MWEG: Grassroots "Addressing
Misinformation" and "Voter
David Stewart, Jr.
21 October 2020
MWEG's efforts to "address misinformation on
social media" were evaluated from a
widely-shared public social media post of the group's founder regarding the
upcoming November 2020 election. This post was reviewed for standards of
factual accuracy and nonpartisanship.
"Addressing Misinformation on Social Media:" Of eleven thematic replies, one
made no factual or political claims and could not be evaluated. Ten (10)
remaining replies could be evaluated. Two replies were rated as mostly false,
three were rated as false, and one was rated as "blatant
falsehood." In total, six of ten (60%) contained narratives rated as mostly
or entirely false. Two additional statements represented partisan claims as
fact. Five replies (50%) were rated as distracting or misleading, all biased in
favor of the political left. Valid or partially valid concerns were wrongly
dismissed on five items. In aggregate, the piece attempting to "address
misinformation on social media" was both less accurate and more
partisan than the post it attempted to "correct."
Mormon Women for Ethical Government notes
that it conducts "voter
education" activities. It also claims to train its members
regarding how to "address
misinformation on social media." The group's "Principles of
Nonpartisanship" pledges that "MWEG will not endorse candidates
or party platforms, nor will it privilege one party over another" in its
While these sound like praiseworthy goals,
ethical behavior is not established by virtuous-sounding claims but by their
implementation. It is, therefore, appropriate to
evaluate MWEG's take on "voter education" and "addressing
Grassroots activism refers to
community-based activities bringing individuals together for a common cause,
whether on the basis of geographic locale, bonds such as religious faith,
belief, or other factors, to engage in collective action towards desired goals.
Informal interactions and statements are at least as important, and arguably
more important, to grassroots activism than formal ones. Much of the action
occurs at the level of interpersonal contact and social messaging that is not
delineated by group boundaries. Grassroots activists use social messaging to
seamlessly influence outsiders, while affiliates act as amplifiers and
While specific "grassroots" messages are not
explicitly endorsed by the parent organization, they can provide essential
insights into the atmosphere, attitudes, and worldviews of a group, at times
illuminating key insights more clearly than crafted official statements. MWEG
was organized through the efforts of like-minded individuals on social media.
Such efforts have only grown. Evaluation of the nature of content promulgated
through expansive social networks is relevant and necessary to understand the
The essay examined below is NOT AN OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF
MWEG. This is the case for all such social media activism, which nonetheless
constitutes an integral aspect of MWEG's mission.
As with the full
review of MWEG,
statements here are not intended as an endorsement of one political candidate.
I do not endorse either candidate and have serious concerns about both Donald
Trump and Joe Biden.
The composition, dated September 5, 2020, is a prominent part of the
public pre-election discourse in the online LDS community, having been shared
some 338 times at the time of this writing. Although the number who viewed it
is not precisely known, it is likely in the tens of thousands. Its author is a
public figure. The authorship is well-known, having been seen by thousands.
Many in the LDS community saw this posting on multiple feeds, and it generated
considerable discussion both online and offline. The post is a persuasive
advocacy piece ostensibly intended for wide distribution to influence
third-party audiences. The post itself does not mention any private
individuals. It is not part of or in response to private dialogue but was
ostensibly intended as public discourse. It was written in response to another
public advocacy piece by an unknown author. It is publicly
accessible, although I will not post the link here to protect the privacy of
third-party promoters and commentators. As an influential item of public
discourse on key national matters, its evaluation is within the scope of public
interest and does not breach "netiquette" or infringe privacy.
While the composition is not officially endorsed by MWEG, numerous links tie it to the
group. Many of the sharers and promoters are members and affiliates of MWEG.
The poster is MWEG's founder, Sharlee Mullins Glenn.
The post appears to be promoted as a model of some of MWEG's ostensible values, including civil
discourse, addressing "misinformation," and grassroots "voter education." The theme of the November 2020
presidential election could not be more relevant to MWEG's activism, as it
brings the group full circle. MWEG was organized the week of Donald Trump's
inauguration in January 2017 as an anti-Trump activist group.
The narratives and
worldviews promoted in the piece correspond closely to those we have seen in
MWEG's official statements. The social media piece at times takes a
more direct approach, which is expected due to the sanitization and softening that can occur
with committee review. This should
not obscure that the underlying narratives, worldview, and agenda are
essentially the same. Any departure from what we have already
seen in MWEG's official statements is a matter of form and not
The piece below is, in my
observation, substantially representative of the broader social media activism
of this genre promoted among MWEG's members.
Over the past three years, I have noted dozens of similar posts from a variety
of MWEG authors and promoters which have appeared in my news feeds. While posts
of other MWEG affiliates varied based on specific current events and issues,
the themes closely mirrored those of in the piece below, including certain
narratives, tactics, and conclusions that are repeated in piece after piece.
Although numerous such postings of various authors are publicly accessible by
anyone, I know only of the only ones which have appeared in my news feed
without active search. Nonetheless, I have refrained from comparison and
analysis of other narratives promulgated by MWEG affiliates out of
consideration for privacy. As a
result, I will make an assertion which I will not rigorously document here but
am far from alone in being able to attest. Analysis of
a cross-section of social media advocacy by MWEG affiliates offers clear
evidence that the piece below is substantially representative of the group's social
Therefore, the piece is
appropriate both as an object of evaluation and as a prominent
example of MWEG's grassroots social media activism. One of MWEG's official statements
"It is incumbent upon us to rise above the polarizing pull of
partisanship…Each U.S. citizen also needs access to the unbiased information
required to make reasoned civic choices. We must each commit to be a
responsible consumer of news, privileging well-researched and reputable
reporting over commentary or tweets from partisan sources."
