“Disinformation: The Use of False Information” (Article Review)
In his article, “Disinformation: The Use of False Information,” Fetzer begins by differentiating between misinformation and disinformation. According to the author, “misinformation” is the use of “false, mistaken, or misleading information” (Fetzer 231). Conversely, “disinformation” is the “distribution, assertion, or dissemination of false, mistaken, or misleading information in an intentional, deliberate, or purposeful effort to mislead, deceive, or confuse.” Therefore, disinformation could suggest “misinformation with an attitude.” The information is spread to mislead and make people believe in false news. In such situations, various interested parties, such as in politics and media, prefer to hide the actual truth and instead spread falsehood. Of the many contexts within which the process of disinformation occurs, the most applicable is the “evidence ” surrounding the death of JF Kennedy.
Fetzer’s research reveals a high level of disinformation in supposedly democratic societies. Bennett and Livingston support the findings in the article by revealing the existence of false information circulating through various political platforms (122). Political interest groups spread incorrect reports to rally support and mobilize people to agree with their partisan perspectives. Disinformation is used in many countries to conceal the limitations of democracy by legitimizing inherent evils, such as corruption. For example, where citizens are likely to question the credibility of information, political media and journalists are used to spread false news to convince people of its validity. The process is also intended to interrupt the normal order in a country by distracting citizens from pursuing the truth or reality. The death of JKF is used as a typical example of the use of disinformation to mislead people and conceal the facts surrounding the incident. Consequently, Fetzer’s research provides evidence of disinformation in American politics.
Types of Disinformation
According to Fetzer, disinformation takes various forms, depending on the intention of the person spreading false information. In some instances, individuals acknowledge the source of disinformation, creating an “overt” form (Fetzer 231). In other cases, it is concealed, providing a misleading identity or omitting one altogether, causing a “covert” type. Whichever kind of disinformation is used, the intention of the person performing the act is critical. The objectives and goals of the falsehood are essential in determining the type of disinformation an individual decides to employ. Interestingly, Fetzer chose to conduct a study of one of the most significant incidents in the history of the United States, the death of JFK, to bring to light the main types of disinformation. The research led to the identification of five kinds of deceptions.
The Fifth Level of Disinformation. The aspect of spreading false information has been used in political circles for a long time with the intent to persuade the public. Bennett and Livingston use the concept of disorienting episodes of disinformation, which occur in many countries from a political perspective (124). The authors suggest that concerted information flows from the political players to the people by distorting reality to suit a purpose. The concept of disinformation can be understood by studying the different types or levels proposed by Fetzer. The fifth level of disinformation is common since it involves an informant who purposefully cherry-picks information in order to obscure or pervert the truth thereby presenting a false or incomplete picture. This aspect also entails the use of fabricated evidence to persuade the audience of a falsehood. For example, although the Warren Commission might have correctly investigated the death of JFK, the information could be altered to suit the interest of its purveyor. Notably, the fifth level of disinformation is quite prevalent in political circles.
The Fourth Level of Disinformation. In his explanation of disinformation of type four, Fetzer recognizes the magnitude of publications concerning the death of JFK. Regardless of the extent of published information, it is basically a misrepresentation of reality (Fetzer 235). For example, some incidents that occurred during the day of the assassination that could shed light on what conspired are evidently lacking. The selective recording of events reflects the intention to mislead the audience. This kind of disinformation occurs in many cases where the reporter wants to conceal vital information or to deceive the recipients.
The Third Level of Disinformation. The third level of disinformation relates to the fourth aspect from the perspective of publishing spurious information and convincing the audience to believe in it. Disinformation is essential in communicating the credibility of the author, which leads to the false representation of the information. Fetzer cites Assassination Science and Murder in Dealey Plaza, which contains evidence about JFK’s murder (Fetzer 237). The author defines the third level of disinformation as a verbal attack on a writer or source of information that is irrelevant to the content they present: a tactic also known as ad hominem. The purpose of this type of disinformation is to conceal the truth that another person seeks to reveal.
The Second Level of Disinformation. Disinformation occurs through distortion or dismissal of evidence. Fetzer presents a strong case for this type of disinformation in his second-level discussion. He convincingly argues that situations arise in which substantial evidence that could prove a claim is ignored or dismissed ( 238). Where relevant evidence is missing, the audience can believe the falsehood, especially if they lack any other way of proving the truth. Such situations occur in many cases, such as in court, where the correct evidence is distorted to use disinformation and rule in favor of one side. Since the actual evidence is not available, it becomes possible to alter the truth.
The First Level of Disinformation. The first level of disinformation, according to Fetzer, emanates from the incompetence of a critic. The author suggests various factors that could cause such disinformation, including “lack of mental acumen, specific misunderstandings, or a lack of familiarity with relevant evidence (simple ignorance)” (237). It is possible to offer such disinformed critique especially if the audience lacks reliable facts regarding an event. This situation occurs mostly in complex and controversial matters, such as the death of JFK. Many people are easily misled in various cases due to a blind belief in the critic.
As is evident from this reflection, disinformation is a common phenomenon in political and media arenas where people access misleading or erroneous information and become convinced about its truthfulness. Individuals are thus misinformed and denied the truth or facts about a situation. Fetzer provides a detailed analysis of the various forms of disinformation utilized to make citizens believe in a lie. Unfortunately, disinformation is used as a political tool to hide the truth about the wrong-doings of a government and other political players.
Bennett, W. Lance, and Steven Livingston. “The Disinformation Order: Disruptive Communication and the Decline of Democratic Institutions.” European Journal of Communication, vol. 33, no. 2, 2018, pp. 122-139.
Fetzer, James H. “Disinformation: The use of False Information.” Minds and Machines, vol. 14, no. 2, 2004, pp. 231-240.