How to Detect Propaganda – The Art of the Professional Lie (Part II of II)

The accipient of the professional lie, actually grows more ignorant through its very hearing – ironically starving to death from the absence of actual nutrition in the disinformation diet they are constantly over-fed.

This is Part II of a series of two articles. Part I – Disinformation vs Misinformation – Neither Can Be Defined by ‘Intent’ can be read here.

Propaganda does not come most often in the form of heavy-machine Nazi and Soviet styled banners. It is much more subtle and pervasive. The artificial bifurcation which is crafted, along with what is not said nor allowed to be said, is of even more importance.

As we outlined in a recent article, contrary to their social definitions, the delineation litmus between misinformation and disinformation cannot logically be based upon the information bearer’s ‘intent’. Even the circumstance wherein one is innocently mistaken or misinformed results primarily from the work of intent. When caught in their game, malicious players can as well simply resort to the excuse, ‘I was innocently mistaken’. Most often, ‘being accidentally wrong’ stems specifically from a verb called ignorance in the first place – and ignorance almost always involves intent. Therefore, almost all forms of misinformation originate from an intent, tucked away somewhere inside their value chain. This is the nature of propaganda.

As well, we observed inside a previous article that most deliberations of merit inexorably devolve into a false Hegelian Bifurcation, the result of the active work of agency (not bias). The goal of the ethical skeptic is not to take a ‘middle’ position in such manufactured polarization, as that simply serves to reinforce the false dilemma in the first place. The purpose of epoché is to divorce yourself from the bifurcation to begin with – and be able to spot the agency behind it (not mere human bias). Be neither a theist, atheist, nor agnostic. Such roles are all unwitting victims inside a web of deception.

The job of the intelligence professional is to detect agency, not simply human nature.

The faithful reader of The Ethical Skeptic has learned that propaganda is a complicated method of deception, with a very broad and compartmentalized reach. Propaganda exploits antiwisdom, the insanity and anomie of the crowd. Moreover, he or she has learned that exploit stakes inside such conflict seldom go uncaptured – as both the presence of, and more importantly the absence of, information is almost always purposed.1 2

One does not conduct deception for the sake of deception itself. It is always conducted as part of a conflict or in a competitive context, intended to support some overarching plan or objectives of a participant.

~ Robert Mitchell and William Mitchell, Intelligence Specialists – Deception: Counterdeception and Counterintelligence ~ CQ Press, 20193

With these foundational principles in mind, let us proceed onward to both define propaganda, as well as outline the signature traits which allow the astute ethical skeptic to spot its stark presence inside social discourse. From our last article (Part I) as you may recall, propaganda is defined in this manner:

Propaganda (The Art of the Professional Lie)

The skilled exploitation of caustic or surreptitious misinformation, anonymously sourced malinformation, along with smoothed (both simple and authoritative) disinformation, passed selectively from fiat authority to those targeted and under its influence – which is used to harm opposition voices, and to make allied voices appear more credible.

Propaganda exploits the human proclivity towards fear-uncertainty-doubt (FUD), identifying the bad guy in advance (judging intent), and finally the desire for easy and simple answers.

Propaganda is not just Soviet and Nazi posters from World War II. That is a very naive avenue through which to view the definition of propaganda. Now therefore, let us observe how propaganda plays out inside public discourse and the court of public opinion.

The Compartmentalized Nature of Propaganda

In our last article, we outlined the logic-based delineation of what defines both misinformation and disinformation. For a quick explanation of Exhibit 1 below, examine Exhibit 1 – Intent vs Logic Based Delineation which was presented inside that article.

One additional job of the government and media is the onus to keep constituents informed of threats or issues of substance. An individual retains the right to be and remain silent, however a government (and proxy ‘companies’ acting on their sole behalf, such as the CDC) do not retain such a right. Our media, government, and body of experts constitute neither an aristocracy, nor royalty. They bear the responsibility to inform the public of a danger or critical set of information in their interest. ‘National security’ for instance, is far too overused as an excuse to withhold critical information from the public. But this foible extends far beyond what such an excuse could ever possibly account for.

