Archive for the ‘Misinformation’ Category

Service of Misinformation

Monday, October 25th, 2021


Rubin Museum: Mahachakra Vajrapani, China 15th century early Ming dynasty silk and gold embroidery , coral and seed pearls

The child’s party game “Telephone” is a simple way to show kids how easily misinformation spreads. You remember: the first child whispers to the second and the last child makes everyone laugh because what she/he hears is far from the original.

Following are grownup examples.

I visited the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. It was my first time so I asked if we should start on the sixth floor and walk down. The only employee on the ground floor [not counting a guard] said “No. Visit from the first floor up.” 

We saw “Gateway to Himalayan Art” on floor two; “The Mandala Lab” on three; “Masterworks: A Journey Through Himalayan Art” on five [four was closed] and “Awaken: A Tibetan Buddhist Journey Toward Enlightnment” at the top.

Having finished our tour a woman overheard us asking one another “Why was it important to follow the exhibitions up the stairs?” She asked if she could help us. We posed our question and she said, “We have reconfirgured the collection; the floors used to be interrelated. Not anymore.” Clearly this news wasn’t given to all staff. Not life and death, but incorrect and an example of how easily and innocently adults pass along the wrong information.

I thought of the “ahhas!” by some Covid-19 vaccine doubters when Colin Powell died of Covid complications. He’d been fully vaccinated. A cousin texted: “To use Powell’s death as proof that the vaccines don’t work is so much garbage!” Her husband, she wrote, “died of multiple myeloma and so did Colin Powell. They have zero immune system because the purpose of the chemo is to suppress the cancer from activating. It was explained on the news but people don’t want to listen. My husband fell in the bathroom and got some nicks and bruises and a strep infection and that was the start of his decline—nothing to fight a bacterial infection.”


Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay 

Reid J Epstein covered a spectacular misinformation campaign in Montana in his New York Times article “Where Facts Were No Match for Fear–Civic boosters in central Montana hoped for some federal money to promote tourism. A disinformation campaign got in the way.”

The perpetrator, Rae Grulkowski, made up every fact: that “the [heritage area] designation [in Montana] would forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells or use fertilizers and pesticides. It would alter water rights, give tourists access to private property, create a new taxation district and prohibit new septic systems and burials on private land.” Not a single allegation is true.

Epstein wrote: “‘Misinformation is the new playbook,’ Bob Kelly, the mayor of Great Falls, said. ‘You don’t like something? Create alternative facts and figures as a way to undermine reality.'”

It worked for Grulkowski: Montana governor Greg Gianforte “signed the bill barring any national heritage area in Montana after it passed on a near-party-line vote. A heritage area, the bill’s text asserted, would ‘interfere with state and private property rights.'”

Epstein also reported that Grulkowski “ticked through the falsehoods she had read online and accepted as truths in the past year: The Covid vaccine is more dangerous than the coronavirus. Global child-trafficking rings control the political system. Black Lives Matter was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The United Nations is plotting to control world population and seize private land. Mr. Trump was the rightful winner of last year’s election. Even in Cascade County, where Mr. Trump won 59 percent of the vote, Ms. Grulkowski argued that 3,000 illegal votes were cast.”

The harm done by deliberate distortions about serious matters isn’t like the child’s game. Repercussions can harm. Have you believed misinformation, later learning the truth, and changed your opinion?  Are we more gullible these days, more sensitive to false facts or are there more of them now?


Image by John Iglar from Pixabay 
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