Blatant lies, masquerading facts, sowing distrust, doubt, making up nonsensical accusations, unfounded claims, absurdities, strong assertions based on nothing substantial, illogical statements, nonsense and other rubbish – these have flooded the media consistently nowadays, sometimes nicknamed fake news. At times false information is spread erroneously. At other times it is deliberate i.e. disinformation with a purpose. In those cases, we could say that these are actual lies. However the patterns become more discernible for those who decide to pay closer attention, especially in light of various worldwide events.
Take for example China’s old claim that Taiwan is another “province of China”; or Russia’s pretension to “denazify” Ukraine in order to invade it.
A great number of far right American politicians have also joined in recent year a disturbing newer trend which destructive effects were seen on January 6, 2021 when a mob stormed the Capitol. That event was a wakeup call for many Americans who suddenly grasped some of the madness behind the campaign of lies that they had fallen for, whether it originated in misinformation or disinformation.
It is obvious that such efforts to mislead have been, currently are, and will be orchestrated in the future. The methods and the landscape may have evolved but such tactics are probably as old as humanity itself. Thus, a population who believes in lies, intentionally spread, becomes a tool in the hands of unscrupulous individuals.
Take the case of far-right American radio show host, Alex Jones. Some of his outlandish claims recently led a jury to conclude that he defamed the parents of victims of a well-known school massacre when he actually claimed that it didn’t happen. The massacre during which 20 students and 6 teachers were killed occurred at the Sandy Hook school less than ten year ago and received extensive media coverage.
Alex Jones, claimed that the shooting was staged with actors in order to increase gun control. It is not only mind-boggling to come to the realization that disinformation campaigns have reached such heights of depravity and societal destructiveness, it is just as astounding that large portions of the population can so easily be manipulated to serve the selfish interests of a few. The verdict against Alex Jones was a victory against disinformation.
However, intentionally spreading lies is a scourge across the world. Amongst some of the highlights, last year, it involved fomenting a riot in the USA that resulted in a mob attacking a government building with the intent of stopping a democratic election process. This year, a very totalitarian law was passed in Russia which forbids from telling the truth about the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine or even calling it a war. Meanwhile, state media in the style of their Soviet predecessors and typical of a totalitarian regime is a collection of lies, imaginary events or distorted facts. Under a dictatorship, disinformation works a little bit differently since it’s centralized and run by the state. The distinction from propaganda becomes blurry. The aim is usually to prevent dissent and promote obedience to the state. In China for example – as absurd as it may seem to us accustomed to democracy – a neighbouring country, Taiwan, with a democratically elected government chosen freely by its citizens is referred to as a province of China and under constant pressure and interference to surrender itself and accept the rule of an authoritarian regime. The extent of the disinformation campaign waged by China against Taiwan even forces large companies and other countries to officially agree with China’s nonsensical claims in exchange of favours. Such is the extent of this bullying and interference that today only 13 countries out of 196 countries of the world officially recognize Taiwan as another country. Even the United Nations was forced by China to disregard Taiwan’s statehood.
Throughout history, large scale disinformation and spreading of lies have been used to manipulate populations and fulfill the interests of a few. The knowledge of the truth may in some cases have its downfalls, even be unbearable at times. However, overall the benefits outrank the disadvantages and repercussions of spreading lies. An informed and aware society is more capable and better equipped to deal with and resolve issues efficiently.
Whether we live under a totalitarian regime or a democracy permeated by unscrupulous agents spreading lies – instead of falling prey to manipulation schemes turning us into ignorant puppets – it is both important and helpful that we seek out as well as promote the truth in order to enrich our judgment, make the right decisions and further help in spreading the truth.