It is appropriate to examine Glenn's post here to see
how it measures up to these standards of nonpartisanship, factual accuracy, and
factual integrity. I had not previously seen the original post that Glenn is
commenting on and do not know its origins.
Misinformation" on Social Media
GLENN: I've seen this post (below) copied
and pasted on many people's profiles here on Facebook. I'd like to provide a
reasoned point-by-point response. The copied and pasted post that many people
"To answer all of those of you who
would say "I can't believe you would vote for Trump." Well folks
listen up! I'm not just voting for him. I'm voting for the second Amendment.
I'm voting for the next supreme court justice. I'm voting for the electoral
college, and the Republic we live in. I'm voting for the Police and law and
order. I'm voting for the military, and the veterans who fought for and died
for this Country. I'm voting for the Flag that is always missing from the
Democratic background. I'm voting for the right to speak my opinion and not be
censored. I'm voting for secure borders. I'm voting for the
right to praise my God without fear. I'm voting for every unborn soul the
Democrats want to murder. I'm voting for freedom and the American
Dream. I'm voting for good and against evil. I'm not just voting for one
person, I'm voting for the future of my Country! What are you voting for?"
GLENN: My response (and let me preface
this by saying that I am not a Democrat. I am a moderate with classical
conservative leanings who is currently unaffiliated.):
GLENN: The second amendment is an
important part of the Constitution, but it's but one small part. And the truth
is that none of the candidates for president want to take away everyone's guns.
None of them. And certainly not Biden. Putting in place some common sense
regulations that will save innocent lives and which the vast majority of
Americans agree are needed in no way violates the second amendment. The second
amendment is safe no matter who wins in November.
GLENN: What's much more concerning to me
is the utter disregard for other critical parts of the Constitution exhibited
by our current president. Important things like the separation of powers, the
emoluments clause, the right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of the press
have all been flouted by President Trump.
STEWART: Common-sense firearms regulations
represent an important public health and safety issue and are widely supported by
Americans across the political spectrum. These are
generally considered to include measures such as prohibitions on felons,
psychiatrically ill, and threats identified by "red flag laws" from owning
firearms; bans on automatic and semiautomatic assault weapons, converter
devices, and large-capacity magazines; prohibitions from procuring or loaning
firearms to non-eligible persons; and safety measures, including requiring
parents to secure firearms from access by children.
Biden's gun control proposal offers only limited common-sense reforms
while including questionable items that have been cited as disadvantaging the
poor and minorities. WaPo contributor Kim Kelly wrote that "Biden's gun
control plan is terrible for working-class firearm owners. It will put them at risk
while doing little to curb gun violence." Without
space for detailed analysis here, these concerns appear to be overblown,
although the core issues driving gun violence remain unaddressed.
The subsequent laundry list represents
partisan allegations and not objective facts. Allegations of emolument clause
violations have been dismissed by the
court. Absent is any comparative context or critique of the conduct of
leftists, such as the recent Senate report, which found that Biden family members "were involved in a vast financial
network that connected them to foreign nationals and foreign governments across
the globe" and received millions in wire transfers from Russia. In murky business dealings,
family members received assets worth millions from China (according to some
sources, up to $1.5 billion or more - perhaps an all-time record for any U.S. political figure)
for activities that "may have imperiled
American national security." Mormon historian John Hajicek explained in a
post of September 25, 2020:
are missing the point about Hunter Biden, and about the Clinton Foundation. It
isn't only that the Biden and Clinton families got rich while Joe and Hillary
were in office during the last administration. Foreign enemies didn't squander
that money, charitably or foolishly. It is that the families traded something
for that money. The Clinton and Biden families sold influence, such that Joe
and Hillary gave away priceless American security and/or inestimable American
prosperity in exchange for that money. The money influenced U.S. foreign policy
and strategy. It constitutes bribery, for a foreign enemy to pay off the son of
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, or to pay the husband and foundation of U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In comparison, it is like a magician's
misdirection to point at a foreign ally merely sleeping in a Trump hotel to
flatter Trump's ego, and call Trump corrupt. The Bidens and Clintons are caught
in undeniable bribery scandals. Yet our publishers and broadcasters are
pretending Bill and Hunter were handed the money for their good looks and
charm, while they accompanied Joe and Hillary who were overseas negotiating
Some other items will be addressed
Rating: 1. Partly true. Paragraph 2 -
Partisan allegations presented as fact.
GLENN: I hope we're all concerned about
who our next supreme court justice will be. Hopefully it will be a justice who
is not a political pawn. We need justices who are impartial and nonpartisan and
we need a good balance of those who are by nature a little more progressive and
those who are a little more conservative in their approaches.
STEWART: MWEG is indeed concerned over who
the next Supreme Court justice will be and wants the seat to
be filled by a Democrat. This notwithstanding the lack of
precedent and credible ethical predication for objection. Supreme Court
vacancies in an election year have almost always been filled when the same
party controls both the White House and the Senate, whereas when different
parties controlled the White House and Senate, an election-year
vacancy was last filled in the 1880s. No one imagines that Democrats would
leave the seat unfilled if they controlled both the Presidency and the Senate.
threats by leftist senators to "pack the Supreme Court" would seem to be a
fundamental ethical issue that challenges the separation of powers, the U.S. system of checks
and balances, and longstanding precedent. Kamala Harris has long stated
that she is "open" to adding additional
seats to pack the Supreme Court to
undermine conservatives. But MWEG has made no mention of
these matters, as the group's critiques have been directed almost
exclusively against conservatives.
