Updated: Nov 25, 2022
Misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation
One of the critiques about my blog entries I most often hear is that they’re too long. I’ve been informed about the short attention spans of people, unreadability of my writing due to my mind’s meandering process, and how information overload will likely continue presenting as a challenge for others.
I’m a work in progress, as are my blog entries.
One area of which I’m acutely aware, and from which I strive to abstain when writing, relates to the spread of misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation. Perhaps you’ve heard something about these terms, perhaps not.
Misinformation is defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” When considering this term, I think of a mistake as relating to misinformation.
A poignant example of misinformation I find useful is the notion that “all men are created equal,” as some suggest this equates to the notion of sameness—being identically uniform without variety. I find the notion that all humans are a monolith to be absurd.
When people often repeat the quote, are they attempting to deliberately deceive others? Perhaps they’re simply confused or misinformed about the matter. Regarding the quote, one source states:
I am not equal to a seven-foot, 365-pound man by way of stature. We may be equally secure in our rights under United States (U.S.) law, though perhaps not so if we reside in different nations.
Therefore, depending on how one frames the issue, not all humans are created equal. Those who spread false information to the contrary may simply be mistaken.
Disinformation is defined as “false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.” When thinking of this phrase, I relate disinformation to being dishonest.
Disinformation is a term echoed in common discussions about U.S. sociopolitical topics. One popular example during the 2016 election cycle related to disinforming the public about voting dates.
Per one source, a mayor posted on social media, “Remember the voting days: Republicans vote on Tuesday, 11/8 and Democrats vote on Wednesday, 11/9.” The alleged intent of the information was to confuse Democrat voters, thus reducing the number of votes received by the party.
Depending on the dishonest information one spreads, it may be a local, state, or federal crime to disseminate disinformation. Then again, it generally depends on the circumstances.
Interestingly, when I was in the military, psychological operations (PsyOps) personnel were able to deliberately disinform members of others nations though similar behavior practiced in the U.S. could lead to penalties. That’s another story for another time.
Relatively new to my vocabulary, malinformation is defined as “genuine information that is shared to cause harm. This includes private or revealing information that is spread to harm a person or reputation.” I relate malinformation to malicious intent.
Sharing a person’s personal information with calls for raiding, doxing, mobbing, brigading, review-bombing, swatting, canceling, or some other form of group bullying may violate laws and terms of service for various social media platforms. Malinformation comes in many varieties.
I’m old enough to remember the original book of doxing, also known as the phone book, wherein people’s telephone numbers and addresses were openly searchable. I even attended a high school at which student mini-phonebooks were published for the entire student body.
The component of malicious intent concerns the information being shared for the purpose of causing actual harm, not simply information for the purpose of knowledge. It’s genuine information though with a malicious component.
In my blog, I strive to provide information while staying mindful of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. If ever I post inaccurate data, it is my hope that people will be patient, understanding, and charitable to my overall message.
The majority of my cluttered blog posts relate to how I approach psychotherapy. Though not meant to substitute or augment clinical practice, I enjoy providing information others may find purposeful, meaningful, and beneficial.
When practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I use psychoeducation to teach clients about how their minds impact their emotions, body, and behavior. This lesson includes elements relating to personal ownership.
REBT uses the ABC Model, which is framed as follows:
(A)ction – What occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)
(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)
(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B).
REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection we disturb ourselves with beliefs—B-C connection. If we tell ourselves information—be it misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation—that leads to needless suffering, we can in turn dispute this nonsense in order to improve our lives.
In the current blog entry, I won’t get into the nuances of how disputation of this information works. If you would like more in-depth understanding about my approach to REBT disputing, I invite you to review blog entries listed under the Disputation portion of my blog.
In general, I like to think of the ABC Model as a formula: Action + Belief = Consequence ÷ Disputation = Effective new belief. Or, using the simplified version: A+B=C÷D=E.
Election information overload
Today, the 2022 midterm election is underway. I have no doubt that current and future information related to this day will serve as an action accompanied by beliefs and resulting in consequences for many people worldwide.
As someone who identifies as apolitical and retains no membership or loyalty to any political party, I can observe the election process from an etic perspective—as a member of the out-group. Though far from unbiased, I am able to watch without emotional attachment to an outcome.
In essence, I can use REBT techniques when others who aren’t as unattached or familiar with this form of therapy will disturb themselves into fearful, angry, sorrowful, and disgusted dispositions. I take little pleasure in this experience, yet I find it educational nonetheless.
I think of information, misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation while wondering which was in play regarding an October 22, 2020 Reuters article that stated:
Like so many other people, before going to sleep on the night of November 3, 2020, I observed precisely what the Reuters article predicted. It appeared as though Donald Trump was winning.
However, the “red mirage” spoken of in the article resulted in Joe Biden apparently receiving more support than the most-ever votes received by Barrack Obama. I recall an energized nation turning out in mass for the latter, though I don’t recall the same enthusiasm for the former.
Many people openly expressed skepticism regarding the 2020 presidential election results. Social media companies began censoring questions associated with critical thought.
Mainstream, corporate, and legacy media outlets (“the cathedral”) collectively mocked those who voiced concerns. Imagine making fun of people who pursue knowledge for the sake of understanding.
Though Hillary Clinton purportedly questioned the legitimacy of the 2016 election, which was promoted by the cathedral, questioning the 2020 results was deemed unacceptable. I observed many comment sections on the cathedral’s forums being closed for discourse.
