May 16, 2022

The ‘Misinformation’ Sleight of Hand

4 min read

Posted 1 month ago
by Téa Smith

I’ll say upfront, that the irony of this is not lost on me. The idea that people are spreading misinformation and disinformation about misinformation and disinformation seems – well – almost peak Internet.

Whether it is the hysterical and ill-informed fools on the right spreading disinformation about misinformation being outlawed by the EU via the Digital Services Act, or the professional communicators on behalf of the White House using misinformation-disinformation interchangeably and scaring the shit out of us all.

You see, they are very different things.

Misinformation refers simply to false information that exploits our blind spots. It could be pseudoscience, misrepresentations about policy or law, or anything that falls afoul of facts or critical thinking. We all fall victim to it.

Importantly, sharing misinformation is accidental.

Think tripping over in public. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it is an accident. You can’t get criminal charges for tripping over. You might get a fine if you were drunk and disorderly, or sued for negligence if you were being a fuckwit and fell into someone else, but tripping over, in itself is not a crime. And never will be.

Disinformation, on the other hand, is the deliberate sharing of false information in order to cause harm or mislead. So, rather than accidentally tripping over in the street, someone deliberately walks up to you and pushes you over, causing you to fall. Or, deliberately puts their foot out. You get the drift.

Disinformation laws have criminal intent built in. Those words have legal significance, and will be resolved through case law over time. Just like every other law before it.

Interesting how Ben Shapiro, Mister Lawyer, doesn’t mention this.

It’s always the bits that they leave out.

Anyway, this is what is being legislated around the world. It is no different to ACMA or the ACCC (in the US it’s the FTC) regulating false advertising or spam, that allows for criminal proceedings to be brought against those who deliberately share false information with the intent to deceive.

You can’t charge anyone with a crime unless there is a law. So they’re making a law, that align with other laws in the same vein, like the Spam Act (2003) in Australia. Nobody has been charged for their web server accidentally sending Spam.

It’s about intent.

Misinformation is simply the flip side of virality and “frictionless experiences”. Most advertising is technically misinformation. It isn’t inherently bad.

The Sleight of Hand

It is important to be vigilant around the use of “misinformation” and “disinformation” interchangeably, because people who should know (and do know) the difference are being slippery.

Note: I hate using ‘right’ and ‘left’, because the sides of the US Kleptocrat-driven culture wars are right and further-right. Centrists are probably the confused centre-left, just to complicate matters. But, I’m meeting you where you’re at.

What the ‘right’ media ecosystem does

By ‘right’ I mean the Fox networks, Daily Caller, Breitbart and that ecosystem, which has been well-studied, and it is well established that they engage in disinformation. Constantly.

The right claim that these laws are a) fighting misinformation and b) anti ‘free speech’. They switch out misinformation and disinformation on purpose to make people think there is a war on opinions or an anti-conservative bias when there isn’t.

So the right call disinformation misinformation to get you believing you’re defending your right to opinions or mistakes, so that they can protect their business model of bullshit.

What the ‘left ’ media ecosystem does

By ‘left’ I (cringe) mean CNN, MSNBC, corporate Democrats/BlueAnon blue checks, uncritical consumers of Media Matters intern-generated content about Joe Rogan types.

They call everything they don’t like or want to silence ‘disinformation’. Or, say ‘misinformation-disinformation’ in order to lump them together, with plausible deniability of having misspoken. I’m pretty sure that professional communicators working for the most powerful political office in the world are not prone to gaffes, so will assume that every word is intentional. Which, ironically, makes ‘misinformation’ a ‘dog whistle’ for censorship of opponents. Mostly of people to the left of them. Not to the right.

So the ‘left’ call/lump in misinformation disinformation to get you believing you’re defending against the bad guys, and quietly manufacturing consent to silence those who oppose the corporate narrative, so that they can protect their business model of bullshit.

What idiots on the internet do

Confuse and conflate the two. Accidentally spread misinformation. Engage in flame wars and talk shit about stuff they know nothing about. Internet gunna internet. Dunning-Kruger gunna Dunning-Kriger. Nutters gunna nut. Americans gunna Mericate. Grifters gunna grift. And they are all incentivised to pander to whichever tribe provides the reinforcement, cash and clicks, all whilst engaging in both misinformation and disinformation about policy conversations that they have absolutely no expertise in, but always seem to have the super-human ability (and resources) to learn all about a topic, and produce an essay or video every day whilst begging you for money.

Misinformation-Disinformation is big business, and that is why the culture wars consumes it, misrepresents the issue, and effectively kills any productive conversation about the real issues.
And of course, leaves people like me shouting into the void hoping that one or two people might see the issues more clearly.

What can you do?

You need to use your critical thinking skills and learn to ignore the nonsense. Stop sharing their bullshit. Check sources. Think things through, rather than react. Stop giving money to people who mislead you, and hopefully give money to those who are oriented towards truth and integrity. It’s far less sexy, and a lot fewer easy answers/fun conspiracy theories, but it’ll keep you sane.

The videos

Sorry, tripped a fuse for these so its in two parts. I don’t have time to edit into a single video. But if that is a barrier for you, then I gotta say, you’re part of the problem. You gotta get used to some friction (and things costing money), my guy.

Part 1
Part 2

I hate this part

If you want to become a Patron, that’d be ace. Or PayPal here. Seriously, every hour I spend on this stuff loses me money. I’m sorry if it needs a second draft, or my videos need editing, or I make mistakes or misspeak… I do what I can with the time I have, and yet have to compete with people with a tonne more resources than me. If they say they’re doing it for free, they’re lying. I know what things cost to produce, so they’re either using unpaid help or not declaring their funding.I have courses coming with the hope that they will generate enough income so I can do this stuff for free without resentment (heh), but if you want to invest in me so I can do this properly, well, hit me up.

Anyway, hopefully this newsletter finds you well in these strange and unprecedented times that are actually completely precedented. Love you. Be well.

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