No rating. No factual claims were made.
GLENN: I'm not sure the electoral college
is really on the line in this election. Changing the way a president is elected
would take an amendment to the Constitution which would require a 2/3
affirmative vote in the House, 2/3 in the Senate, and 3/4 of the states. It is
interesting to note, though, that 65% of Americans across the board think the
president should be determined by popular vote (see 2019 Atlantic/PRRI poll).
STEWART: The principle contemporary
movement to change the electoral college mechanism has been through the
National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) and not through a
constitutional amendment. The National Popular
Vote Interstate Compact to "guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who
receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of
Columbia" has already been "enacted by 16
jurisdictions possessing 196 electoral votes" and, it is
anticipated, "will go into effect when enacted by states
possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a
President (270 of 538)." This would require states representing just 74
more electoral votes sign on. This compact, which is an attempt to change the
constitutionally-mandated process for selecting a president without a
constitutional amendment, would need only a few more state signatories to
become active. Some legal scholars
have argued that to take effect,
the NPVIC would require
congressional consent, and therefore
may be at stake in national elections. This process would also advance if promoted by a president.
Rating: Mostly false,
misleading/distraction and dismissal of valid concern. Current concerns about
altering the constitutional electoral college process hinge principally on the
NPVIC, yet an argument claiming that a change would require an unlikely constitutional
amendment is substituted as a "straw man."
GLENN: This statement concerns me a lot
because as Greg Sargent so succinctly points out:
"'Law and order' without the rule of
law is neither 'law' nor 'order.' Law and order without the rule of law is the
wielding of power and violence (both state violence and private vigilante
violence) unshackled from law-and rules-bound processes."
The truth is that as much as Trump likes
to call himself the candidate of law and order, he has shown over and over
again that he has no respect at all for the rule of law. Law and order without
rule of law = authoritarianism.
It's also highly ironic that Trump keeps
pointing to the riots and looting that are accompanying some of the protests
across the country and saying: "This is Biden's America. I will be the
president of law and order."--apparently forgetting that, well, he *is*
the president. What he is pointing to is actually Trump's America.
STEWART: This response conveys sentiments
that I recently heard in a Biden radio ad, closely echoing the same language
about Trump's America. These are partisan slogans.
The author levies partisan allegations
while ignoring growing leftist
authoritarianism and construes basic misconceptions about
the American system of government. The unprecedented
number of unanimous rebukes by the Supreme Court over extreme positions taken
by the Obama administration reflects nothing if not a breakdown of the
rule of law, yet never seem to have troubled MWEG's members. Others
have raised the alarm at V.P. nominee Kamala Harris'
authoritarianism and disregard for the
U.S. Constitution and the rule of law: likely "the first presidential
candidate in history to laugh derisively
at the idea that the Constitution limits what a president can do."
Governors and mayors, not the president,
are responsible for maintaining law and order in their states and cities, and
those in the worst-affected ones almost all declined federal assistance. Almost
all of the cities with widespread violence and looting were run by Democrats.
This bizarre self-own in the
Washington Post was widely critiqued as unintended satire. Experienced law
enforcement officials across the country have placed the blame squarely with
leftist mayors and governors who refuse to enforce the law: 1,2,3,4,5,6. These trends
began long before Donald
Trump was even a candidate.
Destructive riots and mass unrest
have repeatedly been acknowledged as leftist political
strategies. Even the far-left New York Times has acknowledged that the
so-called "mayhem" that was not "the spontaneous eruption of anger at racial
injustice," but was "strategically
planned, facilitated and advertised on social media." A Rutgers
research report documents "systematic, online
mobilization of violence that was planned, coordinated (in real-time) and
celebrated by explicitly violent anarcho-socialist networks that rode on the coattails of peaceful protest." Even liberal commentator Bill Maher acknowledged that Joe Biden
will have to wear looting "on his back into
the election" because it is being
done by the left.
Leftist groups have promised more
protests and unrest before the November 2020 election as calculated
political theater. Recently, Democratic V.P. nominee Kamala Harris called for
continuous political unrest, albeit ostensibly peaceful, as part of
the leftist strategy. It would be naïve to think that such incitement calling
vast throngs into the streets, including not only peaceful protesters but
anarchists and criminals, will not result in destruction and loss of life.
An official statement of MWEG notes: "Words spoken at rallies and over podiums and
airwaves should be both
chosen and judged based on how they affect those most susceptible to violent
tendencies." It is not difficult to see how hate speech and false, incendiary claims
by leftists (#23, above) are likely to incite violence. This potential for
violence and wanton destruction is vastly amplified when mobs are enabled and
emboldened by Democratic mayors refusing to enforce the law, protect their own
citizens, and hold criminals accountable.
On the day President Donald Trump was
inaugurated, the political secretary of the Marxist group Freedom Road
Socialist Organization "Steff Yorek declared to a crowd of Washington
protesters: 'We need to stay in the streets the entire four years opposing
Trump and making the country
ungovernable.'" is disingenuous to blame Trump for the conduct of
his opponents. But it is not surprising that MWEG would do so, seeing that it
was organized during this same week of Trump's inauguration –
and by all indications of the group's subsequent conduct, not as a nonpartisan
ethics group, but as part of the Obama resistance.
