Defining misinformation, disinformation and propaganda

17th July 2015 / Editors Picks, Global

It is important to understand the distinction between misinformation, disinformation and propaganda, especially as all three are prevalent within all societies, be they democracies or dictatorships.

Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth.

Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.

Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole.

In espionage or military intelligence, disinformation is the deliberate spreading of false information to mislead an enemy as to one’s position or course of action. In politics, disinformation is the deliberate attempt to deflect voter support of an opponent, disseminating false statements of innuendo based on a candidate’s vulnerabilities as revealed by opposition research. In both cases, it also includes the distortion of true information in such a way as to render it useless.

Disinformation may include distribution of forged documents, manuscripts, and photographs, or spreading dangerous rumours and fabricated intelligence. Its techniques may also be found in commerce and government, used to try to undermine the position of a competitor.

Classic examples of government disinformation in the UK involve both Tony Blair and David Cameron.

In 2003, we were told by Tony Blair – the House of Commons was assured by Tony Blair, the people of Britain were assured – that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction he could deliver into the European theatre at any time. We now know this to have been a complete fabrication: not one WMD has ever been found or put on display. This led directly to the invasion of Iraq where it is now estimated by ORB International that 1.2 million were killed.

We were told by William Hague of the “irrefutable evidence” that Bashar Assad was using chemical weapons on his own people. Since then, it has looked increasingly likely that all these ‘attacks’ were faked by America’s new best friends the Muslim Brotherhood – whom both Hague and McCain wanted to arm in their existence as ‘Syrian rebels’.

The way wars are reported in the western media follows a depressingly predictable pattern: stage one, the crisis; stage two, the demonisation of the enemy’s leader; stage three, the demonisation of the enemy as individuals; and stage four, atrocities. This is the disinformation campaign designed to get your support to go to war.

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Ask the general public and no-one really seems to know who is fighting who, for what and why – such is the extreme level of disinformation and propaganda output by all countries involved and vested interests such as oil companies and governments that want to control global energy supplies. The stakes are high in this global battle.

Before the emergence of Edward Snowden, citizens of the world had no idea just how much spying and surveillance was being perpetrated by their own governments. People in the west in particular were alarmed at what they were reading as they simply did not believe the extent of overreach by the authorities, who, more and more resemble a totalitarian state, none more so than in the UK and USA.

To make matters worse, American and British intelligence hope to take advantage of social media platforms, like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, in an effort to spread disinformation and propaganda, as well as potentially foment public protests, recent Snowden leaks claim.

In the meantime, countries wage information wars, much to the confusion of everyone. Is the BBC as honest in their reporting against Russia over Ukraine as RussiaToday is of Britain’s role in trying to destroy it’s economy through another war – financial sanctions.

Most importantly, today, we should not be ‘hood-winked’ into believing something just because we have seen it or heard it from the people we are supposed to believe in the first place. Usually, they are the ones peddling disinformation and propaganda.

It’s also important to understand what Mark Twain quite rightly said “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it” – hence the purpose of disinformation and propaganda.

Information is power – disinformation is abuse of power.




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