s Network Enforcement Act, large social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook must allow users to flag content. Once content is flagged, the onus is on the platforms to review and remove within 24 hours what they deem “illegal” under Germany’s criminal code.

In other words, German lawmakers set the legal framework, and social media platforms must operate within it.

“Germany basically says government should regulate speech, not private companies,” says Ian Rosenberg, an American media lawyer and author of “The Fight for Free Speech: Ten Cases That Define Our First Amendment Freedoms.” “That is absolutely opposite to the American constitutional tradition, which is that the government should be prohibited from regulating private speech. They are totally antithetical to each other.”

It’s worth noting that Germans are traditionally more comfortable than Americans with state interference in speech, given the country’s dark history of Nazi-related hate speech.

Sedition, public incitement, terrorism, and symbols of unconstitutional organizations are targeted as “illegal” content by the German law. Platforms have engaged hundreds of new moderators to review flagged content, and must publish transparency reports every six months.

The major platforms are largely complying. During the first half of 2020, Twitter removed or blocked 120,000 tweets. Facebook’s compliance has been less transparent; in 2019 it was fined for incomplete reporting. That year it deleted or blocked only 349 pieces of content.

Facebook’s flag mechanism wasn’t “user-friendly,” says Amélie Heldt, a Berlin-based researcher on platform governance. “Users simply could not see or understand” how to make a complaint.

But it doesn’t always work

While platforms are largely seen as attempting to comply, say analysts, the climate of online conversation does not appear to have become more civil. The law also has clear problems.

Twenty-four hours is hardly enough time to act prudently and there’s practically no downside to removing more content than needed in order to avoid fines. That creates “an incentive for overblocking, for removing content that when further assessed, is in fact legal,” says Jana Gooth, a European Parliament legal policy advisor.

Secondly, it compels platforms to do the job of German law enforcement in deciding what’s “illegal,” a particularly grave responsibility since the government does not systematically evaluate those decisions, says Stephan Mundges, a digital communications researcher at TU Dortmund University.

At the same time, the law does not allow users to appeal, a failing that the Europe-wide Digital Services Act, soon to be debated in the EU parliament, will attempt to address.

Stephanie Lecocq/Reuters
European Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager speaks at a news conference on the Data Governance Act at the European Commission in Brussels on Nov. 25, 2020.

Further, many of the conspiracy theories being shared, such as climate change denial or false claims about coronavirus, do not constitute illegal speech under German law. German nationalist Attila Hildmann, for example, still has an active Twitter account, despite having organized protests against coronavirus restrictions, ranted against Ms. Merkel’s legitimacy, and spoken at an August 2020 rally from which people attempted to breach the Reichstag, the German parliament.

In fact, the vast majority of removed posts are taken down not to comply with German law, but with Twitter and Facebook’s own community standards, which do not depend on user complaints.

Some critics fear the German law could set a bad precedent for authoritarian governments. A Danish think tank reported in 2019 that at least 10 countries with varying levels of civil rights protections have directly or indirectly referred to the German law as justification for their own online censorship rules, including Russia, Vietnam, and Kenya.

Meanwhile, dark speech is clearly moving into unmoderated messaging spaces such as Signal and Telegram. German nationalist Mr. Hildmann, for example, often uses Twitter to direct his followers to Telegram, where groups of up to 200,000 members are allowed and content is not moderated.

The debate over who should have the responsibility to regulate online content, and how they should exercise it, has a complicated path ahead of it, say internet experts.

“It’s not clear cut,” says Mr. Rosenberg, the media lawyer. “It’s not like the European model has eliminated hateful discrimination or violence against minorities. It can be a good thing [that Americans] don’t allow government to regulate speech. Both systems have something to learn from each other.”

Ultimately, societies must address the roots underlying extremism, says Ms. Dittmer of Reporters Without Borders. “This is also a societal problem, not just a digital policy issue,” she points out. “You also need to ask questions: why we have extremism, and how we can reach people before they fall into these networks.”

Israel is vaccination leader, but labors to reach Arab citizens

The value of trust can be judged when it’s absent. In Israel’s bid to be an immunization leader, it must overcome Arab citizens’ mistrust, which exacerbates their doubts about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Noelle
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
A medical worker stands next to a man waiting to receive the coronavirus vaccine in East Jerusalem, Jan. 7, 2021. Palestinians in the city have health insurance through Israel’s system and access to its vaccination program. But suspicion of Israeli authorities runs high, as it does among Israeli Arab citizens.

