Articles

  |  Thor Galle

Disinformation documentaries

Published on April 4, 2019

Today I watched an interesting documentary (in Dutch) from Flemish public television about Russian disinformation in the US and Europe. Among the cases it explores are Russian blaming of Belgian F-16 fighters for killing civilians in Syria and the defamation of a Finnish reporter that investigated Russian interference in Finland.

The techniques used to disinform are not new however. While social media is the prevalent medium today, masses have been misled or centuries by parties that have incentive to do so. It reminded me of Merchants of Doubt, a 2014 feature-length documentary that tells the stories of the tobacco industry fighting medical counterpressure with lies, and climate change deniers tainting scientific consensus with fake science.

The main takeaway is that sowing lies causes people to doubt truths spread in the mainstream media. Little false discourse is necessary to achieve a sufficient level of confusion about eg. climate change. When people are confused, they stick to what they want to believe and ignore information that disconfirms their beliefs (see cognitive dissonance). That is the goal of the disinformers.

These documentaries remain relevant today with climate change denier Trump in office and the Russians doing their thing as we speak. They teach us to be wary of counter-information, wherever it may come from. Recommended to watch!


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