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Disinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately with intentions of turning genuine information useless. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false.
Unlike traditional propaganda techniques designed to engage emotional support, disinformation is designed to manipulate the audience at the rational level by either discrediting conflicting information or supporting false conclusions. A common disinformation tactic is to mix some truth and observation with false conclusions and lies, or to reveal part of the truth while presenting it as the whole (a limited hangout).
Another technique of concealing facts, or censorship, is also used if the group can affect such control. When channels of information cannot be completely closed, they can be rendered useless by filling them with disinformation, effectively lowering their signal-to-noise ratio and discrediting the opposition by association with many easily disproved false claims.
Examples of disinformation
In espionage or military intelligence, disinformation is the deliberate spreading of false information to mislead an enemy as to one's position or course of action. In politics, disinformation is the deliberate attempt to deflect voter support of an opponent, disseminating false statements of innuendo based on the candidates vulnerabilities as revealed by opposition research. In both cases, it also includes the distortion of true information in such a way as to render it useless.
Disinformation may include distribution of forged documents, manuscripts, and photographs, or spreading malicious rumors and fabricated intelligence. Its techniques may also be found in commerce and government, used to try to undermine the position of a competitor.
World War II and Cold War
A classic example of disinformation was during World War II, preceding the Normandy landings, in what would be known as Operation Fortitude. British intelligence convinced the German Armed Forces that a much larger invasion force was about to cross the English Channel from Kent, England. In reality, the Normandy landings were the main attempt at establishing a beachhead, made easier by the German Command's reluctance to commit its armies. Another act of World War II–era disinformation was Operation Mincemeat, where British intelligence dressed up a corpse, equipped it with fake invasion plans, and floated it out to sea where Axis troops would eventually recover it.
Disinformation by the CIA
According to Gyorgy, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) knew about the 1957 Kyshtym disaster at Mayak, but kept it secret to prevent adverse consequences for the fledgling USA nuclear industry. Ralph Nader surmised that the information had not been released because of the "reluctance of the CIA to highlight a nuclear accident in the USSR, that could cause concern among people living near nuclear facilities in the USA."
Only in 1992, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, did the Russians officially acknowledge the accident.
Disinformation by the KGB
According to senior SVR officer Sergei Tretyakov, the KGB was responsible for creating the entire nuclear winter story to stop the Pershing missiles. Tretyakov says that from 1979 the KGB wanted to prevent the United States from deploying the missiles in Western Europe and that, directed by Yuri Andropov, they distributed disinformation, based on a faked "doomsday report" by the Soviet Academy of Sciences about the effect of nuclear war on climate, to peace groups, the environmental movement and the journal AMBIO.
Disinformation by News Corp.
News Corporation is a worldwide mass media conglomerate with major assets. A subsidiary of News Corporation, Fox News Channel (FNC) is a major international satellite television network, employees of which have been seen using creative editing as a form of distortion propaganda. Another popular method of disinformation is known as anchor doping, which is a method of constructing an opinion panel containing conservative commentators who outnumber a pseudo-liberal commentator that intentionally takes a weak stance so as to smear any liberal viewpoints.
- Arjun Makhijani, A Readiness to Harm: The Health Effects of Nuclear Weapons Complexes, Arms Control Association
- Pete Earley, "Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War", Penguin Books, 2007, ISBN 978-0-399-15439-3, pages 167–177
- AMBIO, AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
- D.C.P. (November 11, 2009). "Hannity video switch-up is only the tip of Fox News' video-doctoring iceberg". Media Matters for America. http://mediamatters.org/research/200911110019.
- Simon Maloy (December 8, 2009). "Fox News fiddles with climate change polling". Media Matters for America. http://mediamatters.org/blog/200912080002.
- Fox's Slanted Sources
- Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War
- Disinformation - a learning resource from the British Library including an interactive movie and activities
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