About ‘Disinformation’

Those critical of Communism often highlight how it’s underpinned by Envy; But I think supporting Communism is first and foremost a result of the Sin of Pride: there’s immense hubris in believing one can design a centralised economic system that beats evolutionary forces. In “The Road to Serfdom” F.A. Hayek contends that government control of economic decision-making, even with good intentions, inevitably leads to totalitarianism. Hayek was a visionary: a lot of intellectuals persisted in their love for Communism even after the horrors of the Soviet Regime became apparent.

While at the moment outright advocacy for Communism may not be widespread among intellectuals, there remains a latent affinity for top-down control – a kind of ember of ideology that, though subdued, is still smouldering, waiting for the right conditions to reignite. Often, the catalyst for such a resurgence is the perception of a looming threat (that might very well be a justified worry in itself), such as the recent concern over misinformation. The same pride that made intellectuals believe in centralised control over the economy now leads them to often support a form of epistemic control to fight off misinformation.  (emphasis added)

The above is from Ruxandra Teslo’s substack post The Road to (Mental) Serfdom.  It is very well done–read the whole thing.

There is no human or set of humans qualified to act as ultimate judges of what is true.  Sometimes, even the most well-meaning and brilliant individuals get it wrong: see for example the case of Vannevar Bush and ballistic missiles.  Bush, who was FDR’s science advisor during WWII, was an unquestionably brilliant and creative man who, along with his many other contributions,  invented the mechanical analog computer and envisaged the concept of hypertext, long before the Internet and the World Wide Web.  Yet, regarding the prospect of intercontinental ballistic missiles, he wrote in 1945:

The people who have been writing these things that annoy me have been talking about a 3,000-mile, high-angle rocket, shot from one continent to another, carrying an atomic bomb, and so directed as to be a precise weapon, which would land exactly on a certain target, such as a city. I say, technically I don’t think anybody in the world knows how to do such a thing, and I feel confident it will not be done for a very long period of time to come. I wish the American public would leave that out of their thinking.

If Dr Bush had had complete control over American defense and aerospace research, it is likely that the US would have been much later in ICBM deployment than it in fact was.  We cannot know what the consequences of such lateness would have been, but it’s safe to say that they would not have been good.

The people and entities who demand to be the gatekeepers of truth are not generally anywhere as intelligent and accomplished as was Dr Bush.  And their track record does not inspire confidence.  Yesterday marked the 120th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Only 9 weeks previous to that flight, the New York Times mocked the idea of heavier-than-air flight.  In 1920, Robert Goddard’s rocket experiments were dismissed by that newspaper in an almost unbelievably arrogant manner.   And just recently, the NYT published a highly misleading headline about what had happened to a hospital in Gaza.  Any information-management regime is likely to be run by the kind of people who run the NYT…or worse.  Consequences of forcing information conformity can be very severe, as I discussed in my post Starvation and Centralization.

From Ruxandra’s post: “Just like a free market allows disparate individuals and companies to try and fail and then maybe succeed at creating a product, freedom of thought leads to institutions and opinion makers trying to get at the truth. It’s from this constant hum-drum of people trying their best, that something resembling Truth emerges, and never from top-down control or blind application of some rule.”

This point was once better-understood in the United States than it is today, I believe: even people who were not big fans of the economic free market were often fans of the intellectual free market.  But the whole idea of discussion and debate…even of the adversary system in the courtroom…is  now rejected by a disturbing numbers of people.

In a rather meta way, the idea that there are no safe judges of ‘disinformation’ is apparently itself considered misinformation by some people  If you click the link to Ruxandra’s post on her X/Twitter feed, you get a message Warning: This Link May Be Unsafe.  The likelihood is high, I think, that the message is there because somebody or some set of somebodies filed false reports about the link being harmful.

35 thoughts on “About ‘Disinformation’”

  1. “It’s not what you know and not what you don’t know, it’s what you “know” that ain’t so.”

    Everything you read or hear should be prefaced: “In my opinion.” right up to when you’ve performed the relevant statistical analysis on whatever, if anything, they offer as proof. In my opinion.

    I have lots of opinions, some of them may even be right.

  2. David,

    Thanks for both the great comment and the link to Teslo’s substack! I agree with everything both you and her said regarding the marketplace of ideas, I think in this low and dishonest time with its elitism we need to be explicit about two things regarding it.