Accordingly, we add the category ‘Absent/Silent’ to the array of channels constituting propaganda, even though categorically it is not a logical ‘wrong’ as presented in our first article, Disinformation vs Misinformation – Neither Can Be Defined by ‘Intent’ (Part I of II). Technically, this category of propaganda is disinformation, since the embargo and silence are used to displace actual knowledge, and not to supply wrong knowledge per se. Such activity constitutes Nelsonian Ignorance, as we have defined earlier, and is no less a form of dishonesty when applied at the media, governing, or social skepticism levels.

If you observe social skeptics rallying around a specific issue, all speaking with one voice, appealing to ignorance/authority/fallacy, and ‘demanding the evidence’ for the ‘conspiracy theory’ – you can rest assured that a multi-channel propaganda campaign is well underway.

A bullhorn pulpit is not employed so that everyone can hear the speaker, it is employed to ensure that no one else can speak.

With this knowledge under our belt, let us now examine the channels (or compartments) through which misinformation and disinformation are deployed. Namely, channels of ‘The Art of the Professional Lie’, or Propaganda.

Exhibit 1The Compartments or Channels of Propaganda – how propaganda executes as a push plan, which weaves its way through myriad channels of social discourse and mandated silence with simultaneous and surreptitious ease. Propaganda exploits both misinformation and disinformation – a condition wherein neither is ‘innocently mistaken’.

The signature traits of propaganda include the following:

  • A false and sudden polarization, or Hegelian Bifurcation is established by means of the media. Both sides of the conflict engage in forms of propaganda. Typically another important position (not ‘middle’) is obfuscated through such activity.
  • Narrative Ninnies are constantly stoked with highly portable, packaged, and contrived correctness, but not information. Their opposition is derided as uneducated, militant, or gullible.
  • A near simultaneous arrival (flurry) of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation upon the public discourse and inside the media. The sudden onslaught of anti-Russia information in March 2022 is a great example of these first three points.
  • The deployment of simple and portable memes of disinformation (fake understanding), which convince easy prey, but do not allow them to actually comprehend what they are supporting (see The Distinction Between Comprehension and Understanding).
  • The promulgation of hoax misinformation steadily into the ranks of the opposing set of voices. This surreptitious or ‘lob & slam’ information is ready-made to be exposed, and explode upon the bearing parties at some point in the future – serving to discredit them. A less-powerful or influential group can rarely pull this off. Beware of any group who bears this ability.
  • The active feed of errant information from counter-agent ‘allies’ into the hands of opposing voices, to make them appear babbling or irrational at any given time.
  • Media, social media troll, late-night talk show, and comedian mocking or promotion of only specific points of view. You will note that the same essential joke-line circulates among numerous creative agencies (of course rendering them not creative at all).
  • The visible derision of specific beliefs and persons in the media as constituting conspiracy theory/theorists.
  • The simultaneous roll-out of fact-checker articles along the same lines as the derision of conspiracy theory (see The Fatuous Errand of The Fact-Checker).
  • The sudden breaking of scandal targeting specific persons – revelations of their social misconduct behind the scenes, which has come to light and shocked a virtuous and objective overseeing group.
  • The accusation that opposing voices are anti-science, Nazi, or racist.
  • The introduction of an array of irrelevant or manufactured social crises, which distract from the core issues at hand. The fake conflict over ‘pronouns’ are a great example of this.
  • Anonymous release of damning photos or information about a key opposition voice.
  • Control of the opposition’s message – so as to discredit them through Trojan Disinformation.
  • Employment of astroturf trolls, to spread a message they are paid to spread – and smear opposing voices in social media and forums. Watch for their active insertion into private timelines or threads, and negative attitude towards specific persons therein – belied by a severe shortfall in actual understanding of what is being said in the first place.
  • The sudden proliferation of ‘easy to understand’ media articles from otherwise sophisticated publications, which normally serve disciplines of higher education or technical/scientific complexity (Forbes, The Atlantic, or Scientific American).
  • The threat of taking civil or criminal legal action against persons based upon merely the unacceptability of their views or avenues of research.
  • The rollout of a specific related social initiative upon the military ranks.
  • Armies of ‘science enthusiasts’ conducting sea lioning (unscientific demands for proof) around specific observations – denying that they should even exist as a discussion.
  • Appeals to induction/authority/ignorance/fallacy.
  • The presence of an embargo as to a subject being discussed by the media.
  • A network of information providers, wherein only those who are compensated to speak, are indeed allowed to speak. A network wherein volunteer enthusiasts seek to derive career income off of that ‘volunteer’ research
  • Finally, a signature trait of propaganda is that Trojan Disinformation will be highly unspecific in nature, save for one particular detail, which is very highly specific. This detail is easily passed with the information and serves as a watermark of who passed the information, and to whom.