Rating: False/misleading. Partisan
allegations are represented as fact. Misstatement of the American system of
government regarding who is responsible for maintaining safety and order in
cities. Ignores real differences in stances towards the police and
maintaining safety in American cities between political candidates.
GLENN: Me too. Which is why I cannot vote
for Trump. President Trump knew about and ignored the fact that Russia was
offering bounties to Taliban militants to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Trump has treated Gold Star families with deep disdain and repeatedly attacked
the record and integrity of war hero, Senator John McCain. And the most recent
allegations regarding his calloused comments about our brave soldiers killed in
battle should be deeply concerning to every American.
STEWART: Here, we have one allegation
which allegedly was not deemed credible by intelligence officials and on which the president was
allegedly not briefed (it has also been claimed that Democrats
would also have had access to the intelligence). Veterans have found
the politicization of this dubious allegation offensive. Another claim is
based on an anonymous/unidentified source first reported by the same
publication that soon thereafter called for the
suspension of the Nobel Peace Prize. This claim is now widely considered
debunked and has
been discredited even by Trump critic John Bolton, with no evidence
it ever happened.
Joe Biden, as Obama's Vice President in
2016, insulted U.S. troops at Al-Dharfra Air Base in the
United Arab Emirates, telling them "clap for that, you
stupid bastards." Biden subsequently appears to call the troops "a dull bunch" and states that "they must be slow." Unlike the unsubstantiated and largely
discredited allegation against Trump, Biden's words are
recorded on video. The authenticity has been confirmed by the Biden campaign.
Trump's claim that the mother of a Gold Star
family that lost a son in Iraq was not allowed to
speak while her husband criticized him at the 2016 Democratic National
Convention and a bizarre
controversy with Gold Star families in 2017 were inappropriate and
unpresidential. Yet his Democratic opponents are never held accountable for numerous
bizarre and inappropriate incidents, such as Joe Biden's racist and
controlling statements towards Blacks, history of racist
policies, abusive statements
towards a female supporter, and profane and abusive
attack on a factory worker. Joe Biden's handlers have
tried to minimize unscripted interactions with voters because of Biden's
propensity for bizarre controversies. Joe Biden's performance has
been noted by the founder of MSNBC to be "very
unsatisfying" even in “softball interviews.” Many Democratic
strategists have seen coronavirus restrictions keeping Joe Biden
in his basement as a blessing. This strategy has worked well because of Trump’s
propensity to self-destruct.
Rating: False. Partisan narratives are
uncritically presented as fact while contrary data is ignored. Double standard.
Only the Republican president is attacked, primarily on the basis of dubious
partisan allegations, while Democrats are given a free pass for confirmed
abusive and inappropriate conduct.
GLENN: A simple fact check and/or google
search of images will show that this statement is blatantly false. The
Democrats display the flag at their events with the same regularity that
STEWART: The flag is not "always
missing from the Democratic background," but neither do "Democrats
display the flag at their events with the same regularity that Republicans do."
For example, there were no physical flags
on the stage on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
Some have shared the perception that there
appear to be far fewer flags waving in the audience at many Democratic events
than Republican ones. Although a "flag count" hardly seems to be a
substantive issue, the Pew Research Center found in 2014 that self-reported pride
in being an American was much more widespread among
conservatives (72-81%) than among solid liberals (40%). The perception of a
"patriotism gap" is not unfounded.
Rating: Mostly false. There is no evidence
that “Democrats display the flag at their events with the same regularity that
Republicans do,” and evidence of a “patriotism gap” is ignored.
GLENN: Yes, freedom of speech is a vital
part of our democracy. Which, again, is why I could never vote for Trump. He
has repeatedly tried to suppress the voices of those who disagree with him,
including at his own rallies. Also, hate speech is not protected by the
STEWART: Real concerns about freedom of
speech are dismissed with a hand-waving pivot to a partisan attack on Trump.
This is particularly disappointing as freedom of speech has been declining
worldwide for years, and not in consequence
of the 2016 U.S. election. Most Americans
think that social media sites censor political viewpoints.
Increasingly, free speech has
come under attack from the political left. There are
numerous documented cases of leftist mayors and governors discriminating
against unfavored speech, including rights to assembly, worship, and protest by
conservatives and Christians, while giving a free
hand to leftists. Contemporary college students are “both
more left-wing and more openly hostile
to free speech than earlier generations of collegians.” This creates an “atmosphere of
harassment and intimidation," which "undermines the
tradition of free inquiry that used to be the hallmark of higher education.”
Even centrists have been censored and
"canceled." Millions of Americans have experienced
firsthand the discrepancy summarized by Senator Tom Cotton:
"It cannot be the case that thousands of Americans can exercise their
First Amendment right on the street, while dozens of Americans can't exercise
their First Amendment rights in churches...it cannot be the case that you can
be arrested for opening a business but not for looting one." Ironically,
Senator Cotton was censored by the New York Times for his unfavored views, even
though polls showed that more than half of Americans supported his thesis,
whereas MWEG’s anti-Trump editorial was printed.
Democratic candidate Kamala Harris has
promised to pursue online censorship of unfavored speech. Those who follow
human rights are well aware that such legislation has been abused elsewhere as
a pretext to silence
political opponents while failing to curb hate crimes.
