Where did the truth go?

Balance of Power
Bloomberg

The rhetoric that's widening the U.S. political divide is having real-life consequences.

After federal authorities charged members of a white supremacist militia yesterday over attempting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, she accused President Donald Trump of creating an environment that encourages such radical criminal behavior — a charge he denies.

Trump has called Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, a "monster," while Biden labeled the president a "racist" during their first debate. Neither comment caused the sort of outrage it would have just a few years ago.

As social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter shift eyeballs away from traditional sources of news and information, there are fewer agreed upon facts.

People huddle in their philosophical bunkers where all sorts of unfounded conspiracy theories — such as QAnon's assertion that Trump is fighting a cabal of high-profile child molesters — flourish.

It's not just the U.S. From the U.K. to Brazil, political discourse is becoming ever more violent in tone.

Social media has become a key propaganda tool in the current conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh — even featuring Twitter posts by Hollywood reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who's of Armenian extraction.

As Marc Champion reports, the competing narratives have created a poisonous environment where there's no middle ground. It's playing out almost everywhere, from the disputes over how governments handle the coronavirus crisis, to the social media feeds of key Chinese state media editors like Hu Xijin and its ambassadors overseas to push Beijing's agenda.

The result of this new age of information extremism? The truth is getting lost.

Karl Maier 

Opposing demonstrators clash during protests outside of the Louisville Court House in Kentucky on Sept. 5.

Photographer: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg

Click here for this week's most compelling political images. Tell us how we're doing or what we're missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.

Global Headlines

A different race? | The enduring lesson of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign was this: Don't count Trump out. Still, four years later, the president's path to re-election is narrowing as Biden's opinion poll lead grows and voters sour on the president's handling of the pandemic. Trump now trails Biden by an average of 9.7 percentage points nationally, and by about 5 to 7 points in battleground states.

Campaign 2020

There are 25 days until the election. Here's the latest on the race for control of the White House and Congress.

Trump's hospitalization for Covid-19 has led to a sharp, if temporary, drop in negative campaign ads. And with hearings on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination set to begin Monday, Laura Litvan reports that Democrats plan to highlight how her confirmation could affect the fate of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.

Other developments

Sign up to receive daily election updates as a direct mobile notification on Twitter. Simply click on this link and like the tweet.

Going slow | The coronavirus is forcing governments to reassess economic models, the provision of health-care and even the nature of city centers. It's also exposing vulnerabilities such as painfully slow Internet connections across much of Europe. In the U.K., where cases are surging, the government is running up against the limits of public tolerance, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing dissent over plans to impose more restrictions, Alex Morales and Emily Ashton report.

Filling a void | China is joining a World Health Organization-backed effort to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations. The decision to participate in a program spurned by the Trump administration could help the country's image following widespread criticism over how it handled the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan.

Seeking control | Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been open about his desire to oust the foreign owners from Budapest Airport, one of the world's fastest-growing mid-size hubs. Now that the pandemic has curbed airport valuations, his allies including partially state-owned refiner Mol, have submitted an unsolicited offer, sources say.

Tightening control | Turkey is threatening Facebook with escalating fines and moves to slow the use of the platform if the company opts to flout a new law that could be used to stifle dissent. As Firat Kozok reports, the rules are designed to tighten control over social media by forcing companies to name a representative in Turkey and store some data from users on local servers.

What to Watch

  • The White House is signaling it is again leaning toward a large-scale stimulus bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back on the idea of individual measures for parts of the economy hit by the Covid-19 crisis.
  • Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov says he's prepared to resign in a bid to curtail the chaos stemming from a disputed parliamentary election on Sunday.
  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the UN World Food Programme the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize "for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict."

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Name the governor of South Korea's most populous province who has risen to the top of preference polls to take over as president in 2022. Send your answer to balancepower@bloomberg.net.

And finally ... Against all odds, the Mumbai slum of Dharavi — thought to be the most densely packed human settlement on Earth — has largely contained the coronavirus, in stark contrast to the disaster unfolding in the rest of India. Thanks to an aggressive response by local officials and the participation of residents, it's gone from an out-of-control outbreak to a late-September average of 1.3 cases per day for every 100,000 residents. But now its people need to survive an economic catastrophe, Ari Altstedter and Dhwani Pandya report.

Health workers check the body temperature of a fisherwoman in Dharavi on Aug. 24

Photographer: Indranil IMukherjee/AFP via Getty Images

 

 

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