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Israel has been making headlines as a vaccine rollout machine as it seeks to become the first country to reach communitywide immunity. But to reach that milestone, a major hurdle has to be cleared: increasing vaccination levels among its Arab minority. Indeed, while over 75% of Jewish citizens over the age of 60 have already been vaccinated, the figure among Arabs is just 43%.

Changing those numbers is less a logistical challenge than it is one of persuasion. Keeping some Israeli Arabs away from vaccination centers, for instance, are rumors on social media fueling mistrust of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Others are influenced by conspiracy theories about the Israeli authorities, for whom trust is already shaky due to years of systemic discrimination.

Now, however, three weeks into the vaccination push, more Israeli Arabs are getting vaccinated, as a public awareness campaign taps religious leaders and other “influencers” from the Arab community – from professional soccer players to doctors.

Bishar Bisharat, a family doctor who chairs Israel’s Society for Arab Health, says seeing Arab physicians getting vaccinated is especially important. “Patients know their family doctors in Arab villages and towns. They know where they live, and how they behave,” he says. “They see them as role models.”

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4. Israel is vaccination leader, but labors to reach Arab citizens

The narrow roads of Daliyat el-Karmel, outside Haifa, were jammed on a recent afternoon.

Hundreds of Jewish Israelis had poured into the hilltop Druze town after hearing there were 900 extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available at a vaccination center. The perishable doses had to be used that evening, or be thrown out.

Some Druze who arrived to be vaccinated were ushered to the front of what became a long line snaking down the main street. But they were far outnumbered by their Jewish counterparts, a vivid illustration of a public health challenge facing the country.

Israel has been making international headlines as a vaccine rollout machine as it seeks to become the first country to reach communitywide immunity. But to reach that milestone, a major hurdle has to be cleared: increasing vaccination levels among its Arab minority, 20% of the population.

Indeed, while over 75% of Jewish citizens over the age of 60 have already been vaccinated, the figure among Arabs is just 43%.

Changing those numbers is less a logistical challenge than it is one of persuasion.

Some Israeli Arabs are avoiding vaccination centers because of rumors on social media fueling mistrust of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Others are deterred by conspiracy theories about the Israeli authorities, in whom trust is already shaky due to years of systemic discrimination.

Still others deny that COVID-19 is even a problem.

The phenomenon appears somewhat surprising, given that a growing number of Israeli Arabs work in health care, representing nearly a fifth of the country’s doctors, 24% of its nurses, and 48% of all pharmacists, government data show.

Reduced access to health clinics, especially for Bedouin Arabs in southern Israel, many of whom are scattered in tiny shantytowns that lack basic services, also contributes to the lower numbers.

Among the Bedouin, who have to travel to nearby towns and cities to get vaccinated, the vaccination rate for those over 60 is close to 20%.

Drafting Arab doctors

Now, however, three weeks into the vaccination push, the numbers of Israeli Arabs getting vaccinated have begun to rise, as a public awareness campaign tapping religious leaders and other “influencers” from the Arab community – from professional soccer players to lawmakers and doctors – gains momentum.

Their message, in photographs of themselves getting vaccinated, is this: Arab citizens have nothing to fear. Get your vaccine, just as we have.

Bishar Bisharat, a family doctor and public health specialist who chairs the Society for Arab Health within the Israeli Medical Association, says seeing Arab physicians getting vaccinated is especially important.

“Patients know their family doctors in Arab villages and towns. They know where they live, and how they behave,” he says. “They see them as role models.”

Tsafrir Abayov/AP
A Bedouin man waits to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a medical center in the Bedouin local council of Segev Shalom, near the city of Beersheba, southern Israel, Dec. 30, 2020. Vaccination rates among Bedouins lag behind other Israeli Arabs and far behind Israeli Jews.

Not enough of the doctors, however, are speaking up, says Dr. Bisharat. He and other public health officials note that there is wariness about the vaccine even among the physicians, most of whom are not experts in the field and can fall prey to some of the same rumors circulating among their friends and family.

To help remedy that and increase the ranks of advocates, he’s preparing a nationwide forum to educate and mobilize Arab doctors.

As in other parts of the world, higher rates of poverty and lower levels of education can lead to what public health officials term low “health literacy.”

Among Israel’s Arab minority, that phenomenon combines with a contentious history with the Jewish majority to create a public mindset more receptive to conspiracy theories.

