Dis, Mis, Mal – How About Simply Lie, Wrong & Propaganda?

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.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest, Political Current Events. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Dis, Mis, Mal – How About Simply Lie, Wrong & Propaganda?

  1. YMMV says:

    “IMHO this is yet another attempt at language manipulation. Why?”

    The why is very clear. Double speak. Newspeak, as per Orwell.
    The Ministry of Truth, as per FJB.
    There is only the PTB’s “truth”. Everything else is “Conspiracy Theory”.

    Newspeak encapsulates Orwell’s loathing for systems that manipulate language to cover their tracks as they consolidate their power. Newspeak is English disfigured to do its masters’ bidding. It’s so radical that in 1984 the Party is implementing it in stages, targeting the year 2050 for the transition to be complete. When Newspeak takes over, anything imaginative or unconventional, let alone remotely subversive, will be impossible to convey in words.


    The warning was clear: a distracted populace with diminished reading, writing, and speaking skills is vulnerable.

    Misinformation, Disinformation, Malinformation, and of course, ‘The Truth’.
    confabulation, confusion, circumlocution, jargon, obfuscation, these are our tools.

    Cardinal Ximinez : NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise!… Surprise and fear… fear and surprise… Our two weapons are fear and surprise… and ruthless efficiency! Our three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency… and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope… Our four… no… Amongst our weapons… Hmf… Amongst our weaponry… are such elements as fear, surpr… I’ll come in again.


  2. YMMV says:

    Or, you could say, it’s Non-Binary Truth.

  3. rhoda klapp says:

    You are lucky if you even get to discuss whether it’s a lie or whatever because the primary use if these words is to close down discussion. Just like the various -ist and -phobe labels.

  4. cdquarles says:

    Yes. We read 1984 as a warning. These folks are reading 1984 as an instruction manual.

  5. Russ Wood says:

    “Everything else is conspiracy theory” – well, at least until about 4 weeks have passed. Then it’s the TRUTH!

  6. C says:

    It’s just sugar coating with the association of the word “information”, which it has nothing todo with. Just like “intelligence” agency instead of spying and lying..

  7. jim2 says:

    Protests against Covid restrictions spread across China on Sunday as citizens took to the streets and university campuses, venting their anger and frustrations on local officials and the Communist Party.

    There was heavy police presence in some areas where huge crowds gathered in Shanghai, after protesters at one of the locations on Saturday called for President Xi Jinping to step down, a level of national dissent unheard of since he took power a decade ago.

    Demonstrations were also reported in capital Beijing, the original Covid epicenter of Wuhan and Xinjiang, the trigger for the discontent after virus restrictions were blamed for hampering rescue efforts in a deadly fire on Thursday.

    A video on social media of a woman screaming in the burning high-rise apartment block in Urumqi, capital of far western Xinjiang region, frightened people across China who have been facing rolling quarantines and lockdowns that can cause their apartment blocks to be closed off or blocked by steel gates.

    Within hours, protests had spread online and residents of compounds in Beijing and other cities were filmed since Friday confronting local officials who were trying to install the infamous “iron guard” gates to isolate their communities. The protesters quoted the new 20-point rules introduced this month that were designed to try to make China’s Covid Zero policy less restrictive for people and less damaging to the economy.


  8. jim2 says:

    Exposure to pre-covid 19 corona viruses can induce immunity to covid 19.

  9. jim2 says:

    Climate Change – 265,487 ways to die …

    The thawing of ancient permafrost due to climate change may pose a new threat to humans, according to researchers who revived nearly two dozen viruses – including one frozen under a lake more than 48,500 years ago. 

    European researchers examined ancient samples collected from permafrost in the Siberia region of Russia. They revived and characterized 13 new pathogens, what they termed “zombie viruses,” and found that they remained infectious despite spending many millennia trapped in the frozen ground.


  10. Taz says:

    It has become exhausting trying to extract simple truth from almost any event. I don’t understand it. Why would these liars wish to live in the world they create?

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