Disinformation

Disinformation is not synonymous with misinformation. To “dis” is to destroy. Disinformation is the destruction of what is being informed, that which is providing form.

– Hardial Bains Resource Centre –

Most significant in going through this particular historical period of retreat of revolution, is that all the experience of humans relating to humans and humans relating to nature from time immemorial is coming to a head. If that vast experience is not thought through, then we could be heading for a greater tragedy, an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress. It is in this context that what constitutes disinformation has significance.

Disinformation is not synonymous with misinformation. It can include misinformation, straightforward lying or misconceptions of various things but this does not go to the heart of the matter which lies in the “dis” part of the word disinformation. To “dis” is to destroy. Disinformation is the destruction of what is being informed, that which is providing form.

A legitimate question is: What is the realm of what needs to be informed with this vast human experience? What is the arena that we are actually dealing with? How do we connect with, have links with, feel the whole sensuous matter of this experience that we have in our personal lives and in the lives of our collectives and in society in general and internationally throughout the world?

We are speaking here of the ensemble of human relations – all the material that becomes thought material, that is provided to the human brain. This is what has to be informed. We are not talking about information as in bits of computer data or about giving the proper piece of data that somebody in their brilliance can construct. This is akin to sorting out the question of “what is what” by having a grocery list of things or, for that matter, by collecting metadata. If we are to take various bits of information and just string them together in any way that we desire, giving it whatever form we desire, that could be well and fine and there are various points of interest that could possibly be communicated by doing something like that. But that is not what we are talking about when we speak about informing, about having information. Without tackling this, we will not see the disinformation.

When we look at the world, the natural and social environment, when we deal with our society, our collectives, where we work, how we work, all of these things, we get to see a vast entanglement, how everything is related to everything else and how there is such a complexity. If one could stand on a mountaintop and look down and see all the trees and lakes together, one might see a city over here and cars and roads over there. But for us in social life, it is never like having that vantage point on a mountaintop because we are right in the midst of the hurly-burly. How does one relate to one’s colleagues and co-workers, to one’s comrades, family, neighbours, to one’s nation, to one’s polity – all such questions arise. Not only that, there is a whole history that has brought us all together up to this point. This history is the whole social development and the stage of development now reached by the productive forces, of which the most important are the human beings who do the work, who have contributed to bringing society to where it is today, to bringing civilization to this point. There is a human need to see, to literally see, to observe what is known, to understand how did we get here, what is unknown, to define precisely, especially what is unknown, what is absent in our lives. And thus how do we deal with the problems as they are presented?

All the developments that have taken place provide very rich content, but this content necessarily outstrips the forms that have been established in the past. To put it very concretely, in the society we live in today the fetter on our lives is the social relations of production that we enter into independent of our will. Literally forced down everybody’s throats are the claims of monopoly right, to the extent that there is no public right. People’s right to make claims for a livelihood, for conscience, for all the things that are needed, including those within the spheres of knowledge and all such matters, are simply not recognized.

At the same time, being human beings in a particular historical period, in a definite political and economic arrangement, we all have to have our opinions about what we need to do. If we cannot collect, inform this vast need for expressing our opinions, we have no way of examining even what is correct or incorrect, relevant or irrelevant. Everything becomes diffuse. At the same time, because of the developments and because we live in a modern society there are all sorts of institutions with their disciplines. For example, with the development of modern capitalist society, one of the most important achievements was the scientific and technological revolution in which the relations of humans with nature could be transformed for use by human beings. In order to carry this out, the university system was developed, various institutions were established, such as publishing houses and newspapers and associations, and this constituted part of the original revolutionary struggles that established the modern nation states. Within these universities and forms of education, and within the development of journalism, knowledge had its expressions, as well as all the opinions that pertained to that knowledge. This constituted the various disciplines, whether it was mathematics or biology or economics or political and social sciences or fine arts, music or others. They were developed to the level that social development had carried them, along with the productive forces, but within the context of the social relations that were already established. What was most important at a certain period was the creation of something that was public, the formation of outlook – not just knowledge but an outlook based on that knowledge.

We are not dealing here with the question of world outlook per se, but an aspect of it which is the creation of public opinion, that in the creation of polities and political society there is the need for arguing out all the distributions of claims and interests that people have in different ways. That public opinion is going to be informed by people fighting in their interests, expressing their outlooks. Because we live in a class society, that fight within the domain of public opinion goes on among all the contending classes and social forces.

This constitutes a definite complexity that is linked very closely but is not the same as the problem that exists in fighting for and carrying out the democratic revolution against medievalism. That fight brought forth a modern conception of democracy which served the needs of the society as it existed at that time. Today this no longer adequately expresses what is required as people present themselves with many interests as individuals, within their collectives, then in the society overall and which are, at the same time, the consequence of all the influences both of their own experiences and how they are affected by the vast interaction through the institutions of their society. This is what is called affect. It is not simply a social relation that exists, but because of the human brain, these social relations, to varying degrees and in various ways, are cognized. All the human brain can do in cognition is perceive and know the relations that underlie the basis of the society, those relations between humans and humans and humans and nature. That affect is expressed in the form of passions. It is what provides emotionality. In the domain of public opinion, there will be the expression of all the angers, joys, happiness, anxieties, lusts, strivings and so on of that particular society, which will be informed by its culture – political, ethical, scientific culture.

Every type of work that is done within that society, based on its stage of development, has its own culture and that culture has a form. It has material, social and ideological form, not as separate things, but as that culture. Any work that is established develops its own culture. If the needs of that society at any particular time are not met by establishing work, whether it is in industry, or in scientific research or in the area of class struggle, that culture is not able to develop. This means that the affects, the sensuousness of people, the passions are going to be influenced by those who have done that work, carried them out in the domain of work.

Put in terms of what happens today, this is where the human personality becomes either humanized or dehumanized. It either gets organized adequate to or in conformity with this stage of development that society has already reached or it does not. It is what history is calling for as the task that has to be settled once and for all in these particular circumstances. This is what has to be informed. All the opinions expressing the affect, the social affect in that emotionality that people enter into in their relations to one another and to nature have to be informed. It means that we have to be able to work together within the particular historical circumstances, we have to have the facts of the matter and to be able to discuss the facts of the matter. We have to decide where these facts of the matter will lead us. We have to be able to make predictions. For instance, it is how deliberations take place on how to prevent a natural disaster. In the same way, we could stop the social disaster which is in the making; we could turn historical success into victory. All of this is fought out in this realm of what is public opinion. 

There have to be the forms given rise to that are adequate to bring this content into the public realm, to release the initiative of all the people who have the expertise to make the contributions, to make this advance, and to settle scores finally, historically, with everything from the past.

To be continued.

(Photos: TML)

For your information

Muslims and the Media

Shunpiking Magazine interview with Sandra L. Smith, November 14, 2006 on  aspects of the modus operandi and underlying premise of media disinformation.

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