Who Determines What’s ‘Disinformation’?

Why are we being bombarded by fact-checks and “anti-disinformation” efforts in our timeline scrolls? When reading the news, we too often find that so-called experts are behind whatever claim media professionals make, no matter how outlandish or disconnected from reality such claims may be.

Through his concept and exploration of spectacle, a totalizing, negating force over our lives that results in what is really “unlife,” French Philosopher Guy Debord’s famous Society of the Spectacle (1967) and his follow-up booklet, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle (1988), provide insights into these and related phenomena. 

When it comes to “fact-checks” and “experts,” Debord is clear: in a society subjugated by the economy, where “everything that was once directly lived has faded into representation,” such professionals do not exist to provide us the truth — they exist to serve the state and media through lies and distortions spun into what appears as true. If the “experts” lose influence, it will be because the public learns and articulates that their job is to systematically lie.

“Disinformation” appears as one of the biggest bogeymen in today’s increasingly online world. Governments warn of the dangers it apparently poses to society and democracy, and mainstream media organizations in turn direct resources to counter-disinformation and to fact-checking. In the name of “being informed,” people cannot often go online without being bombarded by fact-checks or warnings about what content to consume and share with their social and professional networks.

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Disinformation, Censorship, And Information Warfare In The 21st Century

All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”– Sun Tzu, the Art of War

In recent years, prominent national security officials and media outlets have raised alarm about the unprecedented effects of foreign disinformation in democratic countries. In practice, what they mean is that democratic governments have fallen behind in their command of the methods of information warfare in the early 21st century. As outlined herein, while information warfare is a real and serious issue facing democratic governments in the 21st century, the war on disinformation, as currently practiced, has backfired spectacularly and done far more harm than good, as evidenced most clearly by the response to COVID-19.

We begin with the definitions and history of a few key terms: Censorship, free speech, misinformation, disinformation, and bots.

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Obama Foundation Event On ‘Disinformation’ Features Serial Spreaders Of Disinformation

The Obama Foundation is hosting a forum Thursday where “disinformation” will be discussed by a group with alleged ties to spreading disinformation and a historian who has been criticized by many in her field.

The “Tackling Disinformation, Protecting Democracy” forum, hosted by former President Barack Obama in connection with Columbia University and the University of Chicago, will be moderated by Renee DiResta, who allegedly helped sway elections through the use of bots and is connected the censorship of stories about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the panelists for the forum, is the author of the “1619 Project” which claims slavery was the primary cause of the American Revolution, a claim rebuked by historians and a group of college professors in a New York Times article. 

“[Nikole Hannah-Jones] erroneously claims that slavery was a primary cause of the American Revolution. She bases this claim on the Dunmore proclamation, where the British governor of Virginia offered freedom to slaves who fought for the royalist cause. She claims at one point that Dunmore’s proclamation induced George Washington to join the rebellion,” Phillip Magness, who authored a critique of the “1619 Project,” told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

“This is false though. Dunmore issued his proclamation in November 1775. But George Washington had already been named the commander-in-chief of the Continental army the previous June,” Magness continued.

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Seven times ‘disinformation’ turned out to be just the opposite

At the heart of the second trial to come out of Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion probe is a story of disinformation.

Marc Elias, general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, testified both during a House Intelligence Committee investigation in 2017 and recently during Durham’s ongoing probe that he was the one who hired the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump.

Fusion GPS went on to commission former MI6 agent Christopher Steele to create the infamous “Steele dossier,” which purported to show collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. It contained several salacious and since-debunked claims about Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.

The federal government infamously used the now-discredited dossier to obtain a warrant to surveil former Trump 2016 campaign aide Carter Page. The Justice Department later admitted the warrant application was full of misinformation and the surveillance warrant should’ve never been approved.

The primary source of the Steele dossier was Igor Danchenko, a Russian analyst who’s now on trial as part of Durham’s investigation for allegedly lying to the FBI about his own sources for the information that he provided to Steele.

Federal prosecutors allege that Danchenko, who has pleaded not guilty, fabricated and concealed his sources in conversations with the feds. The trial began in Alexandria, Va. on Tuesday.

The case highlights how potent a weapon disinformation can be in today’s political climate, where falsehoods can slip through the cracks and transform into received truth without the public noticing.

However, it works the other way as well.

Indeed, in the past few years the opposite has more often been the case: Something deemed disinformation ultimately turns out to be true.

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DHS is spending millions to combat “misinformation” and “disinformation”

Despite shutting down its “Disinformation Governance Board” after First Amendment violation concerns, the United States (US) Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is still handing out millions in grants in order to combat “misinformation,” “disinformation,” and “conspiracy theories.”

