What is Disinformation?
By: Bill Schoettler
December 10, 2022
I just read an interesting article about “global warming” and how efforts are being made by major companies to meet the challenge of the stated goal of reducing warming by 1.5 degrees C by the year 2050. This, apparently, is the only way to save the planet from catastrophe. Ignore here the numerous previous predictions of catastrophic global warming/cooling that have previously been proven (by reality) wrong.
Here is a statement from the article that I was asked to indicate whether it was “true” or “false”.
Capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels can stop potentially cascading and irreversible effects of rising temperatures, according to a 2022 report by the United Nations.
Now a careful reading of this sentence will reveal that you are simply asked whether or not the UN released such a report. Without actually knowing:
a) that such a report was released, and
b) whether the interpretation of the report is accurate.
But if you were to hit the button “True” you would be affirming not only that the UN did release such a report plus that the report did state the content of the entire presentation…and it was all true and accurate.
Okay, yes, I did take a course in “Logic” somewhere along the way. And, the statement quoted above is certainly misleading and would qualify for the label “misinformation”.
We are regularly supplied with disinformation by politicians and various media sources. For example, that renowned politician Adam Schiff (D-Ca) recently said on CNN’s “Out Front” that “bigotry” against LGBT, black and Jewish communities was “…just spiral[ing] on Twitter now”…since Musk took over the company. One might legitimately ask what is meant by the word “spiral” in this content…since the word is defined by Webster as “a winding around a center or pole and gradually receding from or approaching it.” And, of course, no examples were provided by Schiff. But, having dissected the statement here we must acknowledge that its interpretation, if repeated, could well be that rampant racism is being promulgated by Twitter. I doubt that Schiff has spent time examining a comprehensive sample of [the new] Twitter to support this statement.
Then we have the recent pronouncement by our excellent Presidential Press Secretary about the prisoner exchange with Russia where the US released Victor Bont, described as an “arms dealer” for the basketball player Brittney Garner, described as a “role model for blacks and the LGBT community”.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that the risk of Bout operating freely was worth Griner’s release because the basketball player was“…an important role model and inspiration to millions of Americans, particularly the LGBTQI+ Americans and women of color.”
Where is the disinformation? Well, the statistics on the black and LGBTQ population suggest a very small minority of our population whereas the so-called arms dealer has been accused of selling arms to aggressors who have killed American servicemen. Well, I question whether killing a few American servicemen is a small price to pay for a role model for black and LGBTQ people.
Perhaps the greatest classification of disinformation I can think of is the current revelations of the Hunter Biden laptop contents not only being validated but their suppression before the 2020 elections being publicized, and the complete absence of any apology or statement of contrition for the mainstream media’s contrary suppression of the subject before the national elections.
Our country has been lauded (and sometimes criticized) for upholding the principles of free speech. Our media, at all levels, has frequently criticized other countries for their suppression of and distortion of free speech. To have the experience of multiple sources of censorship, from political parties, politicians, industry and private enterprise intentionally distort and disguise and even hide the information from the Biden Laptop is not merely a sin of omission, it is a capital sin on the part of every participant, and such conduct should be the subject of a public act of contrition.
The absence of honesty, accountability, and even civility in public office should never be tolerated by either national political party. The withholding, suppression, or distortion of such information [as the Biden laptop], when it was obvious the information had significant potential for affecting the outcome of the election is inexcusable by any definition of the term. Such conduct was not merely criminal, it was treasonous by any definition of the word.
So the question has to be asked, whether this [the spreading of disinformation] is a pattern of our current culture and to be expected, or is it an aberration that will not be repeated? The answer is the answer to the question of whether our democracy will survive or not.
Some things to consider
Why would anyone give weight to, much less even listen to political opinions from anyone not a professional or acknowledged expert in the field of politics, or even history or government relations?
Seriously, consider this question. Then ask the next obvious question(s); why does any media organization ask political or governmental questions of, or even bother to quote people like Behar, DeNiro, Colbert, Kardashian, James, or any other people known for their celebrity or entertainment ability rather than their expertise and knowledge based on an educational or experiential background?
If I want medical treatment I do not go to a garage mechanic. If I need a plumbing leak fixed I won’t ask a doctor. Where is it written that a movie actor, a television personality, or well-known chanteuse has a worthwhile opinion on international governmental relations much less a cognizable opinion on national politics?
The apparent answer is that celebrity figures are well known, not for any particular expertise but simply “well known” so the general public will Pay attention to anything they say. Regardless of the relevance to their particular basis for recognition. If Robert DeNero, a well-known movie actor, comments about extra-terrestrials or gardening, or even astrophysics, he can be quoted and, depending on how the quote is presented (say on a talk show or interview program), his opinion will be repeated. The idea seems to be that by presenting an opinion from a recognized person somehow provides the opinion with some kind of authority.
Now I suspect (though admittedly cannot prove) that DeNero knows as much as I do about astrophysics, and I know absolutely nothing about this subject. So to quote either me or DeNero on the subject would be to disperse ignorance rather than valid information.
But such a discriminatory approach does not prevent various media sources from quoting an actor on such diverse subjects as politics, governmental policies, or international relations.
What is also interesting is the complete absence of common sense presented by such quotations. For example, if I wanted to convince you of something I would seek support for my arguments by quoting acknowledged experts on the subject. Politicians and college professors teaching history or political science might be good sources. As opposed to trying to convince you to have, or avoid an operation by quoting Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse on the subject.
I have no idea about the extent of education or even work experience a professional basketball player has in the field of political science. But LeBron James is often quoted on diverse subjects other than playing the game of basketball. DeNero has expressed political opinions and is often quoted for his views on the functions of government and the functioning of various political figures. These are only two out of a cadre of non-experts who are frequently quoted for their views on subjects about which their knowledge base is never identified but in most cases demonstrably ignorant. It is indeed puzzling why such nonsense is presented to the listening, and reading public.