Trump should be held accountable
for his mixed record, which has mostly been supportive of
peaceful protestors but has also included some troubling incidents. The author
ignores increasing violence and
incitement against Trump supporters and fails to call out high-profile
Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who have encouraged mobs by stating that “you cannot be
civil” towards Republicans.
Rating: Distraction/Misleading. Partisan
narrative and allegations represented as fact; failure to hold leftists
"I’m voting for secure borders."
GLENN: Again, every single viable
candidate from both major parties during this election cycle wanted secure borders.
Does anyone want insecure borders? Of course not. This statement is a prime
example of a straw man argument--one of the most common logical fallacies
employed in political discussions.
STEWART: The official 2020 Democratic
Party platform makes no mention of border security in its discussion of
immigration (pp. 61-64), except in the negative to state opposition to the border
wall (p. 61). Media sources have noted that Joe Biden “doesn’t even
distinguish” between legal and illegal immigration (nor does MWEG – see #9
above) and has proposed widely opening American borders to bring in an
additional two million immigrants a year. Kamala Harris has
advocated decriminalization of illegal entry into the U.S. and
non-enforcement of border security. Harris compared
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers to the KKK. She supports
sanctuary cities and states which ignore federal immigration law and prohibit
cooperation of local law enforcement with federal immigration officials. Many
leftist politicians do not want secure borders. The reasons are not hard to
MWEG is obviously aware of major
differences in border security platforms among presidential candidates. The
group objected vociferously in an official MWEG
letter to former presidential candidate and then-senatorial candidate Mitt
Romney over his stated “hawkish” immigration stance, including border
Rating: Blatant falsehoods with no merit.
Additional citation is made for “gaslighting” as MWEG and its leaders are
obviously aware that the claim is false, based on the group’s own official
"I’m voting for the right to praise my
God without fear."
GLENN: Again, straw man. Is anyone
planning to take away anyone's right to praise their God without fear? No.
Although Trump came as close as any U.S. president ever has by threatening to
shut down mosques. Freedom of religion must extend to all religions.
STEWART: It is unfortunate that these
important concerns are dismissed with hand-waving. Religious freedom
has been declining worldwide, and not because of Donald Trump.
After terrorist attacks in Paris
perpetrated by Islamic terrorists killed 130 and wounded 494, France's interior
minister stated they would pursue the "dissolution of
mosques where hate is preached." More recently, leftist French
president Emmanuel Macron has noted ongoing difficulties with Islamic radicals
and vowed a crackdown on
Islamic separatism. Candidate (not President) Trump's
comments were similarly directed only as a
last resort towards mosques which were inciting hate and violence (where "bad
things are happening"), noting that he would "hate to do it..."
and would close specific sites down only if there is "no choice." He
also noted the history of surveillance and profiling of radical Islamists by
prior administrations. The author has previously acknowledged that hate speech
is not protected. This is the case even if hateful rhetoric occurs within a
church or mosque.
The author also fails to mention Trump's designation of
"churches, synagogues and mosques" as "essential services,"
calling for them to re-open largely over restrictions implemented by
Democratic governors. The claim that Trump tried to deny Muslims' rights of
worship is a leftist canard.
The Pew Research Center has reported that
a majority of U.S. adults who identify themselves as
Democrats or who lean Democrat feel that
religion’s impact on public life does more harm than good. Attacks on churches
have increased markedly: "houses of worship
and religious statues are coming under attack in the protest mayhem" following calls from the far
left. The BLM movement has noted that it is not attempting to
dismantle Christianity and that many Christians are part of the
coalition. Nonetheless, increasing attacks on Christianity from an “ascendant cultural
secularism” are real.
Rating: Mostly false and highly partisan.
The respondent dismisses valid concerns about trends of declining religious
freedom and increasing violence against Christianity with hand-waving. The
charges against Donald Trump are also partisan and involve gross
"I’m voting for every unborn soul the
Democrats want to murder."
GLENN: It's difficult to even know how to
respond rationally to such an irrational statement. I am not a Democrat, but I
know many, and I don't know a single Democrat who wants to murder unborn souls.
What a terribly unhelpful way to approach the very complex and nuanced topic of
I get how problematic the issue of
abortion is. It's hugely problematic for me too. I am staunchly pro-life. But
it's a complicated issue (as my own church's position on abortion acknowledges
(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)) and sensationalist, inflammatory,
and reductive statements like the one above should offend the intelligence of
every single one of us.
STEWART: The response critiques the
initial poster’s poor and exaggerated phrasing without addressing the
underlying concern. Democratic candidate Kamala Harris has
co-sponsored many Planned Parenthood bills and has a 100% pro-abortion rating
from the abortion advocacy group NARAL (0% pro-life). Kamala Harris
has also voted against providing
medical care for abortion survivors. When Harris was Attorney General of
California, David Daleiden produced a video documenting that Planned Parenthood
executives appeared to be selling fetal parts. Instead of investigating these
abuses, Harris's response was to sue Daleiden for exposing
The reply obfuscates the LDS Church’s
stance on abortion as “complicated,” when the Church’s position is
straightforward. Official LDS statements denounce elective
abortion with limited exceptions for “exceptional circumstances,” such as
“the result of incest or rape,” when “the life or health of the mother is
judged by competent medical authority to be in serious jeopardy,” or “when the
fetus is known by competent medical authority to have severe defects that will
not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.” The statement further notes that
“even these circumstances do not automatically justify an abortion” and
recommends prayerful consideration in consultation with ecclesiastical leaders.