Watermarking

A detail inside a Trojan Disinformation set, which serves to identify its provenance when encountered at a later date and point of capture. The active feed of specific true or untrue disinformation of such a nature that its detection both betrays an opponent’s channel of alliance, as well as one’s allegiance inside it. January 6th 2021 was a counter-espionage exercise in this type of ‘watermarked’ information.

Finally, one should maintain watch for the handiwork of the Social Skeptic in support of the official position. This is a key indicator that the full array of tools of propaganda are being deployed. In order to ascertain this, one merely need read an article by a regular source of such ‘science enthusiasm’ (Shermer, Fidalgo, Novella, etc.). This is the general script this type of professional liar will follow. They will habitually:

  1. Straw man and bucket characterize opposing viewpoints.
  2. Call the opposing voices ‘conspiracy theorists’. Employ copious amounts of snark or untalented humor.
  3. State or imply that what they are about to tell you is obvious to any rational person.
  4. Mention the ‘evidence’ and ‘facts’ often, but rarely if ever actually cite any.
  5. Appeal to a ‘complete’ or ‘total’ lack of evidence for opposing claims.
  6. Appeal to a club researcher, logical fallacy, or an external authority quote.
  7. Cite the subject as having been long debunked and the people therein discredited ‘many times’.
  8. Claim made up harm resulting from opposition voice advocacy or claims.
  9. Claim how these same conspiracy theorists were the cause of some recent horrible event.
  10. Appeal for censorship of these opposing voices, as an expression of science, virtue, and justice.

If you spot this formula, know that the person employing it is both afraid of their opponents’ message, and is lying as well. They have been taught this method of propaganda through the example their mentors provided. Fortunately for us, the American public is growing wise to this scam. It is a form of Propaganda Disinformation, as it serves to act as mental chewing gum and to displace actual usable and salient knowledge. The accipient of this professional lie actually gets dumber through its very hearing.

Pointing this out of course, has been our mission at The Ethical Skeptic for more than a decade now.

The Ethical Skeptic, “How to Detect Propaganda – The Art of the Professional Lie”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 17 Mar 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=64108

Disinformation vs Misinformation – Neither Can Be Defined by ‘Intent’ (Part I of II)

The social definitions of misinformation and disinformation suffer Wittgenstein Contextual Error. They are disinformation themselves. One should notice that, despite an expansion of such terminology and knowledge, nonetheless people grow more ignorant and gullible each decade. This is exactly how disinformation works.

The 10% lie is much more effective than the 100% one. While misinformation deals in lies, disinformation deals in facts. ‘Fact-checking’ therefore, is a favorite pretense of the disinformant.

This is Part I of a series of two articles. Part II – How to Detect Propaganda – The Art of the Professional Lie can be read here.

Information is qualified by its logical calculus – and not by one’s fantasy regarding their ability to ‘read’ their opponent.

There exist six states of wrong. Each state is defined below, along with its Wittgenstein identifier in parenthesis. But before we outline these definition delineations to a Wittgenstein level however, let’s briefly examine a principle I learned in my intelligence days.

