By Daniel Klein, Brownstone Institute
The policing of ‘information’ is the stuff of Naziism, Stalinism, Maoism, and similar anti-liberal regimes. In my title “Misinformation Is a Word We Use to Shut You Up,” anti-liberals are the “We.” To repress criticism of their dicta and diktats, they stamp criticism as “misinformation” or “disinformation.” Those stamps are Orwellian tools that anti-liberals wield in the hope of stamping out Wrongthink—for example, on climate, election integrity, the origins of the Covid virus, therapeutics such as Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine, the effectiveness of masking, the effectiveness of the Covid injections, the safety of the Covid injections, and the effectiveness of lock-downs. “Anti-misinformation” could be deployed in keeping with whatever the next THE CURRENT THING might be, with associated slogans against, say, China, Putin, Nord Stream, racists, white supremacists, MAGA Republicans, “deniers,” et cetera. And then, of course, there’s all that “misinformation” disseminated by “conspiracy theorists”.
This paper offers an understanding of knowledge as involving three chief facets: information, interpretation, and judgment. Usually, what people argue fervently over is not information, but interpretation and judgment.
What is being labeled and attacked as “misinformation” is not a matter of true or false information, but of true or false knowledge—meaning that disagreement more commonly arises over interpretations and judgments as to which interpretations to take stock in or believe. We make judgments, “good” and “bad,” “wise” and “foolish,” about interpretations, “true” and “false.”
On that understanding, the paper explains that the projects and policies now afoot styled “anti-misinformation” and “anti-disinformation” are dishonest, as it should be obvious to all that those projects and policies would, if advanced honestly, be called something like “anti-falsehood” campaigns.
But to prosecute an “anti-falsehood” campaign would make obvious the true nature of what is afoot—an Orwellian boot to stomp on Wrongthink. To support governmental policing of “information” is to confess one’s anti-liberalism and illiberality. The essay offers a spiral diagram to show the three chief facets of knowledge (information, interpretation, and judgment) plus a fourth facet, fact, which also deserves distinct conceptualization, even though the spiral reminds us: Facts are theory-laden.