COLUMBIA — Former governor and United Nations World Food Program Director David Beasley said he’s concerned U.S. politics — and society in general — has become uncompromising and uncivil, a problem exacerbated by disinformation online.
“I’m really worried we’re going the wrong direction,” he said. “People are really divided, unnecessarily so.”
Beasley spoke Sept. 24 alongside University of South Carolina interim President Harris Pastides and U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Director-General Audrey Azoulay in an event hosted by the university on the importance of freedom of the press and the battle against disinformation.
“There’s plenty of mis- and disinformation and restrictions even about what we can say,” Pastides said after hearing from a Filipino journalist facing criminal charges for her reporting.
“The methods of keeping us in check (in the United States) may be less tyrannical but they can be equally effective,” he said.
Beasley told the crowd about his years in the S.C. Statehouse — 13 years as a Democrat followed by four as a Republican, during which time he served a number of years as the nation’s youngest majority party leader before being elected to a single gubernatorial term from 1995-99.
“We stood up for what we believed in, we respected each other and we argued in a civil fashion,” he said. “We would vote, win or lose, and we’d walk off the floor as friends. But today it seems like everybody goes to the corner and doesn’t respect the other.”
Beasley expressed hope in the next generation to bring unity.
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“Whether it’s Washington or Columbia, S.C., or at city hall, we need to come back to being that American society, respecting one another regardless of our differences. And we need to quit just hollering at each other,” he said.
“It will lead to conflict; I see it every day,” Beasley added.
The World Food Program won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for its multi-pronged efforts to combat hunger, and Beasley accepted the prize on behalf of the agency. It operates in 83 nations and 80 percent of their work is in areas of conflict and war, Beasley said.
“You think it can’t happen to America? I can take you to places that were wonderful places to live not too many years ago,” Beasley said.
In politics, in particular, Beasley said divisions and tensions already are high. Disinformation, which was the topic of the Friday forum, just elevates that.
“The biggest issue we face is how to forgive each other and talk to each other respectfully,” Beasley said. “Our future depends on it, and the rest of the world depends on America getting it right again.”
Asked about his future plans, Beasley said he’s focused on a $6 billion fundraising campaign as 20 million people are projected to die globally this year of hunger.
“Feeding children right now is the only thing I’m fixated on,” Beasley said.
This content was originally published here.