Rumors raging online range from an international favorite – that the vaccine is a ruse by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to implant trackable microchips – to suspicions that the vaccine will make people infertile.

Nadav Davidovitch, director of Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health, notes that Israel’s Arab citizens are among the most highly vaccinated groups in the country for other vaccines, so the pushback is not borne of anti-vaccination tendencies.

“It’s more specifically about COVID-19, and rumors around it being developed so fast and the consequences for fertility. So those are the main issues that need to be addressed,” says Dr. Davidovitch, who is on Israel’s national advisory committee for COVID-19.

Vaccinating Palestinians

Even as Israel wrestles with how to persuade its Arab citizens to get vaccinated, it faces calls to ensure that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are covered as well.

Israel maintains that the health of the Palestinian population is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. Critics of this policy, including Israeli human rights groups, counter that Israel has a moral obligation to vaccinate Palestinians, arguing that ultimately they still live under its control.

There has been no official Palestinian request to Israel. Officials say they are expecting their first vaccine shipments to arrive by the end of February.

On Thursday Israel announced it would vaccinate Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons.

Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, meanwhile, have health insurance through Israel’s socialized health system, and have access to its vaccination program. But suspicion of Israeli authorities runs high, and conspiracy theories are rampant.

Dr. Dima Bitar, who runs an East Jerusalem clinic of Clalit, Israel’s largest HMO, says every day brings new “fake news,” as she puts it.

“Are you sure we are taking the same vaccines as the Jews? Is it coming from the same vials?” people ask her. They fear that Jewish Israelis are getting the real vaccine, but that they might be getting one that at best is experimental, or at worst is intentionally lethal.

“And that’s just what I heard today,” she says, sounding frazzled as she sits in her office, interrupted every few moments with queries from patients and staff.

“The fact that we have Jews coming to the clinic for vaccinations has actually helped Arabs get vaccinated too,” she says, saying it boosts confidence in the vaccine among local residents.

One doctor’s campaign 

When Dr. Riad Majadla, head of the coronavirus ward at Sharon Hospital in central Israel, gets home to his town of Baka al-Gharbiya every night at 8, he starts a second shift of sorts. He answers the 250 to 300 messages and texts he’s received over the day from Arab citizens across the country asking about the virus, and more recently about the vaccine.

He reads out loud a couple that have just come through: “I’m 72. I have heart disease and diabetes. Can I vaccinate?” Another asks: “I’m four months pregnant, should I vaccinate?” His answer to both of them, he says, will be “yes.”

Dr. Majadla is one of five physicians in his family – all of whom have been on the front lines of fighting the virus. When he saw that only a trickle of those Arabs eligible for the first round were being vaccinated, he decided to do something.

Following on a public health education campaign he waged at the beginning of the crisis, in which he encouraged preventive behavior, he went back to speaking out on the radio and posting live videos on Facebook explaining why and how the vaccine is safe and works.

Dr. Majadla is now seeing more acceptance of the vaccine on his Facebook page, mixed in with a minority of voices who deride him as a “collaborator” with the Israeli state.

But overall, he boasts, the reaction is positive: “Fingers crossed, we are on the right track.”

The Explainer

Incitement, sedition, and conspiracy – explaining Capitol crimes

The legal fallout from the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion is likely to reach hundreds of cases. It could also affect the free speech rights of Americans and shatter one last political norm.

Noelle

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The United States is in the middle of its most turbulent transition of governments in over a century.

On Jan. 6 hundreds of rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes by Congress and resulting in five deaths. Federal law enforcement has warned of potential violent demonstrations at every state capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

The House of Representatives this week, in a bipartisan vote, impeached President Donald Trump for a historic second time for “incitement of insurrection.” Next comes a trial in the Senate.

The legal consequences may not be known for months. 

Criminal investigations into the Capitol invasion are underway, and the significance of these investigations should not be underestimated, says Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney who teaches at the University of Alabama School of Law.

“The work that’s ahead of the Justice Department in determining if it’s something that just sort of organically erupted, or ... if there was a conspiracy that wanted to overthrow a legitimately elected government,” she adds, “has to rank up there as the most significant investigation the Justice Department has taken on.”

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5. Incitement, sedition, and conspiracy – explaining Capitol crimes

The United States is in the middle of its most turbulent transition of governments in over a century.

On Jan. 6 hundreds of rioters invaded the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the constitutionally mandated counting of electoral votes by Congress and resulting in five deaths. Federal law enforcement has warned of potential violent demonstrations at every state capitol ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week.

