Disinformation is a weapon of mass destruction.
I discuss why we urgently need to clamp down on, if not criminalize, mass disinformation and prosecute those that promote it or profit from it.
This episode was published on January 10, 2024 at 9:49pm EST.
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Greetings all! Welcome to Aquarian Diary.
I’m your host, John Irving.
It is January 10th, 2024. The bulk of this was recorded on January 8th.
You know, this period we’re going through is just so intense and disturbing and alarming. And I can’t stop thinking about it because there’s aspects of what we’re experiencing right now collectively that are just so dark.
Having said that, I have done several episodes talking about Pluto transiting 29 degrees of Capricorn, this anaretic degree, which is where we are now. And I even did ones that were kind of intuitive, where I talked about how we would be going through this challenging period and that it would be hard for us to kind of maintain perspective.
Pluto will begin its second transit in recent history of Aquarius on January 20th. That’s only 10 days from now. So hopefully that brings about the kind of breath of fresh air that we probably really need.
And as usual, I’ll put links in the episode description to those other episodes as well. Some of them I published quite a while ago.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, of course, we’re in kind of the darkest days of winter. So that kind of adds to this heaviness of energy as well. And I’ve found lately that my energy can fluctuate a lot. Like one day I feel great and the next day I don’t feel great at all. And I’m tired and, you know, just feel like I have no mojo, you know.
But what I really wanted to talk about here today was how this period of time we’ve gone through, especially in the last eight or nine years or so, has been really shocking in the sense that we’re seeing the darkest aspects of humanity and it can be quite agonizing, as I just described.
And one of the fundamental components of this, I think, is how there seems to be no appreciation of the value of truth itself. And being someone who’s older, I can actually attest, at least in my own experience, that things have been very different in recent history than they were when I was growing up.
To put this in perspective, think about it this way. If you had a good friend or a partner or a wife or husband or something like that, and they lied to you about something significant or important, and then you found out about it, that would fundamentally alter your perception of them and probably the way you dealt with them going forward.
Because typically if somebody lies to you or misrepresents something in a significant way, it increases the likelihood that they will do it again or they’ve done it in other ways that you just don’t know about yet. So we then end up kind of putting barriers around us with respect to our involvement or engagement with these kinds of people.
And it can take a toll on both of us going forward, whether they realize it or not. They’re being penalized for their behavior because they’ve broken trust with you and you because you’re disappointed because somebody important let you down.
I don’t think there’s anybody who wouldn’t feel some remorse or regret in a situation like that. It can literally lead to the breakup of a relationship and even a divorce. So these are really significant implications.
Another example, somebody that you hire or pay for some services or goods performs poorly, you’re much less likely to go back there or to refer other people to them because again, they’ve broken your trust and they’ve let you down. These are just fundamental examples of human interaction. It makes perfect sense. If somebody lies or cheats or steals, it marks them.
But what we’ve seen happen on a broader scale in recent years is that lying, cheating and stealing on a large scale has been normalized to become much more socially acceptable, or at least more commonplace, than it used to be. And again, based on my age, I can say that with a high degree of certainty. It’s not a bias of mine. I think most people would agree with that assessment.
And this has really profound implications because what we have seen is that this can result in really significant harm or adverse effects on millions, if not billions of people. Because we don’t have the same kinds of checks and balances around what’s socially acceptable that we used to.
So if you’re like me, you’ve been wondering, why is this? What is going on? What is in the air that has allowed this to reach these new levels?
We have degrees of hypocrisy, especially, for example, with the religious right, that seem to be completely off the charts. And if you’re somebody who places a high value on truth and integrity and honor, this can be really unsettling and disturbing.
This kind of behavior has really profound implications. We have massive numbers of people, for example, in the United States, that believe flat out falsehoods and conspiracy theories that are totally detached from the facts and objective reality. And nonetheless, they are convinced that what they believe is true. And there’s not a lot of hope to change their opinion.
And the widespread use of disinformation and misinformation has caused a lot of people to lose faith in institutions and the media because so much of it is complete BS. And they know this.
That is not to say that there aren’t many credible and trustworthy news organizations and reporters and journalists out there. There are, but they operate in a polluted and toxic ecosystem of misinformation. So the broad public perception of that whole industry is tainted by the conditions of the overall environment, which, like I said, is completely polluted.
And as far as I’m concerned, the fact that things are that way in itself is deliberate. Because if you want to promote or push forward policies or a policy agenda that average people, just based on common sense, would reject, and that experts and qualified people reject – in other words, reality opposes you – then what do you do? You attempt to undermine reality itself. You discredit the media. You discredit the experts. You discredit the institutions. And you do this subversively and intentionally. And we have tons of evidence that that’s exactly what happens.
On the environmental front, Professor Naomi Oreskes wrote a really important book called Merchants of Doubt. In it, she describes how the tobacco industry came up with a public relations playbook that ended up keeping tobacco more readily available and without all the health warnings and so forth. For years and years and years, they managed to stall legislation, which would have negatively affected their profits, through all kinds of propaganda, misinformation, disinformation, and deceit.
She then makes an extremely compelling case that the fossil fuel industry adopted the same playbook to prevent or limit regulations on the use of fossil fuels, which are necessary to combat the global environmental crisis. And again, the tactics – the playbook – are all about deceit, sowing doubt and confusion in the minds of the public, subversively undermining experts, expertise, and institutions, primarily scientists and scientific research. And they literally spent hundreds of millions of dollars to accomplish this, and regrettably, they have been phenomenally successful.
I would take that a step further and say those same techniques that the fossil fuel industry used have been deployed in the political sphere, resulting in the kinds of consequences most of us are dealing with on a daily basis.
