What does it mean to be misinformed—and who consumes misinformation? It can be hard to track down measured answers to those questions. Often framed as a problem that ‘others’ encounter, the public discourse surrounding misinformation can also be highly reductive.
Undergraduate researchers and 2022 Buchanan Fellows, William Ledesma and Zacarias Negron, set out to clarify what has become a muddied topic. The result is a 53-minute documentary podcast, “We the Lonely: Misinformation Retold.”
Alongside a lineup of highly acclaimed guests, ranging in fields from military to medicine, the pair weave together a story far deeper than misleading social media content. At its center is loneliness. A universally experienced phenomenon, Ledesma and Negron unravel how loneliness has much to do with misinformation and how each of us may become susceptible to its pernicious effects.
In an age of hyper-connectivity, humans are faced with infinite opportunities for connection, but also political and social loneliness. Plunging head-first into the current state of affairs, Ledesma and Negron cover the American trajectory. Key to the discussion on misinformation is its ideological effects. In what becomes a compelling comparative analysis, Ledesma and Negron show listeners what the Russian Federation’s information landscape is like—and how we are trending dangerously toward it.
Still, loneliness and misinformation can be combated and alleviated using a critical tool at each human’s disposal. In what is a difficult task, each of us possesses the ability to converse with a certain humility even alongside those with whom we disagree. It is here that shared facts are forged and differences better understood. The fate of our democracy depends on it. Ledesma and Negron conclude with a clarion call for a new sort of dialogue, without which unity is impossible.
This podcast is supported by the Vanderbilt Project on Unity & American Democracy, the Vanderbilt Max Kade Center for European Studies, and Vanderbilt Student Media. It was made possible through the Vanderbilt Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries and the Buchanan Family’s generous contributions to the Buchanan Fellowship.
About the hosts:
William Ledesma is a sophomore from Camarillo, CA, majoring in Law, History, & Society with a research focus on contemporary transnational interactions between Eurasia and the U.S., along with a focus on the Gilded Age. He also minors in European Studies and Business. He serves as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Research on Conflict and Collective Action (ROCCA) Lab. He is also an executive member of Vanderbilt Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society and an Editor for the Vanderbilt Historical Review.
Zacarias Negron is a Chancellor’s Scholar at Vanderbilt University, where he is majoring in Political Science (International Track) and Law, History, & Society. He is minoring in Russian Studies and Islamic Studies with a particular focus on Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. He serves as an Undergraduate Research Assistant for the Research on Conflict and Collective Action (ROCCA) Lab. He is also a member of the Vanderbilt University Debate Team, competing in collegiate and British Parliamentary and Case Competition debates, both foreign and domestic.”