by Beauchamp Art
“No one benefits from distorted information.” [Reed, 2014: 5]
As some what of an aside, in T.V. Reed’s Digitized Lives, the author noted that “no one benefits from distorted information.” [Reed, 2014: 5] Although Reed is making particular reference to how practical information, such as research data, is not beneficial to society as a whole, as it is anathema to the progress of shared understanding; when this statement is applied to wider public information, this could be strongly contested.
Misinformation is big business. Not only for propagandists spreading ideology and disruption, deliberately inaccurate or false information can be incredibly politically and social beneficial for certain groups, often at the expense of others. Such “propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” [Chomsky, 1997: 21] It may be achieved by misrepresenting or enervating a false antagonist, of bloating an existing one to be a force to be fought against, in order to define new, desirable, ideologies against that of the ‘other’; using Libertarian principals of freedom of distribution to stir up and confuse the masses with misinformation from every angle, to “to tame the bewildered herd” through “the manufacture of consent,” [Chomsky, 1997: 18] consent established by offering the keys to clarity after feeding the masses a malleable version of reality in which “the picture of the world that’s presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality.” [Chomsky, 1997: 37]
Using the confusing of distorted information to establish new order, imposed on the people in the name of democracy rather than through the actions and will of the people through genuine democratic process. Moreover, the deliberate misrepresentation of the will of the people is also an effective way of creating a beneficial situation for the informational oligarchy. Much as Far-Right parties often resort to blaming immigration for the problems caused by other economic factors. Such as UKIP blaming EU immigrants for the social problems which were, in reality, caused by the destruction of British Working-Class employment, due to how “Thatcherism unleashed a tsunami of de-industrialization” [Jones, 2011: 35] to create greater profit for business by exporting and mechanising the business of industry to nations who could sustain them more cheaply, due to even worse working conditions, the absence of human rights and the lack of adherence to international labour laws. It’s easier to blame the disempowered through distorting information through public mediation and propaganda than to to propose genuine solutions to real problems. Again, the benefit of one group through misinformation must always come at the expense of another.
In one of the most extreme cases of blaming genuine political-economic problems on blameless ethnic groups; the Nazi party profiteered the lie that the Jews were to blame from the economic problems of Germany, scapegoating them to terrible affect, using that mistruth to assume power, and commit great horror. As the propaganda minister at the time, “Joseph Goebbels once said that given a sufficient ‘psychological understanding of the people concerned,’ it would not be an impossible task to convince a mass of people that a square is actually a circle.” [Shenk, 1997: 151] Possibly a more accurate observation would be: no on benefits from distorted information without being at the expense of one group over another.
Moreover, deliberate misremembering may be useful for mourning individuals; in order to move on with their life, them may choose to believe that whom they mourn has euphemistically ‘gone to a better place’, in order for them to cope with loss. Much as with the advent of photography preceding WWI, in which people were geographically distanced, and served as memorial icons for the dead; “portraits were a way of reducing the pain of separation […] In some degree, they even bridged the great gulf between the living and the dead.” [Defleur, 1989: 72] They mislead the viewer, as the representation of their media is a artificial simulacrum that may stimulate real, physical emotive response; their verisimilitude is a product of deliberately misrepresented reality.
Furthermore, with regards to war, and all human conflicts, and overabundance of undistorted information can be counterproductive for the establishment of peace, as Susan Sontag illuminates; “there is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering […] embitters. […] To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited.” [Sontag, 2003: 103] For example in the Israel-Palestine conflict, reconciliation may not be achieved by listing every atrocity committed by both sides, but by hold those responsible accountable, and through sustained negotiation that does not ignore the mutual terror (and its initiation due to post-colonial/WWII border redistribution; particularly the long-standing patterns of power associated with Coloniality) but progress in discussion in spite of this, putting it out of mind, but aware of this conscious act. Here the doublethink of distortion may be used positively.
Nevertheless, misinformation may be used to manipulate, undermine, forget, and control, though these are not entirely positive benefits, as often distortion posits the flow of truth around certain individuals to provide a greater level of information, thereby power, to those in control of the flow; the Mediators, and those with the money and influence to misdirected the masses. But it may still be seen as true that unilaterally, distorted information is not beneficial to society, but it is an unavoidable part of it, much as lying is a necessary part of communication.
Someone always benefits from deliberately distorted information.
- Chomsky, Noam. (1997) Media Control. Seven Stories Press. 2nd Edition. USA.
- Defleur, M. and Ball-Rokeach, S. (1989) Theories of Mass Communication. New York: Longman.
- Jones, Owen. (2011) Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. Paperback. Verso Books. London: UK
- Reed, Thomas V. (2014) Digitized Lives: Culture, Power and Social Change in the Internet Era. Paperback. Routledge. New York, USA.
- Shenk, David (1997) Data Smog. Harper Collins, Abacus. London: UK.
- Sontag, Susan. (2003) Regarding The Pain Of Others. 1st Edition. Hamish Hamilton; Penguin Books. London, England.