Thought for the day

In the past few years I have noticed something of a pattern. Those who complain the loudest about Russian ‘disinformation’ are often the most inaccurate in their own depictions of reality. You can see this in my review last week of Timothy Snyder’s latest book. Likewise, I noted three years ago in my review of Peter Pomerantsev’s book ‘Nothing is True and Everything is Possible’ that Pomerantsev distorts reality every bit as much as the Russians he complains about. Pomerantsev also produced a report with Michael Weiss entitled ‘The Menace of Unreality’ about Russian ‘misinformation’ which, as I wrote, was very much ‘a case of the pot calling the kettle black’ given that the report was full of misinformation itself. Then there’s our own beloved Chrystia Freeland, complaining about Russian disinformation because of stories about her grandfather, stories which are true and which therefore make her own statements on the matter disinformation. And so on. You get the picture.

The same phenomenon, I think, applies on the Russian side. Russian TV contains lots of complaints about Western ‘fake news’, but generally speaking those who complain the most about it are those whom I trust the least.

And then, of course, there’s the Donald, who also loves to scream about fake news, while being a completely unreliable source of  information himself.

I don’t think that any of this is coincidence. People who complain that others are spreading disinformation are likely to be people who are very confident that they themselves are absolutely right and that people with other points of view are therefore wrong. But an excessive belief in one’s own absolute correctness is likely to be associated with extreme opinions and a closed-minded attitude, and so with being wrong.

So, here’s my observation on this matter, which I might term ‘Robinson’s law’:

‘There is a inverse correlation between the quantity and volume of somebody’s complaints about disinformation and the truthfulness of that person’s own pronouncements.’

Discuss.

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10 thoughts on “Thought for the day”

  1. It can’t really work as a law or theorem since it’s not based on a scientific observable, but on capricious human nature.

    With that out of the way, it will fail in any number of ways. For example, I knew plenty of people who kept complaining that everything the newspapers say are lies, but they really didn’t feel like volunteering their views on anything, hence there were no pronouncements so the truthfulness couldn’t be judged by default. Often these are people I played pool with at the bar. Also, if it’s a country leader, normally if they are measured and careful, they might have to lie and make a big deal about something due to a security situation, but it will be a one off.

    With pundits, some of them try to sell their brand by always being loud and seeing disinformation everywhere, and sometimes they may be right, but the style of presentation won’t change, so your law would fail there.

    I’d call it a ‘Robinson’s observation’ instead. Sound less absolute and perfect for the humanities.

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  2. This is a very special time. There are two positions to face it. Stay on the path of some mediatic faithfulness and feel dizzy if some institutions as The NYT or the WP or so many rather “lefties” appear to have betrayed us all. Or jump in the void of the doubt as a posture and acknowledge that what was manipulation, fake anything a few years ago is now a source of other angle of view and required for some private critical thinking and counter information. This is the state of an intellectual crisis. Hard to go through and source of isolation in front of the intensity of the tide and of the idea of reliability.

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    1. Indeed, the election of Obama and the way his supporters continued to be so fervent about him despite the way he completely betrayed anyone with true leftist principles was my “wake up call.” I no longer trust the ComPost, NYT, TDS (especially with that smarmy carpetbagger Trevor Noah) MSNBC, CNN, etc., any more than I used to trust Fox News, Brietbart or any other right wing outfit. About the only way to determine the facts these days is to sample a story from both sides (or better yet, let a truly non-partisan, independent source like Naked Capitalism do that part) and judge for yourself.

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  3. Why set in stone what is a mutable intuition?

    However, you are creating a talking point. I actually think your underlying assumption is this: the value of the sober, neutral, balanced observer is proven over time…

    I wouldn’t set that in stone either.

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  4. Okay, how about this as the thought for the day: contrary to the mainstream wailing and the gnashing of teeth, we live not in the “post-truth”, but in “post-lie” world. Everything now is just an opinion, man, measured in likes and offended feelings.

    That’s why the “Flat Earth Society” is growing in numbers all around the globe.

    P.S. As to “why” – people are now flooded with such amount of white informational noise that their head processing units can not compute it anymore. And they don’t – cuz they can’t thanks to the benign education. Or they don’t want. People want their totem poles – handcrafted, earthly and not really superior to them at all.

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