Defining “misinformation” and “disinformation” in the United States typically falls to the Department of State (DoS). While the prefixes of the terms are easy enough to define, and the DoS readily provides such definitions—“misinformation” being unintentional and “disinformation” being intentional—what’s never defined is the information aspect. While it would seem the most obvious part of the term needing defined, it’s also the most nebulous—or, rather, the most subjective. Official institutions want to distance themselves from any semblance of subjectivity, so they leave the most important part of defining the term unstated. What is the information that’s being intentionally or unintentionally misrepresented? Not answering this question leaves one room to remain adequately distanced from the issue at hand, like some disinterested observer in a cupola spotting others’ subjectivity, but never one’s own. This, of course, is the modus operandi of official mouthpieces in the West: feign “objectivity” as a means of psychologically dominating the masses—itself a method of mis/disinformation. Passing off the definition of prefixes as the definition of the terms is calculated subterfuge to strengthen the position of the one presenting the information.
It’s clear that information must be state-sanctioned for it to count as information at all—anything besides falls into the mis/disinformation category. Information, though, is the means by which we understand the world, and this information never goes unfiltered. That is, information, as it’s understood at all, can never be separated from subjective perception, whether in its propagation or consumption. Thus, to present it as being at any time objective is disingenuous, if not outright deceitful. Certain information that might seem incontrovertibly objective—e.g., the sun rises in the east—will nevertheless have a subjective tint; after all, the sun rising at all, and where, depends on one’s position on the earth. Other information that certainly reaches the heights of objectivity—e.g., humans need water to live—is so benign as to be rendered meaningless; and while existentially important, such facts, which are indeed truly objective, do not inform the perceptual experience of our reality. That is to say, information, insofar as it influences our mental perceptions and physical actions, is fundamentally subjective. State-sanctioned information, like any information conveyed from ego to ego, is therefore subjective and, indeed, if it is to have any meaning, is necessarily so. Pretending, then, to be anything other than subjective, would be a clear signal of deceptive practice. By not defining what precisely information is—or what constitutes “good” information—official mouthpieces “inform” by omission: the consumer is left to the whim of the doctrinaire, the demagogue, unable to participate in the conveyance of meaning: the objective “informer” is the factual god; the subjective consumer is the human clay. Omission is a tool of state-sanctioned propaganda, a means through which the unsuspecting masses are subjugated, and represents a supreme irony of using mis/disinformation to define mis/disinformation.
It is not enough, however, that official mouthpieces in the West forgo defining information; they must also control what information we may consume. On 16 July 2021, the White House Press Secretary stated the United States Government (USG) engaged with social media platforms, in the interest of “public health,” to provide “accurate” information and “create robust enforcement strategies” to propagate such “accurate” information. “You shouldn’t be banned from one platform,” the Secretary said, “and not others.” While emphasizing the “private sector” status of the platforms, the Secretary made it plain that the USG is pressuring these “private sector” companies to kiss the ring of the information arbiters. This is not only apparent in the push to ban so-called mis/disinformers across multiple platforms, but also in the Secretary’s aside about algorithms being designed to “promote quality information.” Later, the Secretary added “information that’s inaccurate we consider misinformation.” Noting the matter “[isn’t] more complicated than that,” the Secretary, as official mouthpiece of the President, rests on the authority of the office to determine fact from fiction. This, of course, is more damning than simply deceiving by omission and suggesting “objectivity”; this is acknowledging information’s quality is a matter of state consideration, which, in turn, is meant to forcibly suggest “objectivity” through the presumed expertise that comes from the state whose power rests in its ability to wage warfare across diplomatic, informational, military, economic, intelligence, and legal means. It’s defining the terms via implicit threat; it’s changing the rules of the game to achieve the desired result.
Information is the product and producer of perception. Those with power are best situated to shape it, and they do. Are we to trust the official mouthpieces who mask their intent behind a veneer of “objectivity” and such benignities as “press secretary,” “public affairs official,” or another “official” capacity? Or is it more reasonable to almost automatically distrust those who aim to influence you through deception or their own ignorance of reality?
Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government…. There is a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea…. It remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world. – Edward Bernays, Propaganda