Joe Biden needs 'reality czar,' 'truth commission' to combat domestic extremists, experts tell NYT

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Academics and technology experts want President Biden to appoint a “reality czar” and a “truth commission” to mitigate the threat of domestic extremists and the spread of conspiracy theories.

A piece by The New York Times titled “How the Biden Administration Can Help Solve Our Reality Crisis” includes experts from Harvard University, Stanford, the University of Maryland, and other organizations with their take on how best to handle “hoaxes, lies and collective delusions.”

Technology columnist Kevin Roose’s piece specifically focuses on QAnon group chats, claims of widespread election fraud leading to Mr. Biden‘s election, and news disseminated from staunchly conservative media outlets.

“Several experts I spoke with recommended that the Biden administration put together a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism, which would be led by something like a ‘reality czar,’” Mr. Roose wrote Tuesday. “It sounds a little dystopian, I’ll grant. But let’s hear them out.”

Renée DiResta, a disinformation researcher at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, for example, noted that a pool of radicalized people might subscribe to conspiracy theories that implicate various federal agencies.

“If each of them [addresses conspiracies] distinctly and independently, you run the risk of missing connections, both in terms of the content and in terms of the tactics that are used to execute on the campaigns,” she told the newspaper.

Similarly, Joan Donovan, the research director of Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, supported the creation of a “truth commission” in the wake of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. 

“There must be accountability for these actions,” the researcher said. “My fear is that we will get distracted as a society and focus too much on giving voice to the fringe groups that came out in droves for Trump.”

Those interviewed for the piece were also in agreement that addressing perennial issues like the economy and health care would also go a long way in terms of curbing extremism.

“In other words,” Mr. Roose wrote, “If President Biden wants to bring extremists and conspiracy theorists back to reality, he can start by making that reality worth coming back to.”

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