The immediate political consequences could soon be resolved – though the aftershocks will linger. The House of Representatives this week, in a bipartisan vote, impeached President Donald Trump for a historic second time for “incitement of insurrection.” Next comes a trial in the Senate.

The legal consequences, however, may not be known for months. 

Criminal investigations into the Capitol invasion are underway both federally and locally, and the significance of these investigations should not be underestimated, says Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney who teaches at the University of Alabama School of Law.

“The work that’s ahead of the Justice Department in determining if it’s something that just sort of organically erupted, or ... if there was a conspiracy that wanted to overthrow a legitimately elected government,” she adds, “has to rank up there as the most significant investigation the Justice Department has taken on.”

The U.S. House of Representatives this week, in a bipartisan vote, impeached President Donald Trump for a historic second time for “incitement of insurrection.” Next comes a trial in the U.S. Senate.

Does President Trump face legal jeopardy then?

With regard to Jan. 6 itself, the answer is still maybe. The president obviously wasn’t part of the mob that broke into and ransacked the Capitol, but his speech at a rally hours before the riot – and possibly his actions, or lack of action, during it – could potentially be prosecuted.

The First Amendment protects many kinds of speech, but not all kinds of speech. For prosecutors to prove that the president incited the mob to invade the Capitol they would have to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that he was both trying to encourage immediate lawbreaking and that his words were likely to produce that lawbreaking. (The relevant Supreme Court precedent, for those curious, is Brandenburg v. Ohio.)

That’s a very high burden, which is why many legal experts are skeptical that we could see Mr. Trump prosecuted for inciting the Capitol invasion. That case could also have such a sizable effect on the free speech rights of Americans generally that prosecutors may be wary of touching it.

Great, so Mr. Trump is in the clear.

Criminally, regarding Jan. 6 specifically, he probably is. (Two caveats: Impeachment is a political process, and a Senate trial operates differently from a criminal trial. Also, the DOJ is investigating the extent to which the Capitol invasion was planned in advance. If they can prove that it was, and if they can prove that the president was somehow personally involved, all bets are off.)

What Mr. Trump should be more worried about, legal experts say, is criminal exposure on other fronts. He is already fighting investigations by prosecutors in New York into his personal finances, as well as multiple defamation lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault.

Then there are more recent actions. Legal experts point to his Jan. 2 phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking the state official to “find” votes that would flip the presidential election result in the state in his favor, as a potential violation of state and federal election law.

“It’s a better case for him to be charged with attempting to engage in election fraud,” says Ilya Somin, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. “By all means I say go after Trump, but go after him in ways that don’t risk harming the civil liberties of ordinary people.”

Isn’t it rare for former presidents to be prosecuted?

It’s not just rare, it’s never happened.

This isn’t because former presidents have some form of special protection. But since the country was founded, Americans have been wary of criminalizing politics, and presidents have been wary of criminalizing their predecessors.

Given his potential legal exposure, this could be another norm the Trump presidency breaks. It will represent a challenge for President-elect Biden. He has pledged to restore the independence of the DOJ – an agency that lies within the executive branch but that is designed to represent the American people as a whole – after problematic behavior during the Trump administration. His administration prosecuting his predecessor would, at the very least, look bad.

But the Justice Department’s prosecutorial decision-making “has to be independent,” says Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and senior FBI official.

“How hard is that to become independent? It’s not that hard. The president just has to stay the [heck] out of it,” he adds.

What about other people? What legal trouble are they in?

Short answer: lots. Longer answer: With charges still coming in, the specifics are unclear.

There have been 275 federal and local cases filed in connection to the Capitol invasion, Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., said at a press conference Friday. Mr. Sherwin added that he expects the number to grow.

Most of the charges filed so far have been relatively minor, such as engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, unlawful entry, and violating curfew under the district’s criminal code. But those are just initial charges. As law enforcement gathers and reviews more evidence, more indictments and charges will be filed. Existing charges could also be upgraded or downgraded.

Treason (defined in the Constitution as “levying war” against the United States or giving “aid and comfort” to its enemies) and insurrection (essentially defined as engaging in a rebellion against the government) are both rarely charged in general and unlikely to be charged here.