The DHS has previously claimed that online misinformation is a terror threat and these grants were made in a similar vein and doled out as part of a “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program.”

In total, over $3 million of taxpayer money was handed over to universities, think tanks, and nonprofits who will use the money to fund projects that fight what they deem to be misinformation and disinformation.

The University of Rhode Island was given $701,612 for its “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives” and “Youth Resilience Programs.” The description for this grant claims that “disinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda have become large-scale social problems” and says that part of the funds from the grant will be used for “online and face-to-face dialogues [that] help demonstrate how to critically analyze propaganda, disinformation, and domestic extremism.”

The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a quasi-government entity and think tank that produces research that informs public policy, was granted $750,000 for its “Raising Societal Awareness,” “Civic Engagement,” and “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking” initiatives. The grant will be used to “develop an educational digital game and supportive materials for educating students in secondary schools in Northeast Washington Educational Service District 101 (ESD 101) in Washington State on disinformation.” The game and its learning program will “help students understand different strategies used to spread disinformation by malignant actors” and provide “a hands-on learning experience around strategies and policies to combat disinformation at the institutional level.”

The Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication was awarded $592,598 for an “extended reality” (XR) project which covers virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. The grant description claims that “terrorist recruiters and violent extremists will “most certainly target new forms of technology for their efforts to spread conspiracy theories, air grievances, and to craft misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation.” The project will create and test “Media Literacy interventions focused on Harmful Information in virtual spaces, to inform the prevention of extremism and violent content in the metaverse.”

The nonprofit International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) was given $750,000 to “inculcate resilience against the spread of disinformation and its divisive effects by making faith actors a part of the solution.” Tech company Moonshot will provide insights on “specific trends around disinformation and the spread of violence inciting narratives.” This data will be used by the ICRD to design workshops that build “societal resilience” where communities can “evaluate the meaning of religious disinformation for their future.”

The Carter Center, a nongovernmental nonprofit founded by former President Jimmy Carter, was awarded $99,372 for “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives.” As part of these initiatives, The Carter Center will partner with Syracuse University to “demonstrate the effectiveness of its media literacy curriculum in mitigating the harms presented by dis-, misinformation.” Through this partnership, The Carter Center intends to roll out its curriculum modules in multiple classroom settings and target a wide population aged 18-60. The description for this grant claims that media literacy trainings build capacities in “recognizing false and misleading information.”

Lewis University was given $157,707 for “Media Literacy and Online Critical Thinking Initiatives.” It plans to use some of this grant money to “maintain and improve” its H2I (How2Inform) website which currently consists of content it says is “helpful in combating misinformation.” The description for this grant claims that “free tools and resources will be provided equitably to communities within the state to help combat online misinformation.”

The DHS awarded these misinformation and disinformation grants last month alongside another $699,763 grant to Middlebury Institute’s Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism (CTEC) which was given to study “extremism” in gaming.

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Sweden’s Psychological Defense Agency: Good disinformation is “basically true”

There is no doubt that Russia, like any other major – and minor – power uses some form of propaganda and disinformation to further its goals, especially in wartime.

What’s difficult to gauge, at least at this time, is how applicable that may be in the current crisis: is Russia really trying to “exploit polarization and sow division,” in countries like Sweden, for example?

But what the fear of Russian disinformation – or apparent fear of it – has clearly managed is to make some state bodies, like Sweden’s Psychological Defense Agency, part ways with basic logic – and not be afraid to admit it to the world.

Hence, some of what is labeled as “disinformation” by this agency whose goal is to bolster the Swedes’ “moral fortitude” includes information that “is actually not false” and is even, “basically true.”

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength,” Orwell wrote.

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Homeland Security officially terminates agency’s Disinformation Governance Board

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has terminated the agency’s Disinformation Governance Board and rescinded its charter.

Mayorkas officially ended the Department Homeland Security board Wednesday after the DHS advisory committee issued an interim recommendation last month that “there is no need” for the board.

The latest advisory report released Wednesday stated: “There is no need for a separate Disinformation Governance Board. But it is our assessment that the underlying work of Department components on this issue is critical.”

Homeland Security does not ” have the authority to silence or sanction anyone’s speech,” but should instead focus on determining whether “publicly disseminated disinformation impedes missions assigned to the agency” and “disseminating correct information,” the advisory council stated.

“With the HSAC recommendations as a guide, the Department will continue to address threat streams that undermine the security of our country consistent with the law, while upholding the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of the American people and promoting transparency in our work,” Homeland Security stated.