My whole point about this is that vested interests have deliberately undermined our faith and trust in institutions, from the media, to politics, to science, higher education, and academia, and of course the government, who might regulate them, and so on. As a means of sowing doubt and confusion and polarization, which then allows them to get away with things that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to because you can’t achieve consensus on any topic anymore.
And then this culture of lying and deceit, aided by prominent news networks, who benefit financially from being aligned with these special interest groups, basically are responsible for this state of societal chaos that we are in the midst of right now. And I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous and significant this is.
You could take any topic, say for example the environment, we have done hardly anything about this, even though we’ve known for decades that it was urgent. Think about the implications and costs of that inaction. Think about the polarization and gridlock in the United States of America, the most powerful country in the world.
It could be any topic, like health care. People go bankrupt because they can’t get health care. Meanwhile most advanced countries in the world, like in Europe or here in Canada, have socialized medicine. Those kinds of things just don’t happen. You’re not going to have to sell your house if you get cancer. Why does this persist? It persists because people are completely misinformed as a result of all the lies and propaganda and the deployment of things like social media campaigns that are specifically engineered to confuse people.
So again I’m making the argument that this is extremely dangerous and costly. We are far too sophisticated technologically to have huge chunks of our population completely misinformed about really important topics. We have military capabilities that could end life on this earth. And we need to recognize that truth does matter, that it’s not as subjective as many people think it is, and that we need to clamp down on those people, groups, and organizations that are deliberately promoting misinformation and disinformation.
One of the greatest threats to humanity is actually disinformation, for those very reasons. If we didn’t have massive numbers of people who were deliberately misinformed about the global environmental emergency, we probably would have started doing something about it decades ago. We’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars of costs that will result from a lack of timely and adequate response to that existential threat.
Or it could result in something like military conflict on a large scale.
To me, this is the biggest lesson of recent history, is that we need to value and honor truth and integrity and safeguard it. Because the lack of it is literally a direct threat to our survival, and our safety, and our health, and our well-being, and the health and well-being and prosperity of current and future generations, as well as the biosphere, which are literally critical for our survival.
All the lying and deception have brought us to a point of peril environmentally, politically, and socially. And if we don’t recognize that and do something about it, we could go right off the deep end.
So just like in my previous episode, titled “Stop Enabling Nihilistic Culture Warriors,” I’m saying that we have to stand up for and go after those who are promoting mass amounts of disinformation and misinformation. We need new laws, they need to be held accountable. We have to recognize that propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation are weapons of mass destruction. Period.
Think about it. Just think about everything that’s happened that has resulted from all of the high-level lying and deception, misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda that has occurred in recent years. I wouldn’t challenge anyone to argue that the implications of that are not profound and very dangerous.
Of course, we need to have a place for free speech, but misinformation and disinformation is like an infectious disease and it spreads if you do not hold it in check. And that is the lesson of this recent period of human history.
Now hopefully, come January 20th, when we get the energy of Pluto in Aquarius, that’s exactly what will start to happen.
It’s like now we have a significant portion of the population that needs to be deprogrammed, like they’ve fallen under the spell of a cult of lies. And some of it is self-deception, but a lot of it has its roots in these completely immoral and unethical organizations that profit from deceit. It is completely shameful and in many ways these people should be ostracized, but also held accountable.
We just have to decide that we will no longer tolerate that anymore because it is extremely harmful. It’s like the opioid crisis, but even worse, because it’s so widespread.
And that’s just a matter of us setting standards, holding ourselves to high standards, and holding others to similar standards too.
Going back to the beginning, if somebody that you trusted broke your trust by deceiving you about something important, there’s a consequence for that to them. You’re going to feel bad, you’re going to feel hurt, but they’re going to actually suffer more because they’re going to lose opportunities, or your friendship, or your relationship, or whatever the case may be.
Extrapolating from that to the bigger picture, it should be the same process. And if we need to update our laws and our judicial systems, then we should, because the stakes are literally existential.
Did anyone ever think that in the early part of the 21st century, that America’s democracy would literally be in peril? I never thought I would see that. And that’s not just my opinion. There are scores, countless, thinkers, academics, scholars, commentators, journalists, and politicians who are saying the same thing. It’s not hyperbole.
My argument is that this is a cultural problem, and it has to do with our complacency and carelessness about not holding people accountable for their behavior. If someone is spreading lies, or disinformation, or misinformation, at the very least, they should be called out on it and taken to task.
And if it’s a business doing this, they should be held accountable in the courts for any damages that their actions have caused. You can’t run into a theater and yell “fire” if there’s no fire actually occurring. It’s completely irresponsible, and it’s dangerous.
And we have to hold the media and these other organizations that have been doing that for years to the same standard. It’s really that simple. We have to make it socially unacceptable to lie about things that can cause significant harm to society. We do not allow companies to grossly misrepresent their products in ways that can cause harm to people, the public commons, or property.
I’m essentially arguing that we need to criminalize disinformation. Literally, we don’t have a choice. We prosecute people for vastly less consequential crimes on a daily basis.
We need to protect ourselves and society from ruthless and unscrupulous criminals, as well as their accomplices and enablers.
For more detail, check the episode description for other episodes or articles that are related or that I mentioned.
And if you’re interested in a reading with me, I’ll put a link to that as well. I have a 20% off special on currently.
Many sincere thanks to everyone who supports me, especially my YouTube members. Thank you very much.
Take care, all the best, and I’ll talk to you again soon.
Bye for now.
Other related episodes or referenced herein:
Articles referenced herein:
Merchants of Doubt – Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway
First published May 25, 2010
#Media #PostTruth #Propaganda
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