Abortion is clearly not represented as an acceptable form of routine birth
That said, I believe that there is a
difference between one’s personal moral beliefs and imposing them on others
through the law and acknowledge that women, speaking generally, are far better
equipped than men to understand and make decisions regarding the difficult and
deeply personal issues of abortion. I do not believe that male legislators and
judges should make decisions regarding what women can and cannot do on the
matter, beyond a preference to save the baby if viable to live independently
outside of the womb and the mother’s health is not excessively jeopardized
thereby, and perhaps limited steps to ensure that the alternatives have been
discussed and considered consistent with the requirements of procedural
Centrists and some conservatives have made
pragmatic acknowledgment that elective abortion is here to stay, but have
opposed the extension of abortion laws to killing infants who
can survive outside of the womb, or have supported provisions to render
medical care to infants who survive abortion procedures. Countless loving
families would be happy to care for them.
Rating: Distraction. Dodges the underlying
ethical issues, and does not address valid concerns regarding potential
expansion of abortion law.
"I’m voting for freedom and the
American Dream. I’m voting for good and against
GLENN: Me too. Which is why I cannot under any circumstances vote for someone like
Donald Trump, the very antithesis of our Savior and of everything that He
STEWART: This statement directly
contravenes the MWEG Pledge Not to
Leverage or Weaponize Faith for Political Gain, which states: "We hereby pledge to
never...morally condemn individuals for their personal political expressions or
imply that any candidate or party has doctrinal, Church, or divine
support." This pledge, which had been published only three weeks earlier,
applies to the personal conduct of signatory individuals as well as to the
Here, Trump is painted as an anti-Christ, "the very
antithesis of our Savior." Religious faith is evoked to support political partisanship, which
is zealously proclaimed as a new gospel. There is no possibility for balance or
fairness, no nuance in this Manichaean world in which Trump is the incarnate
Satan, and Biden is the implied savior figure.
The proximate cause of the MWEG Pledge Not
to Leverage or Weaponize Faith (#38) appears to have been improper claims and
use of temple imagery on the website of Latter-day Saints for Trump:
inappropriate behavior which ought to be condemned. It is curious that many of
the promoters of the above composition were MWEG affiliates who less than a
month before had been indignant with such behavior from conservatives, but it
appears that no one raised any concern about this
weaponization of faith favoring Democrats. Are the problems with such
statements really so difficult to see? What happened to ostensibly inviolable
ethical boundaries? Behavior that
evokes outrage when committed by political enemies is deemed responsible and
even exemplary in the service of favored causes. Is this the behavior of
credible, nonpartisan arbiters of ethics?
Rating: Extreme partisanship, claim of
religious mandate for political partisanship
Of eleven thematic replies, one (#2) made
no factual or political claims and could not be evaluated. Ten (10) remaining
replies could be evaluated.
Factual Accuracy: Two replies (#6,9) were
rated as mostly false, three (#3,4,5) were rated as false, and one was rated as
“blatant falsehood with no merit” and was additionally cited for gaslighting
(#8). In total, six of ten (60%) contained narratives that were mostly or
Four replies (#1,4,5,7) represented
partisan allegations as fact. Two of these (#4,5) were already cited for
additional claims that are false or mostly false. When aggregated with prior
ratings on factual accuracy, eight of ten replies (#1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) contained
statements that were either false, mostly false, or represented disputed
partisan allegations as fact.
Partisanship and Bias: Five replies
(#3,4,7,9,10) were rated as distracting (#3,7,10), misleading (#3,4,7), or
involved gross misrepresentation (#9), all biased against Republicans or in
favor of Democrats. Valid or partially valid conservative concerns were wrongly
dismissed on five items (#4,7,8,9,10). One item (#11) was cited for extreme
partisanship with the claim of a religious mandate for political partisanship.
public election advocacy piece was apparently intended as a model of fair-minded
civil discourse, voter education, and correction of “misinformation” on social media. How does it rate when assessed by MWEG’s stated principles? Does it
“rise above the polarizing pull of partisanship?” Does it adhere to eloquently stated principles
about the importance of seeking “clear, objective,
verifiable facts,” “unbiased information,” and being a “responsible
consumer of news?” Does it successfully “address misinformation” and provide a
balanced, reasoned, and robust data? Is it a factual, nonpartisan, and ethics-based
resource that one can appropriately share to educate about election issues?
To the fair-minded reader, it seems
obvious that the intent of the piece is not to provide balanced, factual, and
nonpartisan voter education. It is not to provide carefully-researched data and
context to correct misinformation. It is not to advocate for principled,
ethical government. Rather, it engages in unabashed political advocacy from its
inception. The post that the social media piece critiqued lacked sophistication
and included both factual and interpretive errors: low-lying fruit to be sure.
Yet the response astonishingly failed to meaningfully improve on almost any
In the best case, one partisan position is
merely swapped for another. In others, meritorious items are replaced with
erroneous ones. Valid or partly valid concerns are dismissed with distraction
and misleading assertions. Disputed partisan claims are repeatedly presented as
fact. Political opponents are painted in the worst possible light with inflammatory
narratives. Contrary data and perspectives are withheld. Members of the favored
party are never scrutinized or held accountable.