Once detected, a 10% lie (disinformation) is much more informative than a 100% lie (misinformation) – as the latter is merely incorrect. The former often identifies the focus of the propaganda and the latter most often does not. This ‘added focus’ is not intent per se, but rather additional intelligence embedded inside the information itself. It is a status of the information therefore, and not of the person carrying it.

This is critical to comprehend. This ‘added intelligence’ (or agency) is sometimes misinterpreted as ‘intent’ (apparent intent) – hence the obvious confusion. Intent is the status of a person, not of the information. Being ‘partly correct’ (more accurately, the four forms of Disinformation below) is a status of information, not person.

All information stems from and carries intent. That is why it became information and was delivered to you in the first place. Therefore declaring that one knows in advance, what intent is bad (disinformation) and what intent is innocent (misinformation), constitutes a useless God proclamation. The ethical skeptic does not operate under such a luxury of inerrancy, as the ethical skeptic is not a god or anything near that. He or she cannot pretend to know intent a priori. He or she can only judge the soundness, completeness, and logical rigor of the syllogism and inference being passed.

The Conditions of Flawed Information

Misinformation

Misinformation deals in lies, purposed to a state of one ‘being ill-informed’ – as it gives wrong information.

When intentional, its intent is to injure or make the recipient appear as if irrational or error prone to others. Often it is fabricated so as to be detected at some point in the future when it will serve to discredit and harm the most. It is a form of poison information.

Misinformation (Latin ‘Mis’ – bad/wrong) – a state of holding information which is bad/wrong (this can be the result of both intent or non-intent and its contrived stickiness can be both permanent or temporary).1

   •  Wrong (sinnlos) – Factually incorrect (principally or ~100% wrong)
   •  Incoherent/Not even wrong (bedeutungslos) – Babble. Not a syllogism or statement of inference in reality

To the intelligence professional, there is negative utility in regarding ‘mistaken’ information as otherwise being completely sincere. Moreover, ‘being mistaken’ most often stems from Nelsonian intent or fear to begin with. Therefore, everyone bears an intent in transmuting the information they pass to one degree or another.

Immediately prior to the battle between Carthage’s Hannibal and Rome’s Scipio in October, 202 BCE at Zama, Hannibal dispatched men to locate Scipio and assess his legion’s military strength. The Romans captured several of these scouts. However, rather than execute them as spies, Scipio ordered them to be given a tour of the ranks and then be set free. Why did he reveal so much information? Scipio knew that the scouts would save face by not mentioning their capture, yet as well offer an incredibly detailed account of what they saw. However, the Roman army they ‘saw’ was not yet at full strength – and Scipio had hidden his most important battle asset from the scouts, his cavalry. The scouts simply reported that Scipio had no cavalry. This misinformation become the basis of Hannibal’s undoing at Zama.

The job of the intelligence professional is to detect agency, not simply human nature.

Disinformation

Disinformation deals in ‘facts’, purposed to a state of one ‘being un-informed’ – as it gives no actual salient or critical information at all – it can be most easily distinguished by what it ignores or is silent about.

Disinformation is chewing gum, which the consumer thinks is actual food. The disinformant of course does not want to be caught lying, and misinformation can be detected as a lie. Fact-checking therefore, is a favorite pretense of the disinformant – along with misdirection, appeal to ignorance or authority (debunking), or tag-line memorization. Its intent is to make the recipient appear artificially rational or correct before others, as long as they accede to it – so that the notion being passed, can spread more easily. It is fabricated so as to be harder to detect than mere lying. It is fabricated so as to displace the existence of usable information and create an intellectual vacuum (the absence or ‘without’).