Uncertain about the likely shenanigans which occurred before my very eyes, I wondered how it could be that results were possibly altered as drastically while I slept during the 2020 election night. Had I fallen for misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation related to Biden’s chances of victory?
Babe Ruth’s famous called shot related to a home run hit by the baseball player in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, held on October 1, 1932, as he made a pointing gesture some suggest was a prediction about his pending performance.
I participate in sports as much as I do by active voting—which is to say I don’t partake—though I find the Ruth comparison to Biden a relevant one. On February 4, 2021, Time released an article addressing a “shadow campaign that saved the 2020 election”:
The Time article continued with a significant trove of information that detailed how an apparent “conspiracy” resulted in a secured election for Biden. I was quite surprised that a publication would boast about supposed conspiratorial actions.
Interestingly, the May 20, 2022 release of 2000 Mules was branded as “a 2022 American conspiracy theory political film from right-wing political commentator Dinesh D’Souza that falsely claims unnamed nonprofit organizations paid ‘mules’ associated with the Democratic Party to illegally collect and deposit ballots into drop boxes in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin during the 2020 presidential election”
The Reuters article was akin to Ruth calling his shot and the Time article explained the follow-through action to achieve a desired result. Review the references I’ve listed herein if you think I’m spreading misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation.
I’m unmoved by those who may offhandedly label me a “conspiracy theorist” for questioning information presented to me. I know how that term has been used by the very PsyOps personnel with whom I worked when serving overseas diplomatic missions.
Meme jokes aside, I value consideration of differing perspectives. In the past, I’ve wed my ideological positions and experienced a limited worldview in so doing. I now try not to make the same mistakes.
Therefore, I have questions as Clinton now warns, “I know we’re all focused on the 2022 midterm elections, and they are incredibly important. But we also have to look ahead. Because, you know what, our opponents certainly are. Right-wing extremists already have a plan to literally steal the next presidential election, and they’re not making a secret of it.”
From an REBT perspective, I understand that should, must, and ought-type statements also take the form of saying, “But we also have to look ahead.” For instance, replace the word “have” with the demand “ought.”
Who is the “we” about whom Clinton speaks? Democrats, Republicans, U.S. citizens? Why ought we look ahead for the actions of so-called “opponents”? To whom or what are these people opposed?
What are the criteria to be labeled as “right-wing extremists”? Is it extreme to oppose the current political structure? Is it extreme to vote against the Democratic Party interests? Is it extreme to question election integrity when articles of election fortification are published by Time?
The 2021 Time article certainly made no “secret of it,” regarding the information to control a desired outcome. As though the cathedral information overload wasn’t enough, Time has once again issued another point-to-the-outfield article.
On October 21, 2022, Time stated:
I don’t know about having “no reason” for skepticism, or about how thinking critically of the potential for election fortification is considered “unfortunate.” What reasonable person unattached to a political ideology wouldn’t maintain questions?
Priming the pump—using an advance stimulus (article) to enhance the reception of knowledge (election results)—is a well-understood psychological phenomenon. It’s no more akin to a conspiracy theory than actually admitting to a “cabal of powerful people” having influenced the 2020 election.
All the same, I can understand one’s hesitance to simply believe a political process whereby:
· On July 15, 2021, Jen Psaki stated at a White House press briefing, “We’re flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation.”
This is arguably a First Amendment issue in which the government may have influenced the control or limiting of information. Does this concern you, dear reader?
· On May 18, 2022, Nina Jankowicz resigned from her proposed position to head the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Disinformation Governance Board, which reportedly was set to “coordinate department activities related to disinformation aimed at the US population and infrastructure.”
The DHS position was arguably an infringement of free speech. Even if the limiting of speech is facilitated through a private company, government influence to control outcomes raises questions.
· On August 25, 2022, Mark Zuckerberg admitted to Joe Rogan, “The background here is the FBI came to us - some folks on our team - and was like, ‘Hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump that’s similar to that,” regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop.
If true, this may represent an attempt to cover-up information—largely from government influence. While you may support the suppression of certain kinds of information, many U.S. citizens understand this to be dishonest (disinformation) and with malicious intent (malinformation).
· On October 31, 2022, The Intercept released a report related to the DHS, alleging that although the Disinformation Governance Board was apparently disbanded, the work is “ongoing” and includes major social media companies:
The Intercept further alleges that not only has the government continued its misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation efforts, it apparently has “expanded” operations:
This is indeed an overload of information. Nonetheless, I consider it a worthwhile endeavor to inform oneself when possible, as to remain able to dispute irrational information with accurate data.
I understand that not everyone appreciates lengthy blog posts. As well, maybe people don’t want a therapist’s perspective about sociopolitical matters.
Perhaps if I danced around on TikTok and offered five easy tips to improve mental health, that brand of fast food, microwave, therapy-to-go information would be more quickly digestible. However, would it be mentally and emotionally nutritious?
I’m serving content that takes time to prepare and which I hope will edify the reader. Without an ignorance-informed perspective, or without poor informational understanding, perhaps you will grow into healthier behaviors—even if you experience discomfort through the growing process.
There is no shortage of information, misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation available about whatever will occur as I got to sleep tonight. I suspect that in the days to come there may be more tomfoolery afoot—supposedly for the sake of “fortifying” elections.
When one is prepared for potentially unpleasant actions, one can better formulate rational beliefs which may lead to more helpful consequences.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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