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DHS watchdog calls for revamping counter disinformation efforts

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General on Thursday released a report calling for the agency to develop a new comprehensive strategy to counter disinformation on social media.

“Without a unified strategy, DHS and its components cannot coordinate effectively, internally, or externally to counter disinformation campaigns that appear in social media,” the IG said in the report.

The watchdog’s conclusion follows a dramatic episode surrounding the DHS’s creation of a Disinformation Governance Board, widely derided as a potentially Orwellian censorship body. The Biden administration quickly backtracked on the idea after Nina Jankowicz, the board’s original director, quickly resigned. In mid-July an advisory panel for DHS firmly asserted there was “no need for a Disinformation Governance Board.”

While the IG did not directly call for the return of the DGB, it highlighted that the DHS currently lacks a system for coordinating and monitoring disinformation efforts.

“Although DHS components have worked across various social media platforms to counter disinformation, DHS does not yet have a unified department-wide strategy to effectively counter disinformation that originates from both foreign and domestic sources,” the report read.

“DHS faced challenges unifying component efforts because disinformation is an emerging and evolving threat. We also attributed some challenges to the continual changes in DHS leadership, which may have hindered the development of top-down strategic guidance for countering disinformation.”

DHS began actively working on counter disinformation efforts in 2018, the report noted, originally focusing on campaigns about election infrastructure.

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They’re Worried About The Spread Of Information, Not Disinformation

We’re in the final countdown to British Home Secretary Priti Patel’s decision on the fate of Julian Assange, with the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the United States due to be approved or rejected by the end of the month. Joe Lauria has a new article out with Consortium News on the various pressures that Patel is being faced with from both sides of this history-making issue at this crucial time.

And I can’t stop thinking, as this situation comes to a boil, about how absurd it is that the US empire is working to set a precedent which essentially outlaws information-sharing that the US doesn’t like at the same time western news media are full of hand-wringing headlines about the dangerous threat of “disinformation”.

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) has an article out titled “‘Disinformation’ Label Serves to Marginalize Crucial Ukraine Facts” about the way the mass media have been spinning that label to mean not merely the knowing distribution of false information but also of information that is true but inconvenient to imperial narrative-weaving.

“In defense of the US narrative, corporate media have increasingly taken to branding realities inconvenient to US information goals as ‘disinformation’ spread by Russia or its proxies,” writes FAIR’s Luca Goldmansour.

Online platforms have been ramping up their censorship protocols under the banner of fighting disinformation and misinformation, and those escalations always align with narrative control agendas of the US-centralized empire. Just the other day we learned that Twitter has a new policy which expands its censorship practices to fight “misinformation” about wars and other crises, and the Ukraine war (surprise surprise) will be the first such situation about which it will be enforcing these new censorship policies.

Then there’s the recent controversy over the Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board,” a mysterious institution ostensibly designed to protect the American people from wrongthink coming from Russia and elsewhere. The board’s operations (whatever they were) have been “paused” pending a review which will be led by Michael Chertoff, a virulent swamp monster and torture advocate. Its operations will likely be resumed in one form or another, probably under the leadership of someone with a low profile who doesn’t sing show tunes about disinformation.

And this all comes out after US officials straight up told the press that the Biden administration has been deliberately sowing disinformation to the public using the mainstream press in order to win an infowar against the Kremlin. They’ve literally just been circulating completely baseless stories about Russia and Ukraine, but nobody seems to be calling for the social media accounts of Biden administration officials to be banned.

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Busted: Disinformation Operative Who Attacked Elon Musk’s Push for “Free Speech” Caught Red-Handed in Secret Influence Operation

It is not yet clear whether Elon Musk’s increasingly precarious play for Twitter will result in the restoration of free speech in the “global public square.” Successful or not, Elon’s brave move has clarified beyond any doubt the Regime’s fundamental hostility to free speech and dissent. Judging from the critical reactions from journalists, NGOs and Democrat politicians, you’d think the man were attempting to invade Poland rather than remove censorship on a social media platform.

Of all the regime scribblers and scribes flooding the internet with glorified blog posts on the awfulness of Elon Musk’s Twitter bid, a piece by Renée DiResta published in the Atlantic stands out from the rest — not because of its force of argument, but because of the largely forgotten scandal behind its author.

Like the now disgraced and jobless Nina Jankowicz, DiResta is a career-girl of the Disinformation Industry — a constellation of NATO and US State Department-funded NGOs and civil society groups that censor inconvenient truths, facts and narratives under the guise of protecting the public from so-called “disinformation.” And like Nina Jankowicz, it turns out that DiResta’s name is closely associated with one of the most explosive and aggressively covered-up influence operations of the century.

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