    The first is that while the marketplace of ideas may be justified for its social benefits, that is it works better over and produces better results than top-down censorship, the ability of a given an individual to participate in that free exchange is based on their natural, inherent rights and not the social benefit derived. My freedom to express myself, to freely engage in speech is based on rights as an individual, not from the benefit that others may perceive or derive from it. That’s an important distinction to drive home given the pressures to deprive social undesirables (Trump-supporters…) of their rights

    Second, the social benefits of the marketplace of ideas is greater than censorship over time and not at any particular period of time, It easy for some form of dishonest action or hysteria to inject at some point of time, as we saw with COVID and vaccines, and declare that rights be darned, we need to save lives so shut up. However not only do the best ideas and truth eventually surface over time, but keeping the system open provides a deterrent effect to bad actors to begin with.

    I understand Teslo’s piece was only a substack post, but I was surprised that given her academic background that she didn’t touch on the most relevant part of academia and media regarding misinformation, that is takeover of those industries by postmodernism. Postmodernism does not believe in any sort of “Truth” that is free from power relations in society, which in US and Europe means White Cisgender Heteronormative Supremacy. Therefore the value of any information can only be judged in relation to the characteristics of the person proposing it. This has taken root in the media with its abandonment of the traditional notions of objectivity in favor of using different “voices” to find “Truth”

    Teslo’s decries the decline of academia and the media to act as credible sources due to engagement in the use of information to maintain status; however, she fails to see that this is more than a loss of integrity but rather from the willing adoption of nihilism. There has been a lot of talk in places like New York of changing the curriculum to “educate” kids on how to spot “misinformation” which should scare all of us given how it will be misused. Better to follow the example of my rural, podunk high school where we were equipped with tools such as logical reasoning, fallacies, and the like to be able to think for ourselves… but we cannot have that right?

    I was saddened to see at the end of her post that Teslo engaged in some of the same “haute bourgeoise” thinking that she had decried earlier, this time with her decrying of vaccine and election denialists especially as she sees it as undermining trust in vital institutions However the point is that we shouldn’t be trusting those institutions to begin with. That lack of trust and the willingness of the Elites to wrap themselves like a block of cement around those institutions will be the defining story of the next 15 months.

  3. Mike…regarding Vaccines, I see a huge difference between people who reject vaccines in general versus people who have concerns about a particular vaccine or particular schedule of vaccine administration. I don’t think there’s any question that vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of lives and prevented untold human misery..yet there are quite a lot of people who think that vaxes are just a way for Big Pharma to make money, and/or that if you keep yourself in good shape, you don’t need them. Indeed, a guy I have known since 10th grade and am still FB friends with was stating that latter belief just recently. Yet I’m sure that he’s had the polio vaccine in addition to a whole raft of other childhood vaccines, and without them he quite likely would not still be in the land of the living.

    Specifically re the Covid vaccines, I’ve looked at a lot of data (it is very important to stratify by age), and I’m convinced the death rate would have been a lot higher absent the vaxes. Operation Warp Speed was a tremendous accomplishment. re side effects, it’s hard to get systematic data…there appears to be some problem with myocarditis among young males, and it may be that the risk-reward tradeoff would come down on not vaccinating people in this category.

    It was a mistake to market the vaccines in such a heavy-handed way; when people feel like they’re getting the hard sell, they tend to push back. I believe a better public communication approach would have resulted in more vaccine uptake among those that need them and hence saved more lives.

  4. Herbert Spencer came to much the same conclusions about Communism as Hayek in a brilliant introduction he wrote for “A Plea for Liberty,” a collection of critiques of socialism published in 1891. For example, noting the tyrannies of the bureaucracies already existing at the time he wrote,

    “The fanatical adherents of a social theory are capable of taking any measures, no matter how extreme, for carrying out their views: holding, like the merciless priesthoods of past times, that the end justifies the means. And when a general socialistic organization has been established, the vast, ramified, and consolidated body of those who direct its activities, using without check whatever coercion seems to them needful in the interests of the system (which will practically become their own interests) will have no hesitation in imposing their rigorous rule over the entire lives of the actual workers; until, eventually, there is developed an official oligarchy, with its various grades, exercising a tyranny more gigantic and more terrible than any which the world has seen.”

    This brilliant little introduction included much more about the flaws in socialist ideology that later events proved to be spot on. As a result, Spencer drew the undying hatred of the socialist Left that we can now see repeated in the case of Trump and his supporters, denouncing him as a “social Darwinist.” This would have been quite a trick, since Spencer wasn’t a Darwinian at all. His ideas about evolution had a much greater affinity for those of Lamarck and his theories about the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

    Milovan Djilas, certainly one of the most brilliant political thinkers of the 20th century, described exactly how accurate Spencer’s predictions were, and how they played out in practice in his “The New Class,” and other works.

    As Dave points out, we are now seeing the same dynamic in operation as our own “New Class” attempts to apply its own rapidly increasing powers of coercion to dictate what may and may not be presented as “the truth.”

  5. “It was a mistake to market the vaccines in such a heavy-handed way”

    Misuse of the word “marketing”. Marketing is when the provider/seller draws the attention of the intended consumer to the benefits of the product — better, cheaper, faster. What happened with the CovidScam was not “marketing”, it was pure top-down bureaucratic enforcement: take this unapproved injectant or get fired.

    it was obvious from the events of the cruise ship “Diamond Princess” onwards that the only people at risk from “Covid” were the old and sick, same as with the flu we humans have long lived with. Yet Our Betters shut down schools. That was not “marketing”.

  6. Gavin…I know a guy, a retired airline pilot who is still very active in aviation (I flew his DC-3 with him several years ago) as well as in his business. He was strongly opposed to Covid vaccination…then he got it. He was in the hospital, the ICU for several days, and nearly died. His view of the vax has changed by 180 degrees.

    Anecdotal only, of course, but my reading o the data is that there are a lot of other people who were in excellent or reasonably good shape who were hit hard by Covid and who would have fared better with the vax.

    Concerning marketing: there were plenty of people not subject to edicts for whom Covid vaxing was a voluntary decision. Also, marketing isn’t something that applies only to communication with end customers, it is often targeted to indirect channels–in this case, the communications from CDC, Fauci, etc certainly influenced the policies established by local governments and employers.

    Again, I believe a communications approach which was heavier on information and lighter on overstatements and moralism would have done a better job. Maybe, for instance, moving of Covid patients into nursing home facilities would have been avoided.

  7. David F: “I believe a communications approach which was heavier on information and lighter on overstatements and moralism would have done a better job.”

    I for one could not agree more. That kind of communication program would necessarily have been based on facts and observations.
    – It would have explicitly pointed out that the injectant was not a vaccine in the normal sense of that word.
    – It would have explained clearly that the injectant had not gone through the normal safety trial processes, and thus anyone who voluntarily chose to take the injectant was enrolling in a giant medical experiment.
    – It would have been open about the existence of alternative treatments to the unapproved injectant.
    – And of course it would have publicized widely the ongoing medical statistics showing that children and working-age adults had only a very low probabilty of disability or death from “Covid” — much less than from other risks they are exposed to every day.

    But that kind of honest communication would have required something Our Betters and their bureaucrats seem to lack — honesty!

  8. One of the reasons I never listened to Alex Jones- despite being an enthusiastic consumer of conspiratorial entertainment- was because by pure chance the episode I happened to download had a doctor claiming that vaccines caused autism. I figured this was pure bovine excrement and never listened again. Later I read that the doctor making that claim about vaccines and autism was forced to retract his paper, among other consequences.

    Years after this, I happened to tell someone this anecdote. In response, I was told of a coworker who said they had watched their child lose function immediately after receiving vaccinations. I had no response, not wanting to tell them not to believe their lyin’ eyes.

    Then, covid. I don’t need to recapitulate events, but I will note that my anecdotes about the not-vaccines include multiple people who got the shot and regretted it, including two people who developed significant heart trouble, and the observation that essentially every non-shot treatment I heard about soon after had a media campaign attacking them as dangerous and ineffective. Hmmm…

    Thus, when I happened to listen to RFK jr. on both the Joe Rogan and Lex Fridman shows, I was quite primed to believe something fishy was- and is- going on.

    Steven den Beste wrote many years ago something to the effect that elections were an error correction mechanism for society. I don’t recall if he included public debate as part of that mechanism, but if not, he should have.

    So where exactly would we be if had ever had an open and honest debate about vaccines? Was that doctor Alex Jones interviewed simply railroaded because he threatened the revenue stream for vaccine makers? Why does the astonishing and increasing prevalence of both peanut allergies and autism attract essentially no interest at all, not only from the government but also from the usual suspects who delight at suing corporations for any reason at all?

  9. The way you make people less-susceptible to bad information & analysis is to teach them some appropriate skills: they need to be comfortable *reading*, rather than just watching 2-minute video clips. They need to have some ability to look at numbers without blanking out. They need to know a little bit about actual science and actual technology.

    Unfortunately, present-day US schooling tends to short-change all of these things in favor of trendiness and identity politics…all subjects are being converted into Social Studies.

    It is also important that people be able to face disagreement with their views without flying into a rage. ‘Self-esteem building’ has, I think, resulted in a lot of people with very brittle personhoods which cannot stand challenge.

  10. Nobody’s changing anybody’s mind on the covid vaccine. What is indisputable is that the “authorities” lied from the outset and continue to lie to this day. That masks were ineffective in preventing infection and then that they were. That people at essentially zero risk were forced or coerced into taking it and some are dead because of it. That that fact is being suppressed. That for some reason, huge efforts were expended to prevent testing of promising, widely used drugs for treatment, both before and after vaccines became available. That the “authorities” still haven’t the faintest idea why the vaccine has proved to be remarkably ineffective at both preventing infection and re-infection. Etc, etc, etc.

  11. “The *overall* hostility toward open discussion & debate is the overwhelmingly impossible top-level issue. What is the cause of this hostility, and what can be done about it?”

    It is culture, isn’t? And at the root of culture lies the unholy grouping of Big Government, Big Academia, Big Media, Big Law. So the real question is why each of those entities has been taken over by people who are seemingly bent on sawing off the branch on which they are sitting quite comfortably.

    Individual arrogance, stupidity, and greed can explain a lot of history — and maybe even the current hostility towards open discussion which Our Betters have forced upon the culture. That raises the question of how other societies have tried to compensate for the fact that we humans are fallible, not angels. Democracy has been one approach — an approach that has obviously failed in today’s society. Let me hypothesize that “democracy” has failed in the West because of universal suffrage. Cheapening citizenship and letting everyone vote clearly drives a polity towards the lowest common denominator. And so we see Democrats performing anal sex in the People’s House.

    Of course, we are not going to see voting treated as an earned privilege rather than an unearned “right” until after the coming inevitable collapse destroys today’s “democracy”.

  12. Analysis claiming that the first year of Covid vaccination saved 20 million lives, worldwide.

    I’ve seen plenty of analysis claiming that the covid non-vaccines killed as many, with a death toll still increasing. And serious injuries are likely at least an order of magnitude worse. One of the first stories I heard about these shots- before there was any talk of any sort of mandate- was of a doctor who suffered life-changing side effects. That made me pay attention and eventually risk losing my job by refusing the shot.

    Let’s not focus this thread on Covid or any other substantive issue.

    If we want to have a serious discussion, I don’t think we can avoid taking up substantive issues. Otherwise, who cares?

    The *overall* hostility toward open discussion & debate is the overwhelmingly impossible top-level issue.

    I agree. This is because the left has figured out that they can’t win a political argument on the merits. Hence, they have to shut people up when they notice leftist lies to have any chance at retaining power. And they have turned their political power to that end, obviously.

    …what can be done about it?

    We need an actual political party that will oppose the left, instead of attacking its own supporters when they object to leftist policies. A key thing that could be done would for that putative political party to actually stand up for the Bill of Rights, including the right for free speech.

    I know I sound like that proverbial broken record courtesy of my attacks on the GOP, but politics is the means by which societies settle their differences. Our system is failing because do not have a genuine opposition party to the left that will actually oppose.

    Actual opposition involves writing laws that the left won’t like, such as making political opinions as protected as transgender identity when it comes to employment, or using the US military to defend the US border.

    But that sort of thing doesn’t happen, because it might affect the GOP establishment’s stock portfolio, or might make them be shunned at a DC cocktail party.

    Until that changes, nothing else will- and the country will remain on the glidepath to oblivion.

  13. Mike…”Postmodernism does not believe in any sort of “Truth” that is free from power relations in society, which in US and Europe means White Cisgender Heteronormative Supremacy. Therefore the value of any information can only be judged in relation to the characteristics of the person proposing it.”

    See Professors and the Pornography of Power, especially the passage from Jonathan Haidt:


  14. well one starts with the fact, that Covid was at the very least a biological engineered event from imput from many government agencies who had a rough understanding of it’s spread, and the most effective therapies against it,

    with the election, besides the coordination of massive mail voting, you have the flaws helderman noted in the Dominion machine, in addition to any instances of hacking (which Emerald Robinson might have turned up) we are given affirmations by compromised authorities, like CISA, like the Tech Giants, like Mark Elias lawfare shop,

  15. so we come down to various grades of samizdat, why do we keep importing Russian terms,
    like that as well as dezinforma, that came to us from the Czech defector Bittman, as well as others like Romanian SIE chief Pacepa, the man who told us what Arafat was really about,

  16. David,

    Re: Vaccines

    Our experience with COVID vaccines was emblematic of the larger societal experience with COVID and the realm of misinformation.

    Telso has a blindspot in her use of the term Communism. The danger is not that the “intellectuals” will at some point choose Communism, but rather that thy already have chosen Progressivism meaning the preeminence in the human use of Reason (or more colloquially called Science) in the conduct of government which belittles the concept of eternal human flaws (sins) in the name of marching to the broad sunlit uplands of Utopia.

    This problem was never more evident than with COVID where our response was run by “experts” claiming special status based on their expertise and use of scientific tools ( “I am the Science”); acting as some sort of 21st Century priesthood. As the COVID pandemic progressed and holes appeared in the experts’ predictions and policies, the reaction was not to modify the policies based on experience (empiricism being a core value of Science) but rather to attack dissenters. The fact that setbacks was met by crushing of dissent is a normal human reaction, after all policies aren’t changed by people who have changed their mind, they are changed by changing the people who make policy. It’s hard for people to admit they are wrong.

    This set the context for the introduction of vaccines which were sold as the golden bullet that would end the lockdown restrictions (imposed based on the advice of experts) by eliminating both infection and transmission Of course the vaccines didn’t eliminate either transmission or infection and the lockdowns weren’t fully lifted. In fact being vaccinated now was required to fully participate in society.

    For our COVID the goalposts were always shifting from two weeks to flatten the curve, to lockdown, to vaccines, to COVID forever…. So if I am the proverbial Man in the Street what am I to make of this? In a complex society we of course look for the advice of experts, look for various clues, and combine that with our own experience to form judgments. What I would see regarding COVID 1) “Experts” repeatedly making claims about predictions and their personal expertise that are not justified by empirical results 2) Their moves to crush any dissenting views smacks as something to hide 3) I keep being told to do things “because” as if the experts are my mother trying to get my 5-year old self to eat my peas. Every part of my being smells something foul, that is a natural and correct reaction

    In short you want me to believe you? Stop acting like you have something to hide

    Given the way our experts undermined their credibility during the COVID crisis, the relative ineffectiveness of the vaccines in ending the pandemic, and the basic odds of a given healthy individual to survive COVID it would be perfectly logical for an individual to decide not to take a vaccine shot.

  17. Mike…Teslo is from Rumania, so not surprising that she would have Communism on the mind. I think that the passage I quoted in bold:

    “The same pride that made intellectuals believe in centralised control over the economy now leads them to often support a form of epistemic control to fight off misinformation.”

    applies equally well to Wilsonian ‘progressivism’, not only pure Marxism.

  18. One factor I was thinking about: SF writer Arthur Clarke asserted that: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This statement, IMO, is nonsense: there are no technologies that can’t be understood *at some level* by just about anyone with a good 16-year or 12-year education. But too much of American education has been turned into political preaching and ‘social studies,’ so the technologies really *are* black magic to many (most?) people.

    Which makes them unable to think about science & technology-related issues without the aid of a priest or shaman to tell them what is truth.

  19. I was very disappointed with Teslo and her crack about stolen election narratives, especially given her excellent depiction of “haute bourgeois propaganda” which deals with the selective use of facts to push given certain narratives.

    She doesn’t go into detail on this subject so I will assume for the sake of argument that it’s a similar to the one others made which is that since decisive electoral fraud cannot be conclusively determined to have occurred, then we must act as if it did not and can ignore, if not punish as insurrectionists, any counter-claims

    The truth is that she doesn’t know for sure whether the election was stolen or not, neither do I, and I doubt anybody does except for a select group of people who helped direct the operation. We don’t for the simple reason that nobody has performed a systemic investigation to determine it. Also she makes a subtle change in the rules of evidence to treat the issue as it should be treated the same as a criminal trial where we must conclusively prove a cabal performed the act, something along the lines of the DNC with a lead pipe in the study.

    One of the key values, if not the key, in an election is the conference of legitimacy. All parties, not only the candidates but the citizenry as well, must accept the verdict election of the result of a fair and impartial process. So by claiming that basis for declaring whether an election was stolen is to show proof of the act is misleading because it falsely frames the issue as a criminal act rather than undermining the election’s legitimacy.

    We already know that the process was neither fair nor impartial. We have ample evidence that electoral rules were illegally changed during 2020. We also evidence of a cabal of various media, business, and media organizations through both Zuckerbucks and Molly Ball’s admission (https://time.com/5936036/secret-2020-election-campaign/) Then of course there was the media-security agency conspiracy to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop.

    We also have either the pre-existence or the illegal establishment of large scale mail-in balloting and ballot harvesting. It was stated by the Baker-Carter Commission, the last neutral look at election integrity that I know of, that mail-in ballots were one of the major sources of fraud (https://capitalresearch.org/app/uploads/baker-carter-commission-2005-election-doc.pdf ) Not to mention that mail-in balloting, especially when combined with harvesting, endangers the secret ballot

    Based on the above it is a reasonable inference that something was very wrong with the 2020 Election. In fact given the disaster and subsequent whitewash of the 2022 election in Maricopa County, the hysterical reaction to changing the Georgia voting law, and conflation of any questions about election integrity with either suppression or outright insurrection that our powers-that-be at the very least have little to no interest in electoral integrity. I find it touching that she see a reformed media as part of the solution when I see it as an insoluble part of the problem

    Perhaps in Teslo’s favor we should see the haute bourgeoise form of misinformation that we are prone to, but based on her comments alone we should expand it to include misframing

  20. Are COVID vaccines actual vaccines, or would “mRNA treatment” be a more accurate term? I ask this because there’s way too many reports of COVID being contracted by the vaccinated to take the claim for granted. What is the normal failure rate of historic vaccines, and how to the mRNA purported vaccines compare?

  21. David Foster:
    How the school experience of kids today creates hostility toward the whole idea of discussion and debate…

    From the link:

    My revelation came in the spring, after a typical day in 11th-grade AP English. The topic was gender and how the experiences of the authors we were studying related to our world today. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear anything I hadn’t heard many times before.

    Class discussions tend to go like that. We’ve been inculcated with approved positions on issues such as gender identity, patriarchy, cultural appropriation and microaggressions. Any perceived misstep can ruin a reputation in a flash.

    That reminds me of an Internet search I did on one of my old high school teachers. I found a posting by one of my high school peers, a brilliant guy (Merit Finalist) who went into journalism. (He has written some crazy lefty books, which indicates to me that his political stance hasn’t changed since high school.) In discussing our teachers, he made the point that a history teacher of ours didn’t make any comments in class about the Vietnam War, which was going full force at the time. Part of that reluctance to comment may have been a reluctance to embroil the class in discussions not directly related to the lesson of the day. But I believe that the reluctance also came from a reluctance to impose his political views on his classes, a view that when it came to politics, he should be seen as a neutral. I’d add that there were a lot of spirited debates among students in his classes, where for the most part he acted as a referee.

    That is apparently NOT the viewpoint of many high school teachers today.

  22. Mike, your points about the election are very good.

    A low level of public trust in elections is a serious problem in itself. Not only do the Left/Democrats fail to acknowledge that this is true, they respond to questions about election integrity by attacking the questioners, which further reduces public trust in the system. The Republicans aren’t much better.

    If I recall, the legal-standard-of-proof gambit began in partisan media defenses of Bill Clinton: His behavior looked bad, but individuals should avoid deciding for themselves, based on how things looked to them, whether he had done it; we should all withhold moral and political judgment unless there was enough evidence to convict him in a criminal court. This gambit was effective in shutting down argument, and became the default defense of pols who get caught doing something they shouldn’t.

    Teslo seems very good in her main areas of interest. I can forgive her for not being as good in her interpretation of public events. Nobody bats 1.000. I think it’s a big mistake to evaluate arguments by pattern matching – e.g., Teslo seems foolish about politics and therefore we will discount her arguments in other areas. Arguments should be evaluated exclusively on their merits. This is an area in which both Right and Left are guilty.

  23. Elections: Maybe useful to consider what factors are involved in determining whether or not an election is accurate, legal, and fair:

    –the actual counting of the ballots, whether done by humans or machines. In the US, this activity takes place at thousands of different local precincts.
    –the consolidation of the local numbers into higher-level numbers, particularly for a state (which determines electoral votes)
    –enforcement of policies which allow those who are legally eligible to vote, and prevent those who are not from voting
    –above policies consistent with law as it exists at the relevant point in time
    –absence of voter intimidation on any material scale
    –ability of voters to obtain information on the positions of candidates…and the performance of incumbents in office
    –probably some others I didn’t consider

    There’s kind of an analogy between election integrity and the financial statements of a large & complex publicly-traded corporation (which must be audited by an outside firm, plus the CEO and CFO must certify to the accuracy) There is nothing wrong with questioning either when their are grounds to do so, but it is destructive to do some when there are no legitimate grounds for suspicion. (as some short-sellers have been known to do in the corporate case)

  24. In the case of the 2016 election:

    –I don’t think the voter machines were rigged; the manufacturer filed a successful defamation case against such accusation. Not so sure about the various manual counts and the consolidation processes.
    –Questionable whether all rules for eligibility were consistent with law: in at least one state, the legislature was required to rule on questions of eligibility, but rules for absentee ballots were changed w/o legislative involvement.
    –A recent survey showed a lot of people admitting (anonymously and retrospectively) to have voted by mail in invalid ways.
    –Cell phone tracking data showed what looked like a pattern of suspicious activity around ballot drop boxes. Maybe a statistical fluke, but I’d like to see a serious independent analysis.
    –At a bare mininum, the election can’t be called ‘fair’ given the conspiracy of former intelligence officers, with collusion from social media sites, to prevent voters from knowing about the content on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Does this affect *legality*? Probably not, I would guess, but certainly negates *fairness*.

  25. Elections bring us back to “democracy”, which is apparently important enough for the US Political Class to spend $100 Billion promoting in the Ukraine at the risk of global thermonuclear war. But what is this “democracy”, and what role might it have in Our Betters’ desire to squash dissent?

    Donal Kagan in his book “The Peloponnesian War” provides a thumbnail sketch of real “democracy” in Athens in about 450 BC prior to the war’s outbreak.

    Athens at the time had about 40,000 citizens in the city and the surrounding area — all male, and this obviously excluded the large numbers of Athenian slaves. (For comparison, the US currently has about 168,000,000 registered voters — over 4,000 times the number of voters in ancient Athens).

    Political power was vested in the Assembly of all citizens, held in the open air beside the Acropolis, where all citizens could attend, make speeches, and vote. Generally, only about 6,000 citizens attended the frequent meetings. There was also a council of Five Hundred citizens who prepared bills for consideration by the Assembly, with the 500 chosen by lottery from the entire citizen body. (For comparison the US has 535 members of House & Senate, mostly chosen from the insider Political Class by “elections”). Major difference with today’s D.C. is that the Five Hundred had effectively no authority. All decisions had to be approved by the Assembly of all citizens, generally voting by acclamation.

    Most governmental positions in Athens were filled by lottery from the list of all citizens (perhaps similar to jury service today). However, there were elections for the 10 Generals — for one year terms, at the end of which each General had to make a full accounting of his performance & finances, and was subject to trial & punishment if the Assembly was dissatisfied. (For comparison, US politicians are for the most part effectively in office for life, grow very rich while in office, and are not subject to review).

    In short, the US has departed very far from the originally-intended democratic republic. Effectively, the people of the US are now ruled by a self-selecting Political Class oligarchy. And to maintain control, oligarchs need to distract their peons and discourage/prevent them from open discussion.

    This is a reasonable explanation for the observed hostility to open debate. What to do about it? The obvious need is for a root-and-branch reconstruction of the US political structure. Unfortunately, we won’t get that until after revolution or collapse. Let’s smell the roses while we still can!

  26. In the case of the 2016 election:

    –I don’t think the voter machines were rigged; the manufacturer filed a successful defamation case against such accusation. Not so sure about the various manual counts and the consolidation processes.

    Giuliani has claimed he could not defend himself as his records were confiscated. Fox News settled because they did not want to have a senile Rupert Murdoch testify. I would call the allegation of Dominion machines “unproven.” Dominion did not sue the author of one book about the election as he has assets to defend himself. I read it.

  27. I think Jonathan’s admonition about pattern matching re: Teslo’s arguments is well-taken. Her arguments are generally excellent which is why I found it, well, amusing that she fell into the trap she did regarding vaccinations and elections (we all have blind sports.) I have been to more than one social occasion when in the DC area where if you would mention a position that deviated slightly from the political orthodoxy you would be shunned, if not asked to leave. The adherence to dogma was quasi-religious and one did not want to be seen as an infidel, let alone a heretic. Perhaps the Left should re-write the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel “…O Prince of the Progressive host, by the power of Barack, cast into hell Trump and all the MAGA spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls through spreading lies about COVID, Elections, and Jan. 6. Amen.”

    Teslo’s argument regarding “haute bourgeious” misinformation is fantastic and I already proposed extending it misframing, I’ll propose extending it again to “flooding the zone.” David mentioned in his original post the NY Times role in propagating the myth that Israel bombed a Gaza hospital this October, killing some 500 people. Not only was proven to be wrong, but simply the circumstances surrounding the scene from the size of munitions that were supposedly involved, getting accurate causality count from a high explosion (the ability to “recover” such a body is a relative term) let alone in a population with more than a million displaced people should make one immediately suspicious. Yet the only concession the NY Times made was that it should have stated in its attribution that the Gaza Ministry of Health was run by Hamas

    So in the ensuing weeks, that same Ministry would claim thousands of additional civilian deaths caused by Israeli military action, even to the point of publishing the dead’s names and addresses. Of course the same problems that accompanies the hospital story were true here as well. The NY Times of course played the story straight and simply conceded, as per its earlier change in policy, that the numbers were generated by a Hamas-run agency,

    What happened afterward s was easily predictable. While the initial reports were annotated as to their source, later discussions about those causalities were not. In short the NY Times was guilty of misinformation not necessarily by publishing false information, but by flooding the zone with information they knew would mislead and be misused. The NY Times and others outlets claim that they accurately reported what had been a credible source and they performed their due diligence in reporting that source’s tie to Hamas. The fact that the story was bogus on its face and that the NY Times would never report a claim in a similar, straight-forward way say from Putin’s Ministry of Information belies the bias.

    The goal of flooding the zone is to inject a dubious claim into the information ecosystem with the full knowledge that if enough outlets report it enough times then it becomes “clean” enough to report as fact. There is something similar in the reports released by ProPublica regarding ethical wrong-doing by Clarence Thomas and other conservative justices. The initial report becomes a story worth covering and then if mentioned enough times the report becomes accepted fact without ever being truly verified,.

    So toward the end of her post, Teslo sees the media as part of a potential solution, I would have to disagree with her and call them a deliberate bad actor and forever part of the problem.

  28. The problem is how to deal with systematic and intentional propagation of falsehood. Some of this is backed by state (or quasi-state) actors. For instance, the massive efforts of Communist states, or more recently Hamas and the “Palestinian Authority” and their Arab and Moslem collaborators. Richard Landes at The Augean Stables has documented the horrifying extent of the latter’s success.

    There are efforts by states and often the people of those countries to falsify some part of history that discredits them; for example the Turkish efforts to conceal the Armenian massacres, and Japanese efforts to deny WW II war crimes.

    Some of it is done by non-state “prospiracies”. For instance, there was a massive effort by white-South apologists to distort the historical record about Reconstruction, to justify the brutal terrorism of the white-supremacist Redeemers and persuade non-Southern whites that the “Jim Crow” regime was justified. More recent apologists spread falsehoods about the cause of the Civil War and events during it.

    Some falsehoods have a seductive attraction to people of a contrarian disposition, who then propagate them fervently. For instance, “Pearl Harbor” conspiracy theories.

    Some appeal to disgruntled minorities; for instance the widespread belief that Ancient Egyptians were black.

    It takes a lot of work to beat back such disinformation. I’ve spent more hours than I care to think about refuting such stuff.

    If there aren’t enough volunteers in the fight, the lies win. Vide the post-Reconstruction South.

    The idea of state action in this field seems horrifying, but given the extent of state involvement in the lying, is “unilateral disarmament” practical?

  29. the disinformation industry is to proscribe sources despite their veracity, and promote sources for the same reason, CDI, NewsGuard, CTIL, all are part of the ‘little tail’ as it was known in Communist Cuba, so the Federalist Daily Wire Daily Caller were obviously dezinforma and the Atlantic the Hill Time et al are legit by their formulation

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