The piece serves as political propaganda
attempting to dissuade prospective voters from the author’s
unfavored candidate and to boost a favored candidate. The initial poster is permitted no valid reason of conscience or logic to vote for his
or her favored candidate but is instead compelled to support the
respondent’s favorite as a moral
imperative. It is total partisan war; a seek-and-destroy mission
intended to undermine every stated argument for the opposing candidate, to put
all of one’s weight on the scale to tip it in the direction of the desired
outcome. This includes points that have nothing to do with the group’s
unfavored candidate and no relevance to ethics, such as the discussion about
flag count. A cotton-candy view of leftist policies is taken, repeatedly
portraying them as benign and concerns and objections as unfounded.
On most topics where the unfavored
candidate is not mentioned, a pivot is made to attack him, however unrelated or
strained the transition. The tactic recalls Cato the Censor’s habit of ending
every speech with a call for the destruction of Carthage: “Ceterum autem censeo
Carthaginem esse delendam” (“Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be
destroyed”). The impression is conveyed that only the totally naïve or the
moral reprobate could support the unfavored candidate, or fail to discern a
matter as obvious as the spiritual equivalence of one candidate to Satan and
the other, by implication, to Jesus.
For many, the Trump/Satan and implied
Biden/Jesus comparison is hardly self-evident and falls flat – not because
individuals have not heard enough partisan rhetoric, but because a more
balanced evaluation demonstrates serious concerns regarding both candidates.
There is an affirmative duty
to disclose real or perceived biases and conflicts of interest.
The leaders of bona fide ethics organizations are not permitted to engage in
overt public political advocacy at odds with the organization's stated
principles. Care is taken to observe ethical boundaries and avoid any
appearance of impropriety. It would be unethical for a researcher owning stock
in a pharmaceutical company to present research on the company's medication as
if it represented impartial, independent research. It is similarly
unethical for an organization's leaders to engage in biased partisan conduct
and then claim that the group's activist positions on these same topics are
fair, nonpartisan, and unbiased.
Public figures and prominent
organizational members are regarded as role-models for those within their
organizations, while those without are likely to judge the organization by
their conduct. Such individuals have a duty to conduct themselves circumspectly
and to represent their organization well in their personal conduct and not only
when explicitly acting in an official role. When a discrepancy arises between
claims and conduct, others almost inevitably will assimilate the conduct that
is demonstrated over abstract statements of principle.
MWEG's founder and other prominent members
have demonstrated political prejudices that would disqualify from jury service
regarding the very persons and topics MWEG critiques. In a judge, such conduct
would mandate recusal. Other prominent leaders of the group have engaged in
similar conduct. The partisanship of MWEG's leaders poses conflicts for the
group's claim of nonpartisanship
These conflicts of interest are never
acknowledged or disclosed by Mormon Women for Ethical Government, which
repeatedly insists that it is a nonpartisan group. To the contrary, efforts are
made to obfuscate and deny these biases. Whether the conduct is centrist,
nonpartisan, or ethical is determined by evaluation of the conduct itself, and not by the
group's self-interested characterization of its own activities.
The public election advocacy of MWEG's
above demonstrates a strategy that has been repeatedly implemented by
MWEG members: the claim, whether stated or implied, that there is no reason to
vote for the group's unfavored candidate, and that opposing him represents a moral imperative. Over the past three and a half years, I
have seen numerous similar pieces by various authors promulgated by MWEG
acquaintances. Each was construed as a veritable tour de force of ethics and
reason, a powerful "checkmate," demonstrating that there was
"no reason" of ethics or logic – more often explicitly stated than
not – to vote for the group's designated political enemy. There has seemed to
be almost a competition within the group to see who could most cleverly portray
designated political enemies as the world's great threat to (insert virtuous
principle here). Related narratives articulated how (insert leftist agenda
item) that was never the case in the history of our nation has now become an
imperative which virtuous and informed people cannot oppose.
Each piece brimmed with factual errors,
partisan talking points represented as fact, naked assertions, withholding of
contrary data, and logical fallacies. Yet such fare was conveyed as the work of
genius and mastery within the echo chamber of like-minded partisans who were
either unable to identify glaring errors or unconcerned thereby. When
misrepresentations and inaccuracies were called out by unrelated parties, MWEG
affiliates would often perseverate in their partisan narratives without
attempting to engage the data.
While the content varied, the messages
have conveyed much the same logic as the piece above: that those who fail to
oppose the group's unfavored candidate or to support the favored candidate have no valid moral or logical reason. Reasonable people
from across the ideological spectrum, it has been argued, are compelled to band
together to oppose MWEG's political enemies. It is the doctrine of the Only
True Church, or religious exclusivism, transmigrated to partisan politics.
Yet MWEG goes beyond that, attempting to impose a new orthodoxy. As we have
already seen from the group's official statements, MWEG's
"nonpartisanship" permits others to support any party they wish, so
long as it is the Democratic party. Those who do not tow the "party
line," much like those in Congress who did not support impeachment in
spite of concerns about a "sham" process are prone to portrayal by MWEG as "rank partisans"
(#41). They are defined a priori to behave out of misplaced loyalties or
lack of virtue, and not because they have any valid moral or logical reason for
their convictions. Facts and evidence no longer matter, nor is any role of
individual conscience allowed – at least, not if conscience points to
conclusions different from those declared acceptable by MWEG's Ministry of Truth.
Dissenters, by implication, must be evil or stupid. A fanatical level of
partisanship that does not acknowledge that others have valid and important
reasons for personal and political beliefs differing from one's own is
troubling behavior from a group ostensibly opposed to authoritarianism.
