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Mis-, Dis-, Mal- . . . Dysinformation

The Ethical Skeptic suggests a new neologism for our resource kit: dysinformation. It is designed to

condition the public’s understanding or expectations in a way that aligns with certain agendas or prepares the populace for future adverse events or developments. By doing so, the orchestrators of dysinformation seek to control the narrative in advance, influence public opinion towards acceptance of a simple and easy-to-understand explanation for the state of things, and potentially mitigate backlash or resistance when these events unfold.

(my emphasis)


Thanks for the link @KarenEliot - nice one!
A prime user of this type of narrative has been ( and may well still be, I don’t listen to it anymore) the Today programme on the radio. So vehemently was/is this used by them that their reporting of any live event to take place the same day or even hour gives an account of what is about to be announced and they never return to the actual words used even if they have changed. Sometimes they announce as happened something that hasn’t yet happened but does later happen - the fall of Building 7 for example- this sounds like a Pinterism, sorry about that. :upside_down_face:

I have regularly referenced Dan T Gilbert’s work on the impact first impressions of anything has and the great difficulties that are then present when trying to reverse lies or misunderstandings. Government press departments do this all the time - a similar type of use of this technique is the recent example of October 7th Israeli government propaganda which swamped the world news before anyone had a chance to check on reality, particularly the killing of Israelis by Israelis on that day.


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The example of the supposed Hamas atrocities is a really good one. It doesn’t seem to matter how quickly a fallacious story is rebutted, nor how forcefully. A framing is set, that conditions the response.

Carry out an experiment after an introductory discussion (or staged experiment) that involves monetary rewards or some kind of financial trigger (which bank note is the odd one out) will tend to prime towards a more materialistic outcome. A control group has a different, neutral, priming, which cat is your favourite, sort these papers in a given order, etc.
(Even when all other variables are controlled.)

Think how linear TV schedules, or page order in a newspaper might reproduce this.

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Sounds an awful lot like what Jacques Ellul wrote about in 1962 when describing how propaganda works.


I really have to promote that nearer the top of my to-read list. Consider it bumped.