But Mr. Sherwin did confirm this week that a “strike force” of senior prosecutors is building seditious conspiracy charges. A crime with a long and controversial history of criminalizing political dissent, “seditious conspiracy” is defined as conspiring to “levy war” against the U.S. government, or attempting to “hinder or delay the execution” of U.S. law, or trying to “seize, take, or possess” government property. 

“It’s a very serious charge, and one we don’t see often,” says Kami Chavis, a former assistant U.S. attorney who directs the Criminal Justice Program at Wake Forest University. “We’ll have to wait for the evidence investigators uncover to prove that against certain individuals.”

Sounds ominous. What will we see happen now?

This is likely to be a sprawling and complex investigation. Every FBI field office is working on it. And experts say a big challenge for law enforcement will be simply identifying everyone who was involved.

Agents will be studying video footage, following up on tips, looking at social media postings and relationship charts, and interviewing witnesses and suspects. It will be like investigating the mafia, says David Gomez, a former assistant special agent-in-charge in the FBI’s Seattle field office. 

“If you believe you have a criminal enterprise conspiracy you work your way up from the bottom and find out who leaders are,” he adds.

When the time comes to go to court – and the pandemic has disrupted jury trials across the country – they will mostly be tried in federal and local court in Washington. Expect a lot of plea bargains, though.

It’s also important to note that the FBI isn’t obliged, nor likely, to share every detail of these investigations – particularly bigger and more sensitive aspects like whether the Capitol riot was planned.

From Ella to Beyoncé: New museum celebrates African American music

A nation’s cultural roots highlight a shared humanity and can even foster unity. A new museum focused on African American music sees itself as just such a unifier.

Noelle
Courtesy of NMAAM/353 Media Group
The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee, features 1,500 items in its 56,000 square feet. The ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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The National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee, hosts its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. More than a collection of interesting objects, the museum chronicles the rise of African American music as well as its influence on American culture.

Each of the museum’s seven galleries pinpoints a different aspect of the African American experience. For example, the Wade in the Water space focuses on religious music, from Indigenous African music through the spirituals and hymns of the slavery era to the gospel music of the 1940s to 1960s. 

The museum also tracks the circuitous route Black music traveled across the racial divide. As white listeners became fans, their relationship to Blackness was slowly disrupted, says Shana Redmond, a UCLA musicologist. Later, well-known Black musicians took a stand for civil rights. That fusion of political and cultural power moved the needle far further than ever before, Ms. Redmond says.

“We are able to proudly say that African Americans are at the center of American culture,” says H. Beecher Hicks III, the museum’s president, “without turning anyone away, without condemning anyone, but instead welcoming everyone and saying, ‘This is American music and all of us have a seat at the table.’”  

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6. From Ella to Beyoncé: New museum celebrates African American music

When Marquita Reed-Wright was hired to curate a new museum of Black music, she began amassing a unique catalog of artifacts. Among them: Ella Fitzgerald’s fur coat, Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, and an accordion that belonged to zydeco icon “Queen Ida” Guillory. She even drove to funk musician George Clinton’s home in “the middle of nowhere” of northern Florida so that he could hand her his stage costumes – including his rainbow-colored wig. 

The 1,500 items Dr. Reed-Wright has collected will be displayed at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville. The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $60 million museum is on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with the doors officially opening to the public on Jan. 30.

What most distinguishes this collection is the story it tells. The museum chronicles the rise of African American music and, by extension, the history of Black culture and identity. More than that, it reveals how central African American music has been to America’s culture. As such, the museum sees itself as a unifier, where all visitors can appreciate a shared humanity through a common love of music.

“I don’t think the significance or importance of this type of museum can be overstated,” says Shana Redmond, a scholar of music, race, and politics at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. “It’s actually really urgent to establish a location and a concerted effort by experts to explore and document these histories for the public. Black music is really a locus of incredible creation, incredible thought.”

A journey through history

The museum, situated across the street from Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, is 56,000 square feet and includes a 200-seat theater. It represents more than 50 genres and subgenres, including gospel, blues, jazz, R&B, soul, disco, and hip-hop. (If music had a periodic table of elements, they’d form a sizable block under the recurring properties of rhythm and groove.) Various interactive stations throughout the museum encourage visitors to click on the names of individual artists to learn more about them, their influences, and their impact. Those stations also generate playlists for later exploration.

“Some of the interactives we have you can download and share with people after you leave the museum,” says Dr. Reed-Wright, the museum’s collections manager. “The concept of community is being able to share that.” 