Disinformation (Latin ‘Dis’ – without) – a state of being without information – a vacuum created by a spun ‘fact’ – which is superficially, irrelevantly, or partly correct – and distracts the recipient into not being aware that they hold no actual salient information at all (this is almost always intentional and almost always planned to be permanent in terms of its stickiness).2

   •  Contrived Correctness (sinnlos) – Factually correct, logically flawed or unsound inference
   •  Contrived Ignorance (sinnlos) – Mostly correct, Nelsonian knowledge or inference (10% wrong)
   •  Correct but Moot (unsinnig) – Inferentially moot, ignoratio elenchi, red herring, ingens vanitatum
   • 
Apothegm/Tag-Line (unsinnig) – A social idiom, appeal to apothegm, or catch phrase

Propaganda and Malinformation

Malinformation, or malicious information, is information which is purposely released and which serves by its content (not per se intent), to harm a targeted individual or organization. It can come in the form of truth, disinformation, or misinformation. Doxxing someone’s children for instance, exposing a crime for which they were convicted as a teenager, or releasing nude photos of someone, all can be 100% true information. As well, it can be fabricated or partially correct. Therefore, malinformation is for the most part a species of propaganda, because propaganda employs both disinformation (true to partly true) and misinformation (lie), as does malinformation.

With that in mind, let us therefore define propaganda (as intent), below.

Propaganda (The Art of the Professional Lie)

The skilled exploitation of caustic or surreptitious misinformation, anonymously sourced malinformation, along with smoothed (both simple and authoritative) disinformation, passed selectively from fiat authority to those targeted and under its influence – which is used to harm opposition voices, and to make allied voices appear more credible.

Propaganda exploits the human proclivity towards fear-uncertainty-doubt (FUD), identifying the bad guy in advance (judging intent), and finally the desire for easy and simple answers.

For a breakout of the channels and compartments of propaganda, see Part II – How to Detect Propaganda – The Art of the Professional Lie.

Please note as well that there exist both mis/disinformation and counter-mis/disinformation. One should not allow the complexity of ‘proposition versus counter-proposition’ to confuse the principle outlined above. A fact-checker for instance will often counter a claim made in public, and cite that it is ‘wrong’, when in fact only a minor, headlining, or trivial aspect of the material is wrong. Such would be a case of counter-propositional disinformation.

The counter-intelligence professional is trained to be a skilled observer of a special blend of misinformation and disinformation, called propaganda. Once they attempt to adjudicate these by intent alone, everything becomes a distinction without a difference. Everyone becomes a suspect.

As one can see, neither definition can hinge solely upon intent, as both can bear either its presence or absence. Gaslighting (an intent) for instance, can utilize both misinformation and disinformation at the same time. All six of these conditions of information, can stem from personal maliciousness, sincerity, or intent to deceive – which are conditions of the person, not conditions of information. This logical distinction is critical. Misinformation or Disinformation is a status of the information, and not of the myriad intents of potential people (or no people at all) who carry, promote, or alter it.

All of these conditions of information, are passed simultaneously and serially among layers of organization, intelligence and syndicate compartment, and series of individuals or authorities – all of whom are both sincere and insincere in their intent at the same time. All of whom also add their own spin.

The Problem of Intent:

Verschlimmbesserung – (German) to make something worse while trying to make it better. The fallacy of judging disasters by the measure that, those who bore the ‘good intentions’ should bear no fault, or place themselves as disconnected from the disaster.

A Lopsided Intent-Based Delineation is Disinformation Itself

Exhibit 1 – Intent vs Logic Based Delineationmost people do not perceive that they are being played from both ends of the disinformation and misinformation spectrum, not just one of them. Through declaring one end bad through intent and the other ‘good’, one has lost both the battle and the war.

This black arrow on the lower left hand side of Exhibit 1, is what one might call the ‘make it simple for me’ propaganda channel. The absolute hallmark of disinformation is, that it is most always crafted to be simple – which along with other treatments (see The Tree of Knowledge Obfuscation) are collectively termed as ‘smoothed’ in this chart.

