Couy Griffin is history. Disinformation is not. 

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With all the hand wringing focused on the twin threats of misinformation and disinformation this election year, the country got welcome news Monday: Couy Griffin can’t ever hold public office in New Mexico again. That’s thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting Griffin’s request to lift a lifetime ban on holding office placed on him by a New Mexico state district judge.

You remember Couy Griffin? The former Otero County commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder who participated in the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The purveyor of wacky conspiracy theories and articulator of provocative statements such as “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” The man who encouraged Otero County to part with tens of thousands of dollars to pay for what supporters called an audit of the county’s election 2020 results — even though Donald Trump won the county by more than 25 percentage points.

That Couy Griffin.

Griffin rose to national political fame for his theatrics, leading horseback caravans in support of the former president.

Now he is famous for different reasons: He’s the only elected official thus far to be banned from office in connection with the Capitol attack, the Associated Press reported Monday. He’s also in the history books, and not in a good way. Griffin’s is the first disqualification from office in over a century under a provision of the 14th Amendment written to prevent former Confederates from serving in government after the Civil War, the AP explained.

Good riddance I say.

In November 2022, I expressed my hope that Couy Griffin would ride off into whatever sunset disgraced politicians ride off into after he disrupted a meeting of the Otero County Commission. But I hedged my expectations, saying we likely hadn’t heard the last from Couy Griffin.

I haven’t kept up with Griffin since then. Sure, I am concerned that there are more Couy Griffins across the nation thanks to a cynical effort by the former president and some of his supporters to undermine American’s trust in elections. But there are larger worries occupying my frontal lobe today. 

The ease with which unvetted information (often leading to misinformation) or conspiracy theories (often due to intentionally misleading “disinformation”) spread on social media and into people’s lives through lazy thinking and malicious manipulation began to take hold 10 years ago for me and only heightened during the pandemic. 

These days, the threat is greater than ever thanks to a new generation of artificial intelligence that makes it easier than ever to spread false images and deep-fake videos that wreak havoc with our ability to make sense of the world. Making sense of the world through vetted information is essential to a functioning democracy –  which is why misinformation and disinformation are significant threats.

These days, Couy Griffin is an afterthought for me. But perhaps I don’t do him justice. Maybe he was a harbinger of much more difficult challenges ahead.

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