Courtesy of NMAAM/353 Media Group
This exhibit is part of the museum's Wade in the Water gallery, which focuses on religious music, from indigenous African music through the spirituals and hymns of the slavery era to the gospel music of the 1940s to 1960s. Gospel is one of more than 50 genres and subgenres of music represented at the museum.

Each of the museum’s seven galleries pinpoints a different aspect of the African American experience. For instance, the Wade in the Water space focuses on religious music, from Indigenous African music through the spirituals and hymns of the slavery era to the gospel music of the 1940s to 1960s. The Crossroads gallery tells the story of the blues – including its influence on country music and rock and roll – and how the 1940s Great Migration of southern Black workers introduced the blues to northern cities. In another gallery called The Message, visitors can engage in rap battles with each other while learning about urban hip-hop culture. 

A fusion of political and cultural power

Today, hip-hop dominates popular culture. But it took lifetimes of incremental steps for Black music to attain widespread recognition. In the 1800s, many white people first heard traditional songs composed by enslaved people when minstrels in blackface performed them. Later, “We Shall Overcome” was popularized by folk singer Pete Seeger, but it was originally a 19th-century spiritual that took off as a rallying song for a workers’ union of Black women in Charleston, South Carolina. Early jazz and blues music was segregated between Black and white recording artists. It was only after the 1930s that the likes of Nat King Cole, Marian Anderson, Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie crossed over the racial divide. 

As white listeners became fans of those musicians, their relationship to Blackness was slowly disrupted, says Ms. Redmond, the musicologist. That didn’t mean that white audiences embraced integration as a result. Attitudes were slow to change. But, later, Black musicians, including Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, and Harry Belafonte, had an impact by taking a stand for civil rights. They weren’t just stars, they were also political figures. As Ms. Redmond puts it: “It’s not simply, ‘I’m a Black musician.’ So, if you like me, you have to feel differently about Blackness. You have to wrestle with all of me, not just me as a movie star. It’s also me as the person who’s struggling toward a better future for all of us.”

That fusion of political and cultural power moved the needle far further than ever before, says Ms. Redmond, who isn’t affiliated with the museum.

“All of us have a seat at the table”

The museum’s One Nation Under a Groove gallery, dedicated to the fight for civil rights from the 1940s to the present, includes a section about African Americans’ influence as CEOs and producers behind the music. It traces Black empowerment in the music industry. In 1982, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” produced by Quincy Jones, became the world’s best-selling album. In recent decades, some of the world’s major superstars have been Black – think Prince, Whitney Houston, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and many others.

Courtesy of NMAAM/353 Media Group
Focused on the fight for civil rights from the 1940s to the present, this gallery also explores Black musicians' commercial successes and the African American CEOs and producers behind them.

The museum’s mission is to educate, preserve, and celebrate that heritage, says President and CEO H. Beecher Hicks III. But, he adds, the death of George Floyd last year offered a pointed reminder of America’s racial disparities. It inspired his team to work with newfound vigor because they believe in the museum’s message – one that has special resonance, he says, following the recent insurrection at the Capitol.  

“We are able to proudly say that African Americans are at the center of American culture without turning anyone away, without condemning anyone, but instead welcoming everyone and saying, ‘This is American music and all of us have a seat at the table,’” says Mr. Hicks. “As we prepare to open on Martin Luther King Day, we have to learn to live together as brothers rather than perish together as fools, as MLK would say. And we don’t have to be angry at one another to celebrate one another. We can celebrate together.” 

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How young Africans find liberation

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When Africans began to shake off colonial rule six decades ago, new leaders used their roles in the liberation to justify their hold on power. Now a new generation of Africans has flipped the script. They want liberation from leaders who frequently overstay their welcome.

The latest example is Uganda, where a musician mounted a challenge to President Yoweri Museveni – who has ruled for 35 years – in a tightly controlled election on Thursday. This challenger’s popularity is based on his understanding of what motivates young Africans – a desire for equality and truthfulness.

“I know so many freedom fighters have been through the doors of jail, but again, they walked out free, and I know that truth wins always,” said Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who is widely known as Bobi Wine. And in a message to the president, he said, “I want you to know that this is not a war. We don’t hate you.”

Such words help young Africans liberate themselves first before challenging the traditional “big men” who cling to power. Mr. Wine may not officially win the election. But he’s won it in many other ways.

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How young Africans find liberation

When Africans began to shake off colonial rule six decades ago and formed independent states, new leaders used their roles in the liberation to justify their hold on power. Now a new generation of Africans has flipped the script. They want liberation from leaders who frequently overstay their welcome.