MWEG transgresses boundaries traditionally
observed even by overtly partisan organizations. Whereas the Democratic and
Republican Parties and their candidates have made their case to the American
people, the right of conscience has always been respected. If someone does not
support the platform and arguments of a traditional partisan advocate, he moves
on. He does not chase them down and attempt to deconstruct their worldview and
show that ALL of their reasons for supporting their favored candidate are
wrong. In presenting support of a political agenda as an ethical mandate with which
there is no valid moral or rational grounds for dissent, MWEG becomes both more
partisan and less
ethical than the partisans themselves.
Mormon missionaries do not set out to make
war with the religious establishments of the world, proclaiming to Catholics,
Muslims, Hindus, or Protestants that there is no valid
reason for their faith. They do not base their approaches on dismantling the
beliefs of others, nor do they imply that adherents of other faiths must be
ignorant or bereft of moral judgment. Rather, they work to show a better way.
Attempts to impose political orthodoxy
among Latter-day Saints, whether for Democrats or Republicans, have been explicitly
repudiated by the LDS Church. Like millions of others, I have friends
and acquaintances across the political spectrum, from far-left to far-right. I
would not dream of impugning the sincerity of their faith as Latter-day Saints,
their faith as Christians, their ethics, or their intelligence by claiming that
there is "no reason" for them to support the candidate of their choice
or to foist beliefs upon them as a moral imperative. It is good that there are
people on the political left and on the political right. I try to glean what is
worthy on both sides, or frequently from neither when both parties depart from
principle. I am glad to live in a nation that celebrates diversity, where
individuals are free to think, speak, and vote according to their conscience.
Matters of individual conscience are precisely that.
has been particularly troubled to witness longtime MWEG acquaintances who I
had previously held in high regard engage in one-sided public attacks,
ostensibly as voices of ethics, and then turn around and engage in overt
partisan scheming – calling, for instance, to ignore evidence of significant
malfeasance by China in order to focus attacks exclusively on Trump as part of
a political strategy. Partisan scheming
is more akin to the conduct of Pharisees than Jesus. Rather than facilitating greater civility
and thoughtful, open-minded discourse, the group has hardened partisanship.
Pseudo-religious testimonies of political figures are shared. One-sided
partisan diatribes lacking basic fairness and factual integrity are construed
as virtuous acts of moral courage. One form of bigotry is denounced while
another is embraced. A crusade against political infidels – couched in
persuasive and subtle language, but a holy war nonetheless – has been waged,
even as the group has continued to assert that it is nonpartisan and ethics-based.
Many op-eds by MWEG members have followed
the script as little more than anti-Trump screeds, attempting to
blame the Republican president for a range of ills with one-sided partisan
narratives while ignoring positive
contributions and failing to hold
leftist fellow-travelers accountable. "Anyone would be better," it
has often been implied: slogans similar to those that, in the twentieth
century, brought down corrupt imperial regimes and swept far worse
revolutionary dictatorships to power. The group's ostensibly "inviolable
principles" of civil discourse are suspended in regard to designated
political enemies, who are dehumanized, even demonized. It is always necessary
to scrutinize both sides to soberly understand alternatives. Deconstruction
alone does not build a brighter future, and it is always possible for things to get worse.
These same MWEG op-eds have cited the authors' affiliation with Mormon Women for Ethical Government to legitimize one-sided, inflammatory, and
discourteous partisan claims as ostensibly ethical and faith-based, even while
disclaiming that the opinions do not represent those of MWEG. The group has long tried to have it both ways, promoting political
narratives both through official statements and grassroots advocacy while
claiming to be nonpartisan.
I have no love for either Donald Trump or
Joe Biden and have debated with pro-Trump acquaintances to critique
misstatements and inaccuracies on multiple occasions. I do not understand the
mentality of voters that propelled either of these candidates to the national
stage. Yet fairness and basic integrity should not be partisan issues hinging
on personal political preferences, with one standard for favored candidates and
another for unfavored candidates. Breaches of fairness and integrity are
everyone's concern and should be called out and held accountable regardless of whether they boost or hamper a favored
Several MWEG respondents have written
without addressing the core issues, asserting that either (1) the piece above is
just personal opinion and has nothing to do with the organization,
or (2) have pointed to the group’s stated principles without addressing
variations. Yet the worldview expressed above offers a glimpse into the mindset
that led to MWEG’s founding, as well as the philosophy that has governed the
organization. MWEG’s official statements and advocacy all reflect these same
biases and perspectives. Again, any differences are matters of form and not
substance. Stated principles are of little relevance if not observed.
I would certainly be interested in hearing
from other MWEG members regarding the following questions:
Do you believe that MWEG is exempt from ethical requirements
for disclosure of bias and conflicts of interest of leaders and officers in
regard to the biases expressed in this and other pieces? Do you not object
to false and misleading claims when used to boost your favored candidates and
issues or to oppose unfavored candidates? Do you believe that claims made in the above piece do not represent the
weaponization of religion for political gain? Do you believe that
tactics of partisan “total war” attempting to dismantle every claim and
conveying to others that there is no moral or ethical reason to support
candidates opposed (whether formally or informally) by MWEG, constitute
constructive and responsible civic discourse? Do you deny that
numerous such pieces have been modeled and propagated under the guise of
ethical mandate, formally or informally, by MWEG’s leaders and affiliates? Do you believe that
the group’s public representations have been truthful, fair, and
consistent with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints and the demands of normative ethics?
Others can review the data and decide for