More voices over "the information superhighway" was supposed to make it easier for the public to discern fact from fiction. As discuss on today's BradCast, it seems to have done the exact opposite. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
Two hot wars in both Israel and Ukraine, a still-simmering pandemic, a worsening climate crisis, the takeover of Twitter by a disgruntled rightwing billionaire, and a "master propagandist" running again for President of the United States, have all combined into a "perfect storm" of disinformation, my guest today explains.
We're joined by Boston University research fellow and best-selling author LEE MCINTYRE, author of 2018's Post-Truth, 2021's How to Talk to a Science Denier, and the just-published On Disinformation: How to Fight for Truth and Protect Democracy.
He's here today to help us understand the difference between misinformation and disinformation; to discuss which is worse; and what, if anything, can be done about any of it. In short, as he explains, "Misinformation is an accident. Disinformation is a lie." For example, the New York Times' (and others') coverage of the deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza City last week, which now appears to have been caused by an errant rocket fired by a Palestinian militant group, was misinformation when the Times reported it as having been caused by an Israeli airstrike in the immediate aftermath. The misleading reportage might have originated, however, as disinformation from Hamas sources, whose allegations the Times --- as they finally conceded today --- was not properly vetted before being used to drive traffic to its website.
McIntyre also focuses on the danger that social media sites like Twitter/X now pose to democracy and the world, particularly since its takeover by Elon Musk, his blowing up of the previously helpful blue-check "verified" system which helped users distinguish legitimate sources from fakes, and his removal of most of the company's trust, safety, and information moderation team.
He details how disinformation also serves the dual purpose of not just forwarding false information on any particular issue --- like the war in the Middle East or denial of the efficacy of COVID vaccines, our climate crisis, or democratic elections --- but also collapses trust in all verified information and news sources. "Through polarization and the raising of mistrust and distrust, one message that comes through with disinformation is, 'Maybe we can't even know the truth. How do we know? Is everybody biased?' Because in that situation, you might give up on the idea of truth. That paves the way for authoritarianism."
Among the other points we discuss with McIntyre today...
- How disinformation is now flourishing under Musk on Twitter/X and at competing sites like Mark Zuckerberg's Threads.
- How we are all victims of whatever algorithms people like Musk and Zuckerberg may wish to put in place to determine what information we see...and don't.
- How to walk the difficult line between content moderation and censorship, whether its via mainstream press outlets or social networking sites.
- How "master propagandist" Donald Trump has created a career and an industry out of disinformation which now threatens the veracity of the 2024 elections.
- How repetition works for both spreading lies and reporting the truth.
- How to fight back against our "perfect storm of more disinformation, less content moderation, and fewer safeguards."
"I wrote my book because I want people to understand there's a way to fight back against this," McIntyre tells me. "You don't just have to believe the first media accounts. There's a way to be critical, a way to be skeptical, but also a way to push back against social media, push back against cable news, and even the government, to try to make them better and more responsible in how they fight disinformation."
- The latest on the Israel-Hamas war, including the release of two more hostages from Gaza on Monday and the Biden Administration's reported efforts to try and forestall Israel's planned ground invasion of Gaza to allow for the release of hostages and foreign nationals and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
- The latest on the continuing embarrassment of the GOP U.S. House's failure to elect a Speaker and re-open Congress.
- The latest in the Georgia RICO case against Trump and his alleged co-conspirators for trying to steal the 2020 election in the Peach State. Following guilty pleas last week by Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro, the New Yorker's Charles Betha and Sue Halpern reported on the 400-page Georgia Bureau of Investigations' probe of Team Trump's Coffee County voting system breach. It appears to confirm our repeated reporting over the past year that GA's Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger was instrumental in delaying, if not obstructing, the GBI's criminal investigation of the theft and distribution of Georgia's statewide voting system software [emphasis mine]...
On January 7, 2021, the day after a right-wing mob stormed the Capitol building, several people paid a visit to the Coffee County elections office. A year and a half later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began formally looking into allegations that “computer trespass” had taken place that day. The delay seems to have been due to resistance from the Georgia secretary of state’s office, which, for months, denied that a breach had occurred.
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