Ken Burns explains why the US is struggling with three 'viruses' in the Trump era – not just COVID-19

Ken Burns explains why the US is struggling with three 'viruses' in the Trump era – not just COVID-19
Image via Screengrab.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is alarmed by the exposure of democracy's fragility, but he has plenty of reasons for optimism.

The filmmaker has documented three major crises in U.S. history -- the Civil War, the Depression and World War II -- and he believes Americans may be living through a fourth, and worst, historic crisis, reported NPR.

"We're beset by three viruses, are we not?" Burns told the network. "[There's] a year-old COVID-19 virus, but also a 402-year-old virus of white supremacy, of racial injustice ... and we've got an age-old human virus of misinformation, of paranoia, of conspiracies."

Burns has no plans to document the Trump era, but he suggested the outgoing president and social media networks are to blame for poisoning political discourse.

"Obviously, lies hurt the liar," he said, "hate corrodes the vessel that it's carried in. But lies also hurt the people who hear them, and we are now in a toxic moment that needs a kind of discipline."

"None of us are on the same page," Burns added. "I don't wish to suggest that we all think alike in lockstep, we should not. The beauty of our system is disagreement, but we don't get our information from the same place the way we used to, and that has had a poisonous effect on our democracy."

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