Therefore, as one may observe in the above chart, intent is not a workable basis of delineation between misinformation and disinformation. Intent is an extra layer of discernment and complicatedness (Ockham’s Razor) one brings to the party before knowing anything at all. The problems of establishing an intent-based lopsided Wittgenstein footprint delineation include:

  1. Since all Misinformation is only innocent in context, propaganda (the Intelligence definition) can never exist. Only conspiracy theory can exist.
  2. A mutual exclusivity becomes a fortiori between Authority-Governance-Media (who only make mistakes, but bear only objective to good intent) and Malinformation. An exclusivity which forces all Disinformation (and therefore Conspiracy Theory) to reside outside the footprint of Authority-Governance-Media.
  3. Authority-Governance-Media can disinform all they please, as there is no term which exists to describe malicious activity on their part – just as long as they never say anything provably ‘100% wrong’ (Wittgenstein Context Error).
  4. This serves to establish the false dilemma, that if one questions The Narrative in the slightest, one is therefore a Conspiracy Theorist.
  5. Finally, this bifurcation falsely reassures Narrative Ninnies, that they are indeed correct.

Through an ‘intent’ bifurcation, one essentially establishes the standard,
that as long as one employs the terms ‘fact’ and ‘conspiracy theory’ –
they therefore have earned a license to lie.

Moreover, as a result

  • A lie would change constantly back and forth from misinformation to disinformation and back as it was passed through a chain of command or syndicate, crony network – until becoming inevitably altered through a series of individuals, various levels of awareness and intent, and into the market of information.
  • Information can be stripped of intent when it enters the marketplace of ideas to begin with. What does it become then? No longer disinformation? Baloney. This is exactly what fact-checkers thrive upon – assumed lack of agency.
  • Discerning of ‘intent’ adds another unnecessary layer of uncertainty and complicatedness into the already shaky discourse around a science. This is an unwise activity from a philosophical standpoint, and should be avoided whenever possible.
  • Through this type of value chain, if the definition were based upon solely intent, all disinformation would eventually devolve into misinformation in the market/field as it encountered more gullibility (less intent to deceive). Propaganda could never therefore exist at a level of accountability. It would perpetually wear the costume of innocent ‘misinformation’.
  • A person can claim exculpatory status from maliciousness and propaganda simply by claiming ‘I was mistaken’ – when no such thing was true (and because there is no such status as ‘distaken’) and where indeed they purposely surrendered their diligence to an authority they knew to be disinformative.
  • Finally, Trojan Disinformation (misinformation which is purposely loaded with internal clues as to its falsehood) can be passed freely as propaganda and never be described. Since it is ‘misinformation’, it is also therefore not disinformation nor propaganda. A wonderful sleight-of-hand by means of semantics.

Trojan Disinformation and Controlled Opposition

A set of data or observation which is passed to an opposition group anonymously, which appears at face value to support their contentions – however, which also contains an often subtle but irrefutable feature which will serve to falsify the set of data or observation at a later time, well after it has already gone viral inside the opposing camp. This is a Trojan Horse style of disinformation, which is sold as misinformation (innocent mistake); disinformation designed to discredit opposing voices through their credulity and lack of attention to detail.

Trojan Disinformation is often released by controlled opposition. Vladimir Lenin said “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.” With Trojan Disinformation you both lead, mislead, and spotlight the opposition all at once.

Such tactics are detected by their channel, schema, and structure – and not by means of the intent of various individuals involved. The ethical skeptic knows that it is not actually their job (although it is human nature to do so) to psychically discern the intent of the person they are deliberating with across the table. We are not playing poker when deliberating science, philosophy, and truth. We are not trying to win a kitty or ego-stoking argument. This is how tribes and polarization foment, as everyone begins to distrust everyone on the opposing side, from expertly reading their ‘intent’ – rather than focusing upon the logical calculus at hand.

Of course we have seen the results of that working basis of definition. It is therefore high time for a new and Wittgenstein accurate one.

The Ethical Skeptic, “Disinformation vs Misinformation – Neither Has Anything To Do with ‘Intent’”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 10 Mar 2022; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=63633