The latest example is Uganda, where a musician from the ghettos of Kampala was able to mount a challenge to President Yoweri Museveni – who has ruled for 35 years – in a tightly controlled election on Thursday. This challenger’s popularity is based in large part on his understanding of what motivates young Africans struggling for genuine democracy – a desire for equality and truthfulness.

“I know so many freedom fighters have been through the doors of jail, but again, they walked out free, and I know that truth wins always,” said Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who is widely known as Bobi Wine, in an interview with OkayAfrica.

He was not referring to the giants of Africa’s liberation struggles like Nelson Mandela, but the Ugandan poets and opposition leaders who – like himself – have been jailed and tortured for challenging Mr. Museveni.

Fair elections are still rare in Africa even two decades after its leaders adopted a set of principles for democracy. Despite the slow progress, sitting presidents in Liberia, South Africa, Senegal, and Gambia have given up power peacefully. In 2017 Kenya’s Supreme Court forced a new presidential election after the first vote was marred by violence. Last year a court in Malawi annulled a fraudulent election.

Those developments show democratic norms are taking root. But they remain the exception. That may explain why public support for democracy remains tentative. A survey by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation in 14 countries last year found that while African youth are optimistic about the future, they are divided when asked to choose between stable government and democracy. According to a poll by Afrobarometer, only 14% of Africans said they trusted opposition parties “a lot,” while 34% expressed “no trust at all.”

As a member of parliament, Mr. Wine has challenged the ruling party on a number of fronts, such as Mr. Museveni’s effort to change the constitution to enable him to seek a sixth term. For this he was arrested. Upon his release, he wrote a new song with these words: “What was the purpose of the liberation / When we can’t have a peaceful transition?”

In November, security forces shot 54 people protesting his detention. Before the election, he was banned from campaigning and performing. His driver was killed. Despite these setbacks, his idealism keeps inspiring young Ugandans.

“Do not fear, because fear is the only barrier between us and the country we want to live in,” he told them in a Deutsche Welle documentary. And in a message to the president, he said, “I want you to know that this is not a war. We don’t hate you.”

Such words help young Africans liberate themselves first before challenging the traditional “big men” who cling to power. Mr. Wine may not officially win Thursday’s election. Vote rigging remains the norm. But he’s won it in many other ways.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Overcoming racism

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States reminds us that we each have a role in healing every last vestige of racial inequality, and starting from a spiritual standpoint empowers each of us to do our part.

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1. Overcoming racism

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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While there have been notable signs of progress over the years, racism remains an issue across the globe. We’ve compiled some pieces from The Christian Science Publishing Society’s archives that highlight the value of prayer in overcoming racism. Within each one you’ll find ideas to inspire your own prayers and actions to further brotherly love, equality, and justice.

In a podcast called “The path to discovering our divine rights,” a woman talks about how she worked for change in the 1960s U.S. civil rights movement, and how she sees the First Commandment as a healing force that can help bring more uniform justice into the world today.

The author of “Can racism be healed?” shares how we can all play a part in healing racism by meeting every temptation to feel inferior or superior to someone else with the powerful recognition of everyone’s identity as a child of God.

The author of “Inherently worthy” explores how realizing that everyone has innate value as God’s child empowers us to fearlessly love others in a way that can turn a menacing situation around, and recounts an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan in which her grandmother experienced this firsthand.

In “An interview: on racial prejudice,” which was published during the civil rights era in the U.S., a Black businessman and Christian Scientist shares ideas on overcoming racism.

In “How can Christian Science help me address racism as a non-Black person?” the author considers how prayer can help us become more aware of ways we might inadvertently be participating in oppressive behavior, and empower us to move toward redemption and change.

Reaching beyond resistance” explores how a spiritual starting point opens the door for inward change that leads to outward progress in civil rights and other areas.

Viewfinder

Inauguration prep, and other photos of the week

Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Photojournalists strive to capture moments that tell a full story, bringing news from the remotest corners of the globe in an instant. Through them we learn more about the world, and ourselves. Here is a roundup of photos from this week that Monitor photo editors found the most compelling.
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Thanks for joining us today. Keep an eye out Monday for a special holiday edition in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The regular Daily will be back on Tuesday with a story featuring advice from 10 prominent thinkers for Joe Biden on his inauguration as 46th president of the United States.

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