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