Just a minor “Language Watch” notion.
Lately it has become a manufactured trend to talk of DIS-information and MIS-information (but only on rare occasion mal-information). IMHO this is yet another attempt at language manipulation. Why?
I suspect the purpose is to make it all seem like a new and trendy “insight”; and perhaps to avoid folks critical thinking by obscuring the simplicity of what the thing really is. To make it harder to criticize the assertion by setting aside your prior learned behaviours for the original word.
So, for example, if I say “That’s a lie!” you will have learned responses to “a lie” that help you to decide if it is a lie, or not; ought it be accepted or instead have data gathered?
So it got me wondering about the simple and original word, vs the new and trendy one.
Misinformation: This is more properly simply called “wrong”. IF I am “misinformed” then I am wrong or my assertion is wrong. Why not just say “That is wrong” instead of saying “that is misinformation”? It is much more clear what “that is wrong” means. It is much more clear that assertions something is wrong can be countered by evidence it is right.
Disinformation: This is more properly and simply called “lies”. IF I am “disinformed” then I am lying or I am believing lies. Why not say “you are lying” or “that is a lie!” instead? Is it to dampen the tendency to look at lies or asserted lies and ask for an examination of the evidence? Or perhaps to dampen the tendency to protest and present your case when you are asserted to be lying? Perhaps it is just some academic puffery that’s escaped from the Academic Zoo and is now running around in the language at large…
Then there is the one that didn’t take hold widely. The one that claims not just that the intent is deliberate misleading (“lies”) but that the purpose is manipulation with negative intent.
Malinformation: In prior times we called this “Propaganda”. The deliberate and willful intent to mislead with the intent to damage the response of the folks mislead. I would surmise that folks are already jaded with “propaganda” to there was some need to try and make it all “new again” with a change of wrapper. Yet folks didn’t “bite” on this one. Perhaps it is harder to swap out a word that is usually used in the “I Accuse!” assertion. “That is propaganda!” comes as the first use, not in the descriptive postmortem of the utterance. Or perhaps it is just one change too many for a person to absorb in one go; so the subtle difference between mis, dis and mal made it harder to swallow.
Having observed this, I’m now of the opinion that, regardless of WHY the attempt was done: It isn’t for my benefit and so ought to be rejected.
When I see “misinformaion” used, I’m going to respond with “why do you think that is wrong? Yet it looks right and here is evidence”. When I see “disinformation” I’ll ask “Why do you think that is lies?”. If someone accuses me of “disinformation” I’m going to respond with “You are calling me a liar; but here is the evidence it is truth!”
Do not let “it is right” and “it is truth” be cast onto the trash heap of language by making their opposites the clumsy and misleading “dis” and “mal” information. It is much easier to see the nature of the argument as “right vs wrong” and “truth vs lies” (and even “truth vs propaganda”) than when one side hides from truth and rightness with Mis & Dis & Mal.
Do not let them hide what